We Are All Made Of Glue by Marina Lewycka
This book hardly stuck with me. It was very difficult for me to adhere to the story, and the characters did not have that agglutinative characteristic that makes you stick them between the pages of your mind’s reader almanac. (Ok, I’ll stop now).
Appropriately, the person who sold me the book at the market stall told me they picked it up from a skip. I don’t know if they were doing their own version of guerilla marketing, but it worked and I brought it home with me.
The book focuses on the unusual friendship between two women and ends up in a story about life, and how, whether we like it or not, it happens. If this seems like a plain plot it’s because it is, but somehow the author makes it work. Truth be told, I honestly am unable to tell what kept me going through this book. I realized I was not interested in the story of the characters from the first hundred pages, and I was bored, but not sufficiently for my attention to drift away. And I’m glad I stuck by it (last one, I promise!) because in the end, the story turned out to be a very delicate concentric circle weaved by one story being linked to the next. It is, once more, a story of immigrants and the lacklustre grant they each hoped to obtain. Georgie, the main character, is being sucked into a story that is foreign to her (which she admits), and I hate to say it but she did give off quite the Mary-Sue vibe with the endless parade of men – of which she hardly knew more than two bits of hearsay, but was ready to introduce to the kids – and the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype she was required to fill by the plot’s need to develop. Which means that in the age of feminism and fierce, knowledgeable ladies, this book has unfortunately aged badly (in only a decade). What kind of parent straight-up ignores her child almost becoming a radical fanatic in favor of the unfortunate, but clear-minded elderly neighbour?
Every other chapter or so, the book tries to make the symbolism of glue stick out (oops!) like a sore thumb in between the lines. While I get that apart from the drama, the main theme was required to tie the story together, unfortunately, it doesn’t hold very well, and the incoming characters and turns in the plot seem to be literally patched up together in a creative writing workshop that spanned a number of weeks, which resulted in a book containing the best writing bits of the collective. A number of deep topics are covered in throughout the story (less than satisfactory), as it jumps from major disabilities to civic responsibility, national pride, and religious identity in a matter of pages. An aspiration for complexity leaves the book lacking in most matters, providing an unfulfilled potential that did not manage to permeate through the author-reader contract, regardless of how much sticky symbolism it throws in the mix, hoping to clarify the need for a unified front in the face of humanity’s evolution.
In Pieces by Sally Field (audiobook)
I have picked up this book hoping for a nice coming of age story, going in certain of a happy end – she is one of the actresses I enjoy seeing in films, with a long-lasting career – and ready to be surprised. And oh how I was. This one has it all (trigger warning) – first loves, stories of the Deep South, 60s Hollywood, abuse, abortion, Ferraris and drug use. Not something I was hoping to find in the biography of a woman I initially saw as a kind, goodie-two-shoes, honest and hardworking human, leading her best life. The innocence with which Sally Field narrates this story is crushing. Especially because it starts with kind stories of her family’s history, childhood memories of sunny days, and ends up in the dark with a man that had no business being there.
The theatrical formation of the author comes out in the way the text is structured and her interpretation of it – but the fandom culture Hollywood has cultivated can’t help but nudge you to ask how much is real and how much has been formulated for dramatic effect? In a sense, it is the story of so many pioneer women that had had to deal with situations of mansplaining and standing up for themselves without really being given the tools or vocabulary for it. The most painful thing in the entire book is the internalized misogyny that still existed, even in the early 80s and 90s, where women thought the best of people and shied from confrontation in the face of uncertainty.
It is a very visceral reaction, upon listening to the dramatic unfolding of her childhood, to Google search images of her at the time, and see this smiling, hoping youth in her eyes, knowing what you know now, after learning her most intimate musings. And if the visual shock isn’t enough, I have to mention my inherent reaction to the abortion scene – it was the first time in my life when I thought ‘oh, I hope I won’t be able to understand English for the next couple of lines’.
I think it comes as a great example, in the world of superhero blockbusters and wonder women (Captain Marvel came out this week), of the very real and raw fight our grandmothers had to go through, in order to create a life for themselves. I wonder if there’ll be a time when movies will be made about the inner dramas of women, blockbusters that would break the box office, instead of reiterations of the male fantasy superhero ready to blow the world up and save it at the same time. And I wonder if Sally Field will be the one playing the protagonist in that movie – because she would method-act the heck out of it.
This week, on the 4th of March, #TwentyYearsofChocolat was trending – as the anniversary edition of Chocolat by Joanne Harris was relaunched by Doubleday Books. And I decided to do a flash review as part of my WyrdAThon reads.
I have come upon this book before. I even went as far as intending to read it (who would resist a book titled so tempting?). But for some reason, it disappeared into my TBR pile and never came back to light. Until now.
The book starts with a very interesting atmosphere – while you can tell it is happening in present-day France due to the odd appearance made by several pieces of apparatus, had it not been for those – you’d mistake it for a piece of XIXth century realistic fiction, à la Balzac. In tone with this, the book is filled with descriptive still-frames, aided in part by the fact that the heroine likes to ‘read’ people and their settings, and symbolic mystic imagery abounds. As an example, the mother (Vianne Rocher) that fights the remembrance of her dark past also features dark hair, while her daughter Anouk, the promise of the future, has bright blonde hair. Now, you can imagine the damage that can do in a book about chocolate. I have picked up at least ten recipes I will be cooking soon – especially since my since my first encounter with chocolate cooking was in a ‘recette de poche’ book, purchased on a whim in Paris!
While initially the priest – main stoic antagonist of her deliciously decadent shop – sees her working-man, devil-may-care (sic!) attitude with bad eyes, he eventually succumbs to her product, being defeated by temptation (I will, however, let you discover exactly how that happens). It is a fight between what is good, tradition and renewal, morality and its relation to ethics. While many critics have mentioned that the priest’s train of thought breaks the book’s flow, it is a requirement that gives dimension to the very real fight that goes on behind closed doors, in Vianne’s soul. I was on the fence between calling it chick-lit and an effort for more – is an apt vocabulary and a style renaissance all that is required for a book to become canon in women’s literature? Well, it definitely is a part of the modern canon, a fact betrayed by the anniversary reissue and, what probably settled this entire matter, the fact that the story is better known as a ‘Johnny Depp movie’ than a book. While it might seem to be an ancestor of ‘the Chocolate shop’ kind of books, it’s up-lit manner enriched with third-wave feminism make it a required read for generation Z and its witchcraft culture.
Photo by Brigitte Tohm
Have you seen my video based on this title? In case ASMR and literary theory are both part of your interests, you might be interested in subscribing to my newly-created youtube channel, Book Bingeing Blog ASMR.