Review: The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

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Read: The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild

Stars: Five

Drinking: Lavazza Prontissimo! Intenso

The Improbability of Love is a sprawling novel full of intrigue featuring the seedy underbelly of London’s high art world.  At first glance, it seems like the usual contemporary fiction, but Rothschild has crafted the story so well that the reader is immersed. I only put it down with regret for work and sleep. This book has everything: Nazis, dysfunctional parent-child relationships, a sweet love story, and MI5.

What made the novel so unique from others in its class was the characters, particularly the titular painting. Found – rescued – from a junk shop by Annie, a broken-hearted chef, the painting tells us its story interwoven with Annie’s and that of Rebecca, Annie’s boss and heir to an art auction house. From the painter’s short and tragic life to Nazi looters, and royal hijinks all over Europe in between, the painting represented love to all who owned it.

She has the eye. The heart. She may be bog poor but she knows, doesn’t she? She can feel and sense my greatness. Like anyone, I need to be loved and admired.

Jesse was another character that I loved. He knew that Annie was struggling with both herself, her past relationship, and her mother. Instead of pushing her into a relationship or whining about being “friendzoned,” he accepted that Annie did not want a romantic relationship and instead was actually a friend. As an artist, he was fascinated by the painting and its mystery. He was able to put aside his unrequited romance to support Annie in solving the puzzle, even when it

The mystery part of the book was gripping as well, especially in the last twists and turns of the painting’s history. I honestly did not see the twists and turns of the last quarter of the book coming.

The Improbability of Love is a fun, lighthearted mystery. I highly recommend it.

 

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Review: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

A review of The Glorious Heresies, the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winner.

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Read: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

Stars: Four

Drinking: Raspberry Leaf Tea, Clipper

Three weeks ago, The Glorious Heresies  won the 2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. Last week, it won the Desmond Elliot Prize for new fiction. I was unsurprised. It’s a well-written, quirky novel of the seedy underbelly of Cork. The characters are vivid, funny, and tragic all at once. However, it wasn’t “fiendishly hilarious,” as The Times claimed. The novel is dotted with funny moments, but overall it just felt more depressing than anything else.

Ryan, his father Tony, Maureen, and her son Jimmy, Tara the creep, and Georgie the prostitute are all connected by murder and the drug trade. The Glorious Heresies traces the consequences to all the characters of Jimmy’s decision to cover up Maureen’s “accident.”

I liked Maureen the best. Inside her head is a funny place to be, whether she’s accidentally killing men or intentionally setting fires. Her lack of self-awareness, despite being in her late 50s, is amusing. She finds herself back in Cork after 40 years when her illegitimate son, and now head gangster in the city, retrieves her from exile in London and puts her up in one of his former brothels. I loved her narration. She was sent away after getting pregnant unmarried, just a bit too young for the Magdalene Laundries.

Ryan, on the other hand, is the most tragic of a cast of tragic characters. His arc starts out promising, with young love. But the dark side of his life is quickly revealed – child abuse, drug dealing, rape.

McInerney handles all these heavy topics deftly. Even an astute reader might not immediately catch some of the subtle events. While it is a dark novel, it certainly is lighter than most. Even the lowest points have a grim humor. It’s not always to my taste, but I certainly appreciated the irony.

The book certainly deserved its Baileys Prize win. It didn’t hold me the way that some other novels do, but it made me think, it was well-written, and it was definitely irreverent and a bit heretical. The Church, though it guides life in Cork, is secondary to the worship of drugs and self.

I’m looking forward to McInerney’s follow up to this strong debut. Meanwhile, go pick up The Glorious Heresies.

Saturday Tea & Feminism

#Brexit, breastfeeding, and more in this week’s Tea and Feminism link roundup

Well, Brexit is happening. As a recent immigrant to the UK, I’m interested to see how it will all play out economically and politically. I’m nerding out a bit to see how the process will actually work. The little details are fascinating!

Anyway, have a great weekend and enjoy these links! If you read anything good, share it, please!

(Also, as an aside, it bugs me that when I look for stock photos of women with tea it’s almost exclusively white women – even when I specifically search “African American woman” or “diverse women” *grumble*)

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Brexit is a feminist issue and women need to be equally involved in the negotiations. (The Telegraph)

In common sense news: South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled that bursaries (scholarships) for virgins are unconstitutional. (BBC)

Another legal win for women: “Congolese politician Jean-Pierre Bemba was sentenced to 18 years in prison by the International Criminal Court on Tuesday for heading a 2002-03 campaign of rape and murder.” (Huffington Post)

Breastfeeding in literature. (The Millions)

A good review of Jessica Valenti’s new book. (New Republic)

 

Review: Girl in a Band

Kim Gordon’s memoir of nearly 30 years of marriage and music.

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Read: Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon

Stars: Three

Drinking: Blackcurrant & Vanilla, Twinings

I did not enjoy Gordon’s memoir as much as I hoped. Gordon is an artist, a feminist, and a musician who lived through a formative period in modern American art and music. She name drops connections from modern art, the New York art scene from the 70s and 80s, and musicians from the No Wave and punk movements. I have no frame of reference for most of these things, and frequently she just assumes that the reader knows who she is talking about and moves on. Despite her great writing style, I struggled to connect.

I think my main problem with Gordon’s memoir is that it is tinged with regret and lingering anger over the breakup with her longtime husband and music partner, Thurston Moore. A lot of sections, particularly in the series of essays about their albums and tours and specific songs, where she talks about how she “should have known” or how Moore treated her badly are incredibly bitter and difficult to read. Her perspective of the albums and the band’s history is affected by the breakup. The focus on their failed relationship inhibits more than enhances the narrative.

Also, can we talk about the title? I know it’s meant to reflect what the music magazines were calling her (“What’s it like to be a girl in a band?”), but for a woman who is so invested in feminism, it’s an odd choice.

I really wanted to like Girl in a Band. I wanted it to be another on my list of great feminist memoirs. But it falls short.

Saturday Tea & Feminism

This week’s best links on #books, #feminism, and #internationaldev.

It’s a holiday in both the US and UK this weekend. I’m off to visit extended family. I hope you are doing something fun too!

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Did you see the list of 50 Fictional Women BK mag is obsessed with? So many books added to the TBR and re-read piles. (Brooklyn Magazine)

A man’s place in feminism is behind the women – and other lessons from African women. (The Daily Vox)

Refashioning Masculinity unleashes the power of fashion to re-imagine men’s gender identities and foster their diversity.”  (Refashioning Masculinity)

The Human Rights Education Associates has a Gender Responsive Budgeting course starting 15 June. (HREA)

Silliness: have you seen The Man Who Has It All yet? The comments on the Facebook page are fabulous. (Man Who Has It All)

Meanwhile, I reviewed Hideous Kinky and wrote about smartphones.

 

Saturday Tea & Feminism

5 of the week’s best links about books and feminism.

I’m spending the whole weekend reading the Bailey’s Prize shortlist, probably at the park while Toddler goes down the slide for hours. Are you doing anything fun?

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12 empowering children’s books with girl protagonists for your kids. How have I only read 3 of these? (Bust)

Book Rioter Alice compiled a list of 17 great books about women from Book Expo America. RIP TBR pile. (Book Riot)

How boobs, menstruation, and good looks get in the way of girls learning to code. (Adweek)

This “New” Feminism Has Been Here All Along. (Yes! Magazine)

Access to Digital Technology Accelerates Global Gender Equality. (Harvard Business Review)

Saturday Tea & Feminism

#Lemonade, #BringBackOurGirls, and more in this week’s link roundup.

What a week for feminism. Here are some links I liked this week. We’ve got a 3 day weekend here, which means more time for reading 🙂

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A beautiful love story. “As Linda said: “It’s not about the gender. It’s about the soul.”” (Washington Post, h/t Forrest)

Love Lemonade but don’t understand all the references? Check out these articles explaining Beyoncé’s amazing black feminist statement to the uninitiated. (Vox)

Why don’t young people want to identify as feminist even though they support gender equality? It probably has a lot to do with the perceived connotations of the word. (Mic, Harvard Politics)

Disappointing: Lebanese rock band Mashrou’ Leila was barred from playing in Jordan. The band has an openly gay lead singer and advocates for gender equality and sexual liberation. Queen Rania, I’m disappointed – you are usually such a feminist inspiration to me. (ThinkProgress)

Omolola Adele-Oso talks about #BringBackOurGirls and being an activist. (Devex)

Hulu is creating The Handmaid’s Tale as a series drama starring Elizabeth Moss! Time for some re-reading. (The Hollywood Reporter, h/t Amanda)

And ICYMI, I reviewed Nicola Barker’s The Cauliflower.