Wayward Girls and Wicked Women

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Read 17/07/2019-02/08/2019

Rating 3 stars

Read as part of the 20 Books of Summer readathon.

I accidentally started Women in Translation month early with this collection of short stories. I should have known that Angela Carter would include a few women whose first language isn’t English. After all, being a woman who doesn’t conform to the artificial notion of femininity isn’t an exclusively Anglophone thing.

Carter introduces her selections as being about women who aren’t really wicked or wayward, at least not all of them. Continue reading

Do Not Say We Have Nothing

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Read 24/03/2017-30/03/2017

Rating: 4 stars

Read for the Reader’s Room March Madness Challenge.

In Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien tells a family saga lived through the tumult of political upheaval in Communist China. The story moves from Canada in 1989, in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square student-led rebellion, to China in the years following the Communist victory in the civil war, through the land reforming Great Leap Forward to Mao’s Cultural Revolution and on to the events that took place in and around Tiananmen Square. It’s a political novel, but in a quiet way. It talks about loss of beauty as well as loss of freedom. It talks of how music inhabits us, is part of everything we do, has a power in people’s lives every bit as potent as politics. It talks about the violence of politics under an autocratic regime, but matter of factly. It is a thing that happens, it is devastating, but life goes on. Continue reading

The Art of War

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Read 11/08/2016-14/08/2016

Rating: 3 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Olympic Challenge

Many years ago, a man I knew told me that I needed to read The Art of War. His reasoning was that I lacked guile and needed a strategy to overcome certain workplace related obstacles. I didn’t listen to him because he was a little paranoid. I also don’t like office politics and the only strategy I need is to be myself, do what I’m good at and enjoy it.

I downloaded a free epub copy of The Art of War not too long ago and I decided to tackle it for the reading challenge I’m doing. It’s an academic edition of the book, so I’ve approached it as such. Continue reading

The Investigation

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Read 31/07/2016-05/08/2016

Rating: 4 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Olympic Challenge

On the face of it, The Investigation is a murder mystery set in a Japanese prison during the Second World War. It’s more than that, though. It’s a reflection on literature’s power to imprison, to set free, and to sustain. It’s an examination of identity, how individuals define themselves in relation to others and to notions of nationality and culture. It’s a history lesson of sorts about Japanese treatment of Koreans. It’s a beautifully crafted work, full of poetry and grace. The use of literature to underpin the story is compelling. If I have any criticism it’s that sometimes the writing becomes stilted, when the author stops talking about the personal and starts trying to make a point about the wider context of the characters’ lives, and that the resolution to the murder mystery was slightly ridiculous. Continue reading