Weekly Reads: March 1-7
Three books in a week is just below my usual average, but that's what comes from 2 out of 3 books being a disappointment. This was a week when I'm reminded of how different every reader is, and that each of us brings our own preferences to our reads.
I'm not going to rate this one because I don't want my personal preferences to get in the way of a book that it so obviously loved by many readers.
This actually would have been a DNF for me if so many people hadn't expressed how much they enjoyed the story.
While I enjoyed the friendship at the heart of the story, and how endlessly clever Julie was, the book was simply not for me. Too many details about planes and such, that until I understood Julie's motivations, felt extraneous. The first 180 or so pages just dragged for me, with more descriptions than plot. While I felt the heartbreak that came with the ending, it didn't land as hard as it did for those who enjoyed all the story leading up to it.
The Vegetarian, Han Kang
On the most literal level the first section of the book was the most compelling and the most disturbing for me. As someone who chose to become a vegetarian for moral reasons at the age of 10 I encountered my fair share of people who felt they should be imposing their preferences and ideas on me. It's been years since someone has attempted to make me feel weak or stupid for my choice so to revisit that sensation was interesting. The story of her father and the way he killed a dog was almost enough for me to put the book down.
The rest of the book...
I felt surprisingly neutral about it. I was neither particularly moved by either the language or the characters.
Mostly I'm left scratching my head, wondering who those people really are and why we get this small glimpse into their lives. This story didn't particularly inform or entertain. It felt like viewing a piece of modern art that has been curated for a reputable museum that conjures nothing in the casual viewer.
Wintersong, S. Jae-Jones
This was a surprise of a book. One that I wanted to sit with quietly once I had read the last page, and one that I simultaneously couldn’t wait to write about so as to better understand the experience.
(Vague spoilers ahead)
This is one of those books where it feels like the placement in the Young Adult genre is purely circumstantial- that a teenage girl plus fantasy is the biggest defining characteristic for the sake of category, instead of the breadth of the content.
The book was a little messy in some places, but the best kind of love is genuine, and so any mistakes or little things I bumped against, in the end, seemed only to be a part of S. Jae-Jones passion for her story.
Initially a lot of Liesel/Elisabeth’s struggles felt confusing, like she was being contrary or defiant for the sake of it, and not because she was a girl who had been made to squash down the biggest part of her soul, and to feel inferior in her gender and her worth, which was only revealed later in the book.
Is this a tale that will lead young girls to believe that their worth is not solely in their looks or in the standards of beauty? I don’t know. But I appreciate any female character who is admired for all the things that she does, makes, shares, and feels.
And there was definitely some complicated feelings about sex and what sex means to each person that could use a little unpacking. I understand that each character had a lot of baggage that they brought to the bedroom, and I understand that guilt and shame associated with sex is hardly unheard of in modern times, much less a hundred years ago, but some of it felt uncomfortable enough that I want to hand any young reader "Girl Up" to read after this book so she knows that enjoying consensual sex is nothing to be ashamed of.
Regardless of all that, I was swept away by all the complicated feelings and explorations that come with contemplating life, and what it means to love and be loved. Heady concepts wrapped up in the wrappings of folklore, and surprisingly Christianity. As an agnostic with leanings toward atheism, this was the only part that didn’t entirely jive with me, but ultimately once I learned where and how the Goblin King had been raised, I understood the comfort that it offered him.
Does the book have a happy ending? I think that’s in the eye of the beholder, and subject to whether or not your allow yourself to dream beyond the author’s last pages. Neither the Goblin King nor Elisabeth knew how the story they told would end, but it may be that in the unknowing, in the living, that there is happiness enough.
(This book inspired me a bake a cake!)