Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Widow by Fiona Barton

For a debut novel, this one wasn't too bad actually.  It is a mystery in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, with a female protagonist.

I'm not giving anything away here when I say that at the outset, you learn that a possible kidnapper and child molester has just died. All of England had been riveted by, obsessed even (think OJ here in the States), this trial - mainly because it involved a 2 year old girl and lots of intrigue. In the immediate aftermath of his death, his widow is a a very popular subject for an interview and reporter, Kate Waters, is really trying to get an interview with her - it's popularly believed that the widow knows more than she has let on.

I don't want to get too much into the plot because a novel like this relies upon slowly revealing tidbits of information, like peeling back the various layers of an onion.  The story comes out in pieces, told by the three main players that still remain alive: the widow, the reporter and the main detective on the case.  In a case and story such as this, this particular method of story-telling proves to be very effective. The chapters are short and quick, letting a busy reader take in the story in short bites (which, for me, was perfect!). And somehow, Ms. Barton manages to create a smooth continuum to the story, even though the chapters are told from different perspectives.

I enjoyed the novel because it caused me to think about a few topics:  how much spouses really and truly know about each other, when they find out that knowledge, how they react to it and what they decide to do with that knowledge.   For instance, would I stay with a person that was simply accused of such a thing?  What if I had a gut instinct that it was true but no hard evidence?  After the person's death would I willingly sell what knowledge I had for my own personal gain?  What would it cost me?

This is a deceptively simply written book that challenges the reader to think about all of these things while entertaining at the same time. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Too Fat Too Slutty Too Loud by Anne Helen Peterson

I've always bee interested in gender studies. When I was in college, the study of gender was called women's studies and I'm happy that the name was changed to gender studies, because really, it's a study of both men's and women's roles and everything in between.  So when I saw this book, I was intrigued.

Anne Helen Peterson is a cultural critic at Buzzfeed and in this book, she creates a catalog of sorts of women who are "unmangeable" in the sense that they do not act in accord with the rules that society has placed on their gender. For instance, she looks at women who have been classified as too strong, too slutty, too shrill, too gross. She has everyone from Serena Williams to Lena Dunham and in each chapter, she dissects why these women have drawn sometimes negative attention, even though they've stayed close enough to the mainstream to be highly successful.

Each chapter starts out the same way - short statement of the problem and then a pretty in depth analysis of the societal norms that they defy. She doesn't push as far as she can, however and in some ways, that's disappointing to me.  At the same time, she can't really be blamed because perhaps she's trying to make her points to as many people as she can and change as many minds as she can. This can't be done if she's considered to be outside the pale.

This is an understated and brilliant book that should be added to your collection.

My Education by Susan Choi

I admit it: I have a thing about academic novels.  And by that, I  mean novels that occur on campuses and are about characters that are ent...