In August I reviewed this unique, amazing book, and I mentioned I wanted to write an Analysis and Discussion post for it, because I thought it had so many layers and interpretations, and while I’ve seen a few articles about it in Portuguese, I hadn’t found a comparable article in English (naturally, as the book is originally written in Portuguese). I tend to avoid spoilers in my review, and to discuss this book in depth I had to write a separate post, so that if you’re looking for a review, check out this post instead: Review: The House in Smyrna by Tatiana Salem Levy.
I’m no Literature graduate, my views here presented are not scholarly but rather a result of reading the book, analysing/interpreting it and reading a few articles. My aim here is to have a layman discussion on the book in case it gets picked up by English-speaking readers who want to talk about it. Where the ideas come not from my personal conclusions but from others, I’ve named the source and linked it in Further Reading at the end of this post.
Also my quotes are free translations of the Portuguese edition and may differ from the official English translation!
The Women’s Prize for Fiction winner will be announced tonight! I can’t believe it’s been almost five months since the shortlist has been announced, it seems like a lifetime ago. Two seasons have gone by and I am already reading some books I think have a chance of making it to the longlist for next year.
This year was an incredibly disappointing one for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, remarkably by some brilliant titles that did not make it to the longlist, and the inclusion of others that failed to impress. It’s especially disappointing to me, personally, that the only Latinx book added to the mix had such a lower quality than others that it made me ask myself whether it was there just to be “diverse”, much like what happened with Number 1 Chinese Restaurant last year (which I really liked! It was just not WP material in my opinion). Truly a missed opportunity for diversity, especially on the shortlist.
For a short recap, here are the six shortlisted books, announced all the way back in April 21:
This is not ordered by books I loved the most, but rather by what they would bring to the table as a winner of the prize which is, after all, to celebrate women’s writing, creativity, talent and unique experiences. I think GWO brings something new, fresh and relevant and deserves to win, even though I enjoyed The Mirror and the Light more. And although both Weather and Hamnet left me wanting something different out of them (I wanted more from Weather and less from Hamnet… way less), both of them do something interesting, whereas A Thousand Ships, which I loved, brings absolutely nothing new, especially to this prize, which has seen far too many Greek retellings. Finally, I was disappointed with Dominicana in a way that I just cannot hope for it to win, even if it’s a story that could have touched my heart and done so much by bringing to life the struggles of an immigrant woman and touch on identity, language, agency and so on.
I did not read the entire longlist, but here are the reviews on those I did read:
Basically, this blog is 70% reading and reviewing Women’s Prize longlisted or potentially longlisted or should’ve-been-longlisted books and then raving/ranting/creating conspiracy theories about it. The other 30% is me yelling about Latin American literature and Sapphics. We have a grand old time here and my followers always get high-quality educational content (ha!).
[Edit] Thoughts on the Winner: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
The result is out!
Hamnet has won the prize, rather predictably! Okay I didn’t predict it, but most bloggers I follow did, and honestly I am quite disappointed. This is a gorgeous book, written masterfully (although overdone, in my opinion) and with a theme that resonates with a lot of readers right now. The reasons why I am disappointed at the result has nothing to do with Maggie O’Farrell’s talent, in fact I quite enjoyed some parts of the book, despite all my complaining about it, and it’s technically among the best ones of the list for sure.
My main issue with it winning is who I think should’ve won instead:
The Mirror and the Light would’ve brought to the forefront a powerful, unique and incredibly executed historical fiction that explores the final years of Cromwell’s life and is an interesting, complicated take on several characters that have been otherwise cartoonishly overrepresented in the genre.
Ducks, Newburyport (yes!! I’m bringing this up again) was mysteriously ignored by the prize, despite being a challenging book that had people laughing, crying and holding their breath in expectation. It remains one of the best books I’ll read all my life, with a perfect execution of a very difficult writing style.
My Dark Vanessa would’ve brought an insightful, sensitive, complicated look into what it’s like to be groomed by your teacher and struggle with who you are if what you lived for so, so long is not in fact the love story you’ve been telling yourself. A painful but so relevant and so well portrayed read, it’s truly unforgettable.
How We Disappeared is a historical fiction for people who don’t like historical fiction: a mystery and a fresh, necessary look into the victims of WWII that we don’t talk enough about, the women who were used as “comfort women” by Japanese troupes.
And finally, Girl, Woman, Other was my champion and continues to be, first because it would be an incredible statement to have it win the WP after it had to share the Booker win with Atwood and thus being “the other writer who won the Booker” in several articles, when she was not overlooked altogether. But also this book is such a vibrant look into the lives of twelve people, focused on Black women and so full of heartbreak but also joy.
I am surely missing on several other fantastic, groundbreaking reads, but those were on the top of my head. I am not upset that the win will make people read Hamnet – I think it is quite good and most people will like it. I am however upset at all the books people will NOT pick up instead, all the missed opportunities for showing what women’s writings can do, how unique they can be and to tell the stories of women who have been forgotten or silenced.
Still, I am happy for the author, and just rather freshly upset about GWO not winning, so please take my comments with a grain of salt, I am sure this post would have a milder tone if I’d written it in a couple days, but I wanted to have it done today! I am glad for some of the books I read for the longlist, and I am excited already for the one for next year. At least we have conversations about these books (some of which I’d not have heard about otherwise), and I feel that more and more people are following the WP from early on, and it’s exciting to see people get involved, discuss books and cheer for favorites. Here’s to a more interesting list next year, but also for celebrating women’s books!
So, in a desperate attempt to post something still today and not have another week of terrible scheduling for my blog, I am writing this rather random post! It came to my attention rather belatedly (we’re in mid-April… omg) that MOST of the series I follow are going to be DONE this year and I’m at a loss.
The realization came to me yesterday:
Ok but most of the series I'm reading finish this year and I'm at a loss: The Poppy War, Jade City, Children of Blood and Bone, Cromwell Trilogy, The Diviners, the Locked Tomb
Can I even survive the heartbreak from all the characters who will be killed off 😱
This is obvious, but just to be sure: I am clearly joking this entire post. I don’t hate any of the books (yet!!), and have enjoyed several of them so far! I admire the WP very much and will continue to read from their recommendations for years to come 🙂 so please don’t get mad!
The books suck this year so the Mantel will win
Obviously. With the exception of my perfect-can-do-no-wrong baby Woman, Girl, Other. Which leads me to the next one…
Since they had no idea how Brexit would go, they made sure that a UK author would win, just in case
Theory concocted by Hannah! Since our bets are on either Evaristo or Mantel, this seems like a rather obvious conclusion. They didn’t even try to be subtle. Continue reading →
My TBR cries as I add 13 books to it, but that’s okay because I’m pretty excited to read those. I am surprised that Ducks, Newburyport didn’t make it and honestly disappointed to not see it there. I’m less surprised that The Man Who Saw Everything and My Dark Vanessa didn’t make it either, but I really wish they had! The Testaments isn’t there either, which actually pleases me, as I really didn’t want to pick it up.
Running is a hobby I never expected to pick up in my lifetime – I am short, with the kind of body that builds muscle more easily than it does aerobics, and I’m famously terrible at breathing (I have asthma) and at not fainting (I have vasovagal syndrome). However, I’ve been running for about a year now, and it’s for sure because I picked up this book:
An American Marriage is a really good book, an easy read and the first third of the book was so amazing – to add to that, the topics An American Marriage deals with are really relevant: racism, the judicial system, loyalty, family and marriage, which I think are the reasons why it was chosen for Oprah’s Book Club. It’s a good book for creating discussion, for sure. But it’s not, in my opinion, the greatest book written by a woman in 2018, the most innovative and unique, the most creative. Tayari Jones is an amazing writer, there is no doubt about that. But the Women’s Prize for Fiction is about more than just a good book people will like – it’s about giving a voice to a group of writers who used to be (and still are) constantly silenced and dismissed as “serious” authors. I don’t mind if the main character is unlikable and if the book is not one I loved and will die for – but it needs to have something more, a challenge perhaps on the way it’s written, on the way the main character is, on the plot, anything really. The themes are important and definitely need to be talked about and represented more in fiction, but that does not change the fact that An American Marriage is a conventional contemporary, even if a very good one, and does not bring anything new. So it’s disappointing.
I would have been happy with most of the books that never made it to the shortlist winning the prize, but I’m not surprised by this result at all. The entire prize has been, so far, giving off a vibe of trying to please the crowd instead of challenging it. An American Marriage is the safest book of the entire longlist. It would have been a truly satisfying ending to see The Pisces or Ghost Wall win, they both felt like they had that extra oomph that a lot of the other books don’t. Continue reading →
For those who didn’t know, I’ve been making my way through the Women’s Prize Longlist for 2019, together with Rachel, Callum, Sarah, Hannah and Steph! I’ve finished by now 9 and half books, having left some that I expect to be new favorites for last! Today we got the much awaited shortlist, and if you didn’t see it yet, here are the ones that made it:
We're delighted to reveal this year's #WomensPrize shortlist, as chosen by our brilliant 2019 judges 🎉
It’s been a shock to everyone not seeing Ghost Wall & Normal People make the shortlist. I haven’t read those two yet, but from the blurb I’ve been hearing, they were such favorites. That The Pisces didn’t make it isn’t entirely a surprise, but a huge disappointment! This was such a strange, daring book and I hoped it would win the Women’s Prize. The Pisces spoke to me in such a deep level and brought to surfice all kinds of uncomfortable feelings, plus it was quirky and unique and quite brilliant. I’m saddened that the list is immediately less ambitious and original by the simple fact that The Pisces didn’t make it. Continue reading →
I am doubtful of star ratings of books. Unlike your average Amazon purchase of household items (“The shelf works well, goes with my furniture! 5 stars”, “This goddamn pair of shoes ruined my life. 1 star”), books are a very personal experience. Ratings are normally done in one of the following ways:
Via emotional response. I LOVED THIS BOOK, 5 stars. THIS MADE ME SOB SO MUCH, 5 stars. It was okay, 3 stars. Wow, the only emotions this provoked on me where utter cringe-y ones, 1 star.
Via categories. Great writing, 5 stars. Terrible plot, 1 star. Final rating: 3 stars.
Via comparison. I actually loved this book, but I can’t give it 5 stars, I gave this other book 5 stars and it was so much better. 4 stars it is.
As for me, I’m a mix of the three. I normally follow my gut response and then, when writing reviews, list as thoroughly the good things and the bad things as I can (without overwhelming the poor reader). This sometimes makes me realize that my gut reaction to the end of the book does not correspond to my overall experience, and I change the rating – I’ve never had that happen for more than 1 star of difference, though. So, in average, I am an emotional rater.
(which are you, by the way? Tell me in the comments)
If you remember, on Valentine’s Day I posted that I would try more books of the genre, since this is indisputably the least read genre in fiction for me. So today I am showing what I have read since, what I thought of those books and if they helped change my mind!
What I read since February 2018
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Hummm, I didn’t love neither hate this book. While it was entertaining, I didn’t buy the romance at all. It was just not for me, which was disappointing, being one of the few contemporary romances I’ve ever read. Also I found out that ~sexy scenes on Audiobooks just aren’t for me. Rating: ★★★☆☆
Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
I am so in love with this book. It’s got a lush, dark world building, a mysterious Goblin king, a talented main character, there’s lots of music and pain and love. It broke my heart. Rating: ★★★★★
Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre
This was okay. I gave it 4 instead of 3 stars because the steamy scenes were SO sexy and because the main character had a no-nonsense personality, which I really appreciated. Rating: ★★★★☆