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 »

Advertisements

Wifely Duties

I finished reading The Wife by Meg Wolitzer and also watched the film, starring Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce.

I didn’t expect to be, but I was disappointed by both.

I loved Glenn Close in the film — she was very good, but then I have not seen her falter in anything. Pryce was good too, his character was both pathetic and odious, and he portrayed him well. (He almost made me gag because he reminded me of a creepy someone in the lit scene here!)

However, I wasn’t convinced by the story. (No spoilers!)

In the film, I felt it was not developed sufficiently and so, I had trouble believing it. In the book, I didn’t think we got to know Joan well enough to understand why she did what she did. Intellectually it made sense, but not viscerally. We know Joan (a little) but we don’t feel her and so we don’t feel for her either.

Wolitzer’s writing style did not appeal to me. I found her voice cold and distant. Perhaps Joan is those things because of what she’s been through, but the author doesn’t allow us to get under her skin. She doesn’t give us a sense that Joan is torn between love and hate; pride and shame; she doesn’t make us feel Joan’s desperation.

Glenn Close, in the film, is successful in bridging that gap between the character and the audience. Her portrayal of Joan allows us to experience (at least to some degree) the conflicting emotions that must engulf the character at every turn. Still, I didn’t feel much more than a fleeting pity for her. Perhaps the problem was ‘resolved’ too conveniently and quickly. Or seemed to be. I suppose Joan is left to live with the truth, and to decide how to deal with it. Perhaps Wolitzer needs to write a sequel!

 

 

WWW Wednesday

What are you currently reading?

Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki

This collection of graphic shorts is about a boy (Kitaro) who can see yokai, the umbrella term for Japanese ghosts, ghouls and demons. The creator, Shigeru Mizuki, was famous for his comics about these creatures and the graphic novel Nonnonba describes his friendship with the old woman who worked for his family and was the person who introduced him to yokai in the first place.

I really love that book, and after I’d read it I was keen to read Kitaro and was disappointed that it wasn’t available at the bookstore. Imagine my surprise when someone at my flat for my Christmas party, remarked that I owned the Drawn & Quaterly edition, a collection of stories from the original manga series. I think I got it as a gift (from the same friend who encouraged me to buy Nonnonba) several years ago and forgot all about it! She doesn’t remember either.

Kitaro isn’t exactly disappointing, but I guess I expected more after Nonnonba. I believe the comics were written for a much younger reader than Nonnonba is meant for. Each story sees the boy vanquishing some yokai or other, at times with the help of other yokai. There are funny moments and some of the yokai are striking in their appearance, but, on the whole, it’s all too repetitive and I’m starting to get bored.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

YA fantasy with an appealing premise but a singularly irritating cast of characters, especially Nancy, the self-consciously-written protagonist. I’m listening to this on Scribd and have just five more chapters to go. This is the first of a series, but I don’t know if I will continue. However, I suspect I may like it better in print because at least I won’t have to listen to the reader (Cynthia Hopkins) putting on these annoying accents for the characters.

A Fourth Form Friendship by Angela Brazil

I’m reading this for a book challenge. Seventy-eight per cent done, thank goodness!

What did you recently finish reading, or didn’t complete?

Uncomfortably Happily by Yeon-Sik Hong  *****

This graphic memoir tells of the two years Yeon-Sik Hong lived in the Korean countryside with his wife, an aspiring picture book author. Hong is frustrated about working as an underpaid comic book artist-for-hire. Moving out of Seoul makes financial sense, and he also hopes the quiet seclusion of the place will help him concentrate and meet his deadlines. The book documents the challenges he and his wife face, with their new home, each other, and their work as creators. So far, my favourite book this year (month!).

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry *****

I listened to this on Scribd and loved it, especially the main character, Cora Seaborne whom I was not expecting at all. Really, the characters are all so well realised, they are painfully flesh-and-bone. I would like to read the paper-and-ink book soon so I can linger over the story.

The Ensemble by Aja Gabel

Abandoned in the middle of the second chapter. I liked the premise: four friends, who were at music school together, navigating the cruel cutthroat world of classical music. I listened to the audio book so maybe the reader (Rebecca Lowman) just didn’t appeal to me. I shall try to read the paper-and-ink book instead, one of these days.

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Wife by Meg Worlitzer

Lotus by Lijia Zhang

Melmouth by Sarah Perry

And all the graphic novels I own but have not got around to reading.

The Reading Year That Was

books read 2018
A screen capture of my ‘Books Read 2018‘ Pinterest board.

Late, but better than never.

I read thirty-five books in 2018.

The Ones I Really Loved and Will Probably Re-read:

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

The Nakano Thrift Store by Hiromi Kawakami

Manazuru by Hiromi Kawakami

Provenance by Ann Leckie

The Magicians of Madh by Aditi Krishnakumar

Bird Cloud by Annie Proulx

Murder While You Work by Susan Scarlett (Noel Streatfeild)

The Tale of the Bidadari by Stephani Soejono

Enormous Changes at the Last Minute by Grace Paley

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Reflections in a Golden Eye by Carson McCullers

Under the Pendulum Sun by Jeannette Ng

Least satisfying/ most disappointing books (they didn’t meet my expectations):

Holy Men, Holy Women by Dina Zaman

Number One Chinese Restaurant by Lillian Li

The Girl with the Ghost Eyes by M. H. Boronson

The Three Sisters of Sze by Tan Kok Seng

The Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

If I could re-read just one of the books I read last year it’d have to be … The Nakano Thrift Store by Hiromi Kawakami.

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: No Words

I wasn’t feeling the prompt for this week’s Top Ten (book merchandise — 10 different kinds of Moomin merch would be rather boring, no?) so I’m doing my favourite wordless /nearly wordless picture books.

I’ve cheated and listed eleven books, but with Sunshine and Moonlight by Jan Omerod, you really can’t have one without the other.

 

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Girl.