12 August, 2009

More reviews

Yes, I know it's not news, but this is where I keep track of them, so you'll just have to bear with me, sorry.

Helen, my mate from Clarion South 2007, takes issue with anyone who thinks the novel is graphic, and talks sensibly about the likely readership. She concludes that TM 'is not a comfortable read but it is an eminently satisfying one. I recommend this novel highly.'

Gayleen, who heard me speak in Vermont, counters teen-readership quibbles—'Teens (and all of us, for that matter) should have a means of addressing difficult subjects. Is there a safer place than between the covers of a book?'—and graphic-sex-scene critics, and 'gets' the first-to-third-person shifts. She also thinks I have a 'gregarious nature' and a 'bubbly personality', which will surprise some of my nearest and dearest. :)

Julia Hale of the Youth Libraries Group took TM to the west coast of Scotland to read. This 'was almost a little too close for comfort as a backdrop for devouring Tender Morsels. [Wait till she gets to the selkie novella!] I can't remember a book getting under my skin and into my head so much for a long time.' Yes, it's full of smut, she admits, but
this is an exquisitely written novel with great sensitivity, powerful characters and many moments of beauty as well as horror. I hope it will reach a wide audience (including older teenagers) because despite being a parallel world fantasy it is completely honest in its motives and sympathy for young victims of abuse and the guilt, shame and damage they suffer. It is also as earthy as its mediaeval setting ... Read it for yourselves and then decide which section to put it in the library, but Tender Morsels deserves a place to find its audience, it's a great book.
Thea at The Book Smugglers is uncomfortable recommending the book wholeheartedly, although she can't fault the writing. She complains about stereotyping, implying that there's something racial about the whiteness of Branza and the darkness/wildness of Urdda—also saying that Urdda 'suffers because of her wildness', which is cobbler's. Urdda ends up with the best deal of all, and thoroughly enjoys acquiring it. It's Branza who is hassled by Teasel Wurlidge and the town boys, and ends up totally dependent on a man for her sense of safety. She also thinks I was too cruel to Liga, that I was 'emotionally exploitative':
But in the ending of the book, I cannot help but feel that a cruelty of the greatest, most unforgivable kind is enforced on Liga as a character, for purposes of literary shock value. ...by the end of the novel, I felt betrayed and emotionally exploited. I’m all for bittersweet stories or those with unhappy endings, but this ending was unnecessary and reenforced my discomfort with character stereotypes. Liga, for all that she has been through and endured for her daughters is still tainted, broken Liga. Her untouched daughters – especially the dutiful and pure as snow Branza – are the ones who receive the happy ending.
Thea found the book hard to like. I'm not sure that that's a problem, necessarily. Comments are blossoming over there even as I speak. Pop over and watch.

Updated: Thea explains:
It’s not really “suffering” per se, but more the feeling that she was being chastised by the author for her challenging and inquisitive nature. (i.e. Urdda by being wild and demanding rightfully has to deal with the crap that she uncovers by her questions, whereas perfect lilywhite Branza will never have to deal with any of this because she is dutiful and quiet like a good daughter should be).
Hmm. I think this 'chastisement' is in the eye of the beholder. As to Branza, yes, yes, that is her reward/fate—but is that a happy ending? It means she's living in a world almost as false as her mother's heaven.

Update 2: 'alana' is the first to comment on Liga's sexual response to the incest. But then she goes on and moralises about the gang-sodomy—which, while it is a Very Dark joke, is still a joke. There's a difference between story-justice and real-world justice. And if I hadn't appropriately avenged Liga, then wouldn't the happy-ending addicts have been upset?

Note: I'm not distressed about any of this—how could I be, with my bubbly personality? :) —just intrigued by how different people read things. And I'll stop niggling back at people right now.


Blogger Penni Russon said...

I'm sure all this collection of links will make a PhD student very happy one day. And meanwhile I am fascinated.

I've been directing my 'Radical Fiction' students here, to read about notions of audience and expectation in terms of 'radical' content (though one person's radical is another's beauty - but then maybe it's because you write so beautifully that they are so frightened of you!).


12 August, 2009 20:02  

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