Review: The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

The Psychology of Time Travel

The Psychology of Time Travel

Kate Mascarenhas

Harper Collins

Head of Zeus

ISBN: 9781788540117

 

Description:

1967: Four female scientists invent a time-travel machine. They are on the cusp of fame: the pioneers who opened the world to new possibilities. But then one of them suffers a breakdown and puts the whole project in peril.

 

2017: Ruby knows her beloved Granny Bee was a pioneer, but they never talk about the past. Though time travel is now big business, Bee has never been part of it. Then they receive a message from the future–a newspaper clipping reporting the mysterious death of an elderly lady.

 

2018: When Odette discovered the body, she went into shock. Blood everywhere, bullet wounds, flesh. But when the inquest fails to answer any of her questions, Odette is frustrated. Who is this dead woman that haunts her dreams? And why is everyone determined to cover up her murder?

 

 

My View:

This is a really difficult book to review because it is unique; the cover might look soft and fuzzy but the content is complex, at times brutal and always interesting. It is a mash up of genres- time travel, romance and a family orientated, murder mystery with a serious feminist bent that uses the framework of time travel to reflect on issues relating to power, control, bullying, hazing, racism, workplace harassment, mental health, the justice system and sexual equality (my list is not exhaustive).

 

The characters are all very strong, intelligent, talented, resourceful women. It is so unusual to find a narrative where intelligent women in control of their own futures, shape and dictate the narrative; this is feminism that doesn’t preach its message, it doesn’t “tell” just “shows” without anger or recriminations; it just “is”. And in doing so, is such a refreshing read. Bravo!

 

 

 

Post Script: An Isolated Incident – Emily Maguire

This one will get your attention! 

An Isolated Incident

An Isolated Incident

Emily Maguire

Pan Macmillan Australia

Picador

ISBN: 9781743538579

 

Description:

When 25-year-old Bella Michaels is brutally murdered in the small town of Strathdee, the community is stunned and a media storm descends.

 

Unwillingly thrust into the eye of that storm is Bella’s beloved older sister, Chris, a barmaid at the local pub, whose apparent easygoing nature conceals hard-won wisdom and the kind of street-smarts only experience can bring.

 

As Chris is plunged into despair and searches for answers, reasons, explanation – anything – that could make even the smallest sense of Bella’s death, her ex-husband, friends and neighbours do their best to support her. But as the days tick by with no arrest, Chris’s suspicion of those around her grows.

 

An Isolated Incident is a psychological thriller about everyday violence, the media’s obsession with pretty dead girls, the grip of grief and the myth of closure, and the difficulties of knowing the difference between a ghost and a memory, between a monster and a man.

 

PRAISE FOR EMILY MAGUIRE

 

“At the heart of … Emily Maguire’s work lies an urgent need to pull away at the interconnecting threads of morality, society and human relationships.” Sydney Morning Herald

 

“what you get, along with a sharp mind and a keenness to investigate cultural confusions, is an engaging ability to put the vitality of the story first.” Weekend Australian

 

My View: This one piqued my interest as you may well notice.

 

Shoot this one straight to the top of my list of “Best Reads of the Year”. Brilliant, masterfully written.

 

Raw, tough, agonizingly truthful… the male gaze is reflected in a mirror back to us.  These reflections are a constant in our (women’s) everyday life, look around you will recognise it too! Misogyny, discrimination, entitlement, double values, violence or threats of violence, intimidation, judgments – the worthy/unworthy, beautiful/other…  Women’s everyday experiences, decisions, choices are under scrutiny of the male gaze – women are judged on whether they wear makeup or not, clothes can be fashionable/slutty, friendliness mistaken for availability as a sexual toy, she discounts you – she is a tease, she is self-assured – she is a “ball breaker”… how can a woman win? How does a woman tell the good guys from the bad when they all wear the same disguise?

 

I think it is the “entitlement” that bothers me the most in this book (and in life). A woman walks down a street alone– she is cat called, whistled at, judged, sexualised. There is a lot of social media chatter about the unsolicited attention men thrust on women at the moment, which if she ignores quickly turns to insults and rage.  (If I had more time I would write you an essay on these type of behaviours) There is a great example of this in the novel. The ugliness and ordinariness of entitlement goes like this; (May is jogging, alone, in suburbia);

‘Hey what you running for, sweet girl?’

May’s pace didn’t alter, her head remained high, her gaze trained at six feet ahead. She was used to running in the inner city, where dick heads calling from cars were background noise.

‘Aww, just a question. Why you running? Sweet arse like that, don’t wanna go running it away.’

She kept moving, taking the next left, focussing her mind on retracing her route, determining whether to loop back at the next corner or go another few blocks. She realises only two or three cars had passed since she’d left the main road, tried to picture  the town map, figure out  a more direct route back to her hotel.

 

A car turned from the opposite corner, came towards her, headlights on high beam, then no headlights at all. May’s vision flickered and swam. She noticed how dark it was, how few houses there were on this street…

‘Come on girl. Stop for a second. Just a second.’

The car was right behind her, engine revving, keeping pace.” (p. 49)

 

Sounds all too familiar to me.

 

 

Domestic violence is another behaviour is succinctly showcased in this novel –   I love you, love you, love you… until you hurt me…or those around me…I love you but not the violence … “he’s a good bloke”( is he?) … until he isn’t. “He is a good bloke” (really?) …until he is provoked. Where is the responsibility? Vision is blinded when it comes to violence against women…he is a good bloke …he couldn’t possibly…

 

I think this is a book that will polarise. Those who tune out the politics will read a work of crime fiction, an intriguing and moving narrative of crime fiction. Those who absorb the depth of this writing will read a crime narrative set in a world of male entitlement, gender inequality, violence…a feminist’s tale.

 

Absolutely loved it!

 

 

Post Script: Summer Skin – Kirsty Eagar

Summer Skin

Summer Skin
Kirsty Eagar
Allen & Unwin Australia
ISBN: 9781925266924
RRP A$19.99

Description:
Jess Gordon is out for revenge. Last year the jocks from Knights College tried to shame her best friend. This year she and a hand-picked college girl gang are going to get even.

The lesson: don’t mess with Unity girls.

The target: Blondie, a typical Knights stud, arrogant, cold . . . and smart enough to keep up with Jess.

A neo-riot grrl with a penchant for fanning the flames meets a rugby-playing sexist pig – sworn enemies or two people who happen to find each other when they’re at their most vulnerable?

It’s all Girl meets Boy, Girl steals from Boy, seduces Boy, ties Boy to a chair and burns Boy’s stuff. Just your typical love story.

A searingly honest and achingly funny story about love and sex amid the hotbed of university colleges by the award-winning author of Raw Blue.

“Taking a keen look at modern day intimacy in a hook-up culture, Summer Skin expertly shatters notions of slut shaming and the pull of sexual desire. Realistic, modern and moving, the story of Jess and Mitch is as smart as it is hot. Kirsty Eagar has written the feminist love story that girls have been waiting for.” Clementine Ford.

 

 

My View:
This New Adult/Mature YA book took me completely by surprise. The writing is fresh, bold and honest and the characters are written without self-consciousness but with a healthy dose of self-awareness. This is new age feminism at its best.

Realistic (well I cant vouch for the university pranking/drinking /hook up culture – I was a very mature age uni student when I completed my degree, studying part time, working part time with no experience of living in a boarding school – so this is all new ground for me but other reviewers have remarked on its accuracy) but the traumas, the sexual harassment, the friendships, the attachments and the exploration of self as an individual and sexual person all shout truth to me. One of the really interesting and honest parts of the book that stand out for me is Jess discussing with her aunt that she has a libido. How many books (or sex education classes) speak to this subject? It’s about time women were allowed to have a libido and to own those feelings.

Despite that that I am not in the age group of the targeted audience for this book I was really engaged in the narrative and liked the characters. Some of the rawness and sexual explicitness did surprise me but I did not feel it was gratuitous or did I feel like a voyeur (which I have noticed is often the case when I occasionally read adult romance narratives). The only negative for me was most of the music references meant nothing to me – but I realise they will do to the target audience, however I do recall how important popular music was to me when I was a teenager. Somethings haven’t changed a lot.

This is a fun, smart, sassy and empowering read. I am recommending it to my (adult) daughter.

Post Script: My Notorious Life by Madame X – Kate Manning

A fantastic read!

My Notorious Life: A Novel

My Notorious Life by Madame X

Kate Manning

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

ISBN: 9781408835654

 

Description (provided by Goodreads):

Based on a true story from the scandalized headlines of Victorian New York City, My Notorious Life is a portrait of Axie Muldoon, the impoverished daughter of Irish Immigrants who becomes an enormously successful—and controversial—midwife. Separated from her siblings, apprenticed to a doctor, Axie parlays the sale of a few bottles of “lunar tonic for relief of female complaint” into a thriving practice as a female physician known as “Madame X.” But as she rises from the gutter to the glitter of Fifth Avenue, Axie discovers that the right way is not always the way of the law, and that you should never trust a man who says, “trust me.” But what if that man is an irresistible risk-taker with a poetical soul? Soon, Axie’s choices put her on a collision course with one of the most zealous characters of her era: Anthony Comstock, founder of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, and it will take all of her power and wealth to outwit him and save herself and her family from ruin.

A love story, a family saga, and a vivid rendering of a historical time and heated political climate, My Notorious Life is the tale of one woman making her indomitable way in a difficult world. Axie Muldoon is a heroine for the ages

 

 

My View:

How to begin – this book is extraordinary and exquisite and I loved every word on every page!  This book has much to offer- it is a historical feminist work of fiction “based partly on the life and death of Ann Trow Lohman (1811-79) also known as Madame Restell who practiced midwifery in New York for almost forty year” (Author’s note). It is a love story, it is a story of overcoming adversity where the heroine actually wins, and it is a story of courage, devotion, family and humanity at work. The early years of Madame X’s life echo of life of so many women at the time; fighting to survive, fighting to feed their families, each day a hardship, each day a battle against poverty, hunger, disease and child birth death.  For many women pregnancy was a real health threat, so many died in childbirth or shortly after.

But enough of the feminist ideology and analysis – that could go on and on and this is a book review not an essay on feminism but I do hope this book becomes part of high school and university curriculum – and has so much to offer to men and women.

I loved the well developed characters in this book- Madame X/Axie/Ann is a powerful and heroic young woman. She is feisty, says her mind, she is intelligent, she is a mother, a daughter, a wife and she is a business woman, she is a health worker.  She speaks with attitude, honesty and she has an authentic voice. I love her frailties, they make her credible – she is plagued by jealously, she has a quick temper, she speaks her mind. She has self doubts, she rises to her husband’s baits and taunts – she is manipulated by his words and takes risks she might not have taken by herself. She grows.

The minor characters are also quite likeable and fallible – all seeking to be loved and cherished and seeking the right to determine their own future, to rise above poverty. Charlie is a likeable rogue and is quite enlightened for the times. Greta is vulnerable, loyal and demonstrates we are all just one mistake or bad judgement away from despair.

Manning paints from an incredibly rich palette of colours – her settings, the clothes, the buildings, the language of the time, her characters, all come alive on the page. When you read this novel you do not merely observe; you walk this life side by side with Madame X.

The plot is fast paced and exciting. This historical work of fiction also provides intrigue, romance and mystery. This book has something for everyone. I cannot recommend this book more highly. This is one of the best reads of 2013.