Girl From The Tree House (Women of Our Time Book #1 ) – Book Review

For Elizabeth , self is not I , it’s we . From a very early age , Elizabeth has suffered from Dissociative Identity Disorder . She doesn’t like her own name and prefers to be referred to as Elise – the default alter ego . Then there is Lillie – the hard-headed & quick-thinking 18 year old who refers to herself as the resident crisis-manager of the ” tree- house” . The tree- house is the imaginary ” house ” where Elise’s alters convene and discuss about the tough situations and decide what needs to be done and who is the best person to take over the body at that particular instant .

Everything Under – Book review

downloadI have finished Everything Under by Daisy Johnson which I recently managed to check out at a second hand book-store at an insanely low price because the lady at the store did not see the Shortlisted The Man Booker Prize 2018 logo emblazoned in the cover . You ‘ ll never know when you will hit the jackpot with book-shopping in second hand book shops . So , onto the book review without any further detours –

Plot summary :

Gretel is a lexicographer who has always been fascinated with words .  During her early childhood , she and her mother , Sarah , lived on a canal boat and words like sheesh time , harpiedoodle , effing were once part of her vocabulary . She didn’t realize her mother had given her a set of words which she had made up herself and nobody else ( except for themselves ) was using them . Sarah had abandoned her when she was sixteen after which she was in and out of different foster homes until she was old enough to leave .

Now , sixteen years later , she is reunited with Sarah and there are several questions , about the past , which are egging her to revisit her foggy memories of the days in the canal boat .  There is : Marcus who came to stay with them the last winter on the boat ,  their private language , the Bonak , the canal – thief . In the end , Gretel has no choice but to revisit those memories .

My thoughts on the book :

This modern day retelling of the Oedipus myth is set in the fen-land landscape .  Sarah is the fen-land Jocasta and ‘ Marcus ‘ ( who turns out to be Margot in disguise ) is the fen-land Oedipus . Now , why do I stress on the landscape ? Simply because , the river landscape peopled with canal-boats ‘ inhabitants and the people in the houses near the river with their lifestyle quite different from regular people , lends the narrative a flavor of its own .

The narrative switches between Gretel’s hunt for her mother , the present and Marcus ‘ story ( in which Gretel tries to imaginatively piece together how Marcus might have turned up on their boat after running away from home ) with only the chapters titled as The Hunt , The Cottage and the River for help with the timeline . The author has trusted the reader to figure out the narrative style & voices without jumping in to help by way of timestamps and stuff like that – I appreciate it very much . ( There have been few books where the author stepped in with narrator’s names / timeline and the plot became too predictable halfway through the book . )

The fact that Johnson has come up with her own words for the mother-daughter duo’s private language is simply mind-blowing . The writing  leans slightly towards hysterical realism , in that , her vignettes convey enough to capture the moment with the important  little details without being too elaborative . The mild hysterical realism  ( what an oxymoron !! ) serves to keep the narrative crisp .  Here is a sample –

The rental car was red and the hospital seemed to be mostly a long corridor . I walked past entrances to the gynecology , respiratory health , private . It smelled of soup warmed up in the staff microwave , burned toast , bleach . [..] “

There are a few passages which I relished , few which I reflected on – in all , the language of this book is at times beautiful / interesting and very engaging  .

” The places we are born come back to us . They disguise themselves as words , memory loss , nightmares . [..] “

” [..] the past did not die just because we wanted it to . The past signed to us : clicks and cracks in the night , misspelled words , the jargon of adverts , the bodies that attracted us or did not , the sounds that reminded us of this and that . The past was not a thread trailing behind us but an anchor . [..]”

” [..] if all our choices are remnants of all the choices we made before . As if decisions were shards from the bombs of our previous actions . “

Rating : 5 / 5

I would definitely urge you to pick up this book if you have not picked it up yet – the rating should say it all .

Click on the link here Everything Under

Is book-blogging-minus-book-reviews ruining book-blogging ?

imagesThe other day I read a book blogger’s musings about the very discouraging reader engagement for book reviews in contrast to non-review content which seems to have become almost a must-have to bring readers to your book blog in the first place . Otherwise , the book blogger might as well write in his / her  personal diary – forget about reader engagement with the content , the post does not get any clicks .

As several other book bloggers have pointed out repeatedly , today book blogs minus book reviews have become a trend . If they do have reviews , they are the some 5 or 6 lines about a book – the mini-reviews . Almost every review reads like the one before : ” It was unputdownable…” , ” I stopped in my tracks when I finally came to the big reveal – you would’ve have never seen it coming… ” . There are too many adjectives and adverbs in these mini-reviews  : ( almost ) nothing original but still there just to enforce upon the readers the intensity of the reviewer’s reactions , I think .

Mini reviews are somewhat okay but there is one book-blogging fad which I have not taken to ( & will never ) : the book-tags . I have never gotten the idea behind book tags . Somebody please enlighten me about putting out a list of books / writing about bookish elements which fit a particular tagline . You may identify your fandom tribe and can have gush about your favorite series all over again . That’s how far book-tags go for me . I haven’t picked up a single book yet after reading book tags .

In today’s blogosphere , with too many wannabe-writers / hobbyists competing with each other for the readers’ engagement with their content , it’s only natural that many book bloggers are turning to the easy-content-with-high-reader-engagement to bring in the numbers . I myself have put 2 compilation posts in this blog and vouch for it being a blog-saver : The blog was languishing and I was not reading much to review it here . At-least these recommendations posts let people know that I haven’t shut shop . Now , after 3 months of my first ever reading – slump , I am back .

But , I regretted each time I put out some filler content like that .

I don’t see mini-reviews / book tags / listicles ( basically , several of the recent fads in book-blogging culture ) as being of much value ( forget about the literary value ) to the readers . Sure , people may pick up books from your list but I believe that nothing can take the place of a proper book review – a review which dissects the various aspects of the book : the themes , the characterization , the plot , the storytelling . The in – depth reviews offer the reader / would-be reader an idea about what to look for in the book and encourage them to read better . The mini – reviews / book recommendation posts most often read like those blurbs written by the book’s promotion team – the blogger’s ultimate goal is to pique the reader’s interest . Still better , if they make them pick up that book . But , is it the purpose of blogging about books ? Aren’t the book bloggers supposed to be facilitating better reading of books by having discussions around the books they have read / full-fledged reviews about their reads ?

I believe that nothing can take the place of a proper book review – a review which dissects the various aspects of the book : the themes , the characterization , the plot , the storytelling . The in – depth reviews offer the reader / would-be reader an idea about what to look for in the book and encourage them to read better .

But , is making the readers pick up the book after reading your mini-reviews , the sole purpose of blogging about books ? Aren’t the book bloggers supposed to be facilitating better reading of books by having discussions around the books they have read / full-fledged reviews about their reads ?

As important influencers among the reading tribe , I think that every book blogger should ensure that their blogs carry more literary content than fad / filler content . As an analogy , while we are concerned about the quality of reporting these days with more of click-bait headlines ( basically all celeb stuff and all other fluff ) rather than THE IMPORTANT STUFF that make it to our online news-feed , let us also get concerned about the content our book blogs carry . Because , in this digital age of short attention-span / need for eye-ball grabbing stuff like GIF s to actually entice the readers into clicking the link to your post / availability of encyclopedic proportions of information on every random topic , giving the readers all this fad stuff would only further contribute to the growth this culture of mindless consumption of anything they read .

I think it is the time for the book-bloggers to remedy this mindless consumption by putting out content that would open the readers’ eyes to the various aspects of the book being reviewed and help them to identify these aspects in their own current reads . And , it won’t hurt the reader to read some proper reviews without all the distracting fluff like GIF s , memes . When readers get to read more quality content like good discussion posts / book reviews online , they would demand quality content every time , in turn making us book-bloggers  read better . Currently , our production of all these fluffy content has shaped their book-blogs’ experience , in turn forcing us to keep churning out more of this useless content and it definitely wouldn’t do for us to hold the reader accountable for the content we post on our blogs .

I think it’s high time that book bloggers had a good look at their content and ” fads ” they are encouraging .

As an analogy , while we are concerned about the quality of reporting these days  , with more of click-bait headlines ( basically all celeb stuff and all other fluff ) rather than THE IMPORTANT STUFF that make it to our online news-feed , let us also get concerned about the content our book blogs carry .

In this digital age of short attention-span / need for eye-ball grabbing stuff like GIF s to actually entice the readers into clicking the link to your post / availability of encyclopedic proportions of information on every random topic , giving the readers all this fad stuff would only further contribute to the growth this culture of mindless consumption .

Let me know your thoughts about this post in the comments section below . I would like to hear about what do you feel about the trend of book-blogging- minus-book-reviews? Are you taking to it well or are you like me ? Also share your thoughts on the book blogging elements I have termed as fads or fluff-content…

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