As I make my way towards this coming winter of discontent, my reading is as slow and endless as February. Here I am, in early December, and I’ve read one book this past month. One. Sad. On the other hand, it’s a GREAT book. I read Sarah Waters’s The Little Stranger, what you’d get if Shirley Jackson had written Downton Abbey, crossed it with James’s “The Turn of the Screw”, and tossed in a touch of Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”.
The Little Stranger is one of the most compelling and disorienting novels I’ve ever read and I kind of loved it. At times, I resented it, felt it was built only on relentless plot that remained impenetrable. Yet I couldn’t put it down and resented work, family obligation, and mundane household tasks keeping me from sitting down and reading through to its end.
Set in post-WWII Warwickshire, The Little Stranger is narrated by a country doctor, Dr. Faraday. Of humble origins, Faraday’s parents (long dead when the novel opens) gave up everything to educate him and yet, now he is “risen” above their station, he remains at most a modest success, treating his small-town patients’ ordinary ills and keeping an uninspired bachelor apartment above a store. In his late thirties, his life is circumscribed by his practice and the occasional dinner with his partner’s family. All is stodgily quiet until he is called to Hundreds Hall, a Downton-esque estate where his mother worked as a maid when he was a child, to treat the ailing servant-girl, Betty, who, in the end, may or may not be the “little stranger” and whose part in Faraday’s and the Hundreds’s family’s, the Ayreses’, tragedy may have played a part, or not. That is the most maddening and brilliant aspect of Waters’s novel, even reaching its final words, I wasn’t sure exactly what happened, or why. Continue reading
Yes, you’re still with Miss Bates, romance-reader … but the first 2020 book I read was one that come-hithered me for weeks and it certainly wasn’t romance. Coupled with a new year’s resolution to broaden my reading horizons, given the coming election year for my southern neighbours and that Kakutani’s analysis clocks at 173 pages, I thought, this I can do. And I did, reading it with enough attention for it to resonate, in a few hours. In retrospect, I appreciated Kakutani’s connections to post-modernism and deconstructionist theory with the Trump phenomenon and our inability to navigate what is good, what is right, and what is true. I don’t think I learned anything new about Trump’s methods, or appeal that able political analysts haven’t already stated, but Kakutani’s positioning the former and latter within an interpretive model that elicits my unease made this a compelling read. Continue reading
At Ros Clarke‘s instigation and inspiration, Miss Bates joined her and others in reading a BIG FAT BOOK in July. Lately, Miss Bates reads romance restlessly, ARC after ARC, writing reviews … it feels flat, too much of the same for too long. She had difficulty articulating her malaise until she read this latest post by Jessica of Read React Review. Jessica is forthcoming about her own blogging and reviewing blehs-mehs. When Jessica didn’t feel the blogging love anymore, when blogging was a chore and burden, she put her blog on hiatus. Miss B. missed her terribly, but she understood. Then, Jessica returned, to all our joy! It was enlightening and comforting for Miss Bates to read Jessica’s blogging take because it’s positive, helpful, and hopeful. In a nutshell, blogging blahs happen: don’t feel guilty, take a break, make some changes; you will blog again and enjoy it. Your blog is bigger than you: let it brood while you brood. Miss Bates knows that she would miss MBRR terribly, so it’s not a hiatus she needs.
The blogging blahs after only a year? 106 posts later? Regular readers and commentators and you’re restless? For shame, Miss Bates. Miss Bates has always had a short attention span, a tendency to master a skill, or task and move on. As a result, she’s left behind things that have given her pleasure and fulfillment: cue in knitting projects and attempts at bread-making. Writing Miss Bates Reads Romance has given her great pleasure and she’s so grateful to everyone who’s read and commented on her posts. And truly blessed by the people she’s met and chatted with (also in her latest most addictive cross-over meeting-ground, Twitter). In the end, she’d miss it: she’s not where Jessica was when she called a blogging hiatus. Miss Bates still reads and loves romance. She still loves to write her posts. She is, however, tired of the sameness of read review, read review, ARC after ARC. She’s lost her blogging edge. What she’s proposing is to shake things up a tad: she’ll still review new and old romance titles. She’ll mostly be writing about romance, romance with romantic elements, classic romance especially, and romance-related anything-that-strikes-her-fancy. She’s not laying down her keyboard, just tapping away a little differently. Posting about her Big Fat Summer Book and what it feels like to be reading something outside the romance genre, after exclusively reading romance for five years, will be one such experiment, even if an utter failure. After reading Mantel’s Wolf Hall for a 25-minute increment, a “Pomodoro” (again, a method of work discipline she learned from Jessica and Sunita), failure may be where she’s headed. Continue reading