Review: A Woman Entangled, Cecilia Grant

Okay okay okay. Greed for Cecilia Grant’s new book compels me to admit that this has been the year I’ve started reading romance novels. I have read enough of them now to have a pretty clear idea of what I like in a romance novel. I like historical romance novels in which the characters are constrained in interesting, specific ways by the time they live in. I like it when the primary characters each have other stuff going on, and I especially like it when the reason they like each other is that they’re impressed with some skill set the other one possesses. In Cecilia Grant’s second novel, the two main characters bonded over mutual admiration of the lady’s gift for calculating probabilities very fast in order to win like crazy at blackjack. That is a real thing. Everyone likes people who admire about them the same things they admire about themselves. Oh and also I like it when the characters talk about privilege. Who has it in what brands and whether they’re making good use of it. Those are all things I enjoy in a romance novel.

(I still feel slightly embarrassed about enjoying romance novels, which is why you will find defiant parenthetical acknowledgements of cliches sprinkled throughout this post.)

A Woman Entangled is the third of Cecilia Grant’s novels, all of which have followed a different sibling (yep) in the Blackshear (yep) family. In this one, Nick Blackshear, the barrister brother with important career plans, is trying to get past the shame of his brother having recently married a prostitute (they keep saying Cyprian, but that seems unfair to Cyprus just for having liked Aphrodite a lot in the old days). In a town across town, Kate Westbrook is trying to gain acceptance in polite society, a goal that will provide her sisters with better prospects, but one that eludes her as a result of her slightly dubious parentage (her father married an actress! horrors!). Nick’s kind of her father’s protogee, and she’s preternaturally beautiful (ugh) so the father asks him to keep an eye on her when she goes to polite society parties. You can imagine how matters go on from there.

I will tell you why I like Cecilia Grant. I like Cecilia Grant because she gives all the characters a bunch of different stuff to do. Nobody is just one thing. A Woman Entangled opens with Kate in a bookshop with her sister Viola as Viola — to Kate’s intense embarrassment — goes on to the bookseller at some length about her radical views on the Rights of Women; after which Kate goes to deliver a courteous letter to one of her father’s relations who has never acknowledged their family, and Viola refuses to go with her, but sits proudly on a bench opposite. This is already interesting because it would usually be the heroine going on about women’s rights, and being shushed by her more conventional supporting-character sister. But what’s even more interesting — to me anyway — is Kate’s awareness that dogmaticism like Viola’s doesn’t tell the whole story. There is more to the members of Kate’s extended family than this one action of declining to acknowledge her. (A point driven home, of course, by the fact that Nick, Our Hero, won’t acknowledge his brother and his ex-Cyprian sister-in-law.) Here again, Cecilia Grant could have left it alone, with Viola cloaked in adolescent righteousness and a general embarrassment to her sister. Instead, later in the book we see Viola offering Kate awesome non-judgmental support that’s completely in line with what we’ve seen of Viola so far (and itself calls into question the rule-following that Kate’s been doing all along).

That ended up being quite a long thing about a secondary character. My point is, I like it that the characters aren’t consistently right or wrong by virtue of serving as protagonists or antagonists. There isn’t even a consistent right or wrong to be had, really — Kate adores her parents, and they’re happy together but her father’s decision to marry an actress in the first place makes his children’s prospects, and especially his daughters’ prospects, dubious. Kate’s years of quiet attentiveness to her aunt and uncle, which Viola scorns and her parents don’t particularly care for either, finally do give her the opportunity to attend some events in Society, but not in exactly the capacity she had hoped.

The characters frequently have to choose one among a collection of shitty possibilities, and even the best outcomes are far from perfect. That makes me happy. Actual life is like that. Plus, consequences: Actions have them! Lydia and Will got married at the end of A Gentleman Undone, which hooray?, except that they’re shunned by most of Will’s family and have to go into trade and their children and Will’s siblings’ children are going to face some serious societal consequences. We see some of those in A Woman Entangled, and others we can infer from the difficulties Kate faces because of her parents’ unconventional marriage.

So now you know. I am quite fond of a limited number of romance authors, and Cecilia Grant is one of them.

(Oh, a small complaint: I really hate characters — in all genres — who are universally acknowledged to be breathtakingly beautiful. I don’t think that’s a thing. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Different people find different things attractive. Kate can be pretty but I’m not down with her turning all the heads.)

Disclosure: I received this e-book for review from the publisher, via NetGalley.

Jenny and Mumsy go on about the Brownings (Part 1)

Welcome one and all to the Browning Letters Readalong! We are kicking off this readalong by chatting about the letters between Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett from January to May 1845 (the first five months of their acquaintance). I am your humble host Jenny, and I have roped my lovely Mumsy into talking about these Browning letters with me. We talk about them all the time anyway so it’s not that difficult for us. I hope you are enjoying them as much as Mumsy and I are in this first round!

Jenny: Obviously Robert is the sweetest dear in all the land in these early letters. That is undeniable. He is always rushing in to assure Elizabeth of his regard, and I think he’s ready to be in love with her by the time they meet. If I had to put a date on it, I’d say he’s ready to marry her as of her letter of 3 February, which is long and expansive and asks for no ceremony and no constraint. Here’s what he says in response:

People would hardly ever tell falsehoods about a matter, if they had been let tell truth in the beginning, for it is hard to prophane one’s very self, and nobody who has, for instance, used certain words and ways to a mother or a father could, even if by the devil’s help he would, reproduce or mimic them with any effect to anybody else that was to be won over—and so, if ‘I love you’ were always outspoken when it might be, there would, I suppose, be no fear of its desecration at any after time.

Mumsy: Oh, I agree that Robert is in love long before they meet, and I would put the date perhaps even earlier than you do – I think he is already half in love when he writes to her. “I can give a reason for my faith in one and another excellence [in your poetry], the fresh strange music, the affluent language, the exquisite pathos and rue new brave thought; but in this addressing myself to you – your own self, and for the first time, my feeling rises altogether. I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart – and I love you too.” He says in that very first letter, and I don’t think he was just being cute. He mentions several times how she uses her own voice in her poetry (“You speak out YOU”) and hints over and over at the fact that he has fallen in love with that voice. When he admires her poetry, he admires it for the one thing she cannot deny – that she uses her very own voice.

Jenny: I think that’s why she ends up falling in love with him, don’t you? Because he admires about her the things she secretly admires about herself?

Mumsy: They also have so much in common! With the bugs and spiders and toads, and the books they like, and the sense of humor. And sadly, so much contrast, too. It makes me feel sad when he talks about his family so fondly, and they love and appreciate him so much; and poor her, living on bits and shreds of love.

Jenny: It’s touching when she says, “Remember that as you owe your unscathed joy to God, you should pay it back to His world. And I thank you for some of it already.” It was a melancholy response to what he said about “If ‘I love you’ were always outspoken when it might be, there would, I suppose, be no fear of its desecration at any after time.” Which by the way? I ran that through Google Translate’s Subtext-to-English function? And it came out “When I said I love you I meant I really love you.”

Mumsy: That is what I took away from it too.

Jenny: I love how attentive Elizabeth is to him in these early letters (and throughout! of course!). Even though they’re basically strangers, she’s very quick to pick up on small things Robert says, and to try and move that on. When I was reading Elizabeth’s first letter to Robert, I kept thinking of the rule in group improv comedy that you’re never supposed to say no to an improv partner; you’re always supposed to say yes and. Elizabeth’s wonderful at yes and — she picks up something that Robert said in his letter about having wished to be of critical use to her (before discovering that her poems are ALL PERFECT ALL THE TIME), and says, in the most gracious manner possible, that she’d love to hear any criticisms he might have of her. She also takes up his regret over not having met her that one time, and says how much she’d like to meet him later in the year.

Mumsy: Don’t you love how he keeps escalating the closing of his letters? Yeah, first he is primly “ever faithfully yours”, then it’s “Ever most faithfully yours,” then he”s all “know me for ever your most faithful,” and pretty soon it’s “Yours everywhere, and at all times yours, R. Browning” (31 March). And she notices, too – that last letter she never responded to at all, until after he wrote a second letter two weeks later (on 16 April), and then she writes a letter that is clearly trying to pull him back to a less intense correspondence – asking him if he has read the “Improvisatore”, blah blah blah.

Robert catches that, too. His letter of the 18th is confusing and weird (I wonder if Google could translate that bit about Vivien Grey!), but you can see he is hinting away at the fact that he wants to Say Something Important and he knows she is pulling him up with trivia. But he’s no fool, and he signs that letter, very properly, “Yours ever faithfully.”

You know what else I noticed this time around? I always supposed that Bro’s death, and the tragic circumstances as they pertained to Elizabeth, were a big secret; that no one outside of the family knew about it. She hints at the tragedy several times, but clearly supposes that Robert doesn’t know about it.This time I was intrigued by how Robert, who notices everything, is careful not to ask her about it, but very quick to respond to the “tragic chord,” as he calls it, in her letters. Do you think Mr. Kenyon was a big gossip? Or do you think everyone in London knew?

Jenny: I don’t know! I don’t know what to believe. On one hand, I’m sure I’d gossip if I were Mr. Kenyon. On the other hand, isn’t it the case that Robert writes That One Letter because he doesn’t fully understand Elizabeth’s health situation? And wouldn’t he understand it if Mr. Kenyon were singing like a canary about the Barrett family history? Or do you think Mr. Kenyon also thought the wrong thing about what was wrong with Elizabeth?

And okay, That One Letter: The immediate aftermath of it makes me really sad on both sides. I feel so sad for Elizabeth when she’s being firm with Robert while also obviously hating the idea of losing him as a friend. I know you are mad at Robert for getting all “Oh great poets are always saying things in the grand style and how silly of you to take it in any serious way!” — and I am too! of course! It’s not very nice — but I also sympathize with him. When I’ve done something embarrassing I have to fight very hard against the impulse to shift the embarrassment elsewhere in the most ruthless manner.

Mumsy: I think maybe when I die and go to heaven and get to ask any questions I want (which, obviously, will happen), I will ask to see a copy of That One Letter.  What on earth could he have said?  ”Marry me, my precious Erato, and allow me to gaze longingly at your melting brown eyes even though we can never have sex”?  But yes, I AM mad at Robert for his response when Elizabeth calls him out on it.- it’s the one moment in the correspondence when I just do not like him.  He deliberately embarrasses her!  On the other hand, it is also the moment when I recognize how young he really is, for all his genius and his self-confidence.  He just can’t bear to look like an idiot in her eyes.

Remember later in the correspondence, when That Letter comes up, and he says, “I would have said or done anything to get back into your good graces”? I think of that every time I read his response to her smackdown.

I just can’t end this without talking a little bit about how contemporary Robert and Elizabeth sound. They seem like people you might know, people you might even be (minus the poetic genius).  I love when they talk about how they hate it when people admire their work for all the wrong things; and then Elizabeth says, “Pippa Passes is the one work I envy you the authorship of,” and Robert responds, “Pippa is my best thing of everything I have written.”  They love all the right things about each other!  They are completely irresistible.

Jenny: They are irresistible. I can’t wait to read the next batch of their letters.

The rest of you Browning Readalongers, please leave a comment if you’ve also written a post for today, and I’ll put together a link roundup this evening.

Did everyone feel good about this segment of the readalong? Does five months of letters work for you all? I propose the following schedule for the remainder of the readalong, if so:

  • 8 July: June 1845 through October 1845
  • 22 July: November 1845 through March 1846
  • 5 August: April 1846 to the end (September 1846ish)

Does that work for people? If it seems too ambitious, I will happily revise it, but I’d like to know your thoughts before I make anything final.

THE BROWNINGS. I LOVE THEM SO MUCH.

Revisiting Harry Potter: “Kill the snake?” “Kill the snake.”

Here is my main complaint with this section of the book, which I otherwise love very much: How’s Harry going to use the Cruciatus curse on the Carrow sibling who spits in McGonagall’s face? (I find the Carrows boring and have not bothered to learn their names.) He was unable to do this curse on Bellatrix Lestrange two seconds after she killed Sirius Black, but somehow he can manage to do it just because some Death Eater insults one of his teachers? Number one, that is bullshit. Number two,

don’t torture people. Torture is wrong, and Harry could have accomplished the same effect of punishing the Carrow sibling by just Stunning him/her. I wish McGonagall had said something, like, “Hey, do not torture that Carrow sibling, you war criminal.” I guess we’ll just have to assume that Luna mentions this incident to Hermione later, and Hermione fusses at Harry for us.

Okay. Now that I have gotten that out of the way I shall proceed with talking about Percy, who redeems himself by returning at last! I always knew he would. I knew it because of that time he splashed out in the water to come get Ron. All along Percy really loved his family. I admit that I was hoping Percy would come back, redeem himself, and die nobly in battle. That would take care of Weasley family deaths without one of the twins having to die, something I was deeply concerned about before the seventh book appeared. Instead Fred Weasley dies, and it was heartwrenching, especially when, oh God, especially when Percy is lying across Fred’s body so nothing else can happen to it, and he won’t let go–

The whole Battle of Hogwarts is a pretty great set piece. Although it goes on for a long time, and there’s a lot of events occurring, it doesn’t feel long at all. It feels frantic and disorganized in a really wonderful way. One second Professor Trelawney is throwing crystal balls on Fenrir Greyback’s head (woot), and the next second Neville Longbottom’s grandmother has come to fight alongside him because she hates evil and is proud of her wonderful grandson. The last Horcrux gets destroyed in the Room of Requirement, and Harry’s almost too busy to notice.

This is not the time or place, but sometime later I’d like us all to think about how great a spell Glisseo is. Have we seen that one before Hermione uses it to escape from some Death Eaters? It is awesome. I love slides. If I were a wizard, I’d never ever walk down stairs. I would always make them into slides. That is a much more fun way to get from one floor to another. Does it only work on straight staircases? Or if you are up several floors and you have a staircase with landings, will they turn into one big curvy slide?

Did anyone feel like it was kind of a cheat to have Dumbledore show up and explain everything at the end? As I recall, I thought that it should feel like a cheat, but I was so happy to have Dumbledore back again that I didn’t care. I wanted that chapter to keep going on and on forever, because I do not tire of Dumbledore telling Harry how to understand the world. This chapter also felt very — momentous in the scheme of things, just like, it felt like a chapter that JK Rowling had been waiting twenty years for us to read.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

And then Harry comes back to life and we are treated to the spectacle of Mrs. Weasley getting Bellatrix because Bellatrix threatens Ginny! That part! How she is all,

and kills Bellatrix LIKE A BOSS. You always see Mrs. Weasley when she’s mothering and taking care of everyone, and she is amazing at that, but I liked to see this from her as well. You knew Mrs. Weasley had this in her. When she says that Bellatrix will never touch their children again, I cried three tears from my eyes. Writing about it is making me sniffly.

Oh Neville

I know. This should have been a section all along. I’m sad that it wasn’t. I love Neville and he has wonderful moments in each of the books, because JK Rowling is a genius and she knew all along that Neville was going to save the motherfucking day. It says so much about Neville that Harry can hand over this task to Neville and trust that it’s going to get done.

“Just in case they’re — busy — and you get the chance–”

“Kill the snake?”

“Kill the snake,” Harry repeated…

But Neville seized his wrist as Harry made to move on.

“We’re all going to keep fighting, Harry. You know that?”

NEVILLE. To get an assignment like this and be all,

He not only kills the snake, he does it while he is also on fire. Neville you beautiful genius.

The Adulting of Harry Potter

I am on record as saying that I love it when Harry has a thoughtful moment and chooses what kind of person he’s going to be. He can be impulsive so it’s great to see him thinking matters over in a self-aware manner and making a choice. I love it that we get to see him deciding he doesn’t want to be Dumbledore and keep everything a secret from everyone. Although, I don’t really understand why everyone can’t just know about the Horcruxes by the time Harry gets to Hogwarts? There’s only two left, and since Voldemort is heading for Hogwarts right now, it seems like you’d want as many people on Horcrux duty as possible. Wouldn’t you?

For Harry’s final adulting trick, he names his kid after Severus Snape. That is — an amazing feat of grace and forgiveness. I hope that wherever Snape is right now, he appreciates the gesture.

On the other hand, won’t that be a really, really awkward conversation to have with the kid? “That’s right, son, when we ran out of your grandparents’ names, we went ahead and named you after the guy who was responsible for their deaths.” I would not want to be named after Severus Snape. That dude sucks. He did some helpful stuff, but he mostly was terrible and a bully. If I were Ginny I’d have put my foot down on that one. The world is full of names. Plus, if you’re going to name your child Albus (how cute is it that his nickname is Al?), you should give him a really super normal middle name. If he ever decides he’s tired of Albus as a name, he should have a backup plan.

Y’all! I am so sad the readalong is ending! I know we have a wrap-up post next week, but I will no longer have this forum in which to talk about the many, many feelings and thoughts I have about the Harry Potter books. What will I do with myself? What will happen next time I reread them and I have feelings to share? (I reread these books like once a year. Don’t judge.) Alice, thanks so much for hosting this readalong. It has been great.

Elinor Lipman Redux

And now we return to the subject of my newest comfort author, Elinor Lipman! Acquiring comfort authors as an adult can be difficult because there’s such a vast universe of books to read, and I have the internet as an endless recommendation machine, whereas young Jenny often checked out the same book from the library over and over again until it became as familiar as a teddy bear. But Elinor Lipman’s books were like a teddy bear right away, so I was very excited to see two — a new novel and a collection of essays — pop up on Netgalley earlier this year. Essays first!

Essays: I Can’t Complain: (All Too) Personal Essays

The essays in this book are divided into essays on family, essays on writing, essays from a column at the Boston Globe that Lipman wrote regularly, and essays about life since losing her husband. Of these, I enjoyed the writing ones probably the most. The ones about her family were affectionate and touching, particularly the essay about losing her husband to a “rare, untreatable, and fatal” form of dementia. Though the essay — like all of the essays in the collection — was short, Lipman said a lot about what it’s like to see someone you love fall victim to dementia.

Anyway her essays about writing were the ones I enjoyed most unreservedly. It’s fun to hear about the process creative artists go through to make their [whatever — novel, play, production, movie, etc]. Lipman talks about naming characters, about how finding the right name can make a previously fuzzy character snap into focus.

In any carton of manuscripts entered in a competition I am judging, the strong, young, sympathetic, attractive protagonists tend to be named Kate. Runner-up is Anne, Annie, Anna: old-fashioned yet modern, feminine yet strong. Kates and Annas can ride horses, drink, and change tires, but will still look beautiful in their understated wedding dresses, freckled shoulders gleaming at their beach nuptials.

Heeheehee. NB two of my favorite people in the universe are called Kate and Anna. But, see? How Elinor Lipman is charming and funny when writing about writing?

The Boston Globe columns were much my least favorite, so I won’t say as much about them. “May I Recommend”, Lipman notes, was the reason she was eased out of the column-writing rotation, and while that was probably a disproportionate response, and although I understood that Lipman meant to talk about parenthood being the right decision for her, I could see why people got annoyed:

What if we’d been the husband and wife in my cautionary tale, a true one, about a childless couple who stuck to their guns? They spearheaded a support group called Nonparents Anonymous and were quoted in the Boston Globe decades ago describing the freedom, the spontaneity, the money saved, the creativity nurtured, blah blah blah. Today I know through mutual friends that they are divorced. But not just divorced: divorced and furious. The ex-wife claims he ruined her life with his nonparental nonsense. He says it’s her own damn fault. She left town, postmenopausal, never to be heard from again. He’s single, eligible, and searching for a wife of childbearing age.

When I got to the end of the essay collection, I felt that these were not essays that needed to be collected. Some of them were quite good, but they were all magazine pieces, if that makes sense. They were designed to amuse you as you page through the New York Times or whatever; they weren’t meant to be read one after another. Or maybe I am just biased against reading tons of short things by one author all in one gulp; cf., I never read short story collections ever.

And now on to the book I enjoyed v.v. much, Lipman’s new novel, The View from Penthouse B.

Recent widow Gwen-Laura has moved in with her younger sister Margot following Margot’s very public, very scandalous divorce. Though they live in a penthouse Margot owns outright, they’re both struggling financially following the loss of their husbands to death and prison. To make ends meet, they take in a boarder called Anthony, who makes them cupcakes and gossips with them about their love lives and money-making potential. Margot’s ex gets out of prison and moves into the apartment downstairs from their penthouse, and Gwen contemplates starting a dating service for people who don’t necessarily want to have sex.

Of Lipman’s books, this is probably the one that’s the most like The Family Man, although The Family Man remains my favorite if only by virtue of being the first delightful Lipman surprise in my life. Anthony is a Thalia-like force in Gwen-Laura’s life, and Margot is the inevitable (I don’t mean that in a nasty way, I again emphasize that I love lovely Elinor Lipman) Elinor Lipman character who’s wacky and impractical and sort of annoying and flaky at times and sometimes the protagonists want them out of their lives but they are basically good-hearted.

Like The Family Man, The View from Penthouse B is about a group of people whose lives have room to get better, and do get better. They experience missteps and unhappiness along the way, and the futures they build for themselves are far from perfect. Although they have all been hurt by people they loved, they only improve their lots by being open to other people again. And because it is Elinor Lipman, that openness pays off in happiness dividends as the book goes on.

I basically have no complaints here. I want to reread some of Elinor Lipman’s backlist now. I shall read The Inn at Lake Devine because that one was especially lovely.

Note: I received these e-books from the publishers via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Revisiting Harry Potter: I guess now we have to say nice things about Scrimgeour

I decided to do all Disney gifs for this post. Why? Because as usual this readalong is making me feel a lot of feelings, and most of my feelings for the first Deathly Hallows post are wrathful feelings. And Disney makes me feel happy feelings.

Exhibit A: Rita Goddamn Skeeter

How dare she. I get so angry when I read the excerpts from her rotten biography. Righteously angry! With much stomping around and wishing I had her here in my living room. You know what especially pisses me off? I will tell you. It’s when she calls his relationship with Harry “unnatural”.

Yeah, lady, we know what you’re implying with that. I hope Voldemort kills your mother.

(Oh God, I don’t hope Voldemort kills Rita Skeeter’s mother.)

Exhibit B: All these times JKR acts like she’s going to kill Hagrid

Hagrid launching himself off the motorcycle onto a Death Eater to save Harry is of course what would really happen. This is why Hagrid was top of my list for people who were not to die in the seventh book. In fact, this is the part of the book where, when I read it for the first time, I was writing stuff down as I went, and my notes for page 57 of the book (which is where it starts getting super tense with Hagrid and the Death Eaters) say:

I just flipped ahead a few pages to make sure that Hagrid was going to survive.  JK Rowling has a heart of stone and this ISN’T FUNNY.

Yeah, it’s not funny. I have enough emotions. I do not need them to be toyed with. But oh, when they get back to the Burrow, and everyone’s talking about loose lips and how they sink ships, and Harry takes a stand for trusting the people he loves. Once again with Harry making his moral choices. He decides he’s not going to be the guy who’s constantly suspicious of all his friends. He’s going to be like Dumbledore and not like Moody. That’s awesome, Harry. That’s the person you should want to be. Which brings me to:

Exhibit C: Lupin

When did he morph into such a mean jerk? He used to be so chill and calm and sensible, and now he’s all like,

in this book. Slamming Harry into walls and whatnot. Did it happen the instant he put a baby in Tonks, was that the moment? I appreciate that he was there to save George, but I hate it how he’s all “Kill people instead of disarming them!” and “Don’t trust your friends!” Ugh. My love for him started to die in these moments. Shut up Lupin. Go do something nice for your wife instead of looking grumpy and wrathful every time she speaks to you. Or if you can’t do that then, like, go tell your past self how to use a condom.

Not an Exhibit: Ron defending Ginny

Okay, I don’t know what Ginny’s birthday present for Harry was supposed to be ALTHOUGH I HAVE SOME IDEAS AND THEY ARE ALL BLOW JOBS, but I think it’s really sweet how Ron comes find Harry and tells him to knock it off. That’s nice because sometimes in the past Ron has been like awkward big brother sexual protector role, which I hated, and I like it that here he’s just saying, “Do not fuck with my little sister’s feelings.” Yay Ron. Harry shouldn’t fuck with Ginny’s feelings. You are correct.

Exhibit D: Scrimgeour crashing another Weasley party

What is with Scrimgeour’s perpetual crashing of Weasley parties to harass Harry? He can’t come on a different day than party day? First at Christmas and now Harry’s very sweet first-ever (right?) birthday party. And I’m all,

But it avails me nothing because here he is trying to bully Harry and Hermione and Ron. Spoiler alert, Scrimgeour, that has never worked. I feel like when you know three people who have faced down Voldemort and his army of Death Eaters and lived, you should probably come at them with bigger guns than just, like, your angry lion face and a whole lot of self-justification. I don’t actually have to say nice things about Scrimgeour and I’m not going to. Obviously it was not helpful to Harry for Scrimgeour to die without revealing his location, because the Death Eaters are at the Burrow in like twenty seconds.

Speaking of which, is there anyone who read “The Ministry is fallen. Scrimgeour is dead. They are coming,” and didn’t start going,

Because that’s what I always do.

And finally, Exhibit E: Voldemort

I know this is predictable. But really, Kreacher’s story about Voldemort “needing an elf” is just — man, Voldemort is an awful, awful person. I always think about how that could just as easily have been Dobby if Voldemort had gone to the Malfoys first. And the Malfoys might not have said “come back” and Dobby could have died right then and never have been free. Meanwhile I like it that Hermione’s not just carrying on and on about house-elves — finally, the people are paying attention to her. Word. I mean they should have been listening to her all along, but we’ll take what we can get.

Next up: The Ron-Harry-Hermione road trips that everyone hates!

Review: Out of the Silent Planet, C.S. Lewis; or, I am never going to read the other books in this series ever

That’s right, NEVER. It’s not because I hated Out of the Silent Planet (I didn’t). It’s because I think if I read them, I would be in a huge fight with C.S. Lewis, and I hate to be in a fight with C.S. Lewis. I’d rather focus on his agreeablest qualities, viz.:

  1. I love how crazy in love he was with his wife. That is touching. If you can read A Grief Observed without crying you are just not human.
  2. I love how crazy in love he was with God. That is also touching. I love that he’s able to speak about God with pure sincerity and not a hint of ironic edge. It’s not that I don’t love an ironic edge — I do, truly. But I love it that C.S. Lewis doesn’t need this as a shield. I love it that he can speak with such naked, vulnerably honesty about how God makes him feel. And especially because he was, you know, this British male academic in the early to mid-twentieth century; his life would not, I expect, tend to teach the value of emotional sincerity.
  3. I love how crazy in love he was with stories. He was an exceptionally generous reader who could write persuasively and affectionately about a wide range of different books, and I love that about him. Case in point, the sweet paragraph that appears at the beginning of Out of the Silent Planet:

Certain slighting references to earlier stories of this type which will be found in the following pages have been put there for purely dramatic purposes. The author would be sorry if any reader supposed he was too stupid to have enjoyed Mr. H. G. Wells’s fantasies or too ungrateful to acknowledge his debt to them.

C. S. L.

Oh C. S. Lewis. I am awfully fond of you sometimes.

The problem with C. S. Lewis is that he’ll say something like this and make me feel fond of him, and I’ll read his book all the way through, and maybe it’s not exactly my thing? Because maybe it goes on and on describing the new planet and not a lot happens storywise? But C. S. Lewis has won my heart with this sweet tribute to H. G. Wells, so I’ll be trying to see the good in this book. I’ll like the writing because I do love the way this guy writes, and I’ll think the new planet is weird in interesting ways, and all in all I’ll be feeling very amiably towards C. S. Lewis. But the problem is that as soon as I’ve been lulled into this affectionate way of feeling, C. S. Lewis will often be like, “You know who sucks, though? LADIES,” and then we’re in a fight again.

Why couldn’t he have met his wife like much much sooner? I think it would have made him a nicer person for a longer number of years.

Out of the Silent Planet doesn’t really have any ladies, so I didn’t have to deal with any of that sort of thing in this book, but when I got through with it and went to pick up Perelandra, I remembered that Perelandra was the name the aliens in this book had given to the planet we call Venus. And Venus was, you know, a lady. The lady goddess of ladies and their lady parts.

So I checked with Mumsy:

me: OH REAL QUICK
me: is Perelandra super sexist?
Mumsy: OMG
me: oh, maybe I’d better skip it
Mumsy: SO SEXIST. I cringe at the thought
me: oh dear.
Mumsy: Please do skip it. you will never love CS any more if you read it.

and decided to give it a miss. Forever.