Dogears: The Roots of Desire

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The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red HairRoots of Desire, Marion Roach, Bloomsbury, 2006

Marion Roach
Bloomsbury
July 11, 2006

Considering the love that red headed literary figures get on our site (see here, here, and here), I was pretty stoked when I found this book. However, it certainly did not live up to its promises. While the book starts strong, the second and final third end up being more about the author’s mid-life crisis. While I certainly don’t mind a memoir or autobiographical book, nothing in the book’s title or description indicated that this was a memoir by someone who happened to be redheaded. Instead the book’s title and description indicate that this book will be about the myths and histories of redhair. This information is certainly sprinkled throughout the book, but it quickly becomes overshadowed by the author’s overwrought prose and personal identifications. I have since found Red: A History of the Redhead by Jacky Coliss Harvey, which looks to be more of an actual historical and scientific account of redhair. I just wish I hadn’t wasted my time and money on this book.

–Ginnis

The Accident SeasonThe Accident Season, Moïra Fowley-Doyle, Kathy Dawson Books, 2015

Moira Fowley-Doyle
Penguin
August 18 2015

Every year, towards the end of October, Cara’s family has their “accident season.” During that time they take extra precautions–they wear multiple layers, bubble wrap sharp corners, hide the kitchen knives. They do this because over the years they’ve noticed that during this period they become more accident prone than usual. There are more cuts and scrapes, but also more scars and broken bones, and even a few deaths in the family. But after seventeen years Cara is getting fed up with the accident season and she is no longer content to sit by as the people she cares about continue to get hurt.

The Accident Season is a beautifully atmospheric novel. Fowley-Doyle writes in a enchanting yet haunting style, which has an almost hypnotizing effect. The novel can be best described as magical realism with a touch of paranormal, so this borderline poetic style suits the story perfectly as it is also enchanting yet haunting. The question of what causes the accident season hangs overhead throughout and is compliment by other, equally puzzling questions, like why Cara’s is childhood friend Elsie in every one of her pictures? And why has no one seemed to notice that she isn’t around anymore?

Despite the troubling things that continue to happen to their family, the characters of this novel are far from dark and brooding. Instead they are a motley crew of eccentrics, with bright personalities. For example, the mother is an artist with bright colours in her hair and her best friend Bee is a tarot card reader. There’s even an endearing romance with Cara’s step brother Sam, which never steals focus from the narrative but helps take the edge off of some of the more disturbing “accidents.”

Despite the beautiful writing and the strong characters, The Accident Season is reminiscent of novels like We Were Liars, and the true appeal of books like this is their mysteries and secrets. I was ultimately disappointed by the rather anti-climatic ending of The Accident Season. When the cause is finally explained the reason feels rushed and unsatisfying. When so much of the novel is enjoyable until that point, it makes one wonder if it would have been better to leave things unexplained instead and let the mystery live on.

–Christa

OutlanderOutlander, Diana Gabaldon, Delacorte, 2001

Diana Gabaldon
Delacorte Books
June 1 1991

I really wanted to enjoy this book more. There was a lot of hype around it last year with the premier of the show, but when it came down to it, it just wasn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad book. Gabaldon is a good writer. I enjoyed the comparison of the two timelines, and contemplating what aspects of humanity would or wouldn’t have changed in two hundred years.

But there were several things I had trouble moving past. First off, there’s Claire. Initially, I enjoyed her spunk, but after a while it got old. It seems obvious to me that her outbursts are supposed to cover up feelings of weakness, and that would be fine if there wasn’t such a push for readers to identify with her. It doesn’t help that first-person narration is a pet peeve of mine, especially in such an extensive work from only a single perspective. But what really bothered me about Claire was that she never had to deal with the consequences of her actions. By the end of the novel, she has chosen to stay with Jamie when given the opportunity to return to her own time, has killed several soldiers, and risked everything to save her husband. But instead of working through the moral quandaries these events have created, she is absolved of all responsibility by a friendly monk. After recounting her story, he explains to her how really, everything she did was necessary, soothing her ego and clearing her of any remaining guilt or doubt. After this her agnosticism is “fixed” and she is rewarded with a baby, despite being barren. By the end of the book, Claire’s biggest problems, lack of faith and lack of child, have been “solved.”

My other problem was the antagonist, Captain Jack Randall. He is a cruel, merciless tyrant, as one would expect from a villain. But apparently a murdering rapist isn’t disgusting enough, so Gabaldon took it one step further, exploiting his most horrendous quality: his queerness. This taboo would have been horrifying to people at the time, but today it just isn’t. Not every member of the queer community is a saint, but I am so sick of queerness being presented as “that one thing” that pops a villain from “despicable” level right on up to “evil” status. In addition to that, the entirety of the novel falls into this scheme of black and white, clean cut morality: Randall is all that is evil, and Jamie is all that is pure.

All in all, most of the book was enjoyable, even if it didn’t blow me away.

—KM Bezner

Ally Hughes Has Sex SometimesAlly Hughes Has Sex Sometimes, Jules Moulin, 2015, Dutton

Jules Moulin
Dutton
August 25 2015

To say Ally Hughes has a lot on her plate would be an understatement. She’s a professor at Brown and she has a terrible boss who seems determined to keep her from getting tenure. Things at home aren’t much better; she’s a single mother, her own mother drives her crazy, and she is constantly trying to make ends meet. With so much going on something’s got to give and for Ally that something in romance. She simply doesn’t have time.

That is until Jake comes along. He’s one of her students and he’s never been much more than a handsome face in the back of her class until the day he comes up to her and announces he’s quitting school. Suddenly, she finds herself swept up in a weekend-long fling that takes her breath away. But when Sunday night comes, she sends Jake on his way. Nothing has changed and she simply doesn’t have room in her life for him right now. So imagine her surprise when ten years later, he turns up on her doorstep again, but this time as her grown daughter’s date.

I wanted this story to be more than it was. I wanted Ally Hughes’s weekend fling with a former student to be a sexually empowering encounter for her. Something she did because it was what she wanted when the rest of her life was about what everyone else wanted–her daughter, her students, her boss. And at first that’s what it was. But when Jake makes a sudden reappearance in her life, it felt as though the book took a giant step backwards, from sexually empowering to overdone fairy tale. It felt like Ally’s priorities shifted so fast that by the end she was a completely different character.

There are still some genuinely funny moments in this book, as well as a really interesting subplot with the daughter, Lizzie, and her drive for fame at all costs. Lizzie was a really interesting, layered character. She seemed really shallow at first but she actually had some rather unique and unexpected interests, as well as a fierce sense of loyalty when it came to the people she cared about. If only her mother could have been equally as interesting.

–Christa

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1 Comment

  1. Gabaldon seems to have received critique like that and taken notice of it, as apparently the later books feature a sympathetic gay character who also got some spin-off stories as protagonist.