Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Leaving Coy's Hill: A Novel About Suffragist Lucy Stone

 

 I haven't posted here for a while.  This is partly because I was moving in March, but I also hadn't been coming across books with strong female protagonists.  I recently got hold of a book about a woman's suffrage leader which was given to me for free by the publisher.

Many readers may never have heard of Lucy Stone.  In my case, I thought that Sherbrooke's novel showed a different side of Lucy Stone than the one I knew about. 

                                  

                                   


I thought of Lucy Stone solely in terms of her puritanical attacks on divorce and Victoria Woodhull, who is one of my favorite suffragists.  (See what I had to say about Woodhull in my review of Seance in Sepia here  , what  Karen J. Hicks had to say about her Woodhull book The Coming Woman here  and my review of the Woodhull novel Madame Presidentess here .)   Yet there was a good deal more to Lucy Stone than I had ever imagined. 

Lucy started thinking about women's rights as a child when she thought a cousin wasn't being well-treated by her husband. She told a woman friend who wanted to be a minister that the Bible was used to diminish women.Then when she was being paid to speak for the abolition of slavery by the Anti-Slavery Society,  she decided that she had to speak out for women as well. When she married Henry Blackwell, she insisted on keeping her own name.  At the time, this was revolutionary.   

This is a book that take's Lucy Stone's perspective.  It shows us where the women's suffrage movement fractured.  Although both Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone had husbands, Susan B. Anthony chose to demonize Lucy Stone's marriage as disloyal, but not Elizabeth Cady Stanton's.  I have always believed that feminists should respect women's choices. It seems to me that feminist leaders have gone wrong when they turn on each other because of life style differences.  Shared goals are the foundation of feminism.  Sherbrooke's novel shows that factions are unnecessary, and can have sad consequences. 

Saturday, February 20, 2021

A Door In The Earth: A Novel in Which an Afghani-American Returns to Afghanistan

 The last time I reviewed a Goodreads giveaway win on this blog was Josephine Baker's Last Dance hereA Door Into Earth by Amy Waldman is a 2019 GR giveaway win that I just finished reading.  I am still going through the stack of physical GR giveaway books in the order I received them when I have the time to read them.

                               


If you had told me that I was going to read a novel taking place in current day Afghanistan, I wouldn't have believed you.  I looked up the status of the war.  It's still going on despite the United States signing a peace treaty with the Taliban about a year ago.  See recent developments
.  

 A Door In The Earth isn't primarily about the war.   The war does become prominent toward the end of the novel, but this novel centers on an Afghani-American woman in a small Afghan village with an American built women's medical clinic.  Parveen Shamsa, who left Afghanistan with her parents when she was two years old, was drawn back to the land of her birth by a memoir called Mother Afghanistan written by a fictional American called Gideon Crane.    She was inspired by Crane's reputation as a great humanitarian and wanted to help. 

 Unfortunately, sometimes reputations are built on lies.  I was reminded of  Greg Mortenson who was exposed in Three Cups of Deceit by Jon Krakauer.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if Crane was loosely based on Mortenson.   I'd say that Amy Waldman's Crane was never the benevolent figure that Parveen imagined he was.   I wondered how she could have had so elevated a view of Crane after having read his memoir.  He doesn't exactly hide his wrongdoings. It also occurred to me to wonder who in U.S. law enforcement would know if he'd completed his community service in Afghanistan.

Parveen feels "unwitnessed" at first because there's no internet access that will allow her to post about her experiences.  I imagined she would have that problem when I first picked up the book.

I finished A Door in the Earth still feeling ambivalent about Parveen.  I also found the ending too inconclusive.  If I were giving a letter grade to this book, it would be a B- .

 

 

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Paris Library: A Woman Librarian at the American Library of Paris During WWII

 When a publisher sends me a book in paperback in addition to a digital copy from Net Galley, it's very clear to me that they really want my opinion.   Atria Books, which is a division of Simon & Schuster, did that to bring my attention to their book, The Paris Library.  I love libraries. There's also tremendous interest in this title, and it's set to release next month I decided that I needed to read and review it after I finished with the book I was currently reading at the time.

I mainly read the paperback because I prefer print.  I only read the Net Galley when I was  on public transit.  My Kindle is smaller and lighter than a trade paperback.  Yet I am traveling less during the pandemic than I once did.  So that was a small percentage read in digital format. I finished the book in four days.

 

                            


As the book opens Odile Suchet was preparing for an interview at the American Library of Paris (ALP).  Odile was qualified because she was a library student who knew English.  Though 1/4 of ALP's users were French at the time.  

My feeling is that Odile made serious errors of judgement that hurt people during WWII.  She betrayed the trust of several people who were important to her.  I considered her an unlikable protagonist, but she tried to make amends by behaving graciously to the 1980's teen protagonist, Lily.

I was interested in ALP, but my negative feelings toward Odile lowered my estimation of The Paris Library as a whole.  Perhaps I would have liked a book from the perspective of the American director of ALP, Miss Reeder, much better.