Mini Thoughts on Recent Reads #2

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faultThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green – I listened to this blockbuster teen novel on audio and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It is read by Kate Rudd, who does an excellent job of rendering the voice of Hazel, the main character, who is 16  and has had terminal cancer for several years. When she meets Gus, a fellow teen who also has cancer, they quickly form a strong bond and go on a life-affirming trip that changes both their lives. This book has funny, wry, smart teens and a love story that will slowly wrench your heart out. I think it is a truly irresistible read for teen girls, but boys might enjoy the humor.

 

howtobeHow to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran – Caitlin Moran is one of my new heroines. She strongly argues the case for feminism while hysterically telling her life story and recounting many of her own experiences as an opinionated woman. Unlike many feminist tomes I’ve read, How to Be a Woman is warm, funny, positive and full of fun. I would even say Moran’s writing is gleeful, though she is addressing serious issues. I really enjoyed this book and am currently reading her collection of articles, Moranthology. Caitlin Moran is someone I think I would enjoy spending time with, though I will never understand her thing for Lady Gaga.

 

belljarThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath – Does anyone else share my obsession with Sylvia Plath? Like many teen girls, I became fascinated with her while I was in high school. Reading about her inner struggle between wanting to be a great artist and wanting to conform to the 1950’s expectations for women struck a chord with me and is a conflict I still see in evidence today. The Bell Jar describes this conflict through the story of Esther Greenwood, a college junior who has a breakdown during her summer holidays and ends up in a mental institution where electric shock treatments are administered to her. The world-weary tone and dark humor can’t hide Esther’s hope for meaning and the desire to define success in her own way. The Bell Jar is strongly based on Plath’s own experiences after her first suicide attempt in the summer of 1953. There has been a resurgence of interest in the novel and in Plath’s life because on February 11 it will be 50 years since she died. The Bell Jar is a wonderful novel, strong evidence of Plath’s talent and gift for prose – maybe not as strong as her poetry, yet so good it makes me sad we never had more from her.

After a really stressful week at work, I am savoring my three day weekend. I plan on lots of reading, cleaning, snuggling with cats and a visit to a bookstore or two. What do you have planned for the weekend?

 

20 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I’m reading How to Be a Woman right now, and its so so so funny. And I do like that it’s warm and inviting and very common-sensical (new word!) — moreso than some women’s studies and feminist works I’ve read.

    I was obsessed with Plath in my 20s and would like to re-read The Bell Jar again soon.

    1. Reading The Bell Jar in my ’30’s has been a revealing experience. I no longer think it is romantic, just very sad. I love reading books at different stages in my life – it is like I’m reading something for the first time!

  2. I’ve never read anything by Plath, just because I’m not sure that I want to go there. As I’m in Scotland I’m going to wait and see what the weather is like tomorrow before planning what to do. I might be battening down hatches.

    1. Ha! We never really have to think about what the weather is going to be like before we make plans. We just know we can’t be outdoors from May-October or we will collapse from heat stroke!

  3. I’ve heard only good things about the first two books you mention, and I had the Caitlyn Morgan book out of the library at one point – but had to give it back unread (I hate it when that happens). Lady Gaga just played a concert here, and people camped out days ahead of time (including some high school kids), to be first through the doors.

  4. I do like reading your mini round ups. All books I’ve heard lots about but yet to read. Hope your weekend is calm, we’re off to see mum this weekend.

  5. I loved The Bell Jar, and am thinking of having a re-read. When I was a graduate student in England, I lived in the house she had lived in when she was at Cambridge (in Newnham College) – such a thrill, esp. to read her letters from when she was there too.

    1. How very exciting to have lived in Newnham! Re-reading The Bell Jar has been very enjoyable and it was a revelation to me to see how talented she was as a prose writer. Really sad that she didn’t live to develop her talents.

  6. I love Sylvia Plath, and it sounds like we discovered her at the same age, but I hated How to be a Woman and kicked it straight back to the library. But many seem to love it so it’s probably what I’d call a Marmite book. Is there an equivilant American term I wonder?

    1. I don’t think there is an equivalent term! I think we just say ‘you either love it or hate it’. I can see how How to be a Woman wouldn’t appeal – I have to admit that I didn’t like the excessive profanity, but I love what she had to say.

  7. You’ve read a really interesting mix of books recently. Sadly I didn’t discover The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath till two years ago now. I thought it was a very powerful read, would probably have even more importance read in your teenage years.
    Your weekend sounds lovely. I spent mine visiting a country estate on Saturday and then having a family day on Sunday.

    1. Visiting a country estate sounds like a wonderful way to spend a Saturday! I went out for Thai food and then went to a bookshop where I found 6 really great novels.

  8. Glad you’re enjoying what you’re reading. I haven’t read the Moran, but I wonder if her love of Lady Gaga is due to the time she spent clubbing with her? Apart from that I suppose Gaga’s support of rights and the way she doesn’t care what people think is appealing.

    1. Yes, I had heard about it! It doesn’t bother me very much – I think it does fit the book because the woman on the cover is the very symbol that Esther battles with during the novel. I don’t find it chick-litish at all, but I guess you wouldn’t know that if you hadn’t read the book.

  9. I must have missed this post! I’ve just re-read The Bell Jar after many years and I adore it. I can highly recommend the new biography of Plath’s early life by Andrew Wilson.

    1. I’ve bought the Andrew Wilson book because of your recommendation and it just arrived today. I’ve already read the first few pages and am sure I will like it. He doesn’t put Plath on a pedestal yet respects her talent.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

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