Wednesday, 7 November 2018

#bookreview: More from the MA reading list (which I surprisingly liked) #AnnasMA

White is for WitchingWhite is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Told mostly by Miranda's twin, Eliot, White is For Witching explores the tragic tale of Miranda Silvers, the girl with pica, who is slowly fading away after the death of her mother, Lily. I say mostly, because parts of the novel are also told in a general narrator type POV, by the house (hah) as well as Miranda's friend, Ore. But mostly, it's Eliot's voice who dominates, Eliot who is both friend and enemy to his twin.

Oyeyemi keeps you off balance throughout the book through POV changes, stylistic formatting changes, shifts and revelations within the text that sometimes blindside you. She starts with Miranda's disappearance, heads back to the past where it all began and then ends up back where she started: where is Miranda?

This week's theme is on Place, so I'm guessing this book is significant because it uses place (the house on 29 Barton Road) as a character, as a persona that holds secrets and affects everything in Miranda's life. (Is Miranda truly crazy, mentally ill? Or is it the house or whatever spirit that lives in it the one that is doing things to her; this living house that claims all Silver women as hers? Who are the shadowy beings only Ore can see besides Miranda?)

Dover seems like a small, white town, with a burgeoning immigration population. Is the racism seen (four immigrant boys slashed, killed; the house's rejection of Ore) something inherent in the house/its spirit or is it a projection of Miranda's subconscious? It's never settled who killed the boys, or why Tijana thinks it's Miranda, other than the fact that the last one, her cousin Agim, sees a slight resemblance between Miranda and his attacker.

Cambridge is nothing more than a place where Miranda escapes to and meets Ore, where she separates herself from the house, where she slowly fades. But Miranda also seems to feed off Ore, in the same strange way Lily might have fed off Luc, though it's never clear, never explained. (Is it the soucouyant? What is Sade trying to ward off?)

Nothing is clear. The narrators are unreliable, the main protagonist dead or missing, only seen through the eyes of those around her.

A haunting, unsettling read.

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Perfidious AlbionPerfidious Albion by Sam Byers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perfidious Albion is very much a story of our times, for all that it's set in a future post-Brexit era.

Byers touches on all the current hot-button topics: racism and equality; Internet privacy, doxing, and rape threats; unsolicited dick pics; feminism, misogyny, and the fragile white male; efficiency, microtasking, and freelance culture. Within just Robert & Jess's relationship, Byers lays bare the stark differences in approach and understanding of similar events between a male and a female of similar standing and class (attacks on males are professional, attacks on females are personal). With Trina and Darkins, you see a vast difference in how the world treats a black female and a white male. Innocuous words are twisted into sinister intent for political gain.

There's no specific place to this, for all that it's set in Edmunsbury, a small town in eastern England. The events both seem local and global, a microcosm that holds true for the world. Everything is out there on the internet--Jess wars against Robert's online persona through a fake person of her own whilst maintaining cordial relationship at home; Robert changes his tone and beliefs (while pretending he's holding true to his principles) according to what his editor wants and what they think the readers want; Trina's life rapidly spirals just because of one ill-advised tweet latched onto by Bennington and opined on by Robert. A shady group of masked men disrupt events by asking "What don't you want to share?"

A lot, it seems.

Everyone has things to hide. And it's mob justice, beginning with social justice warriors on the net, that seems to prevail.

The Internet is a place on its own--a world that lives and breathes by its own rules, where nothing ever seems to die, or can be revived at will with just the right (or wrong) word, just one misstep.

Perfidious Albion feels like a cautionary word to readers: be careful of what you do and say online. Anything can be twisted if the situation is ripe.

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The MetamorphosisThe Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Found this absolutely hilarious. Well, turning into an insect isn't exactly hilarious but... the story.

The ending though...

At any rate, this is pretty deep third person POV (I think?) primarily from Gregor, but it shifts to a general omniscient narrator at the end. It... actually brings to mind those stupid essays we used to write in school, imagining your a pen or a book or some other inanimate object. It's like someone asked Kafka, "Well, what would happen if you were an insect?" and then he wrote this.

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