I know I’ve been shamefully absent. I blame summer (and summer romance for that matter). But just because I haven’t been writing, doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. And since I’m becoming increasingly intimidated by my review backlog, I’m going to do a quick review blitz, since apparently no one wants to read a long review online anyway.
Gods Behaving Badly, by Marie Phillips
This one was an enthusiastic recommendation from a fellow KIRBCer, and it certainly was an amusing little romp – easy to read, but sharp and intelligent. Philips explores what would happen if everyone’s favourite Olympians were still alive, living in London in the modern day, forgotten, their powers waning. The plot is driven not only by their predicament, but, as in the old tales, the ambroisa-eaters meddling in the affiars of mortals – specifically, two almost-lovers: Neil, an architect, and Alice a cleaning lady. When Eros spears Apollo with one of his famous arrows, Apollo falls in love with Alice, and everything goes to . . . Hades. Philips knows the mythology well, and the novel is filled with intelligent barbs as sharp and true as Eros’ arrows (Aprodite to Hermes: “You’re the God of coincidences aren’t you?” He replies: “I’m the God of everything nobody else wants to do.”) and good-humoured satire.
Blindness, by Jose Saramago
This has already been reviewed for the KIRBC by M-Shaw, my reactions ranged from jawdropped in horror while on public transport (the initial announcements when they are first interred “In the event of a fire getting out of control, whether accidentally or on purpose, the firemen will not intervene,” proved to be the least of the horrors the book had in store), to being charmed by the dog of tears or the tenderness between the woman with the dark glasses and the old man with the eyepatch, to being astounded at scenes of such unique and lasting beauty such as the three women washing clothes on the balcony in the rain. This moment was, for me, the greatest of the entire book, a brief moment of purity, companionship, and hope amongst all the darkness (or rather, obliterating whiteness). A brief excerpt, which perhaps one cannot fully appreciate without the intense devestation and despair which has preceeded it:
“They cannot imagine that there are moreover three naked women out there, as naked as when they came into the world, they seem to be mad, the must be mad, people in their right mind do not start washing on a balcony exposed to the view of the neighbourhood, even less looking like that, what does it matter that we are blind, these are things one must not do, my God, how the rain is pouring down on them, how it trickles between their breasts how it lingers and disappears into the darkness of the pubis, how it finally drenches and flows over the thighs, perhaps we have judged them wrong, or perhaps we are unable to see this as the most beautiful and glorious thing that has happened in the history of this city, a sheet of foam flows from the floor of the balcony, if only I could go with it, falling interminably clean, purified, naked.”
Yes, the sentences are mostly that long. And the dialogue, being all in one paragraph requires close attention. But of course it is worth it — for like the doctor’s wife, we are called to be witnesses to selfishness and corruption alongside courage and kindness.
And though I haven’t watched it yet, the movie trailer (which doesn’t look great to me, but I won’t judge a movie by its trailer):
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson
I discovered Winterson only recently, through a story in Four Letter Word. It lead me to Lighthousekeeping, which I adored, so I was thrilled to find Oranges at a garage sale. It’s an interesting exploration of relgious fanaticism (it reminded me of the earlier parts of Zadie Smith’s brilliant White Teeth) and of ungovernable love (admittedly another sort of fanaticism). Oranges follows a young woman’s sexual awakening as she falls in love with another girl, an unpardonable offense in the eyes of her mother, and the church which was the foundation of her life and her worldview. For me it was most successful in its humour, which grabbed me right on the first page as the girl describes her mother: “She had never heard of mixed feelings. There were friends and there were enemies. Enemies were: The Devil (in his many forms), Next Door, Sex (in its many forms), Slugs. Friends were: God, Our Dog, Auntie Madge, The Novels of Charlotte Bronte, Slug Pellets.” I foud my attention wandered as Winterson strayed into fairy tale allegory, sometimes recruiting Arthur’s knights, notably Percival, the pure of heart, to prop up against the failed Biblical allegories. It seeemd heavy handed, and lacked the vivacity and poignancy of the first-person narrative. I’m sure some deeper digging would yield richer results, though, I’m sure this one has found favour with critics and academics. So although I wasn’t head over heels for Oranges as I was with Winterson’s other work, it was still worthwhile and engaging read.
Phew, caught up. As for upcoming reviews, I’ll admit I’m currently reading The Host, which so far has been far more gruelling than any of the Twilight saga books, which I hope to follow with something to repair my damaged brain cells like Suite Francaise, or Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love.