This was a surprising week! The book I thought I was going to love was kind of disappointing, and I ended up loving the book I was nearly certain would disappoint me! If there’s a metaphor for my love life somewhere in there, it has yet to manifest.
I’m just going to leave that where it is and dive right in to the recs…
He Said/She Said – Erin Kelly
He Said/She Said is part of that genre currently having A Moment of: Woman Is Sure She Saw Something Shady, Others Unconvinced. Just a few weeks ago we talked about The Woman in the Window [see here], and off the top of my head we also have The Girl on the Train and The Woman in Cabin 10. The story here is told through alternating perspectives and time periods–Laura, who 15 years ago witnessed a sexual assault, and Kit, her husband. The narration implies that after the assault [and court case], something traumatic happened between Laura, Kit, and Beth, the survivor of the assault, and the couple is now in hiding from her.
I loved this book and didn’t expect to. [more ruminations on my love life? or just the result of a morning on which I’m so tired that I don’t actually even want coffee because it’s going to tear me farther from sleep, my One True Love.]
I don’t even want to say much about the plot or premise of this book, because I don’t know how much I can say without giving too much away or affecting your reading experience too much. Here’s what I can say: trust this author. Agh! Even saying this feels like a lot because one of the narrative themes is who can be trusted and why, and I think Kelly engages with that herself. I personally had some misgivings about where I believed the plot was going and what that would imply about sexual assault survivors and rape culture, but my gamble to keep reading paid off. As much as this whole blog might belie the fact, it actually isn’t often that I finish a book and wish I could just straight up interview the author, but that’s exactly what I want.
Clearly, this book warrants a content/trigger warning because of the nature of the premise, but I will say that Kelly employs a few clever writing tricks to avoid traumatizing or retraumatizing her readers as much as possible. The discussions and brief depiction of sexual assault aren’t for shock value here, but part of a thoughtful and thorough exploration of the attitudes and assumptions we bring to these discussions.
PLEASE READ IT, I NEED SOMEONE TO TALK ABOUT IT WITH.
[p.s. when looking for the links, I found out that Amazon offers a free Kindle sample of the first 10 chapters so you should definitely get into that while you wait for the real deal to get to you.]
Okay now for the book that I felt kind of let down by. A rollicking start, I know.
This is a book that’s been getting a lot of buzz lately, and I don’t want to say that the buzz wasn’t earned, because I think this is a really well-written book that just didn’t quite reach *me.* For starters, I found it overlong. I like a book with heft, we all know this! But we all know how I feel about a meandering plot [Our Lady of the Prairie being my holy exception] and this plot does nothing if not meander. The book is mostly made up of deep-dives into about 5 different characters–2 of whom I was not interested in at all–and kind of loosely gathers all of the threads together, which just didn’t really work for me.
I also expected it to be more about the mentoring relationship between an older and younger woman that the inside cover promised, which was a big point of interest for me. I was disappointed because it felt like the book was dancing around the outside of some questions about power and feminism that it didn’t quite commit to engaging with, which I would have preferred over a hundred pages about the main character’s high school boyfriend.
Also, Goodreads user emily-may put into excellent words an aspect of the book that was bugging me but that I was struggling to articulate in a concise way:
“It seems that the book attempts to bridge the gap between second and third wave feminists, and between Gen X and Gen Y-ers (Millennials), and yet I don’t think it does this very well. Faith Frank is part of an antiquated, predominantly-white feminism, which is acknowledged and then kind of brushed aside. Despite obvious attempts to be self-aware and point out privilege, The Female Persuasion never quite becomes intersectional in its feminism.”
That review can be found here. For me it’s the first review that comes up, but you can also find it through searching the user.
That’s all for this week, folks! I have yet to even start The Two Towers, but I’m coming to the end of a Charlotte Brontë biography, so hopefully next week’s “episode” will have a cleverly named title and lots of shouting about the wild life of Charlotte and her sisters.