The Girls by Emma Cline is the type of book that is so exceptional, I almost feel like I’m doing it a disservice by blogging about it. I don’t usually place too much emphasis on the literary versus the non-literary (e.g. genre works, or “just […]
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. By and large, I read work that can’t easily be categorized in one genre, but historical novels have a special place in my heart. Daisy Goodwin is one of the foremost historical novelists of recent years. Her […]
Fiona Davis’s first novel, The Dollhouse, weaves together two stories: the story of Darby, an aspiring secretary, and Rose, a journalist who becomes obsessed with Darby’s mysterious past. Davis links these two women and their respective experiences of New York City, portraying both the glamorous world of models and businesswomen and the seedy world of jazz clubs and drug hustlers.
Legend has it, Darby was involved in a tussle on the top of the famous Barbizon Hotel. Darby was left scarred, but a maid fell to her death. When Rose, living with her boyfriend in the refurbished Barbizon, catches a glimpse of Darby, she is immediately intrigued. Interest turns to obsession, as Rose’s personal life deteriorates, her fascination with Darby increases. Rose plays detective, sleuthing to discover the truth about Darby’s disfigurement and the maid’s death. Rose’s fixation on Darby becomes an outlet for the anguish she is feeling. In The Dollhouse, Davis explores not only a compelling mystery, but also the complicated grieving process, and how we survive when we hit rock bottom.
I liked this book for its variety. It is part drama, part love story, part historical fiction, part suspense. It defied my expectations by highlighting a facet of New York life that is not always noted in 1950s period pieces. Even though it isn’t the best book that I have read this summer, I looked forward to reading it at the end of my day, and I think it is a good beach read, especially for somebody who loves novels set in New York.
What are you reading this summer? Be sure to follow me on Bloglovin’ on Instagram, and stop by again soon!
Last semester, I took a single-author course for my English major on Jane Austen. I’ve read most every page Austen has written (okay, that might be an exaggeration, but I studied a whole lot of her works, even some obscure ones and partial drafts.) They’re all great, and it’s safe to say Austen was a brilliant writer (not a shocking revelation). 19th century literature isn’t for everybody, but Austen’s novels are accessible, and I think anybody might enjoy them. Jane Austen’s novels are all unique and innovative, but now that I’ve read them all, I feel comfortable enumerating my favorites. Here is my ranking of Jane Austen’s novels:
- Pride and Prejudice: No surprise here, but I am a fan of P&P. I first read it when I was about 14, then revisited it in the last year (which I blogged about here). Studying it in the classroom revealed the complexities of the text, which I had missed in my tender pre-teen years. However, the fairytale romance and witty humor is still there, and for somebody who is interested in reading Jane Austen for fun, Pride and Prejudice is certainly the place to start.
- Emma: Another famous Austen novel, Emma is playful and fun (with perhaps the most dynamic heroine of all of Austen’s works). I might be partial to Emma because of the 90s film adaptation, Clueless, but Austen’s spunky central character, mild social satire, and courtship plot are at their apex in this novel. If you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, and you want more Austen, I think Emma is the perfect follow-up.
- Mansfield Park: This book is such a diamond in the rough! Mansfield Park is often overlooked, but I think it is some of Austen’s best work. Perhaps the funniest of all of her novels, and the most subversive, Mansfield Park features an unconventional and shy young heroine who falls for a suitor she is forbidden from wooing. Although it might be helpful to be familiar with Austen’s style before reading this book, I find it a fresh and funny read.
- Persuasion: I love the title of this book, and I really wanted to like Persuasion, but I just didn’t fall for it as hard as I did the other novels. I enjoyed the themes of lost love, regret, and second chances, and I might revisit this book in a few years; perhaps if I read it out of the classroom context, I would enjoy it more. It was one of the last books we read in the semester, so maybe I was just Austened out. Nonetheless, for a J.A. newbie, Persuasion probably isn’t the place to start.
- Sense and Sensibility: I have come to appreciate Sense and Sensibility, becuase I’ve read it twice. When I read it for fun a couple summers ago, I hated it; Sense and Sensibility is not a particularly romantic novel. In fact, I think it’s a little sad. I like the characters, and upon studying the novel I realized that it holds an important place in the English literary canon; but in all honesty, the Austen’s other novels are more pleasurable to read.
- Northanger Abbey: I enjoyed reading Northanger Abbey, but it’s last on my list because it is a bit of a niche-market book. If you love Jane Austen, or you know a lot about gothic literature and the history of the novel, this book will probably appeal to you. However, because Northanger Abbey is so deeply situated in the period in which it was written, it is less accessible for a modern audience.
Bridget Jones’s Diary is one of my favorite books of all time. It stands out on my bookshelf as a novel guaranteed to make me laugh-out-loud. Like many people, I saw the movie adaptation of Bridget Jones’s Diary before I read the book. I love the […]
Tamara Drewe is a one-of-a-kind book, written and illustrated by Posy Simmonds. The story takes place in a sleepy English town, a town that is turned upside down when Tamara Drewe returns to her family home. Tamara is an ugly duckling turned bombshell thanks to […]
I rarely blog about books that I read for school; although there probably is a niche market for Henry James reviews, somehow I think that the public is more interested in contemporary literature. However, Astonish Me is a 2014 novel that one of my professors used in the classroom. Even though it was required reading, it felt like reading for fun.
Maggie Shipstead wrote this novel in chapter installments, which show snapshots of a family’s drama. Joan, a ballet dancer and our protagonist, falls in love with the fiery Russian ballet superstar Arslan Rusakov. Joan helps Arslan to defect from the USSR, and the two share a tumultuous and brief romantic affair as Arslan adjusts to life in New York City. An unplanned preganancy leads Joan to marry Jacob, her high school friend who has been in love with her since his teens. Together, Joan and Jacob raise Harry, whose aptitude for ballet soon involves all who love him. This novel investigates a series of generational romances and relationships, with characters who transform and grow before the reader’s eyes. With the beautiful backdrop of Paris, New York, and Southern California, the novel is a pleasurable piece of fiction with a literary twist.
This book was a page turner, and I loved watching the characters develop over the span of the story. There were some limitations to Shipstead’s style: the story was out of order, and it only showed pieces of the character’s lives over a few decades. There were times when I was left wanting more, but that ultimately speaks to how much I enjoyed the novel.
Jessica Knoll’s 2015 novel Luckiest Girl Alive bears a quote from Megan Abbott, author of The Fever, raving “with the cunning and verve of Gillian Flynn but with an intensity all its own.” Gillian Flynn’s name is in large print, and sends an obvious message: read this […]