cloudsinvenice: woman resting her head on her hand, thinking (Default)
[personal profile] cloudsinvenice
I owe the new people I met on the friending meme an intro post, so that will hopefully happen tomorrow. But for now, books!

Books finished:

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

I enjoyed the book a lot and thought it was mostly balanced and realistic in terms of how it treated the characters, though it bothered me that it never addressed the ethics of the GP taking Max's blood without ever saying she was going to test it to determine his genetic sex. It did, however, feature an absolute nightmare of a Harley Street doctor with horribly anachronistic views, who will be recognisable in his attitudes to people with many different conditions, and I fear drawn from life for any intersex people who've had the misfortune to deal with his kind. The whole medical side of the book, and how the parents reacted, largely, by acting as a barrier between Max and the doctors (and that being sometimes good and sometimes bad in effect, something they themselves couldn't have predicted), rang true to me.

Max and Sylvie's developing relationship also really works, as does their whole social background at school. Some things seem not to have changed much since I was there, particularly the obsessive focus on who is doing what sexual thing with whom. Meanwhile, Max is doing exams to let him change to a better school for sixth form - but the school is already attended by his childhood friend, and recent rapist, Hunter. Between this and everything else that happens with his parents, his pregnancy and the abortion, Max's reaction is entirely understandable. The one qualm I had was about how that played out.

We see Max's thoughts darken and switch perspectives to his dad, who finds him cold in his bed. The chapter then ends, moving to one from Sylvie's POV, which for pages and pages reads exactly as if Max has died, right down to all the past tense about what Max did and how it was for Max, and the bit about Max's mum having visited Sylvie to tell her that Max really loved her. Then, in Sylvie's present POV, she sees him in town, and while was a relief to me (after I'd figured out that it wasn't a hallucination, a flashback or a dream sequence), I felt like the appearance of Max's suicide (or rather, the drawing out of the reveal that it had failed) had been played a little cheaply for a cliffhanger.

Of course, it's a natural point to end a chapter on, and we needed to experience the shock and horror Max's dad felt. But the bait-and-switch made me uneasy given the subject matter. I recognise that I'm not objective on this issue, particularly at this time of year perhaps, and I'm not even sure if I'm right or wrong, or how I would have handled it differently. I'm certainly not suggesting that it should detract from what is overall a thoughtful, original and important story.

Books abandoned:

Sane New World: Taming the Mind by Ruby Wax

I raced through the first 90 pages during a particularly long session in a waiting room, but when I went to pick it up in bed that night I found I couldn't muster the will. What bothers me is that she veers so much between fact and opinion in a way that sometimes blurs the two - sometimes "millions of years" is used colloquially, other times literally. Often she's candid about something being her opinion, or a generalisation that won't necessarily apply to everybody, but then she'll make a sweeping statement about how none of our ancient ancestors had OCD, which leaves me thinking, "But how can we know that?" I can believe that human mental problems have changed with the social and environmental context in which we find ourselves, but it just makes no sense to bang on about how great neuroscience is and then make assertions you can't back up with it. It made me think I should probably just find a book for a lay audience that is specifically about neuroscience (your recs are welcome).

The Other, Darker Ned by Anne Fine

This is a story about the friendship between a young girl, and the student husband of her blind father's assistant. I like found family, and stories set during lazy, atmospheric summer days (hypocritically, I often enjoy them during actual atmospheric summer days in which I complain about the atmosphere; I was not made for heatwaves), and Anne Fine (one of our best modern children's/YA authors) was a mainstay of my bookshelf in my teens. But this turned out not to have aged well (it was written in 1979, and along with much of her ouvre, Fine has since updated it to reflect a changing society and her own tougher editing skills, a process she writes about interestingly, for adults here and for young readers here). While it's as sharply observed as any of her work, I prefer her more conflict-ridden books, and when Wikipedia confirmed that the success or otherwise of a charity jumble sale is the high dramatic point of the book, I decided to bow out.

Currently reading:

Romanitas by Sophia McDougall

The premise is that the Roman Empire never fell; today the world is (apart from the Independent South of Africa) divided between the Roman, Chinese and Japanese empires. The world map at the beginning of the book is terrifying to behold - vast swathes of the world under Rome's control, and as the cover picture suggests, crucifixion is still a punishment; one's life prospects are still defined by being either a slave or a freeman. So far, I love it - it's extremely well written, with subtle characterisation and inventive takes on the telepathy and healing powers experienced by two kids who are on the run...

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

I adored Fun Home, and recently I got lucky and found a very cheap nearly-new copy of the sequel. Only a few pages in, but so far I love it, and R, who has a better eye for these things than I do, remarks that her style has evolved interestingly since the last book. Me, it just makes me want to draw, as her work always does. What a luxury to have another Alison Bechdel graphic novel ahead of me...

Reading next:

This is a bit of a joke, as since I began doing this meme I've noticed that listing a book here almost guarantees that I will NOT read it next. But for what it's worth, Morrissey's book is still hanging in there (technically I did read a little of it).
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cloudsinvenice: woman resting her head on her hand, thinking (Default)
"What can the cat-posters hope to gain?"

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