Thursday, October 27, 2016

RIP Sherri Tepper, Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Movie, Gilmore Girls Fan Day, Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman, Fortunes Pawn by Rachel Bach and Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly

I started reading Sherri Tepper's excellent science fiction in my 20s, and I remember being very impressed with the feminism in The Gate to Women's Country, A Plague of Angels and Grass. Her social science fiction was brilliantly written and engaging, and it was only when I read some of her later works, which had long political screeds in them, that I stopped buying her books. Still, she was one of a kind and she will be missed. RIP Ms Tepper.

Sheri S. Tepper
prolific author of SF, best known for her feminist and ecological
themes, with major titles including The Gate to Women's Country (1988)
and Grass (1989)," died October 22, Locus reported. She was 87. "Many of
her novels were shortlisted for major awards, including the Clarke, the
Tiptree, the Hugo, and the Campbell Memorial Award," Locus wrote. She
received a World Fantasy life achievement award in 2015.

In a tribute, author John Scalzi wrote
"Aside from her considerable talents as an author, Tepper stands as a
reminder that it's never too late to write. Tepper didn't publish her
first novel until 1983, when she was in her 54th year of life; she wrote
something like 40 total, the most recent published in 2014. It's never
too late to write; it's never too late to write a classic novel; it's
never too late to be a great writer, whether or not the genre has
entirely caught up with you yet. Farewell, Ms. Tepper. Your voice will
be missed. I'll keep reading what you have left us."

Oh how I loved reading the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society with my book group. It was a fantastic story and elegantly written. I can hardly wait for the movie version! I sincerely hope that they don't mess it up.
Lily James (Downton Abbey, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies) will star in The

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
based on the bestselling book by Annie Barros & Mary Ann Shaffer,
Deadline reported. Directed by Mike Newell from a script written by Don
Roos & Tom Bezucha, the film's producers are Mazur/Kaplan Company's
Paula Mazur and Books & Books owner
Mitchell Kaplan; alongside Blueprint Pictures' Graham Broadbent and Pete
Czernin. Filming is set to begin in the U.K. next spring.

"The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has been a project of
tremendous passion for us, and we are thrilled to be bringing it to
screen with filmmaker Mike Newell attached and Lily James, our
consummate Juliet," said Mazur.

I am so envious of these people, who got to visit the town that stands in for Stars Hollow, home to the fabulous Gilmore Girls, one of the best shows ever to grace the small screen. I am anxiously awaiting the 4 new episodes that will be out on Netflix next month!

Image of the Day: Gilmore Girls Fans

Last weekend, the town of Washington Depot, Conn.--aka Stars Hollow, the
setting for The Gilmore Girls--celebrated the Gilmore Girls Fan Fest More than 1,500 fans converged on the picturesque town (population 3,500), and many of them visited the
Hickory Stick Bookshop, which hosted a number of Gilmore-related events. 

I wasn't expecting Terrible Virtue by Ellen Feldman to be a page-turner, nor was I expecting the subject matter, the fictionalized (but based on facts) account of the life of Margaret Sanger, the woman who coined the term Birth Control, founded Planned Parenthood (and who fought for women's reproductive rights at the turn of the century), to be so compelling. But it was, and it is, so I ended up reading the book in one sitting, totally mesmerized by Feldman's bright prose and beautifully realized characters. Here's the blurb:
In the spirit of The Paris Wife and Loving Frank, the provocative and compelling story of one of the most fascinating and influential figures of the twentieth century: Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood—an indomitable woman who, more than any other, and at great personal cost, shaped the sexual landscape we inhabit today.
The daughter of a hard-drinking, smooth-tongued free thinker and a mother worn down by thirteen children, Margaret Sanger vowed her life would be different. Trained as a nurse, she fought for social justice beside labor organizers, anarchists, socialists, and other progressives, eventually channeling her energy to one singular cause: legalizing contraception. It was a battle that would pit her against puritanical, patriarchal lawmakers, send her to prison again and again, force her to flee to England, and ultimately change the lives of women across the country and around the world.
This complex enigmatic revolutionary was at once vain and charismatic, generous and ruthless, sexually impulsive and coolly calculating—a competitive, self-centered woman who championed all women, a conflicted mother who suffered the worst tragedy a parent can experience. From opening the first illegal birth control clinic in America in 1916 through the founding of Planned Parenthood to the arrival of the Pill in the 1960s, Margaret Sanger sacrificed two husbands, three children, and scores of lovers in her fight for sexual equality and freedom.
With cameos by such legendary figures as Emma Goldman, John Reed, Big Bill Haywood, H. G. Wells, and the love of Margaret’s life, Havelock Ellis, this richly imagined portrait of a larger-than-life woman is at once sympathetic to her suffering and unsparing of her faults. Deeply insightful, Terrible Virtue is Margaret Sanger’s story as she herself might have told it.
  As a woman who grew up with a mother who volunteered for Planned Parenthood from the 1960s through the 1990s (when she was forced to retire from nursing due to arthritis and worn out knees) I was perhaps more aware than most of the important legacy Sanger left behind in founding PP and fighting for women's reproductive rights, (at first, mainly the right to use birth control to limit their family size). What I was not aware of was Sanger's story in terms of her family, her lovers (I was blown away that she was involved with HG Wells, one of the founders of science fiction) and her struggles with tuberculosis and guilt over the death of her daughter.  Feldman's portrait of Sanger is unsparing and honest, yet readers never feel that Sanger is too much of a sinner or a saint. I can't say enough good things about this book, and I believe it's earned an A, and a recommendation to all women to read and know that the privileges they have today were hard fought and won by courageous women like Margaret Sanger.

Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach was a surprisingly action-oriented science fiction novel with a kick-butt female protagonist who gets in too deep on a seemingly simple supply mission. Here's the blurb:  
Devi Morris isn't your average mercenary. She has plans. Big ones. And a ton of ambition. It's a combination that's going to get her killed one day - but not just yet.
That is, until she just gets a job on a tiny trade ship with a nasty reputation for surprises. The Glorious Fool isn't misnamed: it likes to get into trouble, so much so that one year of security work under its captain is equal to five years everywhere else. With odds like that, Devi knows she's found the perfect way to get the jump on the next part of her Plan. But the Fool doesn't give up its secrets without a fight, and one year on this ship might be more than even Devi can handle.If Sigouney Weaver in Alien met Starbuck in Battlestar Galactica, you'd get Deviana Morris -- a hot new mercenary earning her stripes to join an elite fighting force. Until one alien bite throws her whole future into jeopardy.
Devi is a fascinating character, a woman who is proud of her fighting armor (which sounds like something out of a Transformers cartoon) and her life as a mercenary, and who isn't afraid to get into a dust-up with a fellow mercenary named Cotter, who is a sexist jerk, to remind him that she's the alpha dog here, thank you very much. She stands up to the nasty Captain Caldswell, even when he sees her as expendable in his secret mission, and she wins the heart of the cook, Rupert, who has a biological parasite within him that becomes a shell of unstoppable fighting fury when he's roused to action. I was enjoying the roller-coaster ride of this novel right up to the end, when (SPOILER) Rupert has the creepy little girl remove all of Devi's memories of him and of the past several weeks, in order to save her life when the Captain wanted her dead because she uncovered his secrets. I was so disappointed that they had to incapacitate Devi and rob her of part of her mind and have a guy "save" her, when for the rest of the book she's been saving herself and everyone else by dint of her own training and power suit. I don't understand why Bach would undermine her protagonist like that. Still, the prose is sharp and the plot intricate, and I'd give the novel an A-, and recommend it to all those women who love science fiction and dream of space travel themselves.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is an alarmingly thick tome about a remarkable subject, the Ravensbruk "Rabbits," women and girls who were experimented on in the women's concentration camp during WWII.  As with most historical fiction, this book is slow to get going, and the first 120 pages are rough going. Fortunately, once the characters get into the horrors of daily life at Ravensbruk, the pace quickens and the story unfolds in a swift and satisfying fashion.Here's the blurb:
New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France.
An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences.
For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power.
The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten.
I believe readers were supposed to have a modicum of sympathy for the horrible Herta Oberheuser, who, like Dr Josef Mengele, treated the prisoners of Ravensbruk like animals whose only value was in medical research done to them without their permission. She killed or allowed to be killed hundreds of women and girls, and she tortured the rabbits in the most horrific way, and never let it affect her daily life. I found myself hoping and praying that someone would shoot her or hang her after the camp was liberated in 1945, but instead she was set free after a short time in prison and allowed to set up a family medical practice...unbelievable! I didn't feel as much sympathy as I should have for Kasia, however, who was clinging to her anger at the death of her mother so hard that she didn't seem to realize that she was pushing away her husband and daughter. Though the plot dragged in spots, the prose was clean and lyrical, and unsparing when it needed to be. This is one of those novels that will stay with me for a lifetime, as it showed me an aspect of WWII that I was unaware of, and made me realize that the repercussions of the war continue to this day. I am not sure why the novel is called Lilac Girls, as lilacs aren't mentioned until the end of the book. The Rabbits of Ravensbruk would be a more accurate title. Still, I'd give this book an A, and recommend it to anyone who has an interest in the female perspective of the war and of concentration camps. 

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