One-Minute Book Reviews

November 7, 2008

Coming Next Week ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’

Filed under: News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:10 am
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1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die is sadistic – you “must” read 10 novels by Ian McEwan and none by Barbara Pym – but it’s right about Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (Persephone, 2008). Meg Jensen writes of this rediscovered gem from the 1930s, a tale of a 40-year-old governess who stumbles into a world of cocktails and evening gowns when an employment agency sends her to the wrong address: “Over the course of a day, in a series of deft interventions, brilliant repartee, and enough gin to sink a lesser woman, Guinevere is revealed not only to her newfound friends, but more importantly to herself, as a lifesaver, in more ways than one.” I’ll review the novel next week, and until then you can listen to an audio clip of Frances McDormand reading from the book at www.persephonebooks.co.uk.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 26, 2008

Does ‘Like Water for Chocolate’ Perpetuate Stereotypes of Mexicans?

Filed under: Essays and Reviews,Latin American,Novels — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 1:07 am
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This week I’ve been slogging through books that all seem to read like bad translations from an extinct language, like Coptic or Proto-Slavic. To reward myself, I’ve been rereading Nobody’s Perfect (Vintage, 752 pp., $16.95, paperback), a collection of Anthony Lane’s writing on books and movies for The New Yorker.

I began with Lane’s witty account of reading all the books on the New York Times fiction bestseller list for May 15, 1994 (a companion piece to a report on the list for the July 1, 1945). The essay includes this comment on Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate, a tale of a woman doomed to spinsterhood in early 20th-century Mexico:

“Mexican readers fell on this book avidly, it seems, although its subsequent global triumph should surely give them pause; the main effect, after all, has been to perpetuate the myth of their homeland as lust-ridden, superstitious, and amusingly spicy.”

Why is this point so rarely made by books and Web sites that recommend Like Water for Chocolate to reading groups? The novel may have other qualities that make it worthy of consideration by book clubs. But shouldn’t the stereotypes be mentioned, too?

One-Minute Book Reviews is for people who like to read but dislike hype and review inflation. The site will announce the shortlist for the Delete Key Awards for the year’s worst writing in books beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 29.

© 2008 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

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