Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

gather the daughters

If Gather the Daughters is a next generation Handmaid’s Tale then it’s fitting to say that the children of Melamed’s cult island represent the likely outcome of Gilead’s handmaids bearing children.

In 1985 Margaret Atwood speculated a world in which the project of feminism has been rolled back categorically in the West, mirroring cultures that have dominated the globe for at least 2000 years. Gilead, an allegorical reflection of the US, strips away the rights of women, and creates a nightmare dystopia for its citizens. A story that is not out of place in 2018 America.

Thirty years later Jennie Melamed imagines a world in which this campaign has taken root. On an unnamed island a religious cult led by a misogynistic cabal of so named ‘ancestors’ have manufactured a, not too unfamiliar, society in which men subjugate women. Daughters are forced to marry when they reach their “summer of fruition”. They follow a strict doctrine of
‘shalt nots’ that permeate every aspect of life, shrinking the possibilities of existence to work, prayer, and obedience. They pay fealty to their ancestors in every act. Every thought, feeling, and human relationship are meticulously moulded to ensure absolute compliance. ‘Defective’ children, brought on by generations of inbreeding, are discarded.

Every summer the girls run wild, and as every winter deepens the inevitability of a life of inexorable slavery dawns.

Melamed is utterly unambiguous. She has crafted, through the voices of three girls and one ‘woman’, a story that documents the mechanisms of patriarchy and she follows, unflinchingly and at times devastatingly, that culture to its logical conclusion. The girls of the island are systematically sexually abused by their fathers within the confines of both their houses and their religious upbringing. The mothers look on, and make the dinners.

This is a harrowing account that explicitly mirrors contemporary society, a world mired and stunted by open secrets, and suffocating dogma. More literary realism than, dystopian speculation. At times the narrative is relentless in its scrutiny, but it is the smoldering rage and agonizing vitality of the voices that relay these girls’ stories that rescues the reader from
despondency.

In every regime there is the hope of rebellion, in every rebellion a declaration of life.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

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The Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munroe

lives of girls and women pic

“There is a change coming in the lives of girls and women … All women have had up till now has been their connection with men.” This is the key-line of Alice Munroe’s only novel – a work that is often deemed not a novel at all. This line simmers, reverberates, buzzes as the reader unravels Munroe’s small town of Jubilee and her protagonist Del.

‘Lives of Girls and Women’ is cycle of episodic stories trailing the childhood and early womanhood of Del, a ferociously intelligent, and emotionally keen youth, who treads a border between the strange, liberating world of the other; that world which is the arena of the female, the freak, the intelligent, and the socially inferior. And our more recognizable world; the patriarchal world, mundane, normal, gentile, quietly suffocating and barren. Munroe’s mastery is in details, portraiting the joyless town Jubilee, and the dense, quotidian of lives of the women who live there.

Each episode depicts a moment in the lives of these women, the lives of all women, the lives of all girls. From sexual awakening and the distortion of that awakening, to the all too familiar suppression of female intelligence typified by the internalizing of shame and embarrassment. Del’s life is like that of any other girl in the 1940s and 50s. Except that her panoptical and at time eidetic viewpoint is dazzlingly detailed. There is a psychological richness and magnitude to her voice that is by turns electrifying and heavy. She carries the weight of her mother’s embarrassingly liberal forthrightness right alongside the weight of her own desire for more, for wonder, for love. And at all times she is pulled by the seduction and danger, of both worlds, of two possible futures.

Munroe’s story is one of choice. Ultimately it is Del’s choices that will decide her future.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Brilliant Book Title #196

the thief of always
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb: 
The horror story your students have been asking you for! The only children’s story by the master of horror.

Mr Hood’s Holiday House has stood for a thousand years, welcoming countless children into its embrace. It is a place of miracles, a blissful round of treats and seasons, where every childish whim may be satisfied.

There is a price to be paid, of course, but young Harvey Swick, bored with his life and beguiled by Mr Hood’s wonders, does not stop to discover the consequences. It is only when the House shows its darker face – when Harvey discovers the pitiful creatures that dwell in its shadow – that he comes to doubt Mr Hood’s philanthropy.

The house and its mysterious architect are not about to release their captive without a battle, however. Mr Hood has ambitions for his new guest, for Harvey’s soul burns brighter than any soul he has encountered for a thousand years…

Brilliant Book Titles #195

fluke
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb: 
Just why do humpback whales sing? That’s the question that has marine biologist Nate Quinn and his crew poking, charting, recording and photographing very big, wet, gray marine mammals. That is, until the extraordinary day when a whale lifts its tail into the air to display a cryptic message spelled out in foot-high letters: BITE ME.

Trouble is, Nate’s beginning to wonder if he hasn’t spent just a little too much time in the sun. ‘Cause no one else saw a thing- not his longtime partner, Clay Demodocus; not their saucy young research assistant; not even the spliff-puffing white-boy Rastaman Kona (ne Preston Applebaum). But later, when a roll of film returns from the lab missing the crucial tail shot- and his research facility is trashed- Nate realizes something very fishy indeed is going on.

The Boy on the Bridge by M. R. Carey

the-boy-on-the-bridge

‘The Boy on the Bridge’ is the prequel to Carey’s explosive coming-of-age zombie thriller ‘The Girl with all the Gifts’. And as a stand-alone work it is a disruptive, fresh, and tightly-paced thriller. As a companion piece however it treads a lot of ground previously covered.

The ingredients that keep this second instalment fresh however are Carey’s incisive characterisation, and intricate storytelling. He staves off any lack of tension caused by the readers’ knowledge of these characters’ fates. Ultimately this is not a story about hope, at least not for the humans, it is a story of understanding, resolve, and acceptance.

The story picks up where The Girl with all the Gifts left off, honing in on the destiny of the abandoned Rosalind Franklin – the army tanker discovered at the end of the last instalment. We realise that this is not a tale about the future of mankind, but about how a cross-section of humanity faces, desperately the consequences of a mass extinction. The 10 man crew of the Rosalind Franklin, is already 7 months into their quest for a cure to Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, a fungus that has infected and devastated the human population. The crew is essentially an archetypal representation of humanity; the morally dubious side by side with the altruistic, the deluded in close quarters with the calculating. Carey’s biggest strength is a crushing sense of inevitability; the inevitability of conflict between the strong and the weak, the pragmatic and the idealist. Finally the reader is weighted with the inexorable fate of humanity.

What Carey gives us is in the midst of this finality is a glimmer of hope in alternative possibilities. What saves The Boy on the Bridge from merely rehashing the successes of The Girl with all the Gifts is its psychological weight and the range of these characters. This is a simple allegory for death, total, inescapable and yet it is laden with the possibility of the future – any future. Humanity is doomed from the first bite, exactly as it should be.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Beowulf, translated by Seamus Heaney

beowulf

You wouldn’t call it compelling reading but Beowulf is an interesting historical document all the same. The translation caught my eye as it was done by Seamus Heaney himself while he was teaching in Harvard. A chance to read a classic text of world literature translated by someone as eminent as he meant that Beowulf was fast tracked up my to-read list. 

This edition features a wonderful essay by Heaney that offers you an incredible insight into the work of translation, the craft of a line of poetry and some of the things that influenced Heaney’s work from his rural beginnings in Derry to philosophies and worldviews that would stay with him throughout his career. The poem itself is rarely dull or unenjoyable, there’s some wonderful passages in fact, but I’d never tell anyone it kept me riveted. It’s a glimpse into a great civilisation that lived over a thousand years ago, and the poetry keeps the narrative trotting along but it’s by no means unputdownable. Worth a read though, and slim so you’ll fly through it.

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here

Brilliant Book Titles #194

midnight at the bright ideas bookstore
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb: 
When a bookshop patron commits suicide, it’s his favorite store clerk who must unravel the puzzle he left behind in this fiendishly clever debut novel.

Lydia Smith lives her life hiding in plain sight. A clerk at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, she keeps a meticulously crafted existence among her beloved books, eccentric colleagues, and the BookFrogs—the lost and lonely regulars who spend every day marauding the store’s overwhelmed shelves.

But when Joey Molina, a young, beguiling BookFrog, kills himself in the bookstore, Lydia’s life comes unglued. Always Joey’s favorite bookseller, Lydia has inherited his meagre worldly possessions. Trinkets and books; the detritus of a lonely man. But when Lydia flips through his books she finds them defaced in ways both disturbing and inexplicable. They reveal the psyche of a young man on the verge of an emotional reckoning. And they seem to contain a hidden message. What did Joey know? And what does it have to do with Lydia?

As Lydia untangles the mystery of Joey’s suicide, she unearths a long-buried memory from her own violent childhood. Details from that one bloody night begin to circle back. Her distant father returns to the fold, along with an obsessive local cop, and the Hammerman, a murderer who came into Lydia’s life long ago and, as she soon discovers, never completely left. Bedazzling, addictive, and wildly clever, Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is a heart-pounding mystery that perfectly captures the intellect and eccentricity of the bookstore milieu.

Brilliant Book Titles #193

electrified sheep
You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.

Blurb: 
Twenty-six years ago, when she was only three months old, Jody Linder’s father was murdered as she slept in her cot. Her mother vanished, presumed dead.

Local trouble-maker Billy Crosby confessed to the murder and was locked up, leaving his wife and son to face the consequences in the small Kansas town of Rose. But his son Collin, now a lawyer, has successfully petitioned for a retrial, which means that – for now – Billy is back in town.

Jody is horrified – the man who tore her family apart is living just a few streets away. So why does she find herself wondering if Collin is right? What if Billy was innocent, and her close-knit family has been hiding a terrible secret all these years?

Haunting and powerful, this is Nancy Pickard’s finest achievement to date.

Vigilante by Jessica Gadziala

vigilante

Blurb:
A new stand-alone dark romance from bestselling author Jessica Gadziala

I’m a bad guy.
I do bad things.
But I do them for the right reasons.
That’s why I can sleep easy at night even with the smell of fresh blood still in my nostrils.
One more scumbag off the streets.
One more righting of a wrong.
That was all my life was about.
Until I came across her…

Review:
5 Vigilante Stars!

Since day one of hearing about Luce I’ve wanted his story. I’ve wanted to know what was behind the dark, Sexy Vigilante. This story was fantastic, I couldn’t put it down. I just love when Jessica goes Dark and dark she went with Vigilante. This is a standalone story, but like most of Jessica’s books we get glimpses of Navesink Bank. Which is always enjoyable. The storyline blew my mind and it was all go from the first one word of this book. Ev’s is a kick ass character. She is fearless and one thing I love out of my leading ladies is a strong fearless woman!

Yes, pick this book up you won’t regret it!

The Last Temptation of Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis

“If I were fire, I would burn; if I were a woodcutter, I would strike. But I am a heart, and I love”.

“The doors of heaven and hell are adjacent, and identical”.
― Nikos Kazantzakis, “The Last Temptation of Christ”.

christ

Nikos Kazantzakis ranks as one of the most important European writers of the 20th century. Like most creative geniuses, Kazantzakis had to carry the cross of censorship. His book The Last Temptation of Christ (first published in 1955) was condemned by the Orthodox Church and was placed on the Vatican’s Index of Forbidden Texts, because of its allegedly blasphemous portrayal of Christ as a man with human frailties, yielding for a moment to a thought that flashed into his mind while upon the Cross : what if he had chosen the path of mortal happiness?…

In Kazatzakis’ masterpiece The Last Temptation of Christ, two apparently opposite forces – the flesh and the spirit – mercilessly clash, intertwine, as much as remain in a state of potentiality. This book offers a most original approach to Jesus Christ’s life journey towards the painful and profound understanding of his dual substance – that he is fully divine as much as fully human. He is free of sin and subject to all temptations, and it is “by force of will” that he “frees himself from the various forms of bondage – family, bodily pleasures, the state, fear of death” (P.A. Bien [translator], p. 504).

The battle between these two apparently opposing forces – the flesh and the spirit – is perfectly represented during the brief but crucial moments in the book, between Jesus and Mary Magdalene. Kazatzakis’ hymn to femininity subverts the patriarchal religious image of Mary Magdalene as the whore who repents into sainthood – and is epitomized in the following lines:

“Pleasant dreams,” she said. “Tomorrow we both have much to do. You’ll set out along the road again, to seek your salvation; I’ll set out along another road, my own, and I too will be seeking salvation. Each his own road, and we shall never meet again. Goodnight.”

She fell onto her mattress and thrust her face into the pillow biting the sheets all night long to hold back her cries and tears (…) All night long she listened to him breathe tranquilly, restfully, like an infant nursing at the breast; and she, lamenting softly within herself with tender, protracted sighs, lay awake and lulled him to sleep like a mother.

Kazantzakis’ “championing of demotic modern Greek”, with its “fluid characteristics”, “its free borrowing of words over the centuries” and “the ease with which new words are compounded from existing roots”, as P.A. Bien (the translator) writes in A Note on the Author and His Use of Language, cannot be represented in the translated version of the text in present-day English.

However, this translation can boast for its rich language and its capacity to retain the ‘essence’ of the original text.

Nikos Kazantzakis (Νίκος Καζαντζάκης) was born in the island of Crete in 1883. Widely considered a giant of modern Greek literature, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature three times. Kazantzakis’ novels included Zorba the Greek (published 1946 as Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas), Christ Recrucified (1948), Captain Michalis (1950, translated ‘Freedom or Death’), and The Last Temptation of Christ (1955). He also wrote plays, travel books, memoirs and philosophical essays such as The Saviors of God: Spiritual Exercises. His fame spread in the English-speaking world due to cinematic adaptations of Zorba the Greek by Michael Cacoyannis in 1964, and The Last Temptation of Christ by Martin Scorcese in 1988. (Wikepedia)

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You can reserve a copy online at South Dublin Libraries’ catalogue here.