LAST BOOK I FINISHED:
Monday night I finished the second Maggie Hope book, Princess Elizabeth's Spy
. It is even more of a WWII Mary Sue fanfic than the first book
was. Not only does Maggie go to Windsor as an undercover protective spy for young Princess Elizabeth (unlikely but okay) she and the princess are ( spoiler )
Also there's new people-have-been-keeping-secrets-from-
you crazy for Maggie (someone else she was told was dead isn't dead!) And there's feistiness. Maggie is soooo feisty. Super super feisty in the face of moustache-twirling sexism that completely crumbles before her feistiness.
I will admit that if Maggie was crushing on a spunky lady-in-waiting or dashing Land Army woman rather than a procession of fighter pilots and senior (and therefore of course male) spies I'd have more patience with all the soap-operatic plotting and the dicey details (surely a new tutor wouldn't be invited to call the heir to the throne "Lilibet," and the phrase "on lockdown" wasn't used in 1940s Britain in the modern what-you-do-when-there's-a-mad-gun-
wielding-person-in-the-school sense? If only because UK English so often does different things with prepositions than US English does.)
The book was a good illustration of some of the points raised in this
interesting article on Strong Female Characters that penwiper26
brought to my attention. It's as if the author doesn't trust readers to be interested in Maggie unless she's absolutely extraordinary - a brilliant mathematician, fluent in multiple languages, first to figure out all sorts of stuff, a favorite of Churchill, with a crazy history involving mysterious parents and hidden information. She can't just fight
espionage, she has to be Super Super Special Good at it. She can't just be the protagonist because she's the protagonist, it has to be justified by her stupendousness.
It's tiring. And in the next book apparently she'll be parachuting into Germany (because she's totes fluent in German, of course!) I think I'll just reread Code Name Verity
instead of pressing on with this series.
WHAT I'M READING NOW
A novel about Wallis Simpson, The Shadow Queen
by Rebecca Dean. I'm not sure if I'll finish it - it's pretty romance-novel-ish - but at the moment it's a diverting enough look at high society (and would-be high society) in US cities in the aughts. Since most of my reading about the Windsors has been focused on QEII and her parents, the texts have tended to take an anti-EdwardVIII and anti-Wallis tack to reflect the views of George VI and his family, so it's interesting to read something sympathetic to Wallis.
I'm also reading Joseph Anton
, Salman Rushie's memoir of his years in hiding after the publication of The Satanic Verses
. ("Joseph Anton" was his alias, compounded from the names of two writers he admires, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov.) It is somewhat exhausting in its detail about the nuts and bolts of publishing negotiations - there are pages I want to stamp with AND PEOPLE WERE TOO SPOOKED TO PRINT HIS WORK because that's the upshot - but it is vivid and compelling about the emotional (and financial) cost of living under the radar.
All the furor about The Satanic Verses
happened when I was old enough to take notice but not old enough to have much of a grasp of the situation. An author had been forced to go "into hiding" - I pictured a man under a table. Years later, in a critical theory class in college, I offered the image as a joke on my young self. It turns out, however, that Rushdie did have to make uncomfortably frequent dives under tables and into closets whenever unexpected visitors turned up at places he was staying.
I really like his prose in the memoir, and I particularly enjoy his choice to write in the third person. It gives a sense of the disconnection he felt, but it also effectively underlines the fact that he is a writer before anything
, and making narrative out of experience is something he does as much as he breathes. Unfortunately I don't expect to get any further in reading his fiction than I already have, because magical realism just... does not ring my bells. But I may try again after Joseph Anton.
WHAT I'LL READ NEXT
Absofricklinlutely no idea.