March 01, 2010

Books 5 and 6

All right. I haven't written about books in over a month, but that doesn't mean I haven't been reading, my little niblets.

Book #5: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See.

This book was raved about when it came out (2006). Every book club in town was reading it, and women were swooning. So I was prepared to like it. And... I mostly did. To be honest, I was a little underwhelmed - too much hype?

Set in 19th-century China, the book traces the relationship between two girls -- Snow Flower and Lily -- who are bonded to one another from childhood on. It's about their families, the caste system, the trials they go through -- and it's almost a sort of romance, how they place each other above all others in the world and feel betrayals and hurts most deeply when inflicted by the other.

Snow Flower and Lily stay in touch and write to each other secretly about their husbands, their children, their mothers-in-law. And it is interesting. I love reading about the day-to-day lives of women from other times and places - the way they are required to pin their hair, what they eat, what they wear. (But oh - the footbinding! Gruesome and awful. I suppose it's more awful because it's all customary.) But even though I enjoyed the details, I did not seem to get as wrapped up in the relationship as I was supposed to. Maybe I have a cold, hard heart, or I just don't appreciate the gravity of certain 19th-century Chinese customs (I'll readily admit that), but I did not empathize with the DARK SINS they committed against one another in their later years. I saw no need for the rending of garments.

But overall I did like the book well enough, and I know my lukewarm reception of it is in the minority. I'm glad I read it, if only for the details on foot binding. Did you know the ideal was to mold a lady's foot so that it was no longer than 7 cm?! Seven centimeters is as long as my thumb. That is gnarly.

Book # 6: Time of My Life, by Allison Winn Scotch.

So this is a book in which basically our protagonist feels unhappy with her grown-up suburban mom life until one day she gets some insane massage which somehow sends her back in time (5 years. Not that far back.) to see if she should have taken a different path/different man. Okay, I'm game.

I liked the story a lot at first. I think a lot of people wonder "what would have happened if". And then I really got into it somewhere in the middle of the book, when our girl Jillian is just taking this whole time travel thing so in stride - she wasn't really that fazed by it - so I started to wonder if she was actually mentally ill, and the phrase "it was all a dream!" was going to come out at some point. Intriguing! But towards the end I must say I tired a little bit of the weighty, esoteric, dramatic proclamations. She was not feeling herself, feeling lost, running, dreaming, drowning - after a while that got a bit old. Back to the fun parts, please! (Also, I have to point this out: No less than three times did the author use the phrase "[s/he] looked at me as if I'd just told him the world was as flat as paper". Annoying over-usage of one very specific phrase = demerits from me.)

Overall, not bad. Seemed a realistic portrayal of a normal woman, as far as time traveling back to your old boyfriend goes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jenn! I'm reading your blog right now and enjoying it!!!! I just got a new haircut. I'll have marni take a pic and email it to you..............Love, Tory