Having written a novel about the enigma of gender, I remain fascinated and baffled that something so vague and ill-defined should impact so strongly on our social structures and beliefs about ourselves. Fortunately, Cordelia Fine, psychologist and Associate Professor at the Melbourne Business School, is somewhat sharper in demolishing the dodgy science surrounding sex and gender and International Women’s Day seems the perfect time to review her new (non-fiction) book.
In literature, as in life, revolution often entails blood loss and drama. In these reviews we eavesdrop first on an assassination plot at the beginning of the Russian Revolution, while the second features an unexplained domestic death against the backdrop of the French Revolution.
For Valentine’s Day, I’m reviving a post that appeared in October 2015 on the Reading Writers website, which is now defunct.
We approach the New Year as if we’re trading in the old one for a better model, but it’s not like replacing a car. Or if it is, it’s with the old car rusting in the garage while we’re driving around in the new one, hoping the weather won’t tarnish its shine. Alas, a change of digit won’t cancel out our bad decisions – I’m looking at you Brexit and Trumpeteers – but it can provide the impetus to strive to fail better next time. While I think it’s weird that the traditional time for taking stock and recalibrating our intentions for the future should be now – rather than synchronised with the winter solstice the first day of spring (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) – I am sufficiently obsessional to join in.
Every novel is comprised of different parts that writers, readers and reviewers hope will combine into a satisfying whole. My last two reviews of 2016 – before I reveal my favourites of the year – are of novels for which finding that coherence is a particular challenge, but extremely worthwhile if achieved. Both published this summer, neither seems to have attracted many reviews on Goodreads, but I’m impressed with both (albeit one more than the other) so I hope you’ll at least give my reviews a chance.
As Christmas Eve is the traditional time for ghost stories and the Gothic, so today’s the day to share a couple of my recent reads to have you scared to go to bed.
In my years of blogging by the calendar, I’ve been particularly faithful to World Toilet Day on 19 November with its emphasis on the importance of clean and safe sanitation for global health, equality and well-being. My interest in this topic came from travelling in countries where toilet facilities can’t be taken for granted, and discovered that a blog post on the subject could play a small part in raising awareness of the issue. But for this year, I’d already decided to shift my focus away from toilets, or their lack of, in the Global South onto a toiletry provision nearer home, when I discovered that this would enable me to mark another international commemorative day dear to my heart on the following day.
With three high-profile husbands and two serious relationships with female colleagues, the life of the anthropologist, Margaret Mead, seems to have been as original as her research endeavours. While criticised as both a woman in a man’s world and a populariser of social science, as well as her findings on the sexual freedoms of Samoan society being subject to challenge, she remains – according to my totally unscientific survey of one – the best-known anthropologist of all time. In Euphoria, Lily King brings her vividly to life in this fictionalised account of a woman with a very similar history to Mead’s during a period of fieldwork along New Guinea’s Sepik river in 1933.
Nell and her husband Fen – malarial, injured and dejected after five months with the dreadful Mumbanyo tribe, she in particular despairing at their neglect and mistreatment of babies – are about to return to Australia when Bankson, another anthropologist based on Mead’s third husband, Gregory Bateson, familiar to me through the double-blind theory, persuades them to reconsider.
As I mentioned on my recent post on Random Musings, I sometimes coordinate my blog posts with one of the international commemorative days dotted through the calendar. But, with a blog about reading and writing, seasoned with psychology, I do wonder about the legitimacy of made-up stories in amongst the true accounts of heroic attempts to tackle the issue of the day. Yet I’m convinced fiction has its place. By providing a safe space in which we can explore attitudes and motivations from which we might shy away in real life, fiction can help make sense of potentially overwhelming aspects of the human condition. So, for my first post for World Suicide Prevention Day, I’m exploring the portrayal of suicide in fiction. But if you’re looking for the facts and figures on suicide, or more direct strategies of prevention, click on the image for more information. While you’ll find a long list of fictional suicides on Wikipedia, I’m limiting myself to novels I’ve reviewed.
This time last year, I posted a review of How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis, in which she shares her reflections on the novels that have shaped her life. Although I warmed to the way the author openheartedly shared her love of fiction, I did feel somewhat irritated by the limitations of these heroines’ heroism, so often linked to a romantic plotline. So, in honour of International Women’s Day 2015, let’s take a look at some fictional women who have been heroic in other ways.
Annecdotal is where real life brushes up against the fictional with mutterings about reading and writing seasoned with psychology.
Annecdotist is the persona through whom I navigate that in-between space. When not roaming the blogosphere, I'm reading or writing, tramping the moors, battling the slugs in my vegetable plot or struggling to sing.
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I don't post to a schedule, but average around ten reviews a month (see here for an alphabetical list),
some linked to a weekly flash fiction, plus posts on writing and my journey to publication and beyond.
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Sugar and Snails on 2016 shortlist
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