Sunday, March 20, 2011

Never Let Me Go

Yesterday I finished Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  Just a few hours later I was watching the film version.  I have to tell you this book took me a little longer to read than I expected.  The story line was interesting.  The concept was a little frightening.  [Beware!  Spoilers will soon follow!]  I liked it, but it seemed to ramble. 

It's written in the voice of Kathy H., a young woman who is a carer.  The way she tells her story is very stream-of-consciousness.  She gets started telling one thing, then goes back to explain, then heads down another path before finally getting back to her original point.  I'm sure that was what the author intended, but it just didn't really work for me.  It was too easy for me to become distracted. 

She also tells the story in such a way that it's impossible to know exactly what is going on until halfway through the book.  In the 1950s, scientific breakthroughs led to cloning.  Those clones were used as donors in order to cure cancer, heart disease and motor-neuron disease.  The donors are created, kept healthy and allowed to mature into young adults.  They then begin donating their vital organs to keep other people alive, improving life-expectancy to over 100 years.  Kathy's story focuses on herself and two friends from the school in which they were raised.  As I said before, it's a frightening concept.  One can only hope that ethics regulations can keep something like this from actually happening. 

It was almost a distopian novel, so I can't really say I enjoyed reading it, but it was interesting.  Children created and raised for the sole purpose of donating their body parts so that other people can live longer, healthier lives.  It's an awful thought.  At the end of the film, Kathy says, "I wonder if we're really so much different from the people we save.  Do any of us really feel like we've had enough time?"  It does cause the reader to contemplate his or her own mortality. 

If you read it, let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Full Frontal Feminism

Over the last several weeks I have been reading this book:  Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti.  After watching "Iron Jawed Angels", I wanted to do a little research myself.  I found a few books about the suffragists and I also came across this book by Valenti.  I had seen it before and it was on my "To Read" list so I thought this would be perfect timing. 

The cover says "A YOUNG WOMAN'S GUIDE TO WHY FEMINISM MATTERS", and I would consider that a fair description.  This book was aimed at a reader who is younger, single and without children, most likely in her late teens and early 20s.  However, I still felt I learned a lot.  In fact, I wish I had read this as a younger woman.  It's never too late to learn anything.

Valenti is often irreverent and rather potty-mouthed, but it totally works.  I loved her chapter "Feminists Do It Better (and Other Sex Tips)".  These are our bodies and we should be the ones deciding what we do with them.  In an aside, she adds that "In Mississippi you can buy a gun with no background check, but vibrators are outlawed."  How absolutely insane is that?  I remember back when we lived in Texas, a woman was arrested for daring to host a "Passion Party".  About that Valenti says "Apparently, in Texas you can sell vibrators, but only if you sell them as 'novelties' or 'gag gifts.'  Selling them in any way that admits their actual role in sex is the illegal part."  Seems a little backwards to me.

She also writes about how pop culture has become "pornified" and is focused on telling us that our only value is in our ability to be sexy.  If we don't accept that, we're prudes.  If we do and embrace it, we're sluts.  Subheadings is this chapter include "Be a Virgin...But Be Sexy"and "Be Available...But Unattainable".  I love that she calls out all that crazy stuff. 

She discusses violence against women.  "The South Carolina House Judiciary Committee voted in 2005 to make cockfighting a felony, but tabled a bill that would have done the same for domestic violence."  Now doesn't that make you want to say "What the F...?"  You can understand her ''colorful language."

As you might expect, she has a chapter about reproductive rights.  It doesn't get more feminine (and feminist) than having babies or not having babies.  A frightening statistic she lists:  "Only one in five women knows about emergency contraception, and one-third of those women confuse EC with RU-486, the abortion pill."  These are our bodies and we have a responsibility to understand and care for them.

Valenti's goal is to educate young women of our rights and our responsibilities.  We must understand what is going on the in world around us and we must be involved.  It is vital that we vote and make our voices heard.  Our grandmothers fought for our rights, we are obligated to use them.  I hope you'll give this book a read and share it with someone. 

Here are a few links listed in this book that I found very interesting:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Hey, don't judge.  If you've noticed, I've had a lot of heavy stuff on my reading list lately.  After finishing Winter Garden, I was in desperate need for something light, fun and easy.  Something that wouldn't cause my entire body to dehydrate through my tear ducts.  This was my fourth journey through this book and of course I still like it.  I was slightly tempted to continue on through the series, but I won't.  I have a book on hold for me a the library that I have been waiting to read:  Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro.  I'll save a full Twilight series rereading for November, just before part one of the last film is released.  Now, on to finish my book about feminism.  Very interesting.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

This month's book club selection is Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah. 

I loved this book, but before we talk about it there is something I need to tell you about how I read.  When I pick up a book, I become very involved with it.  The characters are real people to me.  The events are really happening.  I imagine myself in each character's shoes.  I feel what they feel.  Of course these feelings are multiplied if the story is based on historical fact.  Also, I am what some people might call "a big boober."  I'm a cryer.  It's something my husband just doesn't get: "But it's not real."  "But you've read that book/ seen that movie before.  You know what's going to happen."  To his credit, mostly he just shakes his head and smiles, tells me he loves me and kisses me on the top of my head. 

Last night I finished Winter Garden.  As soon as the kids were in bed, I crawled into my own bed determined to finish the book.  Thank goodness I was all alone in there- the blubbering was uncontrollable.  Winter Garden is about two grown sisters and their 80-something-year-old mother.  The sisters do not have a close relationship and the bond they have with their mother is, well, non-existent.  As their mother begins to finally share her history with her daughters, they all learn things about each other and about themselves that they had never known. 

I can't even begin to know what to tell you about this book.  It was wonderful and heart-rending and powerful and painful.  I loved it.  I wept.  I sobbed.  I may have even wailed a bit.  (Seriously- it was not pretty.)  My sister has a new book club and when she finished reading, here was her post on Facebook:  "Just finished my book club book...and an entire box of Kleenex."  I would love to tell you more about it, but I just can't.  Even though I finished the book last night, it is still haunting me. 

This morning I did a few Google searches about the Siege of Leningrad.  The photos are frightening, the stories tragic.  More than a million people died of sickness, starvation and cold.  I imagine the reason I know so little about this must have something to do with the fact that the Cold War strongly influenced our perspective on Russian history. 

This is a book I would heartily recommend.  I hope you will pick up a copy.  May I also suggest a fresh box of tissues?  Preferably the kind with lotion- you'll thank me later.  Once you read it, let me know.  I'd love to hear your thoughts.