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So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Jon Ronson

This book should be in a media literacy 101 class that every single person should be made to think. We are now in the era of “cancelling” people, so it’s more relevant than ever. Yes, people could benefit from their erroneous views being pointed out, but does it need to be public and aggressive?

The logic goes that in some cases this is the only thing that works. But when the online shaming becomes relentless, whose purpose is being served? What do we get out of online outrage?

Love in a Cold Climate, Nancy Mitford

Guess I’m just sold on Mitford and going to leisurely go through her entire oevre. Another book that I cannot quite articulate the point of, except that its la di da depiction of aristocratic life is just what the doctor ordered.

Some of the attitudes that Mitford holds would be exactly the target of the virtue signallers that seem to abound these days and who Ronson points to in his book. And yet, one can’t help but giggle because Mitford’s narrator Fanny does point to the shocking prejudices, but also points out that there is more to people that their unpalatable foibles.

Sula, Toni Morrison

Morrison died and everyone was putting up inspirational quotes and it made me question whether I have ever actually read a Toni Morrison book. I have long been convinced I have as part of this mammoth summer reading list we were given and told to write one-page summaries of if we wanted to have any chance of being admitted to an English major.

But then, I began to wonder.

I’ve kind of put off reading Morrison because I just assumed that was going to be too much pain in her writing for me to handle. But I figured that I was going to use her death to just bite the bullet.

And now I wonder, why on earth did I wait so long. Sure, there is pain and trauma but rendered so that one is not left aching from it. If anything, one comes out of this book with a slight smile on the face.

Sula is basically about female friendship, so exactly my thing. The writing is so stupendous that I can only say, sometimes though accoldades are well deserved.

If you have been holding back on reading Morrison like I was, don’t.

Mansfield Park, Jane Austen

In my quest to become a true Austenite (ian?), I am going through her oevre. I have only Northanger Abbey left. I think.

Anyway, this one. Fanny Price is Jane Eyre without the spunk. Austen explains why she is like she is, but I wanted to slap her on more than one ocassion (Fanny, not Austen). Edmund is the white guy who gets major credit for doing little. Wanted to slap him also.

Ms Crawford is most interesting especially her spiel on the chapel and how boring it might be for everyone to attend a daily mass (greeted by Fanny and Edmund with a big hawwww) and her entreaties to Edmund not to please become a lawyer and not a parson (#sorrynotsorry).

In order to justify condemning her and her brother to being the villains of the piece, Austen somehow artificially makes them commit the worst of sins. Whatevs. Not impressed, Jane.

The Fever, Megan Abbott

Abbott specialises in teen drama, but I think it works better in highly intense groups of girls, like the gymnastics and cheerleading teams of her earlier novels. But maybe that’s how things are, now anyway. I know the teen years have always been a period of angst, but it seems to be on steroids now. Is it social media? Do today’s teens have more hormones coursing through their veins.

Later on, I realised that there were some subtle reversals of expectations – some of the very dramatic things that I assumed happened because of the writing turn out to have been much lesser events. Like the characters in the novel, however, I was part of the hysteria that grips the school in the story.

What’s different about this book is that it presents a boy’s view (of his sister and of other girls) and that of the parents.

Not an encouraging read for a parent with kids on the cusp of adolescence.

Nine Perfect Strangers,  Liane Moriarty 

I once met a woman at a friend’s (very chilled out) bachelorette and when I told her I was studying chick lit novels for my PhD, she said that a very close friend of hers wrote chick lot. “Her name is Liane Moriarty,” she said. “Have you heard of her?” “Of course!” I said.

Though I had never read anything by her except this one. I’m not even sure Moriarty is a chick lit writer, by my strict definition of it, but her books would have been put in the “for women” shelf of the library. This was before she hit the big time with Big Little Lies.

I’m glad I started with this book, though, because it’s super clever. It plays with the expectations of the detective genre – nine people trapped in a house leads one naturally to expect a murder. A key character, however, is a romance writer in decline. If one expects romance writers to be, well, romantic, Moriarty points out through Frances Welty that one can’t write romances without being a perceptive judge of character.

The house the nine strangers is a new-age sort of retreat. It makes the outlandish though not uncommon promise of changing the lives of those who commit to its practice. The novel is a critique of these retreats but ironically also an endorsement. The lives of the nine strangers are changed by what they encounter in the house, though not in the way they expected. At some points, I felt like I was in therapy myself.

Therein lies Moriarty’s skill. Even as the narrative expresses skepticism about the possibility of transformation, there are some practices that do seem to work, and ironically, in the end, all the lives are indeed changed, though not quite in the way they expected.

Fashion Victim, Amina Akhtar

Read my thoughts on the chick lit blog here.

Man of My Dreams, Curtis Sittenfeld

I love everything by this writer, though I probably liked this one least. I liked the structure where it doesn’t stick to one time period too long. Henry, the titular “man” is a lot like the Wickham character in Eligible which I felt a bit cheated about.

Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, Michael Wolf

I never felt a great need to read this book because is there anything we don’t know about the Trump White House? I feel like we bombarded with information about it already. After some intense reads, I felt like would be a topic I felt sufficiently detached from to find it relatively calming.

And it was strangely calming and more interesting than I expected. Apparently, there is method to the madness – a triangular structure around the president struggling to pull him in both ways. It was also fairer to Trump than I thought – it takes the view that there was no Russia collusion of the devious sort, even there might have been collusion of the clueless sort. It also points out that there is unfairness to the media towards the president. Heck, it makes out Steve Bannon to be almost sane.

I might even read the Bob Woodward book.

Too much happiness, Alice Munro

I’m not a fan of short stories, though the title of this one attracted me, apart from the fact that Munro is a legend. It’s like Munro knows the reader is thinking this.

In the opening story itself, the protagonist picked up a collection of short stories:

How Are We to Live is a collection of short stories, not a novel. This in itself is a disappointment. It seems to diminish the book’s authority, making the author seem like somebody is just hanging onto the gates of Literature, rather than safely settled inside.”

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And finally, The Zoya Factor movie, based on Anuja Chauhan’s Indian chick lit novel, is finally here. Share your thoughts on the chick lit blog.

 

 

 

 

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