Dedicated to classics and hits.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Cat's Eye (1988) by Margaret Atwood

Book Review
Cat's Eye (1988)
by Margaret Atwood

   I did not have much appetite for a 400 page story about a (female) painter coming to terms with her past on the eve of her first Toronto area career retrospective.   That said, Atwood won me over with her (stop me if you've heard this before) crisp observations about the relationships between men and women, career and family, art and commerce.  And while the present for painter Elaine Risley is a familiar blend of musings about the art world,ex-husbands and children, the past is a more Gothic place.  Much of the early reminisces of Risley concern her ill treatment by a troika of classmates.  Later, her chief antagonist/tormentor emerges as her high school bff.  After that, she is witness to her friend's long decline and failure as an adult.

  It is far from clear that Cordelia, the tormentor in chief and high school bff will emerge in the later part of Cat's Eye, but I feel it is that relationship, rather than Elaine's emotional/sexual relationships with men, that defines the reader experience.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Radiant Way (1983) by Margaret Drabble

Book Review
The Radiant Way (1983)
 by Margaret Drabble

  I found The Radiant Way tedious.  I'm not a huge Margaret Drabble fan, and I don't really care about here milieu-  the lives of upwardly striving working-class born women who were promoted into Cambridge University in England during the 1960's and 1970's.  The introduction of merit scholarships into English higher education was a novelty then, and that gives this tale of three such women some socio-political weight.   So far, so good.  It's more the women themselves- all of whom are unhappy for the entire length of the book, spending their time wondering why they are so unhappy, or knowing why they are so unhappy and simply wallowing in it for chapters at the time.

  Drabble is a keen observer of human nature, I often winced knowingly at her characters observations about their disintegrating/disintegrated marriages and relationships.  At the same time, those aren't really observations I need to enrich my life, and nothing she is has to say feels anything but utterly familiar.   Also, I'm of the firm opinion that England and Britain stopped meaning much after World War II, so the fiction of the this time period seems less relevant than the fiction from the height of the British Empire.  Not better or worse, but less relevant for sure.  The Radiant Way is fiction from drab 1980's England, about the rather drab decades preceding the 1980's, and there is hardly a bit of color or beauty in the whole book.  Mostly just whinging. 

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