Book Review: The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society

Darien Church Doors

Photo credit: Larry Myhre

I just finished this book, The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society, by Darien Gee. I really, really enjoyed it. It’s my new favorite book, at least until I read another good one. :)

I’m really bad at remembering where I read something, so you’ll just have to bear with me when I tell you I read something recently, but I can’t remember where. (If you know the source, leave it in the comments. Thanks.) It was all about how people should read quality books, books that make you think, and reading anything else was pure escapism, and therefore not to be read. I’ve been told that before, that I’m reading for escapism, and I really ought to be reading better books. Oddly, anyone who tells me that always has very precise ideas about what makes a good book, and what doesn’t. Really, I think the claim of escapism is just a way for people to say, “You ought to be reading the books I agree with and think are good, and no others.”

One of the most memorable people to tell me this was my 9th grade English teacher. Completely focused on the young adult fiction I was reading several of every day, and the science fiction books by Arthur C. Clarke I was reading a few every week or so, she told me I was reading purely for escapism and needed to read better books, real literature. The thing is, I was also reading The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (a page or two at a time, it took me almost the whole school year to get through), and her (the teacher’s) idea of literature was Margaret Atwood‘s The Handmaid’s Tale. I don’t know if you think Margaret Atwood writes literature or not, but Dostoyevsky is most definitely literature.

Anyway, this most recent thing I read about escapism made me think, because all the books the author cited as examples were written at least 100 years ago. And you know, some older books are literature, but just because it’s newer doesn’t mean it’s not literature. And this author was fixated on romance novels not being literature, and while that may be true for some romance novels, it isn’t true for all. And if romance makes it not literature, what are we doing teaching Shakespeare as literature? Half his oeuvre is romance.

The debate about literature versus non-literature is as old as writing fiction. Lately, though,  a lot of the things I have been reading about escapism and non-literature being read seem to be aimed at women and novels by, for, and about women. I’m coming to think that this is a subtle form of sexism — if it’s by and about women, it must not be a good book — it must not be worthy of someone’s time. I’ve written about this before, but it’s really starting to annoy me.

I never used to consider myself a feminist, for a lot of complicated reasons I’m not going to go into right now. But the older I get (I’m much too young to be using that phrase, but I can’t think of a better one) the more I think I probably am one. It seems to me that women are not treated the same as men in a lot of (at this time and in the US) really subtle ways that are really hard to put your finger on. And I have a hard time seeing how The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society, with its discussions of dementia, family and what makes a family, adoption, love, and more, is any less literature than an overwrought play about two teenagers who thought the world revolved around them.

You should read The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society. It’s good. And I promise not to care if you read it just to read a good book, or if you analyze it deeply.

Five out of five stars.


Mini Book Review: Highland Fling

I just wanted to say that I was wrong, I had not already read Highland Fling by Katie Fforde. It was another romance about a Scottish woolen mill that needed saving that I had read (which of course I cannot remember its title). I thoroughly enjoyed Highland Fling, however, and it was even plausible that the heroine would go off for a walk up a mountain in the snow on Christmas Day, thereby necessitating her rescue by the book’s hero. Which is (the plausibility) a good trick to pull off in a romance novel.

Back to remembering a title: I cannot for the life of me remember book titles, authors’ names, song titles, or artists’ names. I remember things about the books or songs, but never useful things that you can actually look up (what I remember about the book I cannot remember: the hero had black hair, the mill was at the bottom of a steep hill, and I think the hero’s name started with D. It’s possible that it was a Robin Pilcher novel, but I think there is a Robin Pilcher novel that fits the bill and there is yet another novel that is the one I am thinking of. This is why I make lists of books and authors — I can never remember enough to remember which book I want to read.) This is one of the reasons I started this blog — if I liked it enough to review it, I might want to remember it someday. Will I be able to search the blog and find it? I’ve never had to find out.

This Week’s Reading

This week is all easy reading, from romance novels to short stories by Rosamunde Pilcher to Maeve Binchy, doyenne of Irish fiction. I love the library book sale and the inexpensive books I get there. I love the library, too, but then I have to return the books.

Fired UpJayne Ann Krentz — finished
Snare of Serpents — Victoria Holt — finished
Flash — Jayne Ann Krentz — finished
Flowers in the Rain — Rosamunde Pilcher — finished
Dazzle — Judith Krantz — not going to finish
The Lilac Bus, Firefly Summer, Silver Wedding (Three Complete Books) — Maeve Binchy — I read these years ago, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to own them all in one volume. — Lilac Bus, finished

This Week’s Reading

Frederica — Georgette Heyer: finished
Death in the Stocks — Georgette Heyer: finished
The Doctor and the Diva — Adrienne McDonnell
The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay — Beverly Jensen: finished and reviewed
$20 per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of Gasoline will Change our Lives for the Better — Christopher Steiner

This Week’s Reading & Updated with Mini Reviews

The Doctor and the Diva — Adrienne McDonnell
The Convenient Marriage — Georgette Heyer — not finished: I’m not sure I will finish this one — I think there’s a reason it hasn’t been reprinted in a fresh binding — the dialogue is terribly stilted.
Behold, Here’s Poison — Georgette Heyer — finished: really enjoyed this one and the surprise twists at the end.
The Reluctant Widow — Georgette Heyer: finished
Keeping Time — Stacey McGlynn: finished and reviewed
Mini Shopaholic — Sophie Kinsella: not going to finish — the kid is abominably spoiled and the mother is an idiot.
The Pig Did It — Joseph Caldwell: finished and reviewed
The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay — Beverly Jensen

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