liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
[personal profile] liv
Seemingly DW exploded while I was away over Passover. Hi, everybody who suddenly showed up after many years' hiatus. I'd be delighted if this burst of activity lasts, even if the reason for it is a very sad one. Anyway, I'm just about caught up on reading, and have quite a backlog of posting which I'll try to get to in the next couple of weeks.

As for reading, though:

Recently acquired: My family have basically turned Passover into a massive book exchange. So let's see if I can reproduce it. I bought:
  • The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu for my Dad, who is a reader of classic SF.
  • A Madhur Jaffery recipe book for my Mum, who is good at anglo-Indian food and something of a hoarder of recipe books.
  • Stories of your life and others by Ted Chiang for my philosopher brother.
  • A book of translated Russian poetry as recommended by [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait for my poet brother (I have forgotten the author name, which is a bit rubbish of me...)
  • My brilliant friend by Elena Ferrante for my sister, who reads the most litfic of any of us; this turned out to be a bad choice as she'd already read it and disliked it, but never mind.
  • The stone canal by Ken MacLeod for [personal profile] cjwatson because I want my people to read books I'm excited about.
  • In this House of Brede for [personal profile] ghoti_mhic_uait because I keep giving her Jewish themed books and thought it was about time to try a more Christian one, and Ghoti has been getting into Godden's adult stuff recently, and I liked ITHoB a lot.
  • Random acts of senseless violence for Benedict, because he's interested in politics and modern history. It is a bit grim for a holiday gift, mind you, but a very very good book so hopefully it will work.
And I received:
  • Why don't you stop talking? by Jackie Kay from my sister, who promised me that the title was not intended as a comment.
  • Moll Cutpurse her true history by Ellen Galford from my brother who correctly predicted that I'd be intrigued by the adventures of a swashbuckling lesbian heroine in Elizabethan England.
  • The fifth season by NK Jemisin from [ profile] fivemack.
Recently read: All the fishes come home to roost by Rachel Manija Brown ([personal profile] rachelmanija). (C) 2005 by Rachel Manija Brown, Pub 2006 Hodder & Stoughton Sceptre, ISBN 0-340-89881-X.

This was a birthday present from [personal profile] rmc28, and I got to it on Good Friday this week, when I was taking a breather from all the Passover stuff, and had a bit of a cold and wasn't feeling up to go out and look for more exciting activities than spending the Bank Holiday sitting at home reading.

All the fishes come home to roost is a memoir of a really horrendous childhood that manages to be uplifting rather than miserable.

I've basically given up on reading memoirs of abusive childhoods, but AtFCHtR really breaks my (low) expectations of the genre. Instead of a grey cover with a tragic-looking child on it, it has a bright turquoise cover and a picture of the author in a brightly coloured dress playing on a swing. And I knew that Brown eventually got out of her parents' cult and went on to have a normal and fulfilling life, not only because I happen to know the writer on DW, but because the book makes it clear from the beginning that it's about escape as much as it's about misery. AtFCHtR never feels emotionally manipulative or voyeuristic, it's written to inform the reader about something likely to be far outside their experience, but not to wallow in how awful cults and bullying and child abusers are (the last being separate from the cult).

The writing style is really compelling. I almost caught myself being disappointed the book was over, which is a bit weird in a memoir! I wouldn't in a million years have wanted Mani to endure any more experiences as the only child in the ashram or the only foreigner in the horrific Christian school, but I found her voice so vivid that I wanted to read more. It's sort of humorous, not hilariously funny (which would be quite inappropriate for the subject matter), but just really acute observations, and a really good balance between the child's point of view and the writer communicating to adult readers.

On a minor note, I really appreciated the memories of being a child whose reading was far more advanced than the education system expects. Judith is reading Dahl's Matilda at the moment (another afikoman present from our seder!) and I have always been really frustrated with how little Dahl seems to understand the perspective of an academically precocious child.

Brown seems to sincerely want to understand the cult members including her own parents who brought her into this environment at the age of seven. She recounts some unquestionably evil actions but doesn't rush to judge the perpetrators as evil people. Because of that fairly emotionally neutral stance, I didn't come away feeling that I had lost all faith in human nature, I didn't feel hopeless or emotionally tainted as I often find with the misery lit genre. The book is by nature about multiple forms of abuse, violence, sexual assault, bullying, gaslighting, religious abuse, but as a specific trigger warning in adition to that, it does contain a detailed description of a suicide attempt.

Overall, AtFCHtR feels like an account of courage and tenacity, as much as it is a description of the adversity where the courage was displayed.
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Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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