Rave Reviews!

This month Rave Reviews settled in at Riverside Branch. We enjoyed wonderful books and some great discussions!

Preparing for this month, I wasn’t planning on a theme but I found one anyway. It turned out that all of the books I selected are about the way women’s lives are shaped. From the unexpected impact of what appears to be a dream job (Radium Girls), a new identity (The Spy), pregnancy (After Birth and The Almost Sisters) and the long-term impact of a youthful indiscretion (Young Jane Young) the stories centre on women and the choices and circumstances that shape their lives.

Here are my books for this month, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

After Birth by Elisa Albert

The title takes advantage one of the grossest double entendres that I’ve come across in recent memory — possibly even better than David Sedaris‘ cleverly named beach house The Sea Section which features prominently in his most recent book, Calypso — and focuses on what is, for many women, a difficult and isolating time.

Our protagonist has always had complicated friendships with other women and when she finds herself still recovering from a difficult pregnancy (ending in an unwanted C-section) a year after the birth of her child she’s excited to meet a potential ally and confidant. The narrative shifts frequently moving from present day to memories of friendships long ended; these stories add further depth to an already rich story.

The Spy by Paulo Coelho

Written as a letter by Mata Hari on the eve of her execution, this book tells her life story with sensitivity and updates some old narratives including framing an early Coelho is generally kinder to Mata Hari than most historians in what Kirkus Reviews calls a sympathetic but sketchy portrait of a legend. The book is compulsively readable even if it’s neither historical nor great literature.

The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

When 38-year-old graphic novelist Leia has a few too many drinks with a sexy batman at a comic con she ends up unexpectedly (but not unhappily) pregnant. To complicate matters, the baby is biracial. Before Leia has even announced her pregnancy her life is further complicated. Her grandmother’s illness which sends her on a trip to the deep south to her ancestral home where much has been hidden. The trip forces Leia to consider what it means to be a family and as she explores her own relationship with race and family.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore (non-fiction)

This is a beautifully rendered story of a tragedy that continued much longer than it should have. Many women, mostly young and poor, suffered and had their lives cut short due to toxic exposure to radium as they painted watch dials. The physical harm was compounded by companies that refused to take responsibility and continued hiring women to work with unsafe materials while denying their malignant impact. Afflicted workers were then denied help and accused of exaggerating symptoms for financial gain. Read with caution, you may get angry.

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin

A young woman working as an intern has an affair with an older, married congressman. When the relationship comes to light and she faces such vitriol that in order to live a normal life she moves, changes her name, and starts anew limiting any contact with her past to brief phone calls with her mother. The congressman is re-elected and the affair is merely a blip in a long political career. Jane Young is not not inspired by Monica Lewinsky.

Rave Reviews meets at 2:30pm on the second Wednesday of the month at the Riverside branch of the Windsor Public Library at 6305 Wyandotte St East.

Our next meeting is on Wednesday, November 13th at 2:30 pm. Please join us and feel free to bring one of your own recommendations! All are welcome and registration is not required.

If you have any questions please call 519-255-6770, Ext. 6620 or email kreynolds@windsorpubliclibrary.com

Written by

Miss Kate is a Public Service Librarian and has been with the Windsor Public Library since 2010. She's passionate about music, children's programming, book clubs, literacy, reference services, blogging, and libraries in general!

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