Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Contrast Between Old(er) and New


I've recently finished a couple of books.

Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann is described as a "coming of age" story. Lehmann wrote Dusty Answer when she was in her 20s and it shows - the book is full of the longing, passion, and immediacy of youth; the self-consciousness that one has before really having a sense of one's self. Judith, our heroine, grows up fairly isolated, never attending school or playing with other children except for the five cousins that visit their Grandmother next door. The book is very much about her relationships with all of them as well as a particularly intimate and intense relationship with a female friend at college. The book was considered racy for its time, and quite sexual. I can see that having been the case. Lehmann is just so spot on when she describes this young, inexperienced woman who makes poor choices that even though you as the reader want her to stop behaving in some way, you understand why she continues to do so. I wonder what my reaction would have been to read this book years ago. Being a more mature reader many of the character's emotions and priorities are so far in the past. I enjoyed this very much and would recommend it.

The second book I've finished recently is Sweet Ruin by Cathi Hanauer. This book is a perfect example of why I find modern fiction, perhaps women's modern fiction primarily, so very, well, blah. I went straight from Dusty Answer to this, and this book just felt crass. Lots of expressions and descriptions of things that I guess are meant to reflect the 'modern woman' but don't really reflect me. I'm not sure why I read this, I found it as an ARC at Halfprice Books and picked it up. It's the story of a woman, Elayna, with a 6 year old daughter, a son that died shortly after birth 3 years prior, and a hardworking and rarely home husband who is a lawyer in NYC. Guess what happens next - infidelity, of course. There is a very disturbing and uncomfortable part of the storyline involving her daughter. The Mother in the story makes such poor decisions both for herself and on behalf of her daughter it was frankly disturbing. Elayna's friends, relatives, day care provider, even her child were very unlikable characters. The only one that seemed 'real' at all was her husband. In addition to all this, I felt the book was poorly edited. The author gives details almost to her own detriment. She describes walking to an event, then driving home in the car. She identifies specific days of the week that something happens and it just doesn't make sense. I haven't read any other reviews of this but I'd be interested to see what other thought about this book.

I really want to start the Beatrix Potter biography while it's on my mind - it should be arriving any day now. I started Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Shuttle last night. It is delicious so far.

6 comments:

Karen said...

I can recommend Selina Hastings' biography of Rosalind Lehmann.
(I must start The Shuttle soon!)

Bookgirl said...

I really want to read Dusty Answer! I've heard so many good things about it and it sounds exactly like the type of book I'd like. I'm going to look for it.

Jill said...

Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed The Shuttle...

Tara said...

Karen, thank you for the recommendation, that sounds like a book I would enjoy.

Bookgirl, I do hope you find a copy. I had heard many good things about it as well.

Jill, I'm glad you enjoyed it, it feels like the sort of book to be savored.

Danielle said...

I have a few other books by Lehmann, but not this one. I am looking forward to reading her. I am sure I will eventually get this one as well. I may have to read The Shuttle soon, too. My library has an old edition of it. Does it read pretty quick once you get into it?

Tara said...

Danielle, I think that The Shuttle does read pretty quick, I just haven't had much time to read it so I'm only about 1/4 through. I'm really enjoying savoring each word. In addition, my personal neurotic book rules require that Persephones don't leave the house so that limits my reading time somewhat.