Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Review: The Dud Avocado, by Elaine Dundy

Photo by andyket

Sally Jay Gorce tried and failed to run away several times in her teens, until her rich, understanding and partly-wise uncle promised her that if she finished college (that's university, in non-US English) he would allow her two years to do whatever she pleases, totally funded by him. The only condition is that she doesn't contact him during that time. Sally Jay heads for Paris, with the vague ambition to become an actress, and otherwise to go to parties and enjoy her freedom.

I love Sally Jay's voice. She's funny and knowing and clever and yet manages to delude herself about the intentions of men she likes. I love the backstory to her living in Paris, and she's decadent in a way that I find addictive in fictional characters - dying her hair pink and wearing evening dresses in the morning/early afternoon. She can't resist a party but she loathes the preconceptions other people have about her. She is done with education but wants to be an actress. She never thinks about what she will do when her subsidised freedom ends, and I liked that. I always worry about the future so it was nice to take a holiday inside the mind of someone without those concerns.

The Dud Avocado probably doesn't seem as feminist to us now as it would have done when it was originally published, but thinking about the stereotype of a Fifties woman and comparing that to Sally Jay makes what she gets up to seem quite shocking! There are a few more overt feminist touches - when Jim assumes that Sally Jay can cook just because she's a woman, I laughed. It's a ridiculous notion, but one that was probably quite prevalent in the fifties.

The story comes to rather a sudden halt, and if you prefer novels to have an obvious beginning, middle, and end (no criticism intended - I generally do), you might feel disappointed by the ending. However, as a fictionalised memoir, there never really is a strong, clear, plotline, so it's easier to forgive than it might be for a novel that was purely fiction, though I still felt that the narrator's life gets tidied up a bit too neatly.

I'm not sure how this book found its way onto my TBR. I think Sarra Manning might have mentioned it at some point. Maybe in the back of Nobody's Girl. I don't have a copy handy to check. In any case, I'm glad it did and I'll definitely be giving Elaine Dundy's other novels and autobiography a go!

The Dud Avocado was included in the Virago Modern Classics Designer Collection, and I'm quite tempted to get this fabric-covered hardback edition, if just because it would look so nice next to my copy of The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday Amusements 5

Read. Or else. Photo by Ben Newcomer

Note: This post doesn't have as many yesterday-recent links as I'd like. I've suffered with migraines for the past few days so pretty much just stuck the first link in today, the other links were ones-I-collected-earlier. Hopefully next week's post will be 'fresher'. 'Til then, there are still plenty of great links here, but many of them are a couple of weeks old.

Raimy is running a Malorie Blackman themed week to celebrate the new cover designs. I'm pretty sure it's also a slight rebundling of the series as well - I think 'An Eye for an Eye' was included in the last edition of Noughts & Crosses, and now it's included with Knife Edge. I like the new cover designs, they're very similar to the old ones but give the series a fresher, more up-to-date look.You can read my review of Noughts & Crosses here.

I've been thinking a lot about reading speed for quite a while now, as mine seems to have slowed considerably over the last few years. I have a theory that I'm reading slower because I'm reading more books by different authors than ever before. I used to stick with one author for a while and devour their entire ouvre before moving onto another, and I think this helped me to read more quickly. When I pick up a book by an author I've read before, I seem to read it faster than I would a book by an author that is new to me. It's like my brain is used to their style and the rhythm of their words, and I just slip back into it. Books by Sarra Manning and E. Lockhart fly by (pun intended...get it? No?), and I just finished the second in Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy, which seemed a faster read than the first. Read what Jen at Makeshift Bookmark has to say on the subject of reading speed, and contribute your own thoughts to the discussion.

'Is There Any Sense Left In The World (Of YA Fiction)' by Cicely is partly a personal post but I think it does make a good point about YA heroines. I do get a bit fed up if I read too many books in a row that feature protagonists who are well, a bit silly. When I was a teenager I was overdramatic and sarcastic and romantic in the way that's not quite healthy but I was also quite sensible and cautious. I just couldn't relate to fictional girls who would drop everything for the first boy to smile their way or fail to notice when somebody they trusted was actually clearly evil.

The Bookette asks: Do you remember learning to read? I taught myself to read before I started school and I can't actually remember a time when I couldn't read. I can remember being very competitive abiout it and wanting to move up the reading bands as fast as possible at school. I also used to read the dictionary to learn new words and write them down in my notebooks, with definitions. I still go through phases of doing this from time to time!

Y is for Young Adult is a cute poem about the joys of being a YA reader, by Jo at weartheoldcoat.

Red Riding Hood and Wolf, in Lego form!

This has been all over Twitter, but in case you haven't seen it: The Publishing Process in GIF Form

Atom are holding a launch for Libba Bray's new novel, The Diviners, this Thursday 20th September at Waterstones Oxford Street Plaza. I would be there in a heartbeat if I didn't have to work.

Jo at Once Upon A Bookcase is seeking recommendations for her LGBTQ YA theme month.

Now onto the most intriguing reviews I've read over the last couple of weeks! Jen at Makeshift Bookmark is surprised by the 'amazingness' of the self-published Angelfall, whilst I was surprised by how interesting Clover at Fluttering Butterflies found Ghost Flower, a book I'd left languishing on my TBR (and will now have to try soon). I'm also looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang, thanks to another of Clover's reviews.

Mel at Chicklish reviewed The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, which sounds excellent, as does Russian Winter, as featured by Kelly at The Broke and the Bookish. I love reading about dancers, I secretly wanted to be one for a while when I was a kid. From one kind of performance to another, Raimy's review of Five Flavors of Dumb, by Antony John, makes it sound like a really interesting twist on the teenagers-form-a-band novel.

Finally, a review of a book I've already read - The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett, reviewed by Jo at weartheoldcoat, included because her book heroine maths - "Hermione Granger + Mildred Hubble + Matilda Wormwood = Tiffany Aching" - made me laugh. Also, I loved that book, but have yet to get around to reviewing it myself.


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