Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two Reviews: My Dear I Wanted to Tell You (Louisa Young) and •Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex (Erica Jong)

I confess...I totally could have posted one of these a few weeks ago, but decided to wait since my family members see this blog and I didn't want to have a post devoted to a book about women and sex.  And having two books to review means I can justify some bullet point usage...

  • My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Lousia Young
I was a bit uncertain when I chose to review this book for the folks at Harper.  I am a bit mixed on war novels since I tend not to like battlefield settings but I do appreciate the complex impact war has on individuals on the front and at home.  My Dear I Wanted to Tell You explores how World War One impacts two different couples (one married, one just blossoming) and a commitedly single woman.  It begins with the budding young love of one couple that is interrupted by class differences and the man's abrupt decision to enlist.  The novel's focus shifts throughout to different characters and explores how the war impacts a young man, a more established man, a young woman struggling to find her place amid social rules, a married woman whose beauty has always been seen as her main asset, and a woman who has grown to accept her marriage-free state.  Some scenes are on the battlefield, others in hospitals, and other on the homefront. 

This book took a bit to grow on me.  I didn't invest in the characters immediately and was turned off by the narratives focused on the front.  I am glad I kept going though, because I did grow to appreciate the characters.  Young fleshes them out and explores the way the war (and society in general) impacts a varied group of individuals.  Many of the characters have flaws but I came to appreciate them for their own knowledge of their imperfection.  It did take time to get there, but I did become involved with their journeys (both individual and collective).  It isn't a book I expect to revist and I'm again ending up on my 3.5 star review (of 5)...a solid and positive score from me and one that would have been rounded down in the early going but that I found myself coming around on in time and would conclude with a rounded up 4 stars.
  • Sugar in My Bowl: Real Women Write About Real Sex by Erica Jong
This is a book that I'd have picked up, turned over, and browsed through at the bookstore but I'm not sure if I'd have purchased it on my own.  I got the opportunity to read it through the folks at Harper and I'm quite glad I did.  Erica Jong presents a collection of short pieces by a number of women writers.  Some are personal memoirs, others fiction, and they focus on a range of topics relating to woman and sex.  The pieces range from budding childhood interest to sexual attraction in a seniors sommunity and focus on everything from frustrating fumbles to unexpectedly satisfying encounters and even the sex that never happened.  I appreciated that Jong included biographical information on each author and found myself turning to the bios section to read about each author before reading her piece.

As is usually the case with collections, there were pieces where I wanted more and pieces I could have done with out...which is kind of appropriate given the topic.  I appreciated the frankness with which the authors wrote and the willingness to own their sexuality and desires that still makes note of how difficult taking ownership and talking honestly about sex can be, especially as women.  I highly recommend the collection and happily give the anthology a full five stars.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and the essay format makes it easy to read in pieces (I normally dislike short story collections so that's unique for me to enjoy).

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