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Tag: :Bookclub II:

Review: Jesse Blackadder’s “Chasing the Light: A Novel of Antarctica”

jesse blackadder chasing the lightJesse Blackadder’s fictionalised account of the first women to set foot on the Antarctic mainland, fruit of her own journeys there. It’s a competent novel, easy enough to get absorbed by it, the oceangoing scenes are vivid, as is the (anti)whaling panorama. I’m not convinced by it as a “historical” novel, though; I have no sense of either the 1930s or Norwegians in a work entirely peopled by 1930s’ Norwegians, and there was no real distinction of voice between the three female leads. (Who, most disappointingly, got into a catfight partly over a man. Sigh. I’d definitely expect better of a dyke writer than that.) I also couldn’t give a damn about the “who stood where when” shenanigans, which meant the plot’s key tension entirely missed me. Overall, solid and moderately enjoyable but not superlative.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
An exhausted Saturday evening read
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book:
Reminds me of/that:
Who I’d recommend it to:

Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön

Review: Kate Summerscale’s “The Queen of Whale Cay: The Eccentric Story of ‘Joe’ Carstairs, Fastest Woman on Water”

kate summerscale the queen of whale cayRequired reading for a bookclub I may or may not be able to make friends with, this biography is quite the ripping yarn. Marion Carstairs, best known as “Joe”, inherited some cool oil millions and did whatever she damn well pleased in life – claimed to have left home at 11, drove an ambulance in WWI, slept with every pretty lady who crossed her path into her 70s (including Tallulah Bankhead and Marlene Dietrich), raced speed boats to international acclaim, ran her own benevolent imperial dictatorship in the Bahamas, enacted piracy in the islands when her family annoyed her, and did it all accompanied by her faithful homunculus (man-doll) Lord Tod Wadley. Quite the life; amazing what you can do when you’re so rich you’re ranked as “eccentric” rather than “freak”. A pretty good bio, although I was disappointed by the author’s titillation at Carstairs’ life and loves as a classic invert. Recommended.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Evening armchair reads
Where it went: Home
Best line of the book: A reminder of the power of perspective: “As the heady 1920s gave way to the sober 1930s, Carstairs’s verve, independence and experimentation were being interpreted as insalubrious and freakish.” (p.114)
Reminds me of/that: —
Who I’d recommend it to:
Readers dulled by ordinary [sic] lives
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; Returning the Gift edited by Joseph Bruchac; The Pea-Pickers by Eve Langley; When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön