Books read in August
Well, would you look at that, August is gone as well. Someone has definitely activated a magical science-y time-speed affecting device of some sort in my life. I’m mentally still stuck in July. Anyway, at least I still had time to read three books.
Jingo – Terry Pratchett
Yes, all right, I cheated on my promise of no new books until I haven’t read all of the unread ones on my shelves. I got two books from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, my favourite ongoing series, that I hadn’t read yet.
Jingo is, essentially, like many of the Discworld novels, about prejudice. The contents of this book is described best by looking at the meaning of its title. While “by jingo” is simply an old-fashioned exclamation similar to “by Jove” or, probably, the modern “oh my god”, “jingoism” means “a strong belief that your own country is best, especially when this is expressed in support of war with another country”.
Personally, I’m very uncomfortable with patriotism. It stops people from thinking properly for themselves and it leads to dumb prejudice, something which leads to many of the nasty “-isms” like racism, sexism, classism…
Jingo’s treatment of this subject is not the last you will hear of it in the Discworld series. In my opinion, this ongoing topic will only reach its climax within the series 12 books later.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Monstrous Regiment – Terry Pratchett
This Discworld novel is a bit harder to describe or summarise. It’s not really part of any of the sub-series within the larger series which makes it harder to settle into a theme. However, this book is the feminist novel I didn’t know I wanted. The tale of a girl who cuts off her hair and dresses up in her brother/father/husband’s clothes in order to go to war or other traditional male enterprises is familiar enough. It has been adapted in movies like Mulan and She’s the Man (albeit without the war). But this book takes that plot and magnifies it by 10. Add to that a man who can pronounce quotation marks, all kinds of people who redefine gender roles and a war described from the point of view of the losing side and you have a Monstrous Regiment.
Like most of the later Discworld novels it is less funny but no less crazy and complicated.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Coraline – Neil Gaiman
After I read this book I wrote on my Tumblr “this book is not the stuff nightmares are made of. My childhood nightmares were made of the stuff of this book”. Even with more than a week to process that first impression, it is still probably the best description I can give.
This is a very short book, only a hundred pages or so (my copy is an ebook, so it’s hard to tell). It is also a children’s book, but if that description is meant to demean it, then that description is wrong. Coraline managed to take me, in the space of only a couple of hours, on a journey to revisit every one of my childhood nightmares. All those dreams where your parents just vanish and never turn up. All those dreams where you think people are nice to you, but then they change personality within the space of a blink. All those dreams where you cannot run fast enough, think hard enough or escape a world that just keeps turning you back on yourself.
Coraline is a very brave little girl, the kind of role-model every young lady (and gentleman) needs.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½