July Reading

This was a good month.


Marie Brennan, A Natural History of Dragons: I loved this. Clever, self-reflexive, and full of references to one of my favourite periods in historical fiction. I wrote half a column about it here.

Matt Kaplan, The Science of Monsters: This received the other half of the column I mention above. It was fun to read, but I wasn’t entirely impressed by its scholarship or its insights.

Bama, Harum-Scarum Saar and Other Stories: Short stories, often angry, often funny. I wrote about them here.

Georgette Heyer, Friday’s Child: A book that would be vastly improved if its hero and heroine were eliminated altogether, and we focused on the wonderful supporting characters instead.

Rumer Godden, Black Narcissus, The Peacock Spring: I mentioned a month or two ago that I was reading through Godden’s India books for a piece. I discovered Godden this year and I have very mixed feelings about her work. Gorgeously written, incredibly incisive on the subject of character, and yet so comically orientalist! I’m also fascinated by the apparent publishing trend of getting white women to write the introductions to these books– I’d love to see what an Indian woman (other than myself, obviously) had to say.

Stephanie Burgis, Kat, Incorrigible, Renegade Magic, Stolen Magic: A trilogy that I suppose would be categorised as middle-grade? Very silly, very fluffy, very why won’t these people talk to each other so they all know what the problem is? I read all three over two nights, and they were great fun.

Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling, The Cuckoo’s Calling: Reviewed here, ranted about cover here.

Ajay Navaria, Unclaimed Terrain: Wonderful collection of short stories about caste in India. I should be doing a review for Himal soon.

Pradeep Sebastian and Chandra Siddan (ed), 50 Writers, 50 Books: Reviewed for Time Out, so presumably it will appear in the magazine soon. An odd mix of essays, from the very dry to the very personal, but on the whole I really enjoyed it.

Karen Lord, The Best of All Possible Worlds: Long, long rant.

Stephanie Laurens, The Taming of Ryder Cavanaugh: It’s a Laurens book, it’s like just about every other Laurens book. There’s attempted murder, there’s people not talking about their feelings, love happens.

Courtney Milan, The Heiress Effect: I have complex feelings about this book. At one level, it’s everything I want my fluffy romances to be. Our heroine is fat, though this is something that is mentioned once at the beginning of the book and not shown to intrude upon her life in any way. She’s also completely gauche. There’s a character with epilepsy, one with (I think) agoraphobia, there’s political discussion and people have interests and priorities beyond marriage. And then there’s Anjan Bhattacharya, and it’s clear that the author has done actual research here and hasn’t LibbaBrayed it. And it’s also clear that she means well. She means so well. And I’m still trying to wrap my head around what about the sheer, well-meaning whiteness of this book threw me out of it so completely, and I’m second-guessing myself because if I don’t want writers to make an effort and put some thought into Indian characters when they write them, what do I want and how can white western authors ever win, and isn’t this terrible unfair?

Mary Balogh, First Comes Marriage, At Last Comes Love, A Secret Affair: Amusing.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Americanah: I wrote about this here.

Junuka Deshpande, Night: Wrote about this for a forthcoming column. It’s a children’s book in English and Hindi, has some lovely art, and I liked it very much.

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night: I have so many feelings that a separate post may be needed to hold them all. This is one of the best books in the world, that is all.

Patrice Kindl, Keeping the Castle: Slight, but very entertaining.

4 Comments to “July Reading”

  1. I feel Rumer Godden needs to either suck more or be less racist. I’d settle for either! I read The Peacock Spring in one sitting, going, ohhh, so good in some ways, but ohhh, Rumer Godden, what are you doing???? >_<

    Courtney Milan is apparently not white? Not that that makes a difference to what you say about her book, I just thought it was worth mentioning.

    • Let’s be fair, Godden’s brilliant at the complex feelings of white women. The rest of us, well. Um. ;)

      And thank you! I shouldn’t have assumed that Courtney Milan was white, whether or not that makes a difference to my feelings about her book.

  2. I’m not a major fan of Rumer Godden’s India writing either, mostly because it was such a letdown in comparison to some of her fantabulous non-India stuff. I especially loved Thursday’s Child and An Episode of Sparrows. Didn’t she win an award for a children’s book about gypsies? Have you read that one? Is it good?

    I laughed at your description of Friday’s Child. So true.

    And Gaudy Night. Ignited my love affair with Sayers, Harriet and Lord Peter. Actually, the first Wimsey novel I read was Five Red Herrings (IMHO, the only boring book of the lot) in the college library. I didn’t think much of it, so washed my hands of Sayers. The next time I came across her was when I spent a term volunteering in a little school somewhere on the border between Bihar and Nepal. Boredom in the evenings forced me to read every book I could get my hands on, and so, reluctantly, I read my second Sayers. That was Gaudy Night. It was like fireworks going off in my head.

    • Considering how bad she is on Indians, I’d prefer not to read books that give her opportunities to be other sorts of racist! At least with the India books I’m in a position to critique them.

      Friday’s Child is MADE for me by the “Nemesis” running gag.

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