About half a month ago, we said goodbye to the first month of the year! And with it, the first month of my first numbered reading challenge. I actually ended on schedule which I’m really happy with because that quickly went caput with how busy February has been. Plus, I read a good mix of books. I even took up the challenge of one of my reading goals and stopped delaying when it came to reading Catch-22! So what did I read?
We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I actually got this for Christmas and forgot to pop it in my Under My Christmas Tree post because I had already moved it to my read-pile. It was actually my first book of the year, as early-morning-1st-of-January-Imogen started to panic about reading 80 books. It was short, to the point, and I read it aloud in a Skype call to a group of friends who were playing video games and not really paying attention. Except this managed to grab their attention because it was making some very powerful points.
The one thing that stopped this being a five-star read for me came with the line; “Women can have babies, men cannot.” That’s a really quick way to exclude trans-women and infertile women from your feminism. Obviously nobody can go into a huge amount of detail in a 48-page essay but that definition of women is just a little too exclusionary for me. I haven’t got around to her full 30 minute talk but I’m hoping for more detail.
-A man who would be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.
A Young Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov
I’ve wanted to read this since I watched the TV show with Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm. I don’t read many translations or books from the 19-20th centuries. I also don’t think I’ve read any Russian literature. And I definitely haven’t read anything about the way people were treated medically in Russia in this era- although I have been listening to a really great podcast called Sawbones about medical history which gave me a vague idea- so this was completely new. I was a little nervous going in but I needn’t have been.
This reads unbelievably modern for something from 1925. I was expecting to have to ask Siri about a lot of words, especially medical jargon, but either the translation worked this out or Mikhail Bulgakov knew his future audience. Either way, amazing. I loved it. I was completely taken out of myself and thrown into the Russian countryside, the cold weather, the small hospital with all the patients and this poor, inexperienced doctor.
I’d say, and this is a rare occasion, try the show first. I think you’ll appreciate the source material more, and probably the show. The way they take the short stories, and the separate piece; ‘Morphine’ and work them together is really great. Plus, Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe.
“There’s great experience to be gained in the countryside,” I thought, falling asleep, “Only I have to read, read a lot… read…”
Shakespeare’s Trollop by Charlaine Harris
I struggled with this one. As you might be able to tell from the title, the murder victim is the towns ‘trollop’- or, y’know, woman who isn’t ashamed to have lots of sex. On one hand, I can completely see where Charlaine Harris was going with it. The evolution of Lily’s character in the series has been ongoing and this fit in that arc. She’s a rape victim and the only way she has addressed this is to get very strong, take martial arts and she believes it’s a woman’s responsibility to protect herself. And I completely understand slut-shaming exists in the world, more-so in 2000 when this was published. But I didn’t want Lily to do it. I want her to be better. Even if she half changes her mind at the end, she still finds the moral of this half-change ‘beyond her’.
Judging it just as a book on it’s own, it’s just not as good as the rest of the series. Which is strange, because what leads is…
Shakespeare’s Counselor by Charlaine Harris
I feel like this book is the foremost of Charlaine Harris’s books. I’ve now finished every complete series that she’s written and this is right up there as one of my favourites! Lily starts to get help for her problems which is an incredibly healthy message after the last book. Her support group addresses victim-blaming and lots of positive stuff, all the while their counsellor is being stalked and people around her die.
I shut the book feeling like Lily was going to be okay, and I understood her better. I might not agree with her about rehabilitation not working for criminals, and I think women have a right to feel safe even though it’s a modern idea, but as a writer, Charlaine Harris made me understand and care for the character. And wrote a good mystery at the same time. I didn’t expect the ending. I’m off to dig out the Sookie Stackhouse novel that Lily features in and re-read her small part.
“No matter how much sympathy I have for you, it won’t heal you faster or slower. You’re not a victim of cosmic proportions. There are millions of us. That doesn’t make your personal struggle less.”