November 14th, 2011


Book 111: Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

Book 111: Sexing the Cherry.
Author: Jeanette Winterson, 1989.
Genre: Historical Fiction. Post-Modern. Magical Realism. Re-told fairy tale. Feminist. Surrealism.
Other Details: Paperback 144 pages.

“The Hopi, an Indian tribe, have a language as sophisticated as ours, but no tenses for past, present and future. The division doesn not exist. What does this say about time?” - opening of Sexing the Cherry.

Set in a fantastical world that both is and isn't seventeenth century England, this short complex novel recounts the story of Jordan and Dog Woman, a giantess who raises dogs by the Thames.

As a baby Jordan had been set adrift in a basket on the river but was rescued and raised by Dog Woman. Set against the events of the time, including the execution of Charles I and the Restoration, the novel explores the powerful bond between this unlikely mother and her adoptive child as well as Jordan's later voyages with John Tradescant as they seek out botanical curiosities. Along the way Jordan is caught up in a personal quest to locate an elusive dancer, one of the Twelve Dancing Princesses of fable.

When this was selected for our library reading group I had expected reading its back cover blurb a conventional work of historical fiction. I soon found myself surprised and enchanted when it turned out to be such a rich, fantastical tale. I loved the integration of the story of the twelve dancing princesses as well as the historical perspective of the period, which was sketched so well despite the slenderness of the novel. Moving between the narratives of Jordan and Dog Woman, Winterson's writing is exquisite and inventive.

I could see the influence of 16th century French author Francois Rabelais in the characters, especially of Dog Woman, who seems a direct descendant in literary terms of his Gargantua. Also, its broad satire, ribald humour and the integration of philosophical ideas evokes early novelists. It is a bold, memorable work that is also challenging in its reflections on love, sexuality and the nature of time, space and reality. Its complexity meant that it did take longer than I expected and actually I ended up reading it twice to really get a proper grasp of its themes; the first time for the reading group and then a month later when I bought my own copy. I can certainly imagine re-visiting it in the future.

I will mention that although I loved it, it wasn't well received by some members of our reading group who were put off by its surrealism, preferring a more traditional narrative.

Sexing the Cherry on Jeanette Winterson's site - includes some background and excerpt.
  • krinek

41, Reliquary by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child [2010 list]

Title: Reliquary
Authors: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Year: 1998
# of pages: 457
Date read: 7/21/2010
Rating: 3*/5 = good


"Hidden deep beneath Manhattan lies a warren of tunnels, sewers, and galleries, mostly forgotten by those who walk the streets above. There lies the ultimate secret of the Museum Beast. When two grotesquely deformed skeletons are found deep in the mud off the Manhattan shoreline, museum curator Margo Green is called in to aid the investigation. Margo must once again team up with police lieutenant D'Agosta and FBI agent Pendergast, as well as the brilliant Dr. Frock, to try and solve the puzzle. The trail soon leads deep underground, where they will face the awakening of a slumbering nightmare." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I liked this sequel to Relic with its mix of horror and mystery. I especially liked how different events all intersected in interesting ways.
  • krinek

42. The Black Company by Glen Cook [2010 list]

Title: The Black Company
Author: Glen Cook
Publisher: TOR
Year: 1984
# of pages: 319
Date read: 7/21/2010
Rating: 3*/5 = good


"Some feel the Lady, newly risen from centuries in thrall, stands between humankind and evil. Some feel she is evil itself. The hardbitten men of the Black Company take their pay and do what they must, burying their doubts with their dead.

Until the prophecy: The White Rose has been reborn, somewhere, to embody good once more.

There must be a way for the Black Company to find her. . ." -- from the back cover

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this first book of the Black Company series. I especially liked how the members learned about the White Rose and the powers of the Circle of Eighteen. I look forward to reading the next book in the series, Shadows Linger.