Archive for : July, 2015

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The Unspeakable by Meghan Dunn – A Review

A keen observer of her own life, Meghan Dunn has written a collection about internal conflicts surrounding relationships, sexual identity and more.

For Dunn, growing up includes the choice about whether or not we will need social norms to guide us, or we will make the choice to rebel.

One of Dunn’s more poignant essays, called “Matricide,” is about her experience watching her mother die from gallbladder cancer. On a deeper level, it explores their conflicted relationship and Dunn’s lack of faith in her mother’s authenticity. She startles the reader at the end: “I had been slightly worried that when my mother actually died I’d be more grief-stricken than I’d expected….But none of that happened. I was as relieved as I planned to be.”

In another essay, called “Honorary Dyke,” she discusses her sexual rebellion. She remembers being taken to a gay bar, which freaked her out so much that she realized she wasn’t a lesbian …“so much as someone who appreciated a good haircut.”

She covers a lot of territory in many ways, and not enough in others. In one essay, “Invisible City,” she writes about a party at Nora Ephron’s house in Los Angeles. There was great potential in this story, and though well written in ways, in others it is awkward and flat.

In other essays, she doesn’t hold back. In “Difference Maker,” she discusses working with foster children at the same time she has a miscarriage. The irony did not escape her, as she encounters children who seem …” self-centered and marginalized almost to the point of utter hopelessness.”

In addition, when she speaks of aging, she writes of being often being the oldest person in the room. What she misses most is the feeling that more is coming, that “the present is merely a planning phase” for the rest of her life.

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Landline by Rainbow Rowell – A Review

Balancing the love of work and family is something many women can relate to. In Landline, Rainbow Rowell explores this problem head on. Georgie McCool is a dedicated mother and wife who when finally given the opportunity to have the career dream she has always wanted, chooses the career. Instead of going on a family Christmas trip, Georgie stays in L.A. to prepare for her TV writing career life goal, a television show of her own.

Rowell does an excellent job of showcasing the real life dilemma between family and career that many women struggle with. Georgie is not the typical wife and her choice to choose her career sends her husband off on a family Christmas trip without her. As technology fails Georgie she reaches for an old landline that turns mystical with powers and may help her change the course of her life, her marriage, and her happiness.

Throughout the story Rowell helps us discover the emotional side of searching for your dreams. It isn’t easy to be successful and sometimes you have to give up on the things that are most important to you for at least a small period of time. As Georgie fights for her success she also wants her marriage and family to be a success, so it is a struggle that we go along with her on. She doesn’t know if her husband has left her for good or if he will return from the trip and they can continue their happy family. She wonders if by following her career she has ruined the life she had and loved.

What would you do if you had the power to talk to your husband many years ago? Would you keep things they way they are? Marry him still? Have a different life? These are the struggles that Georgie fights with when she has the opportunity to talk to her husband Neal from the past.

This book is entertaining because the characters are not what we typically think of male and female roles. It is refreshing to see a strong female woman that is left to be imperfect. Because no one is perfect in the real world, so reading about someone like Georgie makes us feel more connected. The nontraditional mother figure is certainly a great appeal, just as the nontraditional father figure in Neal is also widely appealing as you read this book.

There is not much information about Georgie’s two daughters which could be helpful or not as you read the story. It is also a slow growing plot which might lead to people giving up before the story really gets going. But if you can stick it out and make it to the time jumps and immerse yourself in the full story, you will likely enjoy it very much. No woman is perfect and Rowell shows us how this imperfection can still bring about the perfect life that many of us dream of. The relationships and feelings in this book feel real and truly drive the story.

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The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – A Review

Set in 1922 England after World War I, The Paying Guests focuses a great deal of its narrative on the role of women in the early part of the 20th century. It’s also about love, homosexuality, sex, murder, family and more.

Francis Wray, the film’s protagonist, is a twenty-something woman who leaves London (and her lover) to move to the suburbs in the South to help her mother maintain the family home. A once grand place with servants running all but the most elegant of moves, the home had fallen into disrepair.

Wray’s deceased father had made some bad investments, sending the family into financial ruin. Now Wray’s mother, made fragile by years of privilege and the shock of losing her money, her husband, and her sons (who both died in the war), was seemingly unable to lift a finger to take care of the home.

It all fell on Francis’ shoulders. From the cooking and laundry to household repairs, Francis did her best to meet the household needs and shield her mother from impending doom. Eventually, however, the workload was too much. They needed additional help, and the only solution was a partial remodel of the upstairs to include an apartment for boarders.

Life for everyone makes a radical shift with the appearance of a decidedly middle-class couple who rent the apartment.

Lillian and Leonard Barber are young, like Francis. They settle in for the long term, and make themselves right at home, decorating the rooms in their own style. Mr. Barber works at an insurance firm in the city. Mrs. Barber is a stay at home wife. Their progressive point of view and troubled marriage soon spell trouble.

Francis and Lillian become fast friends, despite the very radical difference in their styles. Francis still clings to her formerly upper class tastes, whilst her friend’s decorating borders on the cheap, at least in Francis’ eyes. Their relationship develops into one of steamy lesbian sex, which Waters describes in erotic detail.

They are lost in their attraction to each other until Lillian discovers that she is pregnant. She is not about to have the baby, however, and since she has already dealt with getting rid of one pregnancy before, she feels certain she knows what to do. The subsequent scenes turn an upstairs bedroom into a desperate field hospital without the services of a doctor. When Leonard arrives back home, he is angry, and Lillian ends up hitting him in the head with an ashtray.

The next morning Leonard is dead. The events afterwards include a rift between Lillian and Francis, a funeral, and Lillian’s departure. As she leaves the home, she appears anguished.

There is an investigation, a suspected murder, and a trial. The buildup to all jangles the nerves, as Waters is a master at allowing her readers to sense terror amidst regret.

This book is an erotically charged thriller that agitates the reader to the point of discomfort. Driven to desperation to have resolution, it is tremendously difficult not to peek ahead to find out what happens.