As an avid lover of genre fiction – especially science fiction and horror, but also YA (that’s young adult novels, to the extent that can be called a ‘genre’) – I set myself a self-improvement project of sorts last year. You see, I had never really read romance novels. I, like many others, had long written them off as so much trash, unworthy of my attention.
But when I started working in libraries, and really seeing the devotion many people have to the genre, I began to realize that I was almost certainly missing out on something. This was also when I had first started getting into YA, and I had really gotten into the romance elements of some of them (notably, Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, and Kiera Cass’ Selection series).
I couldn’t help but admit what I had always sort of known; the general attitude toward romance novels, the one I had unthinkingly allowed myself to fall into, is really pretty misogynist. It is one of many examples of the ways in which media made by and for women is denigrated and seen as lesser than the real stuff.
And I decided to find out what I was missing, and if there was romance that I could love.
And so, I began reading about romance, learning its sub-genres, and trying to figure out where to even start. Because I’ve always had a soft spot for the likes of Jane Austen (though I must admit I’ve never had romantical feelings about her protagonists), and I had recently come off a major Downton Abbey spree at the time, Regency/historical romance seemed like the place to start. I’ll spare you the whole journey, but the short version is I have, in fact, wound up finding some really enjoyable reads! Continue reading
If you love historical fiction and stories about strong women, you might want to check out Circling the Sun by Paula McLain. This novel is a fictitious story about the life of author, racehorse trainer, and bush pilot Beryl Markham. Born in England but raised in Kenya, Beryl is fiercely independent, preferring to spend her time hunting with the local Kenyan boys and seeing who can throw a spear the farthest rather than go to school and learn how to behave like a “lady.” Beryl’s father instills in her a love of horses that eventually leads Beryl to become the first licensed female horse trainer. Needless to say, being a woman in a male-dominated field proves difficult, but Beryl perseveres despite the sexism she faces, letting her record on the racetrack speaks for itself. Continue reading
Anthony Doerr’s lyrical work of fiction tells the stories of two interconnected young people during World War II. Marie-Laure is a blind French girl who flees Paris with her father when it is bombed by the Nazis, and goes to live with her agoraphobic uncle Etienne in Saint-Malo. Etienne’s main solace in life is using his radio to broadcast music and the recordings of his dead brother, until the time comes when all radios are confiscated and owning a radio is punishable by death.
In Germany, as Hitler is rising rapidly to power, the orphan boy Werner has a special gift with technology, and is able to fix broken radios swiftly and accurately. He is selected to attend an elite school for Hitler’s Youth, and given special training with radio technologies until he is sent to work for the Reich to find those using illegal radios.
Doerr skillfully weaves the stories of Werner and Marie-Laure through various time periods, with plenty of headings to make the novel flow seamlessly for the reader. I found the novel a pleasure to read, despite being true to the horrors of war. I was definitely late to the game in reading All the light we cannot see, but as they say….better late than never!