Bookmania reviews, Sept. 1996

From my first web site back in 1996, Bookmania!

Sadie's Big Beaver Restaurant

Medieval People, Eileen Power

A classic of history; Power reconstructs the lives of several actual people, obscure peasants, a prioress of an abbey, Marco Polo. She is remarkable mainly for writing about the lives of medieval women.

The Female Man, Joanna Russ.

Mind-blowingly good feminist classic. Multiple identities and timelines. Janet, from the feminist utopia; Alice/Jael, violent, greedy, power-hungry spy; Jeannie, insecure, confused, manipulative femme from the timeline where the 1940’s go on forever; Joanna, sarcastic english professor from the present.

Medieval Women: A Social History of Women in England 450-1500,
Henrietta Leyser

Just what the title says. I got some cool story ideas out of it. Leyser argues, from analyzing grave goods, that there was a tradition of “noble” women priestesses/healers in prehistoric England, and this tradition continued to the Christian era, with women from the nobility becoming high ranking nuns or prioresses. I didn’t know before that a lot of the illuminated manuscripts, from famous scriptoriums, were done by nuns.

The Hyde Park Headsman, Callendar Square (rr), Anne Perry.

More fun mystery novels, with Inspector Thomas Pitt, Charlotte Pitt and assorted female relatives, friends, and a scullery maid, as theintrepid detectives. Perry’s mysteries stand out for their cool characters- the people have very restrained yet intense analytical discussions of each others’ characters and of ethical issues; very thoughtfully done.

Lying, Sissela Bok. rr

Charlemagne, Harold Lamb

The life of Charlemagne, romanticized for a younger audience. On the historical fiction end, but gives a vivid impression of life among the barbarous Franks, and the slow awakening of ambition in the young king.

Pythagoras’ Trousers: God, Physics, and the Gender Wars, Margaret Wertheim

Moomintroll Midwinter, Moominsummer Madness, Comet in Moominland
and every other possible Moomin book. Tove Jannsson.

I had a cold, and these were comforting! The one that stands out in my mind is the one where the Moomin family and Little My go to the lighthouse.
As Moominmama watches her husband cast about for projects to bolster his ego, and endures uncomfortable living conditions, bad food, dead rosebushes, and loneliness, you begin to realize this book is much more adult than the others. When she began painting idyllic scenes on the lighthouse walls, and then stepped into the painting, I got shivers.

The Lost World and Other Stories, Sir A.C. Doyle

Fabulous tale of warring scientists who travel to the depths of the Amazonian rainforest and discover the original Land of the Lost, complete with ferocious dinosaurs and a racist subtext; the noble cavemen and the brutal, hairy ape-men. Just like Edgar Rice Burroughs or H. Rider Haggard. “The Poison Belt” should be a classic of science fiction
along with H.G.Wells stories- but no one knows about Doyle’s science fiction, overshadowed for so
long by Sherlock Holmes. *I recommend you skip the Spiritualist propaganda novella- it sucked!!!! *

Jenny: Lady Randolph Churchill, vol. 2

Can’t wait to find volume one. “Lady Randy” had hundreds of devoted admirers and lovers, including the Prince of Wales (future King Edward); she used her influence with them to help Winston. Their letters to each other are truly scary. Winston worshipped the ground she walked on, even when she scandalously married a man younger than he was. She also started a serious literary magazine- I believe she was the first woman in England to do anything like this. And she hung out with actors, like Mrs. Pat Campbell, who is famous for the quote “It doesn’t matter to society what you do in bed, as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten
the horses”.

Hunting Party, Elizabeth Moon

Tough, military Captain Sheri Tepp. . . , oops, ‘scuse me, Heris Serrano, whips a posh space yacht into shape, disciplines bratty teenagers, learns to ride to hounds with decadent 25th century aristocrats. The hunting party turns out to be the most serious kind of “blood sport”. Exciting and well written. If you groaned in pain reading Sassinak, never fear, Moon’s later books are WAY better, in fact not even to be compared. Hard SF and the cooler, feminist facets of the romance novel blend perfectly.

5 Novels by

Dashiell Hammett.

Red Harvest The bloodiest one. Practically everyone dies. An extremely groovy bad girl, who charms me by being sleazy, mercenary,
and always cursing about having runs in her stockings. Not to be missed.

The Dain Curse Undermining of sanity. Hallucinations. California religious cults. Heroine is a junkie. No one comes out of this one clean.

The Glass Key The most anti-heroic of all Hammett’s heros. All these people are despicable!

The Maltese Falcon Read it a year ago, didn’t re-read.

The Thin Man Just like in the movies, Nick and Nora Charles quaff cocktails and champagne like there’s no tomorrow. Strangely light
hearted compared to the others. “Have a drink!”

Strangers on the Train

Scary for the feeling it gives you that insanity and murder lurk just around the corner, waiting inside your soul to spring out and take over your life. . .