Friday, April 5, 2013

Between Two Thorns - Emma Newman

The subject of a Big Idea post over on Whatever. Newman doesn't actually describe the book at all, but this paragraph caught my attention:
"At first it disguised itself as a short story about a shopkeeper and a woman returning one of his products; a faerie trapped in a bell jar. The woman thinks it’s a frivolous gadget sent by her husband abroad, with no idea that she’s in possession of a real faerie which could destroy her life. The shopkeeper, feeling merciful, sends her away with a fruit cake recipe after casting a memory loss charm on her."
I wanted to know more about a world where you could accidentally wind up with a faerie in a bell jar, and I definitely wanted to know why it could have destroyed her life. From the very first page I couldn't put this book down. The characters are awesome, the setting is really really cool - the world of Faery has been split from the Mundane world, and in between the two lies the Nether where only those mortals sponsored by the Fae may live, and time does not pass (or at least, doesn't affect those living in the Nether). The Victorian society of the Nether juxtaposed with modern society in the Mundane world was a lot of fun. The little glimpses we get of Exillium, the Faery realm, are very intriguing and more than a little scary. The story itself is great - embedded in the setting, and well wrapped-up within a single novel.

I can't wait to read more. I'm already reading the short stories set in the Split Worlds, and I'm anxiously awaiting the next book!

Roman Fever - Edith Wharton

Emily, over on Evening All Afternoon (who hasn't posted in ages...and whose posts I miss terribly) wrote about Roman Fever, and I was especially intrigued by her mention of Wharton's treatment of the cultural baggage surrounding marriage. I'm not generally disappointed by the books recommended over there, even though they're way outside my usual comfort zone, and this one did not disappoint.

The setting for these stories is early 20th century upper class American society - although they are not necessarily set in the United States, but often concern Americans living abroad. This was particularly fascinating to me as I've been reading quite a lot of Georgette Heyer's regency romances lately, and the society of Roman Fever is a lot closer to that of Regency England than to modern day. Women do have more freedom, and there is a lot more travel, but society imposes its restrictions far more than nowadays.

I really enjoyed all the stories, although the title story was definitely my favorite. I can't say much about it without ruining it though. I found all the stories fairly quick and easy to read. Many of them were downright hilarious - especially Xingu which is about a book club and how people deal with trying to avoid looking stupid. Several of them were fairly sad, but on the whole they left me feeling hopeful.

This is definitely going on my list of books to re-read.