April Reading

April was mostly a thesis-writing month, as is probably clear; nothing here is very long or heavy, and quite a bit of it is work-relevant. Still.

 

Penelope Lively, The Whispering Knights: Well this is defnitely Lesser Lively, though I did enjoy the image of a witches brew made from canned frog’s legs.

Penelope Farmer, The Summer Birds: I’d have to reread Charlotte Sometimes to check, but this felt very tonally different. I liked it a lot–it’s really good at invoking all the things that make Peter Pan and Wendy work so well: sex and flight and the promise of death.

Sheena Porter, Nordy Bank: At some point I’m going to have to write something making wild generalisations about changing relationships with plot and structure in fiction. I’m reminded of this every time I read children’s books from the 60s and 70s (which, at the moment, is all the time), but even more so when it’s one I didn’t already know well. This was my first time reading Nordy Bank, and I’m not sure how it’s a book about a girl and her dog and a book about being possessed by your Bronze Age ancestors and a book about camping and tramping in a minor key but it certainly is all of those things. I can understand why it’s not one of the Carnegie-winners that has continued to be popular, but I also liked it.

Becky Albertalli, Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda: I’ve written about this here. Short version: I thought it was cute.

Noelle Stevenson, Nimona: Adorable, and has moments where it feels like it’s touching on something raw and wonderful. But it doesn’t feel like enough–I’m not sure you can successfully invoke the depth of trauma that some of these characters have faced, or the scale of violence that they’ve either perpetrated or had to forgive their loved ones for perpetrating, without going a lot further than this comic was willing to.

Jean Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad, Asterix and the Missing Scroll: I didn’t think much of Asterix and the Picts, and rolled my eyes at the Relevant Social Commentary implied in an Asterix comic about leaked documents, and now that I’ve read this I find it rather slight. But then it does this thing on its final page that creates a metanarrative for the whole series, and. Well played.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Brian Stelfreeze, Laura Martin, Black Panther .1: It may need a few issues (perhaps I’ll wait for the first trade) before there’s enough here for me to work out if I like it. For now, all I know is that I really enjoyed the art.

Kate Saunders, Five Children on the Western Front: I’ve written about this at length here. Short version: Touching, but I’ve read better and smarter fanfic than this.

Julia Quinn, Because of Miss Bridgerton: I enjoy Julia Quinn but don’t know what the point of this book was.

William Mayne, Earthfasts: I’m writing about this separately, and I’m not entirely sure what happens in some sections of it but Mayne is such a good writer.

2 Comments to “April Reading”

  1. Definitely agreed about Nimona. It felt to me as if it was a little too steeped in fandom conventions where of course you forgive your hot boyfriend for physically attacking you that one time and injuring you so badly that you lost your arm, because fanfic is a lot more about the catharsis of two people coming together after that kind of trauma than it is about addressing how said trauma would actually affect them. (And, because fanfic skews m/m so much more than het or f/f, you don’t have to deal with the skeevy implications that this story would have if the injured party were a woman.)

    What saved it for me is that I thought the relationship between Nimona and Ballister was more nuanced. They don’t get to go off together and have adventures, and though she forgives him (for a betrayal that wasn’t really one, but which she isn’t mature enough to accept yet) there’s obviously still tension between them. I thought the honesty of that was a good counterpoint to the unearned romanticism of Ballister and Goldenloin’s reconciliation.

    • I think you’re right (not claiming to be an expert, she added hastily) re. catharsis in fanfic, and it does feel like this would fit much better in such a setting: though my own tastes in fic would then tend towards tens of thousands of words of struggling before said two people finally came together. To me it wouldn’t feel like enough from a fic, because I’d expect the emotional difficulties of this situation to be something that is lingered over rather than something glossed over so the pretty men could kiss.

      I agree that Nimona and Ballister have a more nuanced relationship, and I do like the way we’re almost allowed to think Nimona’s destructiveness is going to be played for laughs at the beginning only to find out that it really isn’t, but I still wanted the tension between them to be harder for them than it was in the end.

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