Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith

Girl Meets Boy is part of the Canongate Myths series, where authors retell a tale from mythology their own 2547263way. I’ve only read one other (The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood) but wish I had read more because I love the idea…which is why I picked Girl Meets Boy up.

Based on Ovid’s story or Iphis and Ianthe, it is a about love, fear, family and the not so nice things in life like sexism and homophobia with a fair bit of corporate greed thrown in for good measure. That’s a lot for 84 pages (this is a short story) yet Ali Smith manages to cleverly get her messages of acceptance across without losing the love story at the heart of it.

In the myth, Iphis is born a girl. Her father had said he would kill the child if they were not male so the mother prays to the gods and they tell her to raise her daughter as a boy, which she does. When Iphis grows up, she/he falls in love with his best friend Ianthe, a girl, and they plan to marry. Knowing she/he cannot make Ianthe truly happy as a woman, she/he also prays to the gods who turn him into a real man. Then everyone lives happily ever after – unusual from what I know of Greek Myth.

In the present the story takes place Inverness with Iphis played by Robin (a girl) and Ianthe by Anthea (also a girl). They meet by chance and Robin helps Anthea find her place in the world, a world she had previously felt lost in and one where she had found herself employed by Pure, a corporation who believes they can make water a commodity and take over the world. Together, they find love, peace and – eventually acceptance of family.  Family includes Anthea’s sister Imogen who struggles with her sisters sexuality and is going through her own journey of discovery as she realises she does not have to conform to the male dominated world around her either.

What it means to be a woman and women’s rights across the world are writ large here. Ali Smith doesn’t pull punches and cleverly includes statistics by way of art as part of the storyline. These are alone enough to make you think but as I said earlier, there is so much more. I realy like Smith’s style of writing. It is sharp and witty and felt perfect here for the tale she was telling. It made me laugh and smile and question. All good things when it comes to reading. I liked this a lot. Highly recommended.

Emma

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This Week, Next Week in Books (or not as the case may be): 9th August, 2015

So it’s Sunday and I failed miserably in all things blog-related last week, posting only one review – Taken for Dead by Graham Masterton – and struggling to keep up with visiting the sites I follow.

The problem was I spent way too much time on Pinterest looking at ways to set up home offices in small spaces and decorate a kids room with a Frozen theme that wasn’t – well – too Frozen themed because I just can’t go that far as much as I love my daughter.

I did manage to get a fair bit of reading done inbetween – I finished The Wrong Girl by Laura Wilson and made it through most of Emma by Jane Austen but anything beyond that failed me. Still, there’s always this week, although I have no idea what I’ll be reading, possibly one of the two new audiobooks I picked up at the library…

A Mother’s Story by Amanda Prowse

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Jessica has just had the wedding of her dreams, and now she’s setting up a new home with her lawyer husband Matthew. Even better – they are expecting a child.

As they paint the nursery and shop for babygros, she plans for the joy that motherhood will bring. But Jessica’s experience is far from joyous. Why isn’t she transformed by maternal feelings? Where is the all-consuming love she’s supposed to feel for her child?

No-one told her that being a mum was so lonely and terrifying. No-one told her you don’t always love your baby. Perhaps it’s best if Jessica keeps that dark secret to herself for now…

Or The Lady In The Tower by Alison Weir

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The imprisonment and execution of Queen Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s second wife, in May 1536 was unprecedented in English history. It was sensational in its day, and has exerted endless fascination over the minds of historians, novelists, dramatists, poets, artists and film-makers ever since.

Anne was imprisoned in the Tower of London on 2 May 1536, and tried and found guilty of high treason on 15 May. Her supposed crimes included adultery with five men, one her own brother, and plotting the King’s death.

Mystery surrounds the circumstances leading up to her arrest. Was it Henry VIII who, estranged from Anne, instructed Master Secretary Thomas Cromwell to fabricate evidence to get rid of her so that he could marry Jane Seymour? Or did Cromwell, for reasons of his own, construct a case against Anne and her faction, and then present compelling evidence before the King? Or was Anne, in fact, guilty as charged?

…or I may read one of the stack that currently seems to be threatening to topple over and off the sideboard!

What about you? What are you reading this week?

Emma

This week, I’m linking in with Kimberly at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post. Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo

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Olav is a fixer, in that he fixes people’s death. And he’s good at it. He works for one man, Hoffman, though he thinks of himself as a contractor able to pick and chose his jobs. When Hoffman asks him to kill his wife, Olav realises things aren’t that clear cut. Especially when he falls in love with said wife, Corina, and decides to rescue her instead. Now both have prices on their heads and Olav sets out to find a way out of the mess he’s created.

Despite presenting himself as someone who isn’t that smart (and seeming to believe it), Olav is a pretty clever guy, giving Hoffman a run for his money and coming up with a fairly novel solution to his problem. It’s a solution that involves a bit of bloodshed but nowhere near as much as I would normally expect from Jo Nesbo. This was a nice surprise and not at all unwelcome as I don’t seem to have the stomach for blood and guts I once did and Nesbo’s Harry Hole series can be rather gruesome.

The other thing that was different is that this was a fairly simple story. Normally, in the Harry Hole novels there are plots and sub-plots and red herrings galore. Here, the story was all about Olav and, other than some flashbacks to his childhood, what he was doing to save himself and Corina. I liked this and I liked Olav. He was an interesting character and well drawn, unlike Croina and everyone else in the book who were two dimensional at best and who I didn’t care for one way or the other.

Part of this might have been down to the fact that this was a short book, coming in around 200 pages. In fact, it didn’t feel like a novel but a novella or long short story. I didn’t mind this as at all but hadn’t expected it. If I’d have bought the book instead of getting it from the library I might have felt a little cheated. Thankfully I hadn’t paid £12.99 so I was able to accept it for what it was. A good story, and a solid one that I liked a lot but didn’t love. Still, worth a read.

Emma

This Week, Next Week in Books: 26th July, 2015

Morning all. Hope you are having a good weekend? Mine has been lovely so far. Although I’m looking out the window at rain right now, yesterday the sun was shining and we went to one of my favourite places, Kenilworth Castle. Today, we’re meeting friends for lunch and a play date in the hope of tiring the kids out.

Book wise, this week I finished Hidden by Catherine McKenzie, which I loved, and Fallout by Sadie Jones which I also really enjoyed (I should be posting my review tomorrow). I’m now reading one of my favourite authors – though I’ve not been as keen on his last few books I must admit – Jo Nesbo’s Blood on Snow.

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Olav lives the lonely life of a fixer.
When you ‘fix’ people for a living – terminally – it’s hard to get close to anyone.
Now he’s finally met the woman of his dreams.
But there are two problems.
She’s his boss’s wife.
And Olav’s just been hired to kill her.

This has gone to the top of my reading pile as it’s a seven day loan from the library and needs to go back tomorrow. Because, despite my determination last week to read what I had, I ended up in the library retuning books and found myself picking up more…

The Girls by Lisa Jewell

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You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really? Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

I also picked up The Children Act by Ian McKewan which I have wanted to read for ages.

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Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child’s welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts.

But Fiona’s professional success belies domestic strife. Her husband, Jack, asks her to consider an open marriage and, after an argument, moves out of their house. His departure leaves her adrift, wondering whether it was not love she had lost so much as a modern form of respectability; whether it was not contempt and ostracism she really fears. She decides to throw herself into her work, especially a complex case involving a seventeen-year-old boy whose parents will not permit a lifesaving blood transfusion because it conflicts with their beliefs as Jehovah’s Witnesses. But Jack doesn’t leave her thoughts, and the pressure to resolve the case—as well as her crumbling marriage—tests Fiona in ways that will keep readers thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page.

And that’s it for this week – what are you reading?

Emma

This week, I’m linking in with Kimberly at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post. Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro

8456717Too Much Happiness is a collection of short stories written by Alice Munro in 2009. I know short stories aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (there was an interesting discussion about them recently on The Socratic Salon) but I really enjoy them – when they are done well, and these were.

Alice Munro has a way of drawing me in from pretty much the first sentence and painting pictures of people and places that feel very real to me. I was amazed throughout this book just how quickly I became involved in the stories and attached to the characters.

There are 10 stories in this collection and all but one, Too Much Happiness, are set in Canada sometime in the past (between the late 40s and 70s I think). And all, bar one, are pure fiction as far as I can tell. Too Much Happiness is the one that isn’t.  Instead, it is based on the last days of Russian mathematician and novelist Sophia Kovalevsky.

This is the longest of the stories too. When I started it, I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying it and it didn’t seem to fit with the rest of what I’d been reading. In retrospect, though, it is one of the ones that has stayed with me most and it does follow the same themes of women trying to make their way in a world they seem slightly out of sync with. They are looking for their place in it, often after an important life event, and their expectations of themselves and others seem to change as they get older.

The other story I couldn’t let go of was Child’s Play, a tale of childhood cruelty and how this can be hard to let go of. There is a twist in the tail of this one that made me stop for more than a second.  This story is about 30 pages, as are the rest, making them easy to fit in and read in bursts. As well as childhood, the stories deal with domestic abuse, infidelity, ruined friendships, mothers and sons, bereavement, and love. None are easy subjects and some are pretty uncomfortable reading. All are handled well, even the most disturbing, though – making me think back through my own life and ask questions of the world around me. They are all well worth a read. Highly recommended!

Emma

Us by David Nicholls

Title: Us
Author: David Nicholls
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5

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After almost 25 years of marriage, Douglas Peterson’s wife, Connie, tells him she’s thinking of leaving him. Not necessarily planning too, just thinking about it. She will, she tells him, make her decision after they return from their “grand tour”, a trip across Europe with their son Albie who will soon be heading off to college. Unsure what else to do, Douglas decides to use the trip to save his marriage – and rebuild his relationship with Albie, who would rather be Ibiza and barely acknowledges his fathers existence.

The trip starts badly, gets better, gets worse as Connie can’t seem to decide what she wants and what makes her happy. She and Albie both seem to hold Douglas with contempt and make fun at his expense. It’s hard to know their true feelings as the story is told by Douglas who is still very much in love with Connie. Still, I found it hard to warm to her or her son. In fact, I found them to be incredibly unfair to Douglas. Connie I felt had put them in a very awkward position and should be more understanding of Douglas’ desperate attempts to do the right thing. Albie I forgave because he was 17, full of teenage angst, and who would want to travel round Europe with warring parents?

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