{sad face}

Once again, I am a blog fail. But this time I have a legit excuse. (Kinda. Besides the usual distracted-by-life one.)

It’s taken me a while to get over this one.

I first heard about Slammerkin at DPI this summer, when Michael Pietsch from Little, Brown discussed Emma Donoghue’s Room in his baller keynote speech. I read Room a couple months ago, but Slammerkin had caught my attention too (a novel about an 18th-century prostitute?? Please.), so I picked it up at the ‘brar last week.

In a whirlwind few days involving one poor choice, unfeeling parents, and other horribleness, young Mary Saunders finds herself homeless and pregnant on the streets of London. Forced into prostitution, she discovers it to be—freeing. Her ravenous ambition—to be self-sufficient, to be independent, to be wealthy and admired by all—is impossible with any other female profession. Only as a prostitute can she be truly in command of her own destiny.

This was a rough one, folks. I said as much to my coworker, who (fairly) replied, “What on Earth did you expect?”

“OH, I DON’T KNOW,” I responded. “SOMETHING JAUNTY AND DELIGHTFUL. HOW ABOUT MOLL FLANDERS? I PLAYED A POSTMODERN MOLL FLANDERS IN A COLLEGE ENGLISH CLASS MOVIE PROJECT AND GOT TO WINK SAUCILY AT THE CAMERA AND SPANK MY BOXERS-CLAD CLASSMATE, IT WAS QUITE FUN.”

Slammerkin is good. It is powerful. It is interesting (the historical detail is impeccable!). It made me think—about being a woman, about history, about society, about sex. It was a good read, and I’d recommend it to anyone else who shares my rather disturbing interests. But no, it was not fun. Donoghue pulls no punches with this one—Mary Saunders and her story are raw.

In conclusion, if you have a stomach for disturbing topics and a healthy (?) interest in the underbelly of history, check this one out. If not, consider a pass.

{mist in the distance}

About a year ago, I read Kate Morton’s The Forgotten Garden. I believe it was part of an online book club through the Spokane Public Library that I’d optimistically signed up for, under the naïve impression that I both had time to read and would be able to find books I liked at Spokane’s many but sadly stocked library branches. TFG was a rare winner—and walks the fine line between literary fiction and the historical romances that I’ve already admitted to having a weakness for. So I decided to give Kate Morton another go with The Distant Hours.

Edie, a young British woman in the publishing industry (!!), suddenly finds her suppressed love of the Gothic thrust into the light as she journeys to Milderhurst Castle in pursuit of a family secret. In the castle live the three ancient Blythe sisters: twins Percy and Saffy and the younger Juniper, who hasn’t been quite right since her fiancé disappeared sixty years ago. They’re the three daughters of writer Raymond Blythe, who achieved literary fame with The History of the Mud Man, an eerily fascinating and mysterious children’s book that changed Edie’s life. According to the book jacket, “the truth of what happened in ‘the distant hours’ of the past [at Milderhurst Castle] has been waiting a long time for someone to find it”—and Edie is that someone.

TDH is definitely Kate Morton. She’s got a certain tragic bent to her storytelling: she loves lost suitors, orphans, and family histories obscured by generations of lies and secrets. All in all, though, I found TDH less compelling than TFG. Both are mysteries, histories, and romances—but in TFG, all these components (especially the mystery) were right at the forefront, keeping the pages turning. In TDH, the juicy bits are strung out along lengthy interludes with minor characters I didn’t care too much about, descriptions of scenery, and similar red herrings.

So all in all—a good read, but not a great one. I’d recommend it to anyone who was intrigued by my summary above—but I’d recommend The Forgotten Garden more.