Everyone! I finished a bunch of books this weekend!
I started my roll with Summer and Bird by Katherine Catmull, the first kids’ book I’ve finished in ages. It was a damaged copy from work and I just took it to browse on my lunch break but I was instantly hooked. It’s the story of two young girls, Summer and Bird, who wake up to find their mother and father have disappeared in the night. Following a cryptic picture message left by their mother, the pair journey into the woods and find their way to the eerie land of the birds. Turns out their mother is the swan queen who has lived in the human world too long and has been usurped by an impostor queen. The girls become separated and each follows her own path to try to find their parents. The bird world is elaborately constructed from dark fairy tale elements, making it both familiar and frightening, and the love and rivalry of the two sisters is elegantly captured. In fact the whole thing is really elegant, allegorically simple with little comments from the omnipresent narrator running through to link themes, highlight metaphors and sometimes just make things generally unsettling.
For something completely different I moved on to The First Stone by Helen Garner, which follows the sexual harassment case against the Master of Ormond College in the early nineties. Garner interviewed people from all sides of the issue in an attempt to make sense of the scandal and what it meant for feminism. Her attempts to interview the elusive two women involved give it a detective-like hook and kept me going even when I wasn’t sure what to think or who to believe. I have to say that I was repulsed by Garner’s initial letter of sympathy to the master and tended to agree with the arguments of those who stonewalled her efforts. But reading Garner’s attempts to instigate honest and open conversation and her recounting of the experiences of various women made me rethink my initial response and, like the author, long for a better solution for everyone involved. Aside from that it was written in such a disarmingly honest style that made me want to be more open-minded and tolerant. The issue involved many elements of
class, perception, power and sex and the book really gave me a lot to think about.
The last book that I finished this weekend was Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. I’m mostly going to save my opinions on that for my upcoming Tournament of Books coverage (have I not talked about that yet? I will.) but overall I found it to be less charming than it was attempting to be. Still quite charming though! More on that later. For now, happy new week!