Two of the three books I read over my holidays were worth recommending: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler was refreshingly not at all what I expected, and since finishing it I’ve found myself thinking of it regularly and reflecting on the particular ethical problem it raises (note to Barbara Kingsolver: This is how sneaky teaching is done!). Plus, I love the title of this book. It scores an extra point just for that. It’s a very cleverly-written story about a college student named Rosemary who’s still making sense of her family’s dramatic history, and I highly recommend it. I like that I didn’t know what to expect before reading; I’ll say no more so that you can be just as surprised as I was by the twist (unless you guess it, which I didn’t).
Rosemary’s father is a psychologist in Fowler’s book, which is a handy (though not especially relevant) segue into the other book I wanted to talk about: Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead (there’s a dad who’s a psychologist in this one, too, but it’s not a particularly huge part of the storyline. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned it). This book’s about Joan and her life both before and after leaving a ballet corps. (Ballet makes me think of young adult fiction, which is possibly insulting to professional dancers, but this is not young adult fiction.) It’s well written – a notch or two above what I expect from popular fiction – and was just a good read. The story is not dramatic but is still compelling, and I walked away with an overall sense of being completely satisfied with the book.
(The third novel I read, The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis, was less funny than I expected; the main character was a jerk, and I was left with the distinct impression that the author probably is too [I’ve just googled his name with ‘misogynist’ and found that the term was linked with him well before I thought to do it]. The book won an award, though, so maybe I totally missed the point.)