Saturday, November 11, 2006

Some Reading

My book group is reading Emma Donaghue's Slammerkin now, and I just finished it the other day (Harcourt, 2002). I'm unenthused, though I'm not quite sure why.

Lots of folks seem to love it, though. The New York Times calls it a "romping novel." The reviews on the Powell's site sound positive, too (though, of course, they're trying to sell books, so I'm doubting they list many negative reviews; I'd have to look for a while to decide).

I'm trying to figure out why I didn't enjoy the book much, and the thing that seems to stick out is the language. It doesn't feel right or something. Yes, it uses bits of what is (I think) supposed to sound like "authentic" language, especially for body parts ("yard," "cunny," etc). But most of the language feels contemporary, especially through the third person narrator, rather than 18th century.

Admittedly, though, I'm no 18th century scholar, not at all. I'm not someone who reads lots of 18th century novels for fun, even. But this book made me want to go read Tom Jones or something. I can't say that of many books!

And I guess my imagining of 18th century London (and England generally) is lots more chaotic than the book made it sound. Somehow, the book made London sound sparse, if that makes sense. In my imagination, early modern London is full of not only people, but animals. I imagine lots of people kept chickens if they could, dogs were running around, and so on; that would hold even more for Monmouth.

The book makes a big deal of candles, but I didn't get a feel for the period from it, the way I do from, say, a Jane Austen novel. Again, I don't know what I'm expecting, but this book didn't do it for me.

I'm looking forward to hearing what the other members of my reading group have to say; one of us suggested the book with great enthusiasm, so things should be interesting!

On the other hand, I'm in the middle of Patricia Crawford's Blood, Bodies, and Families in Early Modern England and it's not only a great read, compelling and fascinating, but has me thinking about lots of fun stuff.

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