Book Review: The Principal Girl

Principal Girl cover (18Feb2019)

THE PRINCIPAL GIRL: FEMINIST TALES FROM ASIA

Edited by Sharifah Aisha Osman and Tutu Dutta

Publisher: Gerakbudaya

Having curated and edited two collections of Malaysian short stories, I am aware that it’s not an easy task to produce a book in which the stories are of a consistent quality. Unfortunately, we do not (as yet) have a large enough pool of experienced and talented writers to produce enough well-written stories (especially in English) to fill an anthology. Still, this shouldn’t deter anyone from planning to collect and publish short stories by local writers. However, it should be stressed that such endeavours take time and patience to complete, and may leave those in the editing/publishing roles with their sanity in shreds. Nevertheless, I learnt a lot from editing the anthologies Malaysian Tales: Retold & Remixed and Remang and both experiences were ultimately rewarding and enriching. I hope this was also the case for Sharifah Aisha Osman and Tuty Dutta, the editors of The Principal Girl.Read More »

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The Big Pym-Re-Read: Excellent Women, Part 2

This post contains spoilers!

Archdeacon Horcleve
Gerard Manley Hopkins fits the bill for many of Pym’s vicars!

What is a Pym novel with no mention of the clergy?

Julian Mallory is the vicar of Mildred’s parish. He is about forty, ‘tall, thin and angular’; High Church (much to the dismay of some of his parishioners), and prefers to be referred to as ‘Father’.

Father Mallory lives with his unmarried sister, Winifred who is a close friend of Mildred’s. As he is single, it is assumed that he believes in the celibacy of the clergy. However, when the Mallorys rent out the upper floor of the vicarage to a widow called Allegra Gray, Julian Mallory eventually becomes engaged to her.

Mrs Gray tells Mildred about the engagement. She and Julian Mallory think that Mildred will be upset by the news because, of course, being unmarried and close to the Mallorys, it is assumed that she would want the vicar for herself. <<eyeroll>>Read More »

Book Review: The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

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The Weight of Our Sky

By Hana Alkaf

[Salaam Reads, 274 pages]

Owing to its subject matter — the May 13th race riots — and publishing circumstances, The Weight of the Sky was probably the most highly anticipated book to be written by a Malaysian author in the last few years. Hanna Alkaf is a Malaysian who lives and writes in Malaysia, and her publisher is an imprint of American publishing house Simon & Schuster. Malaysians get very excited when our authors are recognised (i.e. given contracts) by Western publishers, but I think this recognition couldn’t have happened to a better writer.Read More »

The Big Pym-Re-Read: Some Tame Gazelle

Some tame gazelleWhile Less Than Angels is about a community of anthropologists, Some Tame Gazelle, Barbara Pym’s first published novel, features her other favourite profession, the clergy.

The main characters, however, are spinsters, another Pym speciality, in this case, a pair of sisters called Harriet and Belinda Bede.

Harriet, the older sister, is plump, attractive, garrulous, and rather more flamboyant than the quiet, mousy, self-effacing and reflective Belinda.

Harriet has a fondness for young curates, a completely respectable regard, mind you, taking the innocent form of mothering these men of the cloth, inviting them for tea and dinner, and presenting them with gifts of knitted socks and sweaters, fruit, and homemade jams.

Meanwhile, Belinda loves their neighbour and the vicar of their parish, Archdeacon Henry Hoccleve. Belinda has been friends with the Archdeacon since they were at university together, and has remained steadfast for thirty years. Alas, he is married to the formidable Agatha, whom Belinda views with a combination of awe and fear.

Archdeacon HorcleveIn the first chapter of the novel we are introduced to Harriet’s latest young curate, Edgar Donne (I picture him looking like the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins [right]. Bizarrely, I also picture the Archedeacon looking like Hopskins!), who has come to the Bede’s for supper, and, as the book progresses, we meet the other characters, part of the Bede’s circle, including Henry and Agatha Horcleve; Count Ricardo Bianco, an Italian nobleman settled in their village, who is in love with Harriet and proposes to her regularly and in vain; Edith Liversidge, a ‘decayed gentlewoman’, and her poor relation, the dreary harp-playing Connie Aspinall who will not stop speaking of her days as companion to a lady in Belgrave Square.Read More »

The Big Pym-Re-Read: Less Than Angels

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I haven’t really blogged about Barbara Pym’s novels and, now that I have physical copies for all of them, I thought I would do a big re-read and then write a post about each book.

I chose Less Than Angels at random, but after this I will read the novels in order of publication:

  • Some Tame Gazelle (1950)
  • Excellent Women (1952)
  • Jane and Prudence (1953)
  • Less than Angels (1955)
  • No Fond Return of Love (1961)
  • Quartet in Autumn (1977)
  • The Sweet Dove Died (1978)
  • A Few Green Leaves (1980)
  • An Unsuitable Attachment (written 1963; published posthumously, 1982)
  • Crampton Hodnet (completed circa 1940, published posthumously, 1985)
  • An Academic Question (written 1970–72; published posthumously, 1986)
  • Civil to Strangers (written 1936; published posthumously, 1987)

Read More »