Sunday, October 29, 2023

What I'm Reading Now

Nicola Griffith, Menewood

Griffith is a SF/F writer, but this and Hild, which is the first in what Griffith called the Hild sequence, are historical novels, set in seventh century Britain, about the woman who would become St. Hilda. These are dense, fascinating novels, best read slowly. I loved Hild to bits and am already looking forward to the next volume. Menewood is about Hild when she is in her early twenties, dealing with a war raging over England at the time while also trying to protect those under her care.

It's been more than seven years since the first novel, but it was worth the wait. Lots of detail about daily life in the seventh century, about organizing and supplying military forces, about women and their lives, about how power works and can work. I'm hoping we won't have to wait another seven years for the next installment.

Sarah Myer, Monstrous

This is a graphic novel about a child adopted from Korea as an infant, and raised in an ultra-white conservative community in the Midwest. She has an older sister, also adopted from Korea, who has an easier time growing up in such a community; Sarah, who is neurodivergent and non-binary, is bullied and tormented by her classmates, and despite the support of her parents ends up feeling like a monster. Lovely art here, and a compelling story. 

Madeline L'Engle, Dragons in the Water

This was released in a Library of America edition, and I had not read it since I was about ten, so I decided to have another look. L'engle, as you'll know, wrote A Wrinkle in Time and Meet the Austins, books I loved as a kid, and read over and over. I remembered not liking this one much, and oof, was I correct. Among other flaws, it's extremely boring. I only got through the first half this time, so maybe it picks up in the second half; but in the first half, nothing much happens, despite the lovely set up -- Dr. O'Keefe* and two of his seven kids take a cargo boat to South America with some other people, including Simon Renier, who is the sole surviving heir of a family from South Carolina, one which lost everything thanks to those evil, evil Yankees and the Civil War. Down in Venezuela, some noble savages who have mystical powers are waiting for a "white savior," and that is the literal term L'Engle uses, to come save their society. Simon is, I am pretty sure, that white savior.

You don't have to worry about the fact that his ancestor (the one who impregnated one of the noble savages and then abandoned her to return to his plantation in the south) was a slave-holder, since -- like every fictional southern hero -- he freed his slaves. Then they all lived together in one big happy family on the plantation until the evil Yankees came and destroyed the plantation, and then after "the War" sowed salt into the soil, you know, how the Yankees did, during Reconstruction. That's why Simon is so poor. His evil uncle comes from the branch of the family that collaborated with the Yankees during reconstruction. That's why he's evil.

If you know anything about actual Reconstruction, and what white people in the South did during those years and into the 20th century, this heap of lies is even more offensive. I know L'Engle had relatives in the South, and spent some of her adolescent years in South Caroline, but holy hell.

Anyway, do not recommend. There are three other novels in this LOA edition; I don't know if I can bear to give them a try.

*You'll remember this Calvin O'Keefe, from A Wrinkle in Time, who married Meagan, the math prodigy. Meagan, instead of becoming a mathematician, began having babies. She had seven. Calvin became the famous scientist. Meagan cooks meals and mends clothing.

No comments: