I’m reviving something I have done only once before, in 2016: the ‘biographies’ category of the book reflection posts, because I read some great ones this year and the non-fiction section was already looking pretty full. Read more
At the moment I’m writing a novel. The protagonist is a teenage boy. His name is Anthony and he’s dealing with a lot of things in his life, one of which is the underlying current of societal expectations of masculinity. This isn’t exactly a huge theme in the book, but I think it’s probably an important part of any boy’s upbringing, so I want to get it right. I decided therefore to read some things about what it’s like to grow up male.
I am not, and nor have I ever been, male. However I have always empathised with expectations of masculinity. I’ve been the breadwinner in every household I’ve lived in since a young age, and I’ve been surrounded by people and situations that made showing any kind of emotion discouraged. Growing up, I felt pressured to swallow whatever I might have been feeling and essentially ‘man up and get on with it.’ Despite not knowing what it’s like to be a boy, therefore, I have perhaps an above-average level of empathy for the challenges brought on by society’s expectations of masculinity.
Enter Webb’s autobiography.
I knew there would eventually be a post in which this gif would be sadly relevant.
This week I read a few books, but wasn’t in the mood for anything particularly intellectually challenging so most of them were light read novels.
Previously I’ve been mini-reviewing books in the reading list section at the end of my weekly round-ups, but they’ve been getting a bit long and unwieldy of late so I thought I’d move them to their own separate post.
Sometimes a book will merit a post all of its own, or I’ll be given a book by a publisher in exchange for a full review, in which case they’ll be reviewed separately. But I do like to keep track of the books I’ve read and what I liked / disliked about them, and I read so much that I don’t have time to write full reviews of everything. So here we go: the first of the weekly book review lists.
This is not a novel. I had to keep reminding myself of that all the way through.
This is not a novel. This is real life. These things happened, and are still happening, and sadly will probably continue to happen for a while yet.
I love swimming. I also love books. So when I was asked whether I wanted a review copy of Turning, Jessica J. Lee’s memoir of a year swimming in lakes around Germany, I of course said yes.
It’s always a bit weird reviewing a memoir. How do you review someone’s feelings?
You don’t, of course. You review how they presented them to you.
I’ve never really been into reading biographies. With the exception of pretty much anything about the life of Kierkegaard, I generally stay away from true stories and read either academic non-fiction, or novels.
But this year quite a lot of biographical accounts have ended up on my reading list, and several of them were amazing enough that I decided to do a whole new Reflections post for them.
I’m defining ‘biography’ quite loosely here, to mean anything where the author draws on personal experience (either their own or someone else’s) to discuss the central premise of the book.
I don’t remember how I first stumbled upon Aimée Crocker’s Wikipedia page, but as soon as I did I knew I had to find out more about this woman:
“Aimée Crocker (December 5, 1864 – February 7, 1941) was an American heiress, princess, Bohemian, world traveler, mystic and author best known for her adventures in the Far East, for her extravagant parties in San Francisco, New York and Paris and for her collections of husbands and lovers, adopted children, Buddhas, pearls, tattoos and snakes.” – Wikipedia
Expat memoirs can be quite hit and miss. While moving abroad is almost invariably an interesting experience for the people directly involved, it can be quite dry to read about. So when expat memoirs drop through my mailbox, I’m not always thrilled to see them.
This one, though, is a definite exception. For one thing, Lillian McCloy is a talented writer. And for another, her story is absolutely fascinating.