Tuesday, 6 October 2009

I've just finished reading...

I've FINALLY finished 'The Sweetheart Season', by Karen Joy Fowler. You might remember that I was surprisingly unimpressed by her other novel, "The Jane Austen Book Club". Well I'm glad to say that I did enjoy this one much more.

For some reason it seemed to take me forever to read. I'm not entirely sure why. It's not like it's an especially long book or anything.

The book is set in the small town of Magrit during the summer of 1947 - the end of the war. All the men of Magrit have left for the war, and very few have returned. So there are LOTS of girls in their late teens and early twenties.

The heartbeat of Magrit is The Margret Mill, a cereal mill owned and run by Henry Collins. Collins is an elderly gentleman, but very full of life. He is a big believer in science, and in his signature cereal, Sweetwheats. He faithfully eats a bowl of sweetwheats each and every day, and contributes is health and presence of mind completely to it. He has the brilliant idea of starting an all-girl baseball team. The girls in the team all work at the mill. They must eat a bowl of sweetwheats each day, and they tour around playing baseball against throw-together teams in various other small towns.

The story centres around nineteen year old Irini Doyle, and is told by her daughter. I'm still not entirely sure why her daughter is 'the voice'. She has absolutely nothing to do with the story (it finishes well before she is born), and it may as well have been told by Irini.

Irini is the only daughter of the town drunk (a widower). She is a fantastic baseball player, and a terrible cook. She has to test all of the recipes at the mill, because if she can cook them, they know anyone can.

The other characters are the other girls, Mr Collin's wife, Ada (a closet communist who is obsessed with Ghandi and the independence of India), Mr Collin's grandson, Walter (the baseball coach, and the only young man left in the town), and Thomas Holcrow (an out-of-towner who nobody really knows why he's there).

Another ominious character of the book is Maggie Collins. Maggie is actually ficticious. She writes articles for popular women's magazine, "Women at Home". She was invented by Henry Collins, and he believes she is real. Henry and the mill girls take turns writing her columns and various recipes and household hints. Though if anyone mentions as much they are fined a penny - Maggie must be referred to as if she were a real person. It sounds confusing but is probably the best thing in the book.

The story itself follows the girl's baseball tour, the ups and downs of their relationships and the going-on of the town of Magrit. It definitely has some parts that seem like a lot of nothing, but the characters do become quite endearing.

The ending really frustrated me. The daughter/narrater wraps it up in a very unsatisfying way. You feel annoyed at her for being there because it doesn't seem like it's her story to tell.

There are a few great quotes in the book, my favourite being, "She didn't have a lot of friends, but she was an avid reader and that's almost the same thing."

I did enjoy it more than the last Karen Joy Fowler book I read, but I'm still not exactly hooked on her. There was a little too much fluff and bubble in the book, and the resolution at the end was hard for me to wrap my around.

It's good for a light read, but don't expect too much from it.

Next, I'm reading 'Welcome to the World Baby Girl', by Fannie Flagg, who is one of my favourite authors - so I'm really hoping she doesn't let me down!!

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