The Age of Light

The Age of Light is an intriguing historical fiction novel based on the life of Lee Miller. The novel focuses on her life in Europe. Miller first arrives in Europe and begins working as a photographer. She meets Man Ray on her travels through Paris and becomes his apprentice and later, business partner and lover.

The book focused a lot on Lee Miller’s relationship with Man Ray which I found to be puzzling. She only spent three years with him before moving on to become an accomplish photographer and war correspondent. Miller spent her entire life attempting to get out of Man Ray’s shadow. The story weaves between the past and her present (1960s) when she has been asked to produce a piece for Vogue about the art they created together.

The book explores the galleries, the parties, the sexual experimentation and drug experimentation that was pervasive in 1920 Surrealism circles. It was a bit raunchy at times to read and I’m not sure how much it added to the story. However, I don’t know much about these artists. This may have been a tame retelling of their actual lives.

The big takeaway from the book was that Lee Miller was a powerful woman. She had adversity her entire life. Men were constantly trying to sabotage her or hurt her but she never allowed them to derail her. She lived her life on her own terms.

The Age of Light is Whitney Scharer’s debut novel. This was the 2019 February selection for the Odyssey Bookshop First Edition Book Club.

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Fed Up

Most women can understand what Gemma Hartley is talking about in her book Fed Up. She documents how women have been carrying the emotional labor for generations in all spheres of life. And what makes it harder to identify is that for so long, it was just accepted as normal that women needed to carry all of the emotional labor.

I think that it takes a lot to put your own experiences, your own relationship, out to be dissected by the public. I give her (and her husband) a lot of credit for putting their own struggles out into the universe to be consumed. There are points of the book that are not a flattering version of the author but she leans into it. Her honesty is refreshing. Her research is intriguing.

Overall I found the book to be absolutely fascinating. It is a book that should be read by everyone. It was interesting to take an academic look at emotional labor. Hartley did a lot of thorough research and made some interesting connections. I’m glad that she took the time to examine emotional labor and I think people are better for having read this book.

Who has read Fed Up? Did you find it to be as interesting as I did? I’d love to talk about it further. Any men want to chat about their feelings after reading Fed Up?

#FashionVictim

Anya St. Clair is a fashion assistant who finally has her dream job. Now all she needs is Sarah Taft to realize that she is her best friend. Sarah is the person who inspired Anya to join the fashion world. Her boss throws a wrench in those plans when she dangles s promotion between Anya and Sarah. If Anya secures the promotion, she knows she will finally get Sarah’s approval. She will stop at nothing. Thus begins Anya’s dark descent into securing her promotion. Pretty soon, all of Anya’s enemies (real and perceived) begin dropping like flies.

This book is a hilarious satire about the fashion world and female competition. It also looks into hidden female rage. Women are not allowed to be angry. It is drilled into our head that we can’t be angry or upset ever. Women are taught to always smile. Furthermore, it is drilled into women’s head that they need to be thin and young looking in order to be successful. While this is true across industries, it is especially true in the fashion world. As Anya guides us through her world, she observes that many of these standards are unfair but she still works to fit into the standards. Even though her methods are far from conventional, she manages to get the end result she wants.

Seeing as we are about to embark on the holiday gorge of extreme consumer spending, this book is the perfect book to review this week. I found this book in the Cosmopolitan magazine monthly book recommendations. I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. I think the blurb said something about fighting your best friend for a job promotion. Similar to our unreliable narrator Anya, that blurb is not quite how I would describe the novel if only given three sentences.

Final Thoughts: Big props to Amina Akhtar for coming up with this story and sharing it with the masses. It’s definitely a dark twist on what type of people the fashion industry breeds but it is  highly entertaining. Thank you Amina for spinning your fashion world observations into a wickedly funny novel.

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

The book was well written. My problem with the book is that I took issue with the story. I found the main character to be unlikeable and annoying. Walsh wrote a weak and simpering female protagonist. She highlighted all the bad stereotypes about women and wrote a book about it.

Why did I find Sarah unlikeable? I think my distaste from the book comes from the values that the main character seems to protrude. Sarah obsesses about Eddie who has stopped talking to her after seven ‘magical’ days together. SPOILER ALERT: He is brooding man, with a dark past that they are connected but they end up back together.

Give me a freaking break. This is everything wrong with people now. They hang onto the idea of someone forever, hoping that they will come around. If someone stops talking to you with no further contact aka ‘Ghosting’ instead of using their words to communicate what is wrong, then you need to RUN, not walk in the opposite direction of that man. This novel plays into the fantasy that so many woman have. It supports the idea of women falling in love with and hanging onto a man’s potential. Potential is why woman waste time in terrible relationships or terrible jobs.

With that being said Rosie Walsh is a good writer. I could never say she writes poorly. She has the mechanical skill to put together a story and obscuring details to have a better twist. I wish she had written better characters and a better story.

Can’t like every book that you read though. I did finish it so I’ll give myself a pat on the back for it.

The Plot Against America By Philip Roth

Dystopian fiction everyone! Who doesn’t love a little bit of alternative history? I have always enjoyed the genre. I find myself reading more of it lately. There are definitely a lot more of it being published in the Trump era but there is a plethora of ones that a couple of years older but still strike a cord in today’s environment. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth is a great example of that.

The Plot Against America was published in 2004. Written as if it were an autobiography of his life, Roth tells the tale of what happened to himself and his family when Charles Lindburgh beat FDR and became the President of the United States in 1940. It is a fascinating examination of how quickly life as we know it can dissolve into something totally and completely unrecognizable.

14 years later and his story still resonates with a reader. I found it particularly relevant in America’s current political climate.The book brings into sharp focus how much politics plays a role in our daily life. I found myself comparing the fictional America that Roth created and the America that is happening here now. I find a lot of glaring similarities between President Lindburgh’s America and President Trump’s America. Citizens are constantly asking themselves, can he do this? Is this legal? It was all done under the idea of protecting the US citizens.

The questions that I kept asking throughout the novel were: Who does this make it safer for? Who gets to decide what is safe and what isn’t? Why do the Jewish neighborhoods have to be broken up but not the Italian or the Irish? Why are the Jews labeled an unAmerican but not any other group. Roth describes the effect of ‘othering’ and the wide ranging effects it has. His novel paints a realistic picture of America’s slow descent into a  nation that allows for the ostracism of its own citizens. The notion that it can happen here creeps into the readers mind and does not leave. There is no big event, it is the accumulation of all these actions that land the characters in an unrecognizable America.

Final thought and takeaways from the book: It’s important to pay attention to the little actions our leaders take. It is the sum of all the little actions that will have the biggest impact on our country. The book was dense. It took awhile for me to get through the book but as always Roth created an intriguing and engrossing read.

With Election Day being tomorrow, I thought this review was timely. This book shares the message loud and clear that elections have consequences. Maybe if more people read Philip Roth’s book before 2016 we wouldn’t be in this current situation. Sadly, we can’t go back but only go forward so get out and exercise your right to vote!

 

 

 

The Incendiaries by R.O. Kwon

***WARNING..SPOILERS INCLUDED*****

The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon  was recommended by a Literary Lady Libations reader (Shout out to Chuck!!).

Kwon’s novel follows the story of Phoebe and Will. Both are wounded and broken in their own ways. The main storyline follows Phoebe’s descent into a cult while Will painstakingly tries to be the one to bring her back.

Kwon said that it took her ten years to write this novel. I find that particularly interesting because she touches on a topic, that until recently was pretty taboo to discuss in public. Phoebe is sexually assaulted. What is even more interesting is that Kwon has the sexual assault be perpetrated by Phoebe’s boyfriend. Will rapes Phoebe.

Before people scoff and say that it is a one off and this is a work of fiction, let’s take a look at the statistics surrounding sexual violence and college students. Sexual violence in relationships is all too common. Below are a couple of statistics regarding college aged women and dating violence (taken from National Coalition Against Domestic Violence):

  • 1 in 6 (16%) college women has been sexually abused in a dating relationship
  • Nearly 1 in 3 (29%) college women say they have been in an abusive dating relationship.

Kwon handles sexual violence in a relationship with a nuanced look. I think that Kwon, unfortunately, captures an accurate portrayal of what happens when rape happens in a relationship. The rape just unfolds on the page and then we move on from it. It could almost be described as a foot note in the novel. However be the conclusion of the novel it’s clear that the sexual assault could be described as turning point of the novel. The ramifications of the experience appears to have set Phoebe and Will on a path they would not have travelled down otherwise.

In addition to suffering from sexual assault, Phoebe has extreme guilt for killing her mother. This guilt drove her in all aspects of her life. It was the parrot always on her shoulder that progressively began squawking louder and louder. In an effort to wash away her sins and save the babies she ended doing the opposite.

Guilt is a powerful emotion. I would consider it one of the main themes of the book. Kwon’s writes about the many forms in which guilt and show up in a persons’ life. She portrays the outsize role guilt can play on our actions and our state of mind. How Will and Phoebe deal (or don’t) with their guilt has a huge impact on the course of their lives.

Kwon gives an ending to the story. It is a very satisfactory ending. However, I couldn’t shake this book. I had a lot of thoughts and feelings swirling in my head. How much of Will’s background did you think impacted his actions? Do you think if Will was the typical college student he would have behaved the same way? Would he have driven relentlessly towards ‘saving’ Phoebe? What played a bigger part in Phoebe’s path to the cult- her guilt or the sexual assault?

If you haven’t read it, I would recommend picking it up at your local library or indie bookstore. It is one of the better 2018 debuts I have read.