REVIEW: CONSENT, BY VANESSA SPRINGORA

Already an international literary sensation, an intimate and powerful memoir of a young French teenage girl’s relationship with a famous, much older male writer—a universal #MeToo story of power, manipulation, trauma, recovery, and resiliency that exposes the hypocrisy of a culture that has allowed the sexual abuse of minors to occur unchecked.

Sometimes, all it takes is a single voice to shatter the silence of complicity.

Thirty years ago, Vanessa Springora was the teenage muse of one of the country’s most celebrated writers, a footnote in the narrative of a very influential man in the French literary world.

At the end of 2019, as women around the world began to speak out, Vanessa, now in her forties and the director of one of France’s leading publishing houses, decided to reclaim her own story, offering her perspective of those events sharply known.

Consent is the story of one precocious young girl’s stolen adolescence. Devastating in its honesty, Vanessa’s painstakingly memoir lays bare the cultural attitudes and circumstances that made it possible for a thirteen-year-old girl to become involved with a fifty-year-old man who happened to be a notable writer. As she recalls the events of her childhood and her seduction by one of her country’s most notable writers, Vanessa reflects on the ways in which this disturbing relationship changed and affected her as she grew older.

Drawing parallels between children’s fairy tales and French history and her personal life, Vanessa offers an intimate and absorbing look at the meaning of love and consent and the toll of trauma and the power of healing in women’s lives. Ultimately, she offers a forceful indictment of a chauvinistic literary world that has for too long accepted and helped perpetuate gender inequality and the exploitation and sexual abuse of children.

Translated from the French by Natasha Lehrer

A father, conspicuous only by his absence, who left an unfathomable void, a pronounced taste for reading, a certain sexual precocity, and, most of all, an enormous need to be seen…here we find all the necessary elements now in place.

Thus opens the novel Consent, written by the “victim” of the piece, along with a translator.

Through the pages and in the voice of “V,” we learn the very personal story of a young girl who has found herself trapped and unable to escape. Until much later. And even as the years unfold, the shadow of her perpetrator hovers overhead, indelibly leaving his mark.

I found myself trapped as well, unable to feel anything but disgust for the “famous writer” who has taken over the life of this young woman. Silence means consent, according to the norms of the day.

We might believe that V was complicit in these events, but not when we study the whole of her situation. I could feel nothing but sadness for her, but jubilation in her final escape. A brilliant read. 5 stars.#2021ReadNonFic

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NEGLECTED BOOK…

It is time for another search of our TBR shelves/piles for those sadly neglected books from the past.  Carole’s Random Life in Books is hosting this event.

Today’s forgotten book is another print book from November 2019:  White Palace, by Glenn Savan.

I bought this book because I have the movie, and have really enjoyed it.  In the movie, we get to watch Susan Sarandon and James Spader connect and bond despite their various differences.  I fully intended to read the book sooner, but like most of my print books, I tend to ignore them in favor of e-books.  Something I need to change!

Description:  An urban tale of love against the odds, in which Max, an upwardly mobile copywriter and Nora, a 40 year-old waitress from the wrong side of town, become embroiled in a torrid affair.

Here is the movie description and cover:

White Palace is a 1990 American erotic romantic drama film directed by Luis Mandoki. It stars Susan Sarandon, James Spader, Jason Alexander, Kathy Bates, Steven Hill, Jeremy Piven, and Renee Taylor.

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What book have you neglected?  Do you ever pick a book because you have seen the movie?

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ANOTHER BACKLOG BOOK…

It is time for another search of our TBR shelves/piles for those sadly neglected books from the past.  Carole’s Random Life in Books is hosting this event.

Today’s neglected book has not been overlooked for that long, as I purchased it in January 2020:  Guilt by Association, by Marcia Clark.

I have enjoyed other books by Marcia Clark, so I grabbed this one, eager to read it.  Somehow I got distracted by other books.  Also, this one is a paperback volume, which means I read the e-books first.  Sigh.

But…I have now moved it to my nightstand.

Description: Los Angeles D.A. Rachel Knight is a tenacious, wise-cracking, and fiercely intelligent prosecutor in the city’s most elite division. When her colleague, Jake, is found dead at a grisly crime scene, Rachel is shaken to the core. She must take over his toughest case: the assault of a young woman from a prominent family.

But she can’t stop herself from digging deeper into Jake’s death, a decision that exposes a world of power and violence and will have her risking her reputation — and her life — to find the truth.

With her tremendous expertise in the nuances of L.A. courts and crime, and with a vibrant ensemble cast of characters, Marcia Clark combines intimate detail, riotous humor, and visceral action in a debut thriller that marks the launch of a major new figure on the crime-writing scene.

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What books have you neglected?

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REVIEW: THE PUSH, BY CLAIRE MCGOWAN

 

 

The party should have been perfect: six couples from the same baby group, six newborns, a luxurious house. But not everything has gone to plan, and while some are here to celebrate, others have sorrows to drown. When someone falls from the balcony of the house, the secrets and conflicts within the group begin to spill out …

DS Alison Hegarty, herself struggling with infertility, is called in to investigate. She’s convinced the fall was not an accident, and finds the new parents have a lot to hide. Wealthy Ed and Monica show off their newborn while their teenage daughter is kept under virtual house arrest. Hazel and Cathy conceived their longed-for baby via an anonymous sperm donor—or so Hazel thinks. Anita and Jeremy planned to adopt from America, but there’s no sign of the child. Kelly, whose violent boyfriend disrupted previous group sessions, came to the party even though she lost her baby. And then there’s Jax, who’s been experiencing strange incidents for months—almost like someone’s out to get her. Is it just a difficult pregnancy? Or could it be payback for something she did in the past?

It’s a nightmare of a case, and as events get even darker it begins to look impossible. Only one thing is clear: they all have something to hide. And for one of them, it’s murder.

 
 
 

The Push zooms in on the lives of the parents in the baby group, before and after the event at the barbecue. Each time we are swept back and forth in time, we learn more hidden details. Secrets are slowly revealed. Someone is sending threatening messages to Jax, her cat disappears, and suddenly her car is inexplicably tampered with. Are all these events connected? Her boyfriend Aaron is searching for his birth mother, and strangely, an unknown person seems to be stalking them both.

What happened on that balcony, and how do the mysterious connections between several of the group members play a role in the increased tensions that came to a breaking point?

Jax was the most interesting character, and seemingly had the most to hide. But Monica, basking in her “perfection,” appeared to be the most likely one to have dark buried untruths lurking beneath that vacuous exterior. And how does her teenage daughter Chloe fit into the drama?

Additional mysterious elements include the identity of the victim for a good part of the story. Once that was unveiled, the clues fell into place for me. I knew that several characters played a role, so as events unfolded, the answers felt as simple as snapping together a puzzle. 5 stars.

 
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ANOTHER BACKLOG BOOK…

It is time for another search of our TBR shelves/piles for those sadly neglected books from the past.  Carole’s Random Life in Books is hosting this event.

Today’s feature is a relatively “new” book that I purchased in January 2020:  The Guest Book, by Sarah Blake.

Why did I buy this book?  I had heard good things about it.  Why is it still on my shelf?  I have been buying print books this year so that I can fill what once was an empty bookshelf.  And I’ve done a pretty good job of achieving that goal.  But…I read e-books more than print books, primarily because they are easier on my eyes and easier to hold while reading.  Yeah, silly, right?

Anyway…I am making an effort to change my reading style.  Here is the blurb for the book:

The thought-provoking new novel by New York Times bestselling author Sarah Blake

An exquisitely written, poignant family saga that illuminates the great divide, the gulf that separates the rich and poor, black and white, Protestant and Jew. Spanning three generations, The Guest Book deftly examines the life and legacy of one unforgettable family as they navigate the evolving social and political landscape from Crockett’s Island, their family retreat off the coast of Maine. Blake masterfully lays bare the memories and mistakes each generation makes while coming to terms with what it means to inherit the past.

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What do you think? I now know exactly why I need to start reading this one. I am as captivated by the summary as I was when I first bought the book.

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What have you rediscovered this week?

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REVIEW: THE TURN OF THE KEY, BY RUTH WARE

 

 

 

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the home’s cameras, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder—but somebody is.

 
 
 
 

A spooky, surreal setting that had me anxious from the very beginning, The Turn of the Key had me questioning everything that happened. From the parents to the children to the “Smart House,” this story kept me guessing until the end.

I knew that Rowan Caine had told some little lies to get the job, but she certainly didn’t deserve all the events that unfolded in that eerie house in Scotland. Or did she?

First of all, how could she be the perfect nanny in a house in the middle of nowhere, with cameras pointed at her from every room? Cameras that seemingly triggered weird sounds and strange creaks in the night?

The children were weird and sneaky, and the parents, calling from unknown places, seemed overly strange, if not nefarious.

But when some of the details of “Rowan’s” life became clear to the reader, everything intensified.

Not knowing what would happen next kept me turning the pages until the shocking end. 4.5 stars.

 
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A GREAT REDISCOVERY!

It is time for another search of our TBR shelves/piles for those sadly neglected books from the past.  Carole’s Random Life in Books is hosting this event.

I have been slowly clearing off some of these backlog books.  Today’s feature is a nonfiction book I hope to read soon, and it will count in my Nonfiction Reading Challenge.  Girls Like Us, by Sheila Weller, was purchased in December 2019.

Description:  A groundbreaking and irresistible biography of three of America’s most important musical artists—Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon—charts their lives as women at a magical moment in time.

Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Carly Simon remain among the most enduring and important women in popular music. Each woman is distinct. Carole King is the product of outer-borough, middle-class New York City; Joni Mitchell is a granddaughter of Canadian farmers; and Carly Simon is a child of the Manhattan intellectual upper crust. They collectively represent, in their lives and their songs, a great swath of American girls who came of age in the late 1960s. Their stories trace the arc of the now mythic sixties generation—female version—but in a bracingly specific and deeply recalled way, far from cliché. The history of the women of that generation has never been written—until now, through their resonant lives and emblematic songs.

Filled with the voices of many dozens of these women’s intimates, who are speaking in these pages for the first time, this alternating biography reads like a novel—except it’s all true, and the heroines are famous and beloved. Sheila Weller captures the character of each woman and gives a balanced portrayal enriched by a wealth of new information.

Girls Like Us is an epic treatment of midcentury women who dared to break tradition and become what none had been before them—confessors in song, rock superstars, and adventurers of heart and soul.

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What are you rediscovering today?

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MONTHLY WRAP-UP

Another month has passed, and since it is the first month of 2021, it is a memorable one.  I read ten books this month, and it was hard to pick a favorite, as the books were all great.

Here are my two favorites:

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Genres Read:

     Mysteries/Thrillers:  5

     Contemporary Fiction:  4

     Historical Fiction:  1

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Here are my books read.  Click the titles to read my reviews:

 

JANUARY 2021:

1.Cousins, The (e-book), by Karen M. McManus – (321 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 1/23/21

2.Four Winds, The (e-book), by Kristin Hannah – (464 pages) – (historical fiction) – 1/27/21 – (NG-2/2/21)

3..Love Story of Missy Carmichael, The, by Beth Morrey – (335 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 1/15/21

4.Piece of My Heart, by Mary Higgins Clark/Alafair Burke – (319 pages) (Suspense Thriller) – 1/4/21 – FIRST BOOK OF 2021

5.Push, The (e-book), by Ashley Audrain – (303 pages) – (domestic thriller) – 1/19/21

6.Rachel to the Rescue (e-book), by Elinor Lipman – (202 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 1/25/21

7.Shelter in Place (e-book), by David Leavitt – (365 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 1/9/21

8.Single Mother (e-book), by Samantha Hayes – (341 pages) – (psychological thriller) – 1/29/21

9.Wife Upstairs, The (e-book), by Rachel Hawkins – (290 pages) – (suspense thriller) – 1/17/21

10.Wrong Family, The (e-books), by Tarryn Fisher – (240 pages) – (thriller) – 1/11/21

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BOOKS READ IN JANUARY 2021:  10

PAGES READ IN JANUARY 2021:  3,180

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How was your first month of the year?

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A BACKLOG BOOK TO BRING FORWARD!

It is time for another search of our TBR shelves/piles for those sadly neglected books from the past.  Carole’s Random Life in Books is hosting this event.

Today’s “forgotten” book comes from a November 2017 purchase:  Try Not to Breathe, by Holly Seddon.

Why did I buy it?  The title, the blurb, and the opening remarks of the description!

Description:  For fans of Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, and Paula Hawkins comes Holly Seddon’s arresting fiction debut—an engrossing thriller full of page-turning twists and turns, richly imagined characters, and gripping psychological suspense.
 
Some secrets never die. They’re just locked away.
 
Alex Dale is lost. Destructive habits have cost her a marriage and a journalism career. All she has left is her routine: a morning run until her body aches, then a few hours of forgettable work before the past grabs hold and drags her down. Every day is treading water, every night is drowning. Until Alex discovers Amy Stevenson. Amy Stevenson, who was just another girl from a nearby town until the day she was found unconscious after a merciless assault. Amy Stevenson, who has been in a coma for fifteen years, forgotten by the world. Amy Stevenson, who, unbeknownst to her doctors, remains locked inside her body, conscious but paralyzed, reliving the past.
 
Soon Alex’s routine includes visiting hours at the hospital, then interviews with the original suspects in the attack. But what starts as a reporter’s story becomes a personal obsession. How do you solve a crime when the only witness lived but cannot tell the tale? Unable to tear herself away from her attempt to uncover the unspeakable truth, Alex realizes she’s not just chasing a story—she’s seeking salvation.
 
Shifting from present to past and back again, Try Not to Breathe unfolds layer by layer until its heart-stopping conclusion. The result is an utterly immersive, unforgettable debut.

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I really must bring this one forward!  What have you discovered today?

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REVIEW: THE FOUR WINDS, BY KRISTIN HANNAH

 

From the number-one bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone comes a powerful American epic about love and heroism and hope, set during the Great Depression, a time when the country was in crisis and at war with itself, when millions were out of work and even the land seemed to have turned against them.

“My land tells its story if you listen. The story of our family.”

Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.

By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.

In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.

 
 
 
 
 
A beautiful family story about love, loss, and bravery, The Four Winds tugged at my heartstrings as it led us through numerous challenges while introducing us to memorable characters. Elsa fought hard to teach her children about standing up for what they need and for what is right.

The author paints a vivid picture of the family battling the Great Depression while living in the Texas Dust Bowl, and then takes us along to another battle for survival in the California migrant experience. A triumphant yet emotional end kept me turning pages, while rooting for them all. 4.5 stars.

 
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