The Literary Others: first update

The Literary Others: first update

So, my first reviews for The Literary Others: An LGBT Reading Event!

First things first: the winners of the giveaway for Giovanni’s Room have received notice (congratulations!) and the books have been sent out!

Unfortunately I am quite busy since the start of October, so I haven’t been able to participate as actively in the whole event as I would have liked to. Nonetheless, I have found some time to read. I finished four books for the challenge so far!

Giovanni's Room The Song of Achilles Huntress Twee Cowboys

The first book I picked up and finished for this event was Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. This is typically one of those books that I find difficult to give my opinion about. It was really good and in a way quite overwhelming. It is definitely not a happy book, but I am glad I read it. ★★★★☆

My next book was The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller, a book I was looking forward to reading for quite a while (actually since Tze-Wen gave it five stars). I was not disappointed! The book tells the story of Achilles from Patroclus’ point of view. It is based on the Iliad, so from the beginning of the book (if you’ve read the Iliad/know the story of Achilles) you know how it is going to end… That knowledge did not take away from the story in any way. The book is beautifully written, never too fast-paced or too slow and you soon begin to feel emotional over the characters. I also liked how the author handled the end of the story (I don’t want to spoil, but there would be some technical difficulty finishing this story from the chosen POV, but it worked well!).
I’ve read so many books that I ‘just’ liked, or ‘just’ thought were good, and this was one of those books that I got really excited about. It has definitely become one of my favourite books. And gave me plans to reread the Iliad (I read very small parts of it in Latin in high school, and know the general content)! I can recommend this book to everyone, especially if you like historical fiction, myths and/or LGBT-themed books. ★★★★★

Huntress by Malinda Lo wasn’t terrible, but had a lot of flaws. Firstly, the proportions of the parts of the story in this book are way off. The introduction of the quest is very short and we don’t get much of an explanation. This will be more or less fixed later in the story (or the author tries, at least), but nevertheless… Then, most of the book tells of the journey the characters take to the fairy city Taninli. This easily takes up two-thirds or more of the book. By the time they reach the city, there is not much space left to tell the rest of the story and it all feels quite hurried. Especially the final event (I won’t spoil) is ridiculously short and hurried. I wish the author had left some of the journey out and would give more details in those last parts instead.
Another big flaw is the portrayal of good and evil. The ‘bad person’ in this book (Elowen) is extremely two-dimensional. ‘Evil’ is portrayed black-and-white and the author attempts to explain Elowen’s actions to make it more grey but fails. I also felt no emotion whatsoever for the fairy queen later on, although I think the author tried.
That said, I must also be fair and say: the book was never boring. The writing style was also quite pleasant. Although the amount of adjectives put me off at the beginning of the book (probably because I read The Song of Achilles before this, which was a masterpiece in my opinion), I began to like the style later on and the book was a quick read. It wasn’t a terrible book, but I was expecting more. I’ve read plenty of young adult books with far more depth.
Another plus for the book: the world is interesting enough, although I wish we got to hear more about it (but perhaps that happened in Malinda Lo’s other book, Ash, which is apparently the same world?). I liked that sexuality was almost a non-issue in this world. Kudos. ★★★☆☆

Finally I read a Dutch translation of Brokeback Mountain (titled Twee Cowboys, ‘two cowboys’, in Dutch) by Annie Proulx. I watched the movie quite a while ago and liked it. The book, although short, was somewhat more in-depth. I am not sure how much the Dutch translation resembles the original, but the writing style (probably the translation) really ticked me off. The story is good, but I didn’t like the writing style at all. Still, it was a short quick read and worth the time. ★★★☆☆

I am currently reading Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. I really like it so far, but judgement will follow 😉

3 thoughts on “The Literary Others: first update

  1. A bad translation can really ruin the reading experience. I do wonder though, whether Brokeback Mountain is as meh in English. Yay for you liking Song of Achilles! Wasn’t the ending just wonderful? It sort of reminded me of The Penelopiad, another great re-telling and reinterpretation of a Greek classic… but this one is infinitely better.

    You’ve gotten through quite a few books for Adam’s challenge! I’ve yet to tackle Middlesex (and am not sure if I’ll think Annabel is better). I still feel rather disappointed by Under the Poppy though…

    1. I think when I find Brokeback Mountain in a bookshop I might just browse to see how it is in English… The Penelopiad… sounds interesting. I’ll check it out when I get through the larger part of my to-read pile *cough* I’m sad to hear that about Under the Poppy 🙁 My copy finally arrived (damaged, argh). I’m pretty excited about it (now) so I think I’ll tackle that after Fingersmith (which is great by the way!)

      And I am surprised how much reading I get done despite being infinitely busier! o_o

  2. Fingersmith is excellent! (And the title Twee Cowboys makes me laugh.)

    I like Malinda Lo’s books since there isn’t much lesbian fantasy or sci-fi for teens, but she does leave me with a bit of a meh feeling.

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