Monday, July 06, 2020

What I'm Reading Now

Janice Hadlow, The Other Bennett Sister

The Other Bennet Sister
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I'm a sucker for books that are basically Jane Austen fan-fiction. That's what this one is -- Hadlow gives us the life of Mary Bennett, the least attractive of the five Bennett daughters. Jane Austen meant us to view Mary with contempt: she read books, but didn't understand them; her sententious comments are both grating and laughable. She's the female version of Mr. Collins, and I can't be the only reader to think that she is who Mr. Collins should have courted.
But of course he never would, because besides being smarmy, she's ugly. An ugly and stupid man (Mr. Collins) can still gain himself a wife, though Austen lets us know what a bad bargain this is for the wife; an ugly, smarmy woman is desired by no one.

Hadlow sets about revising this view of Mary. She's still unattractive and foolish as a young woman, but as her life progresses, and she gains experience, she also gains wisdom. All in all, I enjoyed this one. Hadlow writes a very Austen-ite prose, and visiting the familiar landscapes and characters was a lot of fun.

Georgette Heyer, The Foundling

This is an uneven work, at best. But interesting in what it's trying to do! We've got a very odd hero, Gilly Lord Sale, who gets migraines and is short and mild -- he spends the first quarter of the book letting everyone push him around, because he doesn't want to start arguments. The book is more or less about him learning to assert himself, which, okay. 

The book also has two wonderful teenagers, one a fifteen year old boy with no brakes and one a fifteen year old girl (the foundling of the title) who is delightfully stupid. (Hen-witted, another character calls her.) Usually I hate stories about stupid people doing stupid things, but Heyer makes this one work.

On the other hand -- we have kidnappings and blackmail and murder plots and other melodramatic plot elements, which Heyer doesn't (quite) manage to pull off.

It's got some nice bits, but read only if you're a Heyer completest.

Hope Jahren, Lab Girl

This is a re-read, but it's such a good book. A scientist talks about her life and how she became a scientist, with a lot of detail about plants, and especially trees, and doing science with plants and trees. Extremely readable, brilliant writing.

Stephen King, The Stand

Also a re-read. It's a pandemic book, and one I hadn't read it in years -- maybe 20 years? Maybe longer.

Some parts are interesting, but argh, the sexism and the (unconscious) racism and the fat-phobia and the anti-intellectualism and

It has all the faults of a book written in the 1970s by someone who has never thought deeply about his own writing or anything else much.

Very readable, and as I said, some parts -- especially the bits during the plague and after Our Heroes set out for Vegas -- are still pretty good.

Some parts are really disgusting, however. King loves to gross people out. I skimmed past those.

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