Friday, 24 November 2017

Mini Reviews #2

I'm powering through my university reading, which continues to be a mixed bag. My tolerance at the moment is quite low, so I'm DNFing books after a couple of chapters, sometimes even a few pages. I hate that I'm doing it, because I genuinely want to be more well read. However, I'm still attending lectures (even the ones that mean I have to get up at 6:30 😭) and I am still participating in class discussions. Plus the way I am assessed means that I don't have to read every book I'm assigned, so I'm forcing myself to get over my perfectionist people-pleasing guilt.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - ★★★★☆
Middlesex is possibly my favourite book that uni has assigned me this semester. It's about an intersex man named Cal who reflects on his history, both personal and familial. Cal starts narrating from his childhood, then leaps back to his grandparents falling in love and travelling to America. From then he carries on semi-chronologically to tell the story of his parents and then his own childhood when he was raised as a girl, all the while showing glimpses of what is happening in his present-day life as he writes this memoir. The book is long but it is clever in it's playing with time and present day knowledge shaping how one reads the past. Cal's narration is so interesting in how he covers different lengths of lived-in time in different lengths of narrative time, glossing over years in a few lines whilst extending some individual moments over several paragraphs to map their intensity - sometimes even moments that he did not and could not have experienced, yet painting a such a vivid picture that you feel as though you are present. Plus the writing is beautiful and is filled with strands of Greek mythological influences. I didn't have any expectations, but I ended up really enjoying Middlesex. BUT BUT BUT I have to add this: I was told in class that Eugenides DIDN'T talk to any intersex people when researching this book. If I'd known before I started I think I would have read the book in a very different way. I understand that the author did do research, and the novel does assert that Cal isn't involved in intersex groups and this is only one of many perspectives. But to never talk to the people you are writing about is just absurd. It's not a book about trying to represent a group of people, but that doesn't mean you can take artistic licence with someone's existence. I tried to search for intersex perspectives on the novel, and found this blog post which helped pick out some inaccuracies. If I find any more I will link them here.
Warnings: death, sexual harassment, misgendering

Kew Gardens by Virginia Woolf - ★☆☆☆☆
For a book so short, you would think I'd remember something about it. But I don't. At all. I know it wasn't really a story and meant to be more of a feeling of a place, but in my experience I've felt more connection to a potato than I have to Woolf's writing.

The Garden Party by Katherine Mansfield - ★☆☆☆☆
I somewhat remember this short story. I think it was written to make people think about class and privilege and it did. For about 5 seconds. But I don't think it really did anything with that knowledge. As a short story I think it was prevented from having much depth or memorability.
Warnings: death

Odour of Chrysanthemums by D.H. Lawrence - ★☆☆☆☆
A little less memorable than the previous short story. I think it was about a woman and her husband dies? There were flowers mentioned once in there somewhere. Symbolism probably. I haven't read many short stories in my life so maybe they just don't work for me.
Warnings: death

Oleanna by David Mamet - ★☆☆☆☆
I think I understood this play? Partially. Which is a blessing because I read a lot of plays last semester where I had NO IDEA what was going on or why it was happening. But it was definitely weird and a lot of the time I don't know whose side the playwright wanted the audience to be on. A student accuses her college teacher of sexual harassment, but I don't really know what Mamet was trying to say because both characters seemed kind of awful depending on how you read it. I think it really depends on how it's performed, but I can't say it really adds much to the issue of sexual harassment and power imbalances.
Warnings: sexual harassment, physical abuse

Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson - ★★★☆☆
Surprisingly, I somewhat enjoyed this one.  It was so detailed in the narrator's feelings, and I found it interesting how we never learn anything about the narrator - not even their gender. It was short but beautifully written, but it felt kind of unbelievable. The narrator was consumed by their love to the point where it was their only thought, as though they were nothing without it. It got to the point where they were researching scientific facts about the skin and skeleton and blood so they could know their lover better. I think that was meant to come across as creepy, but also highlight how powerful love can be. And personally I couldn't buy into it.

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh (audiobook) - ★☆☆☆☆
Even whilst listening to the audiobook, the humour didn't come through for me. I felt nothing whilst reading this.

Middlemarch by George Eliot (audiobook) - ★★★☆☆
Despite being painfully long at times, I quite liked Middlemarch. In terms of plot there was never anything that particularly stood out for me, but I did enjoy the large cast of characters. I think there were a few too many characters that were given attention to and I definitely cared more for some than others. I liked the Vincy siblings in particular, and incidentally they are also my favourite characters in Middlemarch The Show. I doubt I would have persisted with the novel as long as I had if I hadn't already been watching and loving this modernised web-series adaptation, but I'm glad I persisted, because I found a large amount of my enjoyment of the book was seeing how the web-series drew parallels from it.

Did Not Finish:
Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
The Book of Margery Kempe
The Book of Marvels and Travels by John Mandeville
The Revelations of Julian Norwich
The Art of Rhetoric by Aristotle
The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst


  1. WOW, those are many mini reviews!!! What a way to multi-task several books in one post! I usually do three books in one mini reviews post, but making more is probably the better option. There are too may books to review! I'm sorry you didn't enjoy many of these.

    1. Hhaha thank you! I figured I'd shove all my uni reading into monthly posts so it doesn't clog up my blog - especially since so many of them are so negative! I've got some good modules next semester though, so I think these posts are going to have some higher rated books in the coming months :)