Monday, October 31, 2016

The Velocipede Races, by Emily June Street. Elly Blue Publishing, 2016

Emmy lives in a world similar to late Victorian England, but in her world, bicycle races are the big thing that men bet on. Women don’t bet, or ride. Or do much of anything. The upper class women are corseted and cossetted, pressed into marriage early and trained only in things like embroidery. Emmy hates this way of life; she wants to ride, like her twin brother Gabriel. Her brother is reluctantly following a career in professional riding; the family is in poverty because of their father’s gambling and few avenues are considered honorable for the upper class. The pittance he earns allows them to eat and purchase the things he needs for his racing; the rest is gambled by his father. Emmy trains in secret, doing the same body building exercises as Gabriel and sneaking out in his old riding clothing to ride. If she was ever caught, she’d be ruined for life.

Emmy’s mother is extremely happy when she catches Emmy and a stranger in a ‘compromising’ position- Emmy almost faints from her tightly laced corset. She’s forced to marry the stranger- who is quite wealthy- with the expectation that she will get him to give her family money and/or sponsor her brother as a racer. But all she cares about is being able to continue to ride, which will be tricky living in her husband’s house. Can she follow her dreams? Can Gabriel manage to support the family?

The book is partly coming of age and partly a feminist tale, with romance and sport thrown in. The subservient position of women is given a thorough going over, with lower class women taking to wearing split skirts to ride to work (something no upper class woman could do) and skipping corsets for “Mod dress” which I assume is like the Rational Dress of our own past. The prejudice against women who ride is intense, just as the prejudice against the women of our world was when they started demanding equal rights.

Emmy is a good character but I wish more time had been spent on the other characters. Gabriel has some depth to him, and there are hints about Emmy’s husband’s past, but that’s about it. I would have liked to have seen more of the women’s rights activists, as well as knowing why the husband did some of the things he did. They are used simply as props in Emmy’s story. While Emmy is a good heroine for the young adult readers, it’s a little hollow. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- Amazon will give me a few cents. 

This in no way influenced my review.  

Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters, by Laura Thompson. St. Martin’s Press, 2016

“The Six” is a joint biography of the six Mitford sisters, who came of age during the years between world wars; some of them were part of the Bright Young Things set. It was a dysfunctional family, full of jealousy and just plain oddness. Born to the British aristocracy, their father managed to fritter away a fortune. Their upbringing and education was rather haphazard- some went to school, some didn’t. They were mostly quite bright. They were also beautiful in the northern way; blond, blue-eyed, and fair of skin. There the similarities end. One realized right away she’d have to support herself and wrote scathing comedies of manners, based largely on her family. One became a fascist; in order to outdo her, another became a close friend of Hitler (in fact, several family members were introduced to Hitler and considered him perfectly nice), yet another became a Communist, one stayed in the country and raised animals, and one married a Duke and ended up running the manor house as a business, quite well, too.

They had shifting alliances and enmities. Scandal dogged them, from both political and sexual/marital reasons. Diana left her wealthy husband for the head of the British Fascist party, eventually ending up in prison for three years after WW 2 started. When England declared war on Germany, Unity shot herself in the head. She lived, but was severely handicapped and her mother cared for her until she died of a brain infection from the bullet that could not be removed. Jessica (author of “The American Way of Death”), the Communist, for some reason could not see that Stalin was just as bad as Hitler. Nancy was friendly with Diana after she was released, but refused to introduce her to her friends. Some rifts weren’t healed until Nancy was dying.

I found the book confusing at times, trying to remember which sister was which (I’m terrible at remembering names). I think I was halfway through before I got it all straight. Naturally, most of the book concentrates on Nancy, Diana, and Unity, with Jessica making some appearances. I actually found the politics fascinating, how fascism was treated as just another viewpoint until the war started. It made me think of what’s going on now a bit, the casual way racism is accepted by so many. It’s a good book if you are interested in the 1920s-1930s, the upper class of that time, or the politics. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- from Amazon, they will give me a few cents. 

I received this book free from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. 

Neither of these things influenced my review.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Cat Scan: All the Best From the Literature of Cats, compiled and edited by Robert Byrne and Teressa Skelton. Fawcett Crest, 1983

A compilation of quotes, poetry, fiction, odd facts, and what not written about cats through the ages – from ancient Greece to today (well, to the early 80s). Some are funny, some are sweet, some are sad. Not all are from cat lovers; some are quite disparaging of cats. One of those ‘pick it up and read a page or two whilst waiting for someone’ books. Probably was quite inclusive when published; I’m sure the editors could not have imagined the boom in the interest in cats in the 30+ years since! 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- from Amazon, they will give me a few cents. 

This in no way altered my review.