Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Archive for March, 2007

Reviving Ophelia

Posted by nliakos on March 15, 2007

by Mary Pipher (narrated by Linda Stephens)

This book came out in the 90s and is about the problems faced by adolescent girls growing up in a culture that bombards them with mixed messages about what it means to be female. Their parents, having grown up in a completely different time, cannot relate to what they are going through.

The book has some useful insights. I particularly liked the line, Not having confidence in your body means not having confidence in yourself. Pipher says adolescent girls become distant from their parents just when they need parental love and support the most. This reminds me to appreciate the fact that my 14-year-old still talks to me!

Pipher has chapters on eating disorders, sex, teen pregnancy, divorce, relationships with parents, substance abuse, and more. While I was listening to this book, I wondered whether Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has a checklist of issues to include in her Alice books!

At the end, Pipher remarks that popular girls are sometimes those who are most vulnerable to peer pressure, who get into the most trouble and are the most alienated from their parents. She points out that the most successful women are often those who suffered the most as teenagers; their very lack of popularity isolated them from the worst aspects of adolescence, shielding them from the negative consequences of irresponsible behavior. This is a perspective I had not considered before reading this book!

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Posted by nliakos on March 15, 2007

by Larry McMurtry ; narrated by

Sinkiller is the first in a 4-volume series about the extremely annoying Berrybenders, a family of wealthy English aristocrats who travel to America in the 1830s. It’s hard to say who is more irksome: the repulsive Lord Albany Berrybender, who despises everyone and everything except hunting; his pretty, spoiled daughter Tasmin, who falls in love with Jim Snow, the “Sinkiller”; sly Mary Berrybender, gifted at languages and communing with nature; or any of the other self-serving, stupid, spoiled, obnoxious characters with whom McMurtry fills this novel! A number of characters are killed off in this first book, but there remain several that might be the focus of other books in the series. Even the ending isn’t really an ending–more like a little tangent focusing on a minor character.

It sounds as if I hated the novel, but I didn’t. I just disliked the characters, but it kept me fairly interested nonetheless.

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The Evening Star

Posted by nliakos on March 9, 2007

by Larry McMurtry; audiobook narrated by Dana Ivey

The Evening Star continues the story of Aurora Greenway, the eccentric, self-centered widow of Terms of Endearment.  Twenty years after the death of her daughter Emma, Aurora and Rosie have raised Emma’s three children, only to see one  put in prison for murder, another recently discharged from a mental hospital, and the third pregnant by a most unsuitable young man.  Aurora (amazingly) has permitted General Hector Scott to live with her all this time, but he has grown old and a bit dotty.  Aurora’s deepest relationship seems to be with Rosie Dunlop, her maid, who has worked for her for 40 years.

This book is darker than its predecessor; the tragedy of Tommy Horton (the murdering grandson) weighs particularly heavily on Aurora, sending her into a deep depression every time she visits him in prison.  Now in her seventies and with most of her former suitors dead, Aurora is finding it more and more difficult to hold on to her old spirit.  She attempts to find redemption in a new love affair with a younger man, but it only makes her feel older.  I liked Aurora more in this book; McMurtry depicts her more sympathetically.  Still, it’s sad to see her brought low by age.

McMurtry has an irritating habit of compressing years into a few paragraphs or pages of background.  I found myself thinking again and again, if he has so much to say about a character, why doesn’t he take his time telling the tale?  He seems to be in a rush to get it all out.  Maybe he’s just trying to include too much about too many disparate characters in one book.

The character I felt the most sympathy for was Rosie (except for when she bursts out crying at inopportune moments,  which happens rather too often).  Her life has been a big disappointment, from her poor choices in men to the seven children who barely communicate with her.  Her best friend is Aurora, who has tyrannized her for 40 years.  I’m not really sure that the care and kindness eventually shown Rosie by Aurora are in character, but I was glad of it.  Rosie deserved no less.

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