Taking a break

Sooo… due to unforeseen circumstances, I’ll be taking a few weeks off.  My local library has gone through some major changes including a major update to their catalog. It turns out that the books I ordered in June are still sitting on the shelves of their home libraries unaware that they’ve been summoned.  Most likely they’ll all arrive on the same day, because that’s my luck. I’ve shuffled and reshuffled my reading calendar to get me this far, but I’m just going to have to admit temporary defeat.

Also, we’re hoping to take a couple road trips in the next two weeks so I’m going to take the time to inhabit the world I live in, rather than the worlds of books.

Have a safe summer and see you some time in August.

Into The Water, Paula Hawkins, 2017

IntoTheWater

Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women. Paula Hawkins

Spoiler Alerts

Author Paula Hawkins won her second GoodReads Choice Award in 2017 (2018 Reading Challenge) with her second novel, Into The Water.

Hawkins won readers over with her debut, The Girl on the Train, a twisting confounding mystery told by three women, one who was prone to alcohol induced blackouts.

She’s traded an unreliable narrator for a whopping ten narrators, all with secrets to hide, sometimes holding onto the secrets of others. All are tied in some way to two people, Katie, a popular fifteen-year-old student and Nel, an eccentric and distrusted forty-year-old writer. Both have met their ends in the Drowning Pool, a body of water with a morbid history. Those in mourning are left wondering why and possibly who.

One death, a definite suicide, leaves the question of why. And though she chose to end her life, is it possible there were other forces at work?

The second death, that’s the mystery. While suicide is possible, murder isn’t out of the question since there are a number of characters with plausible motives: the secret lover, the jilted wife, the heartbroken mother, the traumatized daughter etc. By the last fifty pages, you have it narrowed down to three. By the last ten, you’re sure you know. By the last paragraph, you realize you’re wrong. Or rather, you were right when you suspected it earlier, but then changed your mind.

Much grumbling has been done about the number of viewpoints. I understand confusion early in the book since Hawkins disseminates useful information sparsely and slowly. Not only that, some characters give first person accounts, while other characters are written about in the third person. Moving forward, each first-person character has a distinct voice and all characters have a unique connection to the victims. Some characters disappear for quite a while, then reappear with no re-introduction which could be confounding, but again, the relationship to the victims serves as a reorientation of sorts.

For further help, each short chapter starts with the name of the character narrating. Not only that, the name appears in the header of the odd numbers pages, so on the rare occasion a chapter goes more than three pages you can see who’s interpretation of events you’re reading by looking at the top of the page.

Overall, the mystery twists and turns the way a good mystery should, though it loses some of its realism about three-quarters of the way through. American readers unfamiliar with the inner workings of England’s criminal justice system (like me) can shrug and say that’s just how they do things over there, I guess. For all I know, maybe they do.

Glory, Passion and Principle: The Story of Eight Remarkable Women at the Core of the American Revolution, Melissa Lukeman Bohrer, 2003

Glory

…Let us survey the landscape once again, this time through the eyes of the women. Melissa Lukeman Bohrer

Since the Fourth of July is coming up, a day of immense historical meaning to the United States, I chose to review Glory, Passion and Principle: The Story of Eight Remarkable Women at the Core of the American Revolution for the historical non-fiction challenge (2018 Reading Challenge).

Some of the women are famous, some lost to history, but Bohrer tells each life story in an engaging way that’s heavy on the facts but tempered by expert storytelling skill. The chapters read more like novellas than a textbook. The rich historical context is both specific to the woman and the world she inhabits. This context gives insight into motivations, actions and choices and elevate the work from a simple retelling of their lives.

The remarkable women are:

Sybil Ludington. The Paul Revere of her time. She traveled almost three times as far and wasn’t caught.

Phillis Wheatley. As a young slave, she defied rules and expectations by learning to read and write and produced some of the most eloquent poetry of her time.

Abigail Adams. As the wife of a president, she was considered by many to be an unofficial advisor. She was an early advocate for women’s equality and the abolition of slavery.

Mercy Otis Warren. Playwright and provocateur, her work inspired resistance against British authority even as she kept her identity a secret for years.

Lydia Darragh. She defied the Quaker principle of pacificism and neutrality to relay information about British military plans to Continental Army officers.

Molly Pitcher. Possibly real, possibly a legend, possibly composite or possibly Mary Ludwig Hays McCauley. One of thousands of ‘camp followers’ who helped serve the Continental Army by doing the daily chores like cleaning, laundering and carrying water. (Note: The real Mary Hays is credited with taking her husband’s place at the cannon when he was taken off the battlefield).

Deborah Sampson. Risked ostracism and expulsion from her church to disguise herself as a man and join the fight for independence.

Nancy Ward. Born Nanyehi, she became a Cherokee warrior and Beloved Woman who advocated for women to have more input in tribal matters and for peace between her people and white settlers.