Splitting by Fay Weldon
- Not sure what made me decide it was time for another dose of Weldon, (usually she's the antidote to overt sentimentalism) but this book about a divorced woman whose multiple personalities help her get through the crisis, bored me. Weldon is one of those writers who rewrites the same book over and over throughout her career. I love her sarcasmic wit and biting insight; but in the case of this particular book I recommend reading her autobiography Auto da Fay
, instead. It's pretty much the same material, but worked over in a more interesting way. (Complete with narratorial split from those portions of her life that require psychological distance.)Catherynne M. Valente: The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden
- I've heard so many good things about this book, I read through my initial disgust at the overly adjective-laden style (purplish prose being one of my main objections to fantasy) and discovered I liked it. It was the Bear's Tale that won me over. I was kind of annoyed that there weren't more bears in the book total. I loved the idea of Bears-as-Astrologers. I enjoyed the nested tales. I liked Valente's pro-female read on fairytales. I liked the transformative element and focus on monsters. I would highly recommend the book to some of you (ashfae
), but probably not mention it to others. I will definitely read the second volume, The Orphan's Tales: In the Cities of Coin and Spice
, which is due out Tuesday.
But I'm also a little disappointed that this seems to be the only way that fairy tales can now be published. The nesting at times seemed a little contrived, and I wondered if I'd like the tales more or less if they stood slightly more independently. I guess I'll have to wait until finishing the second volume to make up my mind. Recommended for those who enjoyed the fantastical elements of Sharon Shinn's The Shapechanger's Wife
, an elegant little volume that I recommended to a great many of you.The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale
- This 'true crime' book about the murder of a three-year-old in mid-19C England was interesting because of everything that was NOT the murder. Summerscale covers the inner-workings (and inventories) of a Victorian home, the emergence of the detective, and the influences of this case had on literature.
Needless to say I adored the trivia in this book including the extremely high statistics on child murders in this era and how many people got away with it, weird legal proceedings, outrageous newspaper reports, and generally the sense that life then was not any better then it is now and was in many cases a heck of a lot worse.
But the best part of the book is the author's discussion of the impact this case had on literature from the period. (And of course early rumblings of what was to become the birth of psychology. I need to learn more about 'alienists.') This is one of those books that is the payoff for being a well-read person. I couldn't be written or read by anyone who didn't have some passing familiarity of 19C literature and it opened up some of those global connections I like to explore.
It also gave me nightmares about being a nanny in a household where children had been repeatedly murdered or disappeared. My job was to protect my charges from murder or vanishment; but as no one knew WHY the previous children had been harmed (or by whom) it turned me into a paranoid wreck. It was not unlike Turn of the Screw
... I was afraid to sleep or let the children out of my sight for a second; but the dream offered one aspect of humor: Russell Crowe played some kind of visiting somebody who's always turning up at these country homes. The question was whether he was a sympathetic ear intended to soothe the nerves of a restless and over-imaginative governess, or a MURDERER!