Mini reviews

I'm going to be on the road for the next several days but before I leave I thought I would give you mini-reviews of a couple of books that I've recently read because who knows what I'll be able to remember about them by the time that I return!

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Sea of Tranquility

by Emily St. John Mandel

This is a science fiction book that has action taking place over a couple of centuries beginning in 1912. In that year, Edwin St. Andrew has been exiled from polite society in England because he had the audacity to make some ill-considered remarks at a dinner party. Edwin was eighteen years old at the time and likely had no understanding of the possible consequences of such remarks in the society in which he lived. 

The family's solution to this embarrassment was to send him to Canada. He travels by steamship but when he arrives in the Canadian wilderness, he unaccountably hears a violin playing in an airship terminal! What could this possibly mean? Why, Edwin, it appears you have become a time traveler and have arrived in a different era altogether!

That violin player makes repeated appearances in different circumstances over a couple of hundred years. For example, two centuries later he turns up as a character in a book by famous writer Olive Llewellyn. Llewellyn lives in a colony on the Moon but she has written a book about a pandemic on Earth that includes a passage about a man playing a violin in an air terminal. 

Finally, we meet Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in Night City, who is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness and he uncovers all of these lives that have been turned upside down by some strange phenomenon.

I find it really difficult to describe the plot of this book in any sensible way, but it was an enjoyable read. Time travel has never been made to seem so ordinary and commonplace.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars 

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The School For Good Mothers

by Jessamine Chan

This book is based on every mother's nightmare - a moment of inattention, one bad decision that could ruin her and her child's life forever. Such a moment of inattention by Frida Liu landed her in the "School for Good Mothers," a place no mother in her right mind would ever want to be.

Frida Liu is a bit of a disappointment to her Chinese immigrant parents. She seems unable in her career to be worthy of the sacrifices they have made on her behalf. Her marriage, too, is a disappointment, her husband, Gust, now having abandoned her for his younger mistress. There is one perfect thing in Frida's life and that is her toddler daughter Harriet. But then Frida has one very, very bad day and risks losing everything that is important to her. She risks losing Harriet.

In order to avoid such a catastrophe, a judge says that Frida must go to school to learn how to be a good mother, and by that he means a good upper-middle-class mother. Desperate to ensure that her daughter will not be taken from her, Frida agrees to go to the school while her ex and his new girlfriend care for Harriet. At the school, she meets other desperate women whom the state has separated from their children and learns their stories. The writer tells these stories with a dark humor that does not entirely obscure the serious problems that they explore.

The subtext of this novel for me was the complete lack of support for parents of young children which we provide through our supposed representative government. One would think that the most important job of a society would be to ensure the safety and well-being of its children by supporting parents and providing any assistance that they might require in the performance of their most important job. That that doesn't happen in our society is a serious failing that has far-reaching consequences.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Comments

  1. The Chan novel seems a bit scary - over losing one's child but seems to raise some noteworthy issues. The Mandel novel I haven't been eager to pick up ... maybe b/c the plot or characters seem all over the place. Hmm. Have fun on the road!

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    1. Time travel novels taking place over centuries are hard to pull off, I think. Mandel did a fair job of it but the novel did not blow me away. The Chan novel raised important issues and was well written.

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  2. Have fun on the road trip and be sure to take pics please. I read The School for Good Mothers and thought it was okay but, I didn't love it. You make valid points about how we support parents in our society and, I'll add while in some states we also force them to have children they can't or aren't capable of supporting or raising ; that IMO, is the real crime. Sea of Tranquility hasn't called my name; I don't think it is for me.

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    1. Our society still - in the 21st century! - seems intent on punishing women for being women. I guess things are better than they were in the past but we still have so far to go. The plot of the Chan book illustrates that.

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  3. Enjoy your road trip! I hope you have a really good time. :)

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  4. I hope you are enjoying your trip. I haven't read "The School for Good Mothers" but it was on my list for later this summer. As for Sea of Tranquility -I've been into SF for most of my life, so the time travel aspect didn't throw me. Was it as good as Mandel's Station 11 (which wowed me)? No, but what I found interesting was that Station 11 (a book about a superflu pandemic that sets civilization back years and mainly takes place 20 years after that pandemic) was written before COVID and Sea of Tranquility after COVID. I could see just how living through our pandemic influenced Mandel's writing in both small and big ways. That being said, Sea of Tranquility certainly isn't for everyone.

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  5. Even though you found Sea of Tranquility enjoyable, I think I will pass on it.

    I hope you are having a lovely trip, Dorothy.

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  6. Enjoy your trip! A School for Good Mothers sounds like a very interesting read! I like the sound of it!

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