May 28, 2015

5/5/15 - An Author I Love

Jodi Lynn Anderson is the kind of author that I trust. While she has never done anything truly mindblowing on the level of, say, Markus Zusak, she writes well and consistently. My personal favorites were her middle-grade May Bird series, but there was also Tiger Lily which I have wanted to reread almost since I finished reading it the first time.

May Bird being other-world fantasy, and Tiger Lily being glorified Peter Pan fanfiction, these of Anderson's offerings made me used to her fantastical side. Peaches takes up on the more realistic side, though the peach orchard that the novel's three protagonists - Leeda, Birdie, and Murphy - inhabit for a while might be more magical than even Neverland. 

From the very first page, it's made apparent that Peaches is a novel for a slightly older teenage audience. The situations are more mature, but more than that, Anderson's style is more mature. It's solid and dependable with just the sweetest, slightest hint of magic - a lot like the story itself. Her characters are... they're basically flawless. I went from feeling meh about all three of them to rooting for them to live together forever, on the peach orchard, happily ever after, please.

It wasn't quite that simple, of course, but I still loved where the story went. It was meandering but not pointless, a little circumstantial but never in a way that made me want to suspend my suspension of disbelief. Anderson executed a balancing act that deserves applause and frequent return trips. And there are sequels!

4/29/15 - A Play/A Book That Made Me Cry

The reading history log for the last week or so of April and the first week or so of May is... patchy, to say the least. Sometimes I never even finished filling in my reading goals for the week all the way. The 23-29 week of April only has three books in it, and only two of those were read. Fortunately, those two were Challenge entries!

I used up another easy out that week - A Play. Plays are incredibly short, they should be easy to understand, and did I mention that they're short? Not to mention that The Children's Hour by Lillian Hellman was made into a movie starring Audrey Hepburn. My favorite actress ever. So I'd been meaning to read this one for a while.

The gist of the play is that a boarding-school brat starts a rumor that her two headmistresses are engaged in lesbian activity. In the... 40s? As you can imagine, it's not a happy play. 

It's an engaging one, though. The characters owned their voices, and while it takes a little while to distinguish the generic WWII women's names in your head, you get there eventually. It helps that Hellman manages suspense and especially dialogue really, really well. You love who you're supposed to love and you hate who you're supposed to hate, with equal and opposite passions. 

It makes the ending worse, being so fond of the characters. The whole play is suffused with a sort of sadness - which makes sense; it's a suitable sadness, which still doesn't take away from the effect it's supposed to have. 

Not a play for everyone - the ending is deeply disturbing - but a good one. If you can handle it, I'd recommend it. I know, now that it's been a few weeks, that I'm ready to watch the Hepburn movie.

And we have A Book That Made Me Cry. Is it cliché that this is one of my very favorite novels - possibly my favorite standalone story? If it is, I don't care. Faces is worth it.

If you don't know the story of Till We Have Faces, don't read a summary. Just go get it and read it. Don't even glance at the back blurb. Just read it. All you need to know is what's on the front cover: there is a lot about faces, it's a myth retelling, and C.S. Lewis wrote it.

But this is not the Lewis of Narnia; this is not the Lewis of Screwtape; this is not the Lewis of radio broadcasts about Christianity. This is a wholly separate Lewis, approaching the divine with nearer a divine sense than Aslan got in all seven books. (Not to disparage Narnia; I, like almost every other homeschooler, have a deep sycophantic love for Narnia. But Faces is different.)

Do you like flawlessly, lovingly crafted and handled female protagonists? Do you like tangles upon tangles of emotional, spiritual, and religious questions, woven and punched together until the mass is almost too heavy for your heart to bear? Do you like having your carefully cradled beliefs and notions about gods and humans pierced by arrow after unerring arrow of honesty and doubt? Do you like knowing that the divine is unknowable and that the fault is not in our stars but in our unimaginable smallness and unimportance? Do you like being told that despite our unimaginable smallness and unimportance that something too big for us to ever comprehend exists for us and watches over us in our unimaginable lives?

If so, read Till We Have Faces. If not, read Till We Have Faces. There's something unspeakably freeing about having your insignificance articulated in this way. It's cathartic. I recommend Faces every six months to deconstruct any sense of pride or bigness that you might think about cultivating - in case you make Orual's mistake of writing a book.