Name: Jackie Teeven
Genre: Psychological Literary Fiction
Title: Moon Tiger
Author: Penelope Lively
Appeal Factors: Stylistically complex, Intriguing characters, Women’s point of view
Read Alikes: Margaret Atwood, Mark Haddon
Summary/Thoughts: A dying woman, Claudia, a journalist and published historian, decides to write a history of the world. Claudia tells us her life history, interspersed with world history, beginning with World War II and ending in the 1980’s (the book was published in 1987). The story is not told in chronological order, but is very easy to follow. The character-driven story draws you in very quickly and the descriptions of people and places are vivid and detailed. Claudia is not always likable but it is fascinating to observe her as she makes her unconventional and highly opinionated way through World War II battlefields,becoming an author of note, motherhood and old age. I enjoyed this book very much.
Name: Sarah Breen
Genre: Literary, Autobiographical Fiction
Title: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Appeal Factors: autobiographical, mental illness, 1950’s, mental institution, women’s issues, feminism
Read Alikes: Girl Interrupted, The Yellow Wall-Paper, Belzhar
Summary/Thoughts: I loved this book. Even though it was written over 50 years ago I can still related to Esther, the main character. Esther is a young woman living in the 1950’s. She is trying to understand herself and her life in a time when women were expected to get married right out of college while still being a virgin on their wedding night. While in New York on an internship she begins to slide into a deep depression. The depressions only increases until she tries to commit suicide at her home. Her suicide attempt lands her in a mental institution for the next 6 months where they use shock therapy in an attempt to cure her. She finally begins to recover when she learns of birth control. A way she doesn’t have to choose between having sex or getting married.
The book is very relatable to young women, and it is a very interesting peek into the life of the tragic poet Sylvia Plath. I would also highly recommend listening to the audio version read by Maggie Gyllenhaal who has the perfect voice for this novel!
Name: Karen Perkins
Genre: Family Saga Literary Fiction
Title: Fall On Your Knees
Author: Ann Marie MacDonald
Appeal Factors: Character driven, location, historical, lyrical
Read Alikes: Cane River, The Nest, Bittersweet
Summary/Thoughts: From the shores and coal mines of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, the battlefields of World War I, and the jazz clubs of New York City, Ann Marie MacDonald strikingly tells the story of James Piper, his Lebanese wife Materia and their four daughters Katherine, Frances, Mercedes and Lily. Fall On Your Knees is a well crafted family saga of mystery til the very end.
The Piper family is a poor working class family, complete with familial dysfunctions. MacDonald kept me hating to love James, liking some of the sisters while despising others and feeling complete sorrow for their mother. MacDonald’s exploration of cultural differences between James and Materia’s family aptly portrays the feelings of being exiled from one’s family. Events in history play characters as well especially the music of opera, jazz and country ballads. Not quite so obvious until the end are the lesbian overtones of Katherine. For a 500 page novel, I found that MacDonald perfectly balanced description and dialogue. Her language is exquisitely visual “like a scarecrow bleeding straw..”
I would recommend this book to lovers of the family saga, purveyors of historical fiction, single women coming of age. This is somewhat of a quick read but most definitely a sorrowful one. As one blogger wrote “Reading Fall on Your Knees will make you aware that you have a heart that is squishy and maybe a little too colourful; and like a glass of wine it can get broken into a million little pieces and make a big mess, spilling red.”(autostraddle.com)