Friday, January 5, 2018

Book Challenge by Erin 8.0 although I did register for Erin's Book Challenge 4.0
I did not complete reading the 10 books I had selected. 
But...that doesn't mean I can't try again, does it? :) Of course I can!
So here goes!

The current challenge begins at 12AM on January 1, 2018 and 
runs through 11:59PM on April 30, 2018!

There is also a 24in48Readathon scheduled for January 27-28, 2018!
Bonus! Perhaps that will help me read all 10 of these books!

(1) Each book must be at least 200 pages long.
(2) Audio books count.
(3) Books can be read in any order of your choice.
(4) A reread can only be used once.
(5) There will be a photo album for each category with links to the books chosen. 
Comment on each photo for each of your books when you have read them.
(I will plan to link to my review.)

There are 10 categories:

(1) FREEBIE--Read any book that is at least 200 pages long.
(5 points)
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

I am already scheduled to read this 
for a book club discussion in January! 

(2) Read a book that starts with "L." (10 points)
Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice by Willie Parker, Lisa Miller

My own pediatrician, for whom I had the utmost respect 
co-sponsored the Abortion Bill in Indiana way back when. 
I am anxious to read Dr. Parker's take on this issue.

(3) Read a book that has a (mostly) red cover. 
(10 points)
The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

I am already scheduled to read this one 
for the next Literary Wives review 
on Monday, February 5th!

(4) Read a book with a character's name in the title. 
(15 points)
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

This was just gifted to me by a friend! Perfect!

(5) Read a book from Book Riot's 100 Must-Read Books with Plot Twists. (20 points)

I was initially undecided
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling),
or The Secret History by Donna Tartt (I loved The Goldfinch!),
or The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, 
or Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, 
or We Were Liars by E. Lockhart,
or I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (I loved The Book Thief!), 
or The Cutting Season by Attica Locke (I loved Black Water Rising!), 
or Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro (2017 Nobel prize winner), 
or Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee.
I have been wanting to read ALL of these and own almost all of them...
Decisions, decisions!

Okay, okay, I decided! 

Since this one is currently in a pile 
I see at least several times a day,
The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

(6) Read a book with the words "house" or "home" in the title. (20 points)
by Tsh Oxenreider

I am fascinated since I raised three children. 
How exciting this must have been!! 
And just as challenging!

(7) Read a book by an author whose first and last name 
begin with the same letter. 
(25 points)
loved Little Bee!

(8) Read a book that was originally published 
in a language other than your own. 
(30 points)
Bear Town by Fredrik Backman

I have loved all his books thus far!

(9) Read a book where most of the action occurs 
on a form of transportation. (30 points)
Ship of Fools by Katherine Anne Porter

This will be my one reread. First read it when I was 13... :)
Needless to say, I am sure I will have 
a bit different understanding almost 50 years later!

(10) Read a book with a character who 
suffers from a debilitating physical illness. 
(35 points)
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

I have wanted to read this forever!

Once you have a preliminary list, post that on the Facebook group page asap! 

There are prizes available! 

But mostly, you are to have fun!

DUH!! I will be reading! Of course I will have fun! :)

What are some books you have read and/or might recommend 
for any of these categories?

Happy Reading

Monday, January 1, 2018

Literary Wives #30

A Lady and Her Husband
by Amber Reeves
One of the first things that struck me as I began reading this novel 
was to note that the original publication date was 1914! 
And seemingly still so pertinent today in certain ways...

If you wish to read this book, 
I would strongly suggest you access it (for free) through Google Books
Though this was easy and convenient, after seeing others' comments regarding 
the Persephone reprint, that would probably be a better choice!
I gather the introduction alone makes this version worthwhile!
Though I am no fan of reading books in eformat, I did it for this one. (Yuck!)

Please check the other Literary Wives reviews:
Naomi at Consumed By Ink
Kay at whatmeread
TJ at My Book Strings
Eva at The Paperback Princess (on break this month)
Kate at Kate Rae Davis (on break this month)

I know, I know, you all thought I was also on break this month!
I've been "on break" for quite a few months now. 
I am blaming the fact that I had both knee joints replaced this summer.
Though I've not quit reading, I am just now getting back into blogging reviews...
at least for the Literary Wives! :)

I did enjoy reading this. It is, in my opinion, truly classical writing. Plenty of description along with characters' thoughts and actions... Remember, it was published in 1914, so their is some language based upon a character's preconceived ideas that we would now consider unacceptable. Mary, Mrs. Heyham, has just been informed by her younger daughter, Rosemary, that she plans to be married--soon! This news greatly upsets Mary, who has never done anything beyond managing the servants and household, and overseeing her three children's upbringing. We learn that the older daughter is already married and expecting a child, and Mary's only son, Trent, works with his father, James, running the family business consisting of a chain of "teashops." 

Mary's husband, James, is extremely worried about his wife in the wake of losing her remaining daughter from the household. I admit to cringing when I read James calling his wife "little mother." Oohh! Ugh! That term just implied so much...that Mary was "little," as in she did "little," had "little" else in her life beyond her children about which she cared or could manage... So Mary is experiencing what we might now call "empty nest syndrome," when the children have all moved out of the house and are independent self-supporting adults. Though in 1914 children still would expect financial support from their family, if the family had money, which this family did. (I should be so lucky. :)) So, I believe I have revealed in the past that I did not experience such "emptiness" when my children were out on their own. Perhaps because I had been mentally preparing myself from the time of their birth: my job as a parent is to do my best to make then self-sufficient independent adults, NOT to try to hang on to them my own mother tried to do with me. (Yes, she did drive me crazy with her obsessive behavior...) I love my children, their partners, and my grandchildren, but I do my best not to make a nuisance of myself in their lives. 

I had to chuckle as there was discussion about Rosemary's "socialistic" beliefs and opinions. See? Still pertinent today, huh. Oh, my. I just sigh... Rosemary suggests that her mother involve herself in the family business by investigating the working conditions and wages of the "girls" hired to work in the family-owned teashops. These "girls" were screened to determine that they were from relatively financially secure homes and still living with their families. After all, they wouldn't want any "rough" females who may be truly self-supporting! I had to laugh at this. To think that only about 100 years ago these attitudes were still ever-present in U.S. society. Any woman who was trying to support herself was evidently a 'hussy', a woman of ill repute! Thank goodness times have changed! 

Women were still very much dependent upon their husbands, with little to no self-agency in general society. They were simply known as Mrs. Heyham, or Mrs. whatever her husband's last name happened to be. And so it was when James married Mary that he ended up taking over her family's business and successfully expanding it. However, Mary still retained legal ownership of half the business, which proves to be quite pertinent in the end. Mary learns first hand of the living situation of one of the teashop girls and is appalled by the depressing and cramped living conditions as well as the extreme poverty. Additionally, she learns of the very limited breaks allowed the girls during their work shifts and of the physical discomfort of their working environments and conditions. However, rather predictably, once Mary addresses these issues with James, she is rebuked as having no experience or knowledge to realize her requests are simply impossible to seriously consider. 

Mary accepts his refusal, until she learns of his plans to take the business "public" and expand into a new business realm of movie production and theaters. At the same time, James confesses to Mary that he had cheated on her with a red-headed woman in the past, stating that he has never lost his love or respect for Mary, and that it was simply a "mistake." (Isn't that always the case?) Mary is so appalled that she moves out and is gone for 10 days, after writing to James that she refuses to approve his new business venture and make a public offering of the family teashop business.

In true "typical male" form, her son, Trent, was only worried that he would lose the adoration of his own mother, or that he would no longer have a "charming woman" as his mother, by whom to be received. Upon reading this my thought was, "What a spoiled brat!" Though at one point Mary states that it was her duty to "adore" Trent since he was her son. Additionally, she comes to the realization during her time alone that she has simply pandered to James during their whole marriage and never truly interacted with him as anything even close to an equal or even as another rational human being. She does her research and reads library books regarding business and economics to better educate herself about James's proposed new business and the "teashop" business. She does come to a decision regarding her forgiveness of James for his affair--that he has treated her kindly and generously during their whole married life, it did not affect his behaviors toward her in any way. 

Once Mary returns home, determined to take a more active role in the business and assert herself as an advocate for the employees, she is struck by a new realization: it was tough for women to realize that they were no longer "protected" by a man/their husband from the outside world. I had never fully considered that perspective before, but I'm sure it was true for many females who became 'enlightened' and more involved in everyday life. For Mary, it was a specific grief:
What she hoped...was impossible. 
She had hoped for her old blind worship back again in answer to James's love. 
She could not have it back, it was gone, and she was afraid. 
She had covered herself from the world with James's strength, 
with his assurance and his love for her. 
His kindness had been her shelter from suffering, from truth, from life. 
Now these gifts of his protected her no longer; she stood alone. (378-379)
Mary was, finally, an independent agent within society. And while it might be scary for her now, I venture to say that it was enlightening and uplifting for the remainder of her life.

Oh, and how did James handle this news of her determination not to endorse his new business? He decides to use this newfound advocacy of employee rights as a bully pulpit to stand for political office. He has, of course, convinced himself that this will be just the thing for his future...

And now for the Literary Wives question: 
What does this book say about wives 
or about the experience of being a wife?

Wives are considered their husband's possessions for the most part. At least that is definitely how James views "little mother"/Mary. He is shocked, appalled, and extremely angry upon learning she has simply moved out and left him with no forwarding address, except through the bank. In effect, he thinks, "How dare she?" Well, she did certainly dare...and to her credit, it seems once she returns as if she is determined to be more of her own person, especially with regard to her marriage and with her husband. 

Perhaps the role of wife is best typified by Rosemary's fear of marriage. As she states, she always felt her older sister, Laura, believed much as she did,
I've always thought that however much I loved anyone I should love them proudly, 
as a free person, as an equal. 
However, she notes that Laura is now just a simpering fool to her husband, and Rosemary fears she will become the same type of "wife." Reeves discusses the differences between raising daughters and sons several times throughout the book. As Laura is discussing Russian authors with her mother, she admits her husband has no interest in such writing,
But then I suppose we're trained to sympathise with their experiences, 
and they're not trained to be interested in ours. (174)
Mary realizes that girls are typically not raised to do any more than learn to "chatter at tea parties," rather than to identify and/or follow their interests. Females are only there to serve their male spouses...period! They are trained to be 'simpering fools' in hopes they will attract a rich husband. 

What I truly appreciated about this book was Mary's further development as an independent adult. Though in the end she realizes she has thrown off the protective cloak of her husband's social status and reputation, and must now deal with the real world directly...and as she has recently learned, it is not pretty... I was gratified by Mary's evolution and hopeful that she would find the rest of her life to be fulfilling in a way she had not before. 

Interestingly, Amber Reeves was HG Wells's mistress! 
Here is an article in the Guardian discussing Reeves.

There is a book published about Amber and her mother in 1992: 
Maud and Amber by Ruth Fry
It's relatively short and looks to also be available on Google Books.

What's next for Literary Wives?

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

Join us February 5, 2018

Happy Reading

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Literary Wives #24!!

While I usually adjust the cover image size to something smaller, 
honestly, I believe this cover needs to be LARGE to better represent 
the LARGE person who was Ernest Hemingway, 
as well as all the people who loved and/or were obsessed with him.
Quite naturally, this listing includes the four women who actually married him,
all the men who were obsessed with him, all the women who slept with him, 
as well as all the others who were charmed by him.
And he was certainly a "charmer"...though in my opinion, he was quite the cad, 
particularly within his intimate relationships.

Be sure to check out the other LW cohosts' reviews:

Naomi of Consumed by Ink

Kay of whatmeread
Emily of The Bookshelf of Emily J.
Ariel of One Little Library

Here is my Literary Wives page listing all the past reads/reviews, as well as the cohosts who are currently on hiatus.

This is an online book discussion group that analyzes books with regard to the following question: 

What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?
First a review and then answering the question...

Having read and reviewed The Paris Wife by Paula McLain, I have a bit of familiarity with Hemingway and his first wife, Hadley/"Hash", and his second wife, Pauline/"Fife." However, Wood takes us into different territory in this novel, taking the reader into Hadley's head a bit more regarding her struggle with a realization that her husband is not only sleeping with her BFF, but is most likely in love with her, and possibly planning to make her 'Mrs. Hemingway #2.' 
[She] can feel Fife's ache for Ernest as strongly as if it were in her own body. (30)
I just cannot imagine being put in that situation. 😞 I also gained a better understanding of Hadley's mindset at the point in time that she first met Ernest. Her father had committed suicide during her youth, and she had spent a year recovering from a broken back.
She was six years old. Wheeled around for months in a stroller to keep her spine still, 
she felt as if she had been in a stroller like that all of her life. 
Her whole life spent in the killing blandness of St. Louis! 
Then Ernest had arrived, at a party one night in Chicago, 
unexpected, uninvited, and the world had ripped open with its riches. (27)
I could relate to her willingness to let loose and try something new and exciting in her life following the death of her mother after serving as her constant caretaker for months.  

Hadley considered herself a spinster at age 27 and never felt as if she 'fit in' with the "Lost Generation" of expats in Paris in the 1920's. A group of them would visit periodically during their son, Bumby's quarantine and recovery from whooping cough:
Hadley would watch them until they were out of sight: imagining the exquisite conversations back in Villa America, where one dressed for dinner and did not always undress in one's own bed. (32)
Yuck! Definitely not my kind of people! While considering Sara and Gerald Murphy:
...Hadley has always preferred Gerald. Ernest thinks him a poseur, 
but it's precisely this that appeals to her. Both she and Gerald seem miscast for their roles, 
while the others are pitch-perfect, delivering their lines pat. 
He is a mortal, like her, among the gods. (65)

Hadley mistakenly believes that inviting Fife to spend the summer with them will somehow force Ernest to choose to remain faithful to her. I had to chuckle at this:
...when Mr. and Mrs. Hemingway made love that night, Hadley made sure to scream out 
as loudly as she could, and the next morning over a breakfast of sherry and toast, 
Ernest's mistress was quieter than usual. (41)
However, I could never play such games... And did you notice? Sherry. For BREAKFAST! I venture to say the vast majority of these people were alcoholics, just to varying degrees. Good thing they employed caregivers for their children! At one point, one of the women calls Scott (F. Scott Fitzgerald) "a selfish infant who belongs in a kindergarten" and 
             Hadley thinks to herself, children are more civilized than this gang on the sauce. (77)

And never was there to be any admission of hard work, as in discussing the release of Ernest's book, The Sun:
"The Sun is going to make you a star, Ernest."
"Of course it is," Hadley says, looking over at her husband. 
"It's the best thing he's ever done. And he's worked so hard at it."
No one speaks. Ah yes, she has forgotten that success should come effortlessly or not at all. 
It's always got to be playtime. Cocktail hour. As if life were always a mooning adolescence or always blindingly fun. Hard work was for other people. (69)
These people really did believe in deluding themselves, if necessary... I believe Hadley was, by nature, much too realistic and pragmatic to truly fit in with them... She obviously 'played the game,' but I believe she really never did quite feel comfortable with these people. 

Fife states that in her sons' first few years of life they had practically been raised by their nursemaid and her sister, Jinny, while she, Fife, their MOTHER, accompanied Ernest wherever he wanted to go. 
She could manage being away from her sons, but not her husband. (114)
This reminded me of a conversation I recently had with a total stranger regarding one of my favorite authors whom I've met, Ayalet Waldman. This woman informed me Waldman had caused a shitstorm on Oprah by authoring a 2005 New York times article in which she stated "I love my husband more than I love my children." I guess some people are reacting very negatively to this, we both agreed that her point is well taken, it is your spouse/partner with whom you must maintain a relationship long after the children are adults and (hopefully) living their own lives. This is demonstrating the fact that there are many types of "love," and individuals love different people in different ways, and it is possible to love both your partner and your children without making one of these two your sole focus. (Though as a former full-time stay-at-home mother, I would say that your children MUST, by definition, be your highest priority, particularly during the infant/toddler stages. Unless you have the financial resources and choose to hire others to care for them.)

Fife (who does become the second Mrs. Ernest Hemingway, notes that Miss Gellhorn (Martha) is no Miss Mason (Jane). Fife knows that Ernest was traveling to Cuba to see Jane, but never felt threatened by her:
Ernest always liked his women happy and healthy, and the affair--if that is what it had been--
seemed to end just as soon as it had begun. (126) 
Jane, the poor and obviously deluded woman, suffered a broken spine as a result of jumping off a balcony following an argument with Ernest! Geeminy! 
It was as if Hadley had never felt that Ernest was hers;
whereas Fife has never felt Ernest was ever anybody else's. (136-137)
I guess this rather fits in with the power/powerlessness within a relationship. It was much easier for Fife in many ways to believe she had more power: she was independently wealthy, she was extremely confident and gregarious, and she was much more of an adventure-seeker than Hadley. Though as much as Fife wanted to believe he was all hers and only hers...that isn't how it played out in the end. In fact, that's not how it played out for any of the first three wives. 

And now for the Literary Wives question: 
What does this book say about wives or about the experience of being a wife?

I have always felt that if someone cheats on their spouse, the likelihood is that they will never choose to remain faithful to any one partner on a long-term least not for the 'long haul.' 'Once a cheater, always a cheater,' is the phrase that came to mind when Fife was considering her betrayal of Hadley and their own relationship as BFFs. But discounting her involvement with Ernest, especially while he was married to Hadley, as "something that just happened" is pure bullshit, in my opinion. I realize my inability to believe such a rationale is a direct result of my own personal experience. I had just completed my bachelor's degree after returning to college full-time once my children were in school. My ex-husband shocked me by stating that he was aware I would now be working among other professionals and eventually would meet another man, 'fall in love,' and want a divorce from him. I was momentarily dumbfounded. Firstly, I had no idea he lacked confidence to this degree, and I felt sympathy for him. Secondly, I was shocked that he didn't realize it was a "choice" we each made every day whether to allow others to believe we were 'available' or not. Last, but by no means least, I asked him if he honestly believed I had never been around any other males who appealed to me, or whom I found interesting, 'cause I most certainly had, but I made certain in my interactions with them, there was no misunderstanding as to whether I considered myself to be 'married,' which to me meant I was in a truly monogamous relationship (at least from my end) and faithful to only one man--in other words, I was NOT available!! And I left no doubt in anybody else's mind... To me, an individual must purposefully decide to engage in a relationship. I cannot conceive of my participation in an extramarital affair being 'out of my control.'      

Hadley, Ernest, and Fife are out on the raft, swimming and diving, and Hadley swims to shore. Immediately, Fife asks Ernest to go up on the rocks with her, but he refuses.
Ernest, evidently, could take her or leave her. She, on the other hand, wanted him always.
He had once told her that love was never about the powerful and powerless. 
But Fife can't think of what else might constitute a marriage. (112)
This really made me think. I do believe much of a marriage can honestly be determined by the sense of 'power' each partner may or may not believe they hold within the relationship. There are many variables that can contribute to a sense of power/powerlessness: economics/finances, manipulation and emotional control, aggression/violence, sexual satisfaction. A friend of ours was describing a date he had with a woman who insisted on paying her own way--it really threw him off and as a result, he decided he didn't like her. My advice to him? "Get over it." I would personally never allow or expect another person to 'pay my way' on dates, believing that, in effect, that can serve as a concession of power, recognizing the 'paying' person has some sense of 'control' or 'power' over you and/or the relationship. It sets a bad precedent with respect to a future relationship with that person, in my opinion. 

To Fife, it seems that "theft, possession, [and] recompense" are the "irreducible components of marriage." These thoughts came to her as she considered the fact of Ernest's continuing affair with Martha Gellhorn as her possible "undoing." Even Hadley noted that Ernest seemingly displayed "two personalities" as if he were actually "two different men." If loyalty is a characteristic of being a 'wife,' Fife certainly excels in that department: I would go so far as to say her attempt to retain Ernest bordered on obsession. 
"I won't divorce you, Ernest. Not for a long time, if that's what you're hoping."...
Ernest makes a grab for her, and Fife--not quite consciously--socks him on the jaw.
The shock of it--because it can't be the power--makes him stumble into the surf.
"You chickenshit coward!" she screams. "I could kill you!"
And for a moment she thinks she might just take his neck and hold it under the surf. 
She would rather kill him than have him be the possession of a woman 
who is nowhere near her equal.
This is why her love is better than Hadley's, better than Martha's.
No one, ever, will love him like this: enough to see his brain smashed into rock or 
his lungs fill with brine.... "You bastard," she says, "you don't even know what you've lost." (160)
I'm fairly certain Fife is correct. I don't believe Ernest ever realized what all he had 'lost' by cheating on his wives. And she is definitely proof just how thin the line between love and hate can be... Though I believe Ernest did feel shameful and guilty about Hadley...his first wife.

Martha was his third wife for 5 years, with this marriage ending in much the same way as the first two had...Ernest had already found wife #4! As Martha notes:
"I don't understand you. You say ou can't bear to lose me, 
but all the while you're writing poems to another woman?"
Ernest looks at her beseechingly but says nothing... 
"Mary who?"
"And who is this Mary Welsh? Is she your lover? Your mistress? Your next wife?"
Ernest looks about to say something but doesn't reply.
Martha thinks how typical all of this is of him: he wants his wife, 
he wants his mistress, he wants everything he can get. 
He is not so much greedy for women as blind to what he thinks he needs and so he grabs 
at everything. Wives and wives and wives--Ernest doesn't need a wife; he needs a mother! (210)
 And Martha is so correct...Mary will indeed become Ernest's fourth and last wife, before he takes his own life. I don't have much knowledge of Ernest's childhood, but I can't believe he was a child who felt secure in his life. That certainly might help explain his inability to remain faithful. As Martha notes...
Between divorcing his ex-wife and marrying her he'd left thirteen days; 
it seemed he was a man who couldn't bear being alone. (219)
I believe that is the truth. 
This big strapping man stomping about the city--and yet he couldn't seem to spend a week, 
a day, even an hour on his own. (219)

Martha almost admires him: what a feat, want to marry every woman he fucks.
He is so good at being in love that Ernest Hemingway makes a rotten husband. (220)
This made me laugh! How ironic, yet it did seem to be the truth of Ernest's life and loves. Adding to the irony, Martha actually meets with Mary and discovers they have much more in common than just an attraction/love for Ernest:
They walk down the Elysees together, Mrs. Hemingway and Mr. Hemingway's mistress...
Paris is where this sort of thing happens to Ernest, where women knit together his fate. 
He thinks he is the one making all the choices...He is not." (230)

Fife notes:
What a pull he has! What a magnetism! Women jump off balconies and follow him into wars.
Women turn their eyes from an affair, 
because a marriage of three is better than a woman alone. (126)
It seems this is the conundrum faced by virtually each of Ernest's wives... Yikes! That's all I have to say. I cannot imagine putting up with infidelity. And actually...I didn't...

As Wood states in the Afterword:
Mary Welsh [Mrs. Hemingway #4] said being loved by Hemingway was like 
being in a beam of light--and I imagine when that beam was turned off, 
it must have been a very heavy darkness indeed. (Afterword, 4)
Indeed, it did seem as if it was unbearable for each of them when that beam was no longer shining on them. 

Again, in the Afterword, I believe Wood summed up Ernest...
Norman Mailer wrote that Hemingway "carried a weight of anxiety within him...
which would have suffocated any man smaller than him." 
Reading about the depression and paranoia that accompanied his suicide moved me, 
and I think a good deal of human compassion makes you 
understand his behavior while refusing to excuse it. (Afterword, 7) 
I am fascinated by the Lost Generation and Hemingway specifically. He is definitely a complex and flawed personality...and I'm just glad I was not around to possibly be drawn in by his 'larger than life' persona.

I enjoyed Wood's book and getting to know a bit more about 
the Mrs. Hemingways #3 and #4.
I really need to make time to read some of the books he wrote! 
Have you read any of his books?
Have you read The Paris Wife or this one?

Join us for our next Literary Wives review 
on Monday, February 6: 
The Wife by Meg Wolitzer.

I have never read a Meg Wolitzer book
 and am looking forward to this one!

Happy Reading