Red at the Bone, Jacqueline Woodson
Thought that I was reading about a black family so was confused when it opened on what seemed like a debutantes ball. Turns out I was indeed reading about three generations of a black family.
It is told from multiple perspectives and moves back and forth in time.
Was rereading Elle Kennedy’sThe Goal and in some ways there is a common plot line – both flip the stereotype of the young pregnant mother and the father who leaves in these situations.
Weight, Jeneatte Winterson
This is part of Cannongate’s retelling of myths series. Winterson weaves the myth of Atlas into her own story.
At the heart of her retelling, this question: Do we create our own burdens?
Memoirs of Cleopatra, Margaret George
This was a massive tome and I spent a good part of the month reading it. It was like a counterpoint to Colleen McCollough’s Anthony and Cleopatra, which portrayed the pair in a not-so-flattering light and introduced me to the character of Octavian.
I largely enjoyed McCollough’s take, but I liked George’s better. Unlike colleen mccollough’s take, Cleopatra is not catty about the other women. She presents Cleopatra as having more than ambitions for her son – of having an Alexandrian vision of merging East and West. In her telling, Anthony was not a weak man but a modest man. He did not want to be emperor.
Cleopatra’s life as we know it features two grand romances: with Julius Ceasar and with Anthony. After reading the Ceasar section, I wondered how Anthony would ever stand up. But oh, George makes sure that he does, and she is not as cruel to Anthony for his failures as McCollough was.
In the first romance, Cleopatra went to Caesar at his call. He held all the cards. She all went to Anthony, but full in control, extravagant. In both cases she wanted something – her crown and then that of her son
Mimi was learning about Egypt at the same time. I heard her listening to a video that simply mentioned Cleopatra’s love affair with Anthony. As if that’s all she was – a consort to a Roman
Mimi surprised me by asking a pertinent question: why would a Roman have a love affair with an Egyptian (and vice versa). I found that I could explain the whole saga to her from Caesar onwards and she was fascinated.
I also told her how Cleopatra was so much more than a pretty face and she wanted more than love from the Romans. We looked at the map and how one small city, Rome, could control so much of the world. It struck me that the Roman reaction to Egypt is like the American to Chinese culture and vice ver
Big Sky, Kate Atkinson
This is the latest installment of Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series. Read the last one some time ago so some of the characters came back to me only slowly.
So good. Just what I needed – I think I read it around the time house arrest began to really get to me.
A detective story but with the redeeming quality of farce. Loved Crystal, the bimbo redeemed.
How to write an autobiographical novel, Alexander Chee
- Read this after I had a discussion with Mincat about Humans of New York (why she hates it, why I like it). In my view, Hony offers a snapshot of people’s lives, a moment frozen in time. It’s like fragments of an autobiography.
It’s always made me feel a bit weird that I like to read autobiographies, especially of writers, even if I haven’t read the writer’s other work. Jeanette Winterson is an example. Alexander Chee is another.
- This is a series of autobiographical essays but also a must-read for anyone who is interested in the craft of writing. Chee not only attended the Iowa Writers Workshop, he also taught writing. If you, like most of us, were unlucky enough to not go to Iowa, then read this.
- The Anne Dillard essay got me thinking about how people diss writing degrees when there is so much to be learnt about the craft of writing. How is it that it’s fine to study music or art but not writing? Why must one be totally unschooled to do this?
Rachel Howzell Hall: Land of Shadows, Skies of Ash, Trail of Echoes
Detective fiction is the new chick lit in my book so please recommend series.
A black detective is a refreshing change. The milieu is the black middle class – the same crimes, different race – yet the ghetto is never far away.
Racial tension is evoked in the relationship between Elouise Norton and her white partner Colin, a newbie from Colorado. But the usual dynamic is flipped – Colin is the interloper here while Elouise has the upper hand.
My one quibble is that the chemistry between Elouise and Colin is unnecessary. There was a time when I used to be like something was missing in a story.
Every book has some personal issue intertwined with the case . In the first, it’s a missing girl like her sister, in the second it’s the shit behind the facade of a marriage, in the third its absent fathers.
The Green Girl, Kate Zambreno
Sometimes a book you’ve wanted to get your hands on for ages lives up to the expectations. This was not one of those times. Read my thoughts here.