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Barbara Kingsolver is a great writer. “Unsheltered” pulses with beautiful prose about two families living in a crumbling house in Vineland, New Jersey, 150 years apart.
When Thatcher Greenwood, the hero of the 1870s cycle, scolds his wife Rose, we hear that: Her eyes flared like a struck match before she looked away.
As the FT says, the book is – in many ways – magnificent.
Willa Knox, the hero of the contemporary cycle, admires her grandson: She lay with her chin on her forearms admiring the baby’s wren-feather eyelashes and delicate nostrils, the bottom lip tucked into the infant overbite. The melon of belly expanding, contracting.
Each chapter ends with the title of the following chapter. We learn that Willa, faced with a grisly task, mommed up and did the deed. This is elegant, powerful stuff.
But the book drove me half crazy. Here are 9 reasons why. (more…)
How men and women think, and whether there is a difference, is one of the abiding puzzles of life. We all want to understand other people. Many of us want to understand the opposite sex.
How can we understand men, or women?
One of the wisest writers on relationships between the sexes was the 19th century British writer Anthony Trollope. My piece Trollope: 11 reasons to read him sets out his awesome qualities (links in bold italics are to other posts on this blog) – including the fact that much of what he wrote is still 100% current. More Trollope links are at the end of this post.
Trollope’s 1869 novel He Knew He Was Right examines relations between the sexes in detail. You can explore quotations from the book below on men (6), on women (9), on relationships (22), on literary criticism (1) and finally (as a reminder of Trollope’s wit and continued relevance) on “the railway sandwich”.
Nothing changes. Enjoy!
My Trollope Society edition of “He Knew He Was Right” has 823 pages
The reader may be quite certain that Colonel Osborne had no premeditated evil intention when he allowed himself to become the intimate friend of his old friend’s daughter. There was nothing fiendish in his nature. He was not a man who boasted of his conquests. He was not a ravening wolf going about seeking whom he might devour, (more…)
Many years ago I worked alongside a young woman who, long before in another city, had had a relationship with a man who now worked in the building we were in. Whenever she spoke of him, her voice quavered and her eyes brimmed with tears. She was sure he was in love with her, but was dismayed that he showed no interest. She longed for him, but had not spoken to him for years. At certain times of day, when he might be due to leave work, she would go to the window and gaze out, hoping to catch a glimpse of him in the distance.
The cover of my (borrowed) copy of Prep
I thought of that colleague when I read “Prep” by Curtis Sittenfeld, published in 2005. The book follows a 14 year-old girl, Lee Fiora, who leaves her family home in Indiana to take up a scholarship at Ault, an elite boarding school on the US East Coast. Through her four years at the school, she obsesses about her relationships and develops a crush on a boy.
What a crush. (more…)
‘Do you hate me, James?’
Dixon wanted to rush at her and tip her backwards in the chair, to make a deafening rude noise in her face, to push a bead up her nose. ‘How do you mean?’ He asked.
I first read Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim several decades ago. I enjoyed it immensely; and noted this exchange as summing up both how some women speak; and how some men react.
Re-reading the book recently I felt it had not aged well; but that it was still full of laugh-out-loud moments, including the one above.
What I was less sure of was how similar Kingsley Amis’s eponymous first person narrator is to Kemal, the first person narrator of Orhan Pamuk’s scary and thought-provoking novel The Museum of Innocence, which I reviewed recently.
In particular, are they similar in the way they treat women?
What do you think? I would welcome thoughts from readers.
As I am on holiday without a computer or iPad I cannot give this subject the attention it deserves for now; but will aim to do so in August when reunited with a computer.
Watch this space.
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