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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

'Three Women' by Lisa Taddeo

Received from the Publisher 

From the BLURB: 

All Lina wanted was to be desired. How did she end up in a marriage with two children and a husband who wouldn't touch her? 

All Maggie wanted was to be understood. How did she end up in a relationship with her teacher and then in court, a hated pariah in her small town? 

All Sloane wanted was to be admired. How did she end up a sexual object of men, including her husband, who liked to watch her have sex with other men and women?

Three Women is a record of unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes and unrelenting obsessions.

Ok. So I’m a little obsessed with this book, 'Three Women' by Lisa Taddeo.

Not ... not so much the *topic* - which follows three white, ordinary, mostly heterosexual American women over the course of eight-years and specifically mapping their sexual history, encounters, and desires... But the FORM, the narrative non-fiction style in which it’s written is a master-stroke and makes for compulsive reading. It really does impress like fiction and it’s hard to remember these are real women, but it’s also so incredible to discover the research Taddeo put into this.

If you don't know the background to this book yet, you should definitely look it up (this Guardian article was good) - but the crib-notes are that it took Taddeo eight years to write as she went all over America interviewing dozens of potential subjects who, for various reasons either dropped out of her project or were suitable by the end ... until these three women were left. 

Quite a few people have already pointed out in various interviews and reviews that 'Three Women' isn't exactly a wide cross-section. It's three, heteronormative and largely lower to upper-middle-class white women and their (therefore) rather limited and specific sexual and romantic desires (plus Taddeo's migrant mother, whose story Taddeo tells in a type of flashback). 

I definitely think the limited scope of this exploration should be taken into account, but I didn't find that it lessened my perverse enjoyment of the writing, and begrudging curiosity of the subject-matter. At a time when white women are being particularly destructive the world over - but especially due to their social and political leanings - I think it's fair enough their their sexual provocations and machinations are put under the microscope, particularly in the realms of middle-America to try and unpick some of the Kinsey-ex logic to unlocking what makes them tick. 

I really did enjoy this book; and I can see how these women are maybe a microcosm for a small section of modern, middle-class sex & sexuality? But I really do think it’s Taddeo’s style that elevates everything and does feel like you’re reading an impressive new literary star. For that alone I do think it’s one of the must-read books of 2019! 


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

'Pumpkinheads' by Rainbow Rowell

From the BLURB: 

A smart and swoony Rainbow Rowell romance in full colour graphic novel form. 

Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends. 

Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world (not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is). They say goodbye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1. 

But this Halloween is different - Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last goodbye. 

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if instead of moping they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . . 

What if their last shift was an adventure? 

Beloved writer Rainbow Rowell and Eisner Award–winning artist Faith Erin Hicks have teamed up to create Pumpkinheads, a tender and hilarious story about two irresistible teens discovering what it means to leave behind a place - and a person - with no regrets.

‘Pumpkin Heads’ Graphic Novel by Rainbow Rowell, illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks 

I absolutely tore through this last night and thoroughly delighted in it. Basically the same premise as Rowell’s short-story ‘Midnights’ (from the Stephanie Perkins Anthology ‘My True Love Gave To Me’ and later included in a cute little novella) about the once-a-year meeting of two people who get along fabulously.

This time it’s the fall seasonal workers Deja and Josiah who’ve been working the Succotash Hut together at their local Pumpkin Patch for four years. They’re seasonal friends who don’t meet up outside of Halloween busy work, but when they are together in October it’s clearly a laugh-riot. But this is their final season together, with school ending and both of them moving on from the Patch - so Deja decides she’ll need to help shy Josiah *finally* talk to Fudge Shoppe girl who he’s been crushing on these many years.

Their final working night together becomes an adventure through the Pumpkin Patch and it’s completely hilarious and adorable; Rowell’s sweet Young Adult tale perfectly matched to Hicks’ bold graphic style, with plenty of delightful details throughout. I’ll admit - being Aussie - the enormity of the Pumpkin Patch lifestyle was a *little* lost on me ... but it’s charming more than confusing.

I think the true success of this graphic novel is that it's a contained timeline - spanning the dying hours of Dega and Josiah's last shift at the Patch - it's a completely self-contained story. Rowell's brilliant writing gets across what Deja and Josiah mean to one another, as they reminisce about their time at the Patch and have such an easy camaraderie and repartee, readers really feel the intimacy of their friendship and shared-history, and can also wallow in the feeling of something so special coming to an end ... it's a tricky balance that Rowell absolutely perfects; she does nostalgia very well, and has such an astute understanding of the connections young people forge and the power of place in their lives. 

Faith Erin Hicks was also the perfect illustrator for this long-awaited project. I'm familiar with her work because I loved 'Friends with Boys' and 'Pumpkinheads' reminded me to check out more of her work. Rowell brilliantly uses Deja and Josiah's dialogue to communicate nostalgia and connection; Faith Erin Hick's bold illustrations have so many tiny and delightful details throughout; it gives another layer of thoughtfulness and specialness to the Pumpkin Patch setting especially, that makes it feel so much more real and unique to characters and readers alike. 

And I’m just hoping Deja and Josiah end up getting more seasonal work together - maybe at a Santa’s Grotto? This was *gorgeous* and I highly recommend. 


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