And here we are in March. February has been a month of reading I didn't quite expect, and now I'm a little overwhelmed with it all. My TBR for FeministLitFebruary was ambitious, and I'm a bit surprised and impressed by myself to see how much I managed to read. I wish I'd written more reviews, but oh well. I'm still figuring it out.
Anyway, here's the roundup:
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen || 3/5
I read this for a creative project I was hoping to start, but it turned out I didn't have time for it this month.
This is my third Jane Austen book, and I just don't get them. With all their insight and many funny moments, my overarching annoyance at how obsessed with money and boring most of the characters are is just too much to enjoy them. And still, I miss them when I finished?? Sense & Sensibility is full of highly unlikeable characters, its ending is awful, and Elinor is one of the most frustrating protagonists I've ever come across. Can I stop reading these now please.
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward || 4.5/5 || FeministLitFeb Challenge - An #ownvoices story
I read the book while a storm was raging through my own mind, so that might have to do with the way I experienced it, but goddamn. It's special.
Salvage the Bones follows the story of a family – three brothers, one sister, and their dad – in Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, 12 days before the storm Katrina hits. Esch, the narrator and only girl in the family, has just discovered she is pregnant.
I tried to write a full review for this title, but my words can't do it justice. It's a beautifully written, immersive read about motherhood and strength and destrucion that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Brave by Rose McGowan || abandoned
I tried, and gave up on page 40. This is not a book that should be judged by its literary merit, of course not. But dear god it would have benefited a lot from some editing. The book is written in a 'stream of consciousness' kind of way, which I imagine makes for an intriguing audiobook, but is exhausting in writing. It lacks structure and is full of anger and a kind of 'I immediately saw through the bullshit' superiority that made it hard for me to want to keep reading. Rose McGowan has been through a lot and she has every right to be angry, but I've decided not to follow this particular story.
Six Stories & an essay by Andrea Levy || 4/5 || Instagram review || FeministLitFeb Challenge - A book written by a black woman
'I am not in the habit of making friends with strangers. I am a Londoner. Not even little grey-haired old ladies can shame a response from me. I'm a Londoner – aloof sweats from my pores.'
This short read explores the concept of identity throughout three generations, all inspired by Andrea Levy's own experiences or those of her family: the young man from the West Indies fighting for the British during the War; the Jamaican woman on her way to England full of expectation for a better life; and the immigrant's daughter, English through and through to the point where she needs to be made aware she is black. The essay that precedes the stories tells Levy's own story of growing up in a Highbury council flat, so unaware of her ancestry as the descendant of slaves that she considered herself white, and had to re-learn what it means to be a product of the shared history between Britain and the Caribbean.
Like a complex gemstone that looks different from every angle, this book provides a variety of short but impactful stories that should best be read in one sitting to appreciate this book as a whole.
(Also, can I just say – this Tinderpress edition is lush. The thick stock it's printed on, the clear foil on the cover, the handwritten titles? Oh my god.)
Hunger by Roxane Gay || 5/5 || full review here || FeministLitFeb Challenge - Feminist Wildcard
THIS BOOK THOUGH. It's amazing. Read it.
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas || 3/5 || FeministLitFeb Challenge - Feminist Fiction
This book is being sold by comparing it to The Power and The Handmaid's Tale, and I think that kind of marketing does it a disservice. Unlike the distinctly sci-fi/dystopian books by Naomi Alderman and Margaret Atwood, Red Clocks feels a lot more immediate and relatable: its America is one that looks well possible by 2020. Its horror is more subtle and takes a step back to make space for its characters, who are each impacted in a different way by the new legislation (abortion is illegal under any circumstances, and adoption is only possible for married couples). It's an immensely readable book that I looked forward to picking up each time, invested in all four main characters and their struggle for personal freedom.
But I think it tries too hard. Someone on Goodreads called it 'literary frills', and that's what they are – the narrator does not refer to the women by name, but title (the wife, the daughter, the biographer, the mender), which feels superfluous since they clearly have names; there are very disjointed bits of writing linked to a polar explorer Ro is writing about, which are either by the explorer herself or by Ro, and it's never quite clear what they are for; and especially in Gin's chapters there are bits of literary dissociation when the writing seems to slip in some kind of fever dream that made me wonder what I'm reading each time. I don't think any of these features are necessary, as the women's stories are engaging enough in themselves, and they distract more than they add. This would have been a gorgeous, important book without those frills.
Inferior by Angela Saini || 4/5 || FeministLitFeb Challenge - Feminist Non-Fiction
Can we take a second to admire this cover — thank you.
This seemed like the perfect book to read for this challenge: an exploration of the way science has been used to prove that women are the weaker sex, and what we know now. It looks at intellectual ability, physical differences and aging (or, 'What are old women good for'), looking at studies very different from the ones we always read about in the news. For someone who doesn't read as much non-fiction as she should, I found this book very well structured and very readable, and I have come away with even more respect for the female of our species: we are mighty, and I didn't even know half of it.
This was my first ever reading challenge, and I really enjoyed this. Maybe I'll do another one in the future.
But for March: easy reads.