A – Z of TBRs: X, Y and Z

And so I come to the last letters in the alphabet,  X, Y and Z in my A – Z of TBRs, a series of posts in which I’ve been taking a look at some of my TBRs  to decide whether I really do want to read them all. Some of them were impulse buys, or books I bought as part of those 3 for 2 offers, but most of them are books I bought full of enthusiasm to read each one – and mainly because I wanted to finish books I was already reading, they have sat on the shelves ever since. And then other books claimed my attention.

X  – is for Xingu and other stories by Edith Wharton Xingu is the first story in this IMG_20180517_155637127_HDR.jpgcollection of seven short stories. It’s about a group of ladies who form a book group called The Lunch Club – but it’s more

‘And what do you think of “The Wings of Death”? Mrs Roby abruptly asked her.  It was the kind of question that might be termed out of order, and the ladies glanced at each other as though disclaiming any share in such a breach of discipline. They all knew there was nothing Mrs Plinth so much disliked as being asked her opinion of a book. Books were written to read; if one read them what more could be expected? To be questioned in detail regarding the contents of a volume seemed to her as great an outrage as being searched for smuggled laces at the Custom House. (location 77)

Why, I wonder, would anyone want to smuggle laces – and why would it be necessary?

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Y – is for The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. I’ve had this book for 8 years. According to Wikipedia this book focuses on a religious sect called the God’s Gardeners, a small community of survivors of the same biological catastrophe depicted in Atwood’s earlier novel Oryx and Crake, which I read soon after it was first published in 2003. The earlier novel contained several brief references to the group.

Figuring out the Gardener hierarchy took her some time. Adam One insisted that  all Gardeners were equal on the spiritual level, but the same did not hold true for the material one: the Adams and the Eves ranked higher, though their numbers indicated their areas of expertise rather than their importance. In many ways it was like a monastery, she thought. The inner chapter, then the lay brothers. And the lay sisters, of course. Except that chastity was not expected.

Since she was accepting Gardener hospitality, and under false pretences at that – she wasn’t really a convert – she felt she should pay by working very hard. (pages 55 -56)

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Z– is for Zoo Time by Howard Jacobson, a book I’ve had for eighteen months. It’s described on the book jacket as ‘By turns angry, elegiac and rude’,’ a novel about love – love of women, love of literature, love of laughter. It shows our funniest writer at his brilliant best.’

I haven’t read any of his books, although I have a copy of The Finckler Question, the 2010 Man Booker Prize winner still to read. Looking at Zoo Time today I’m wondering of I really do want to read it – I’m not very good with ‘funny’ books, often wondering what’s so funny about them. It’s about a writer, whose readership is going downhill, with lots of problems.

Things had not being going well in my neck of the woods: not for me, on account of being a writer whose characters readers didn’t identify with, not for my wife who didn’t identify with my characters or with me, not for Poppy Eisenhower, my wife’s mother, where the problem, to be candid, was that we had been identifying with each other too well, not for my local library which closed only a week after I’d published a florid article in the London Evening Standard praising its principled refusal to offer Internet access, and not for my publisher Merton Flak who, following a drunken lunch in my company – I had been the one doing the drinking – went back to his office and shot himself in the mouth. (page 23)

What do you think? Do you fancy any of them? Would you ditch any of them?

The Robber Bride

It took me several days to read Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride. It’s a intricately woven book, long and detailed. At times I thought it was too detailed and I just wanted to get on with the story. But overall I thought it was very good, and in parts excellent.

It begins with Zenia – and Zenia is dead. She died five years earlier and Tony, Roz and Charis went to her funeral. These three women all had cause to be thankful she was dead; Zenia, beautiful, smart and greedy, had deceived all three, wrecking their relationships, taking their money and self-esteem.  Although they met regularly they hadn’t talked about her since they’d buried her and their lives are turned upside down again when, lunching at the Toxique, Zenia walks back into their lives.

The rest of the book tells what had happened in each of their lives, told from each woman’s point of view and moving backwards and forwards in time – a bit confusing sometimes, you have to concentrate.  Tony, is a small woman, an academic specialising in military history, with a habit of pronouncing words backwards; Charis is described as ‘what Ophelia would have looked like if she’d lived‘, who thinks she has healing powers; and  Roz is a successful business woman, whose husband is a serial womaniser. Zenia, who never tells her story, is a consummate liar and presents a different version of herself to each of the three women and she remains a mystery and a dark malevolence throughout the book.

The Robber Bride is inspired by “The Robber Bridegroom,” a  tale from the Brothers Grimm in which an evil groom lures three maidens into his lair and devours them, one by one. But it’s much more than that – it’s about power and the struggle between good and evil. It’s also about women’s friendship, and about the relationship between men and women.

This is one of the books I’ve listed for the TBR Pile Challenge, so it also meets the criteria for the Mount TBR Challenge too – a book I’ve had on my shelves for several years now.