First of all, I swear I will post about my UK schedule later today. I'm just procrastinating transferring the info and making FB events of them. Second of all, I'm sorry to be posting so many book recommendations in a row. It's unusual for me; normally, I'm such a picky reader that I'll like quite a few books, be ambivalent about quite a few more, and maybe find one that I love once a month or so. But I am having one of those lucky runs of book reading where I keep pulling very Maggie books off the shelves. In this case, the book I picked up to read was KETURAH AND LORD DEATH. This book had come highly recommended to me as a Maggie-book, but . . . well, it's just not the sort of summary that begs you to pull it off the shelf. It's the historical, aspect, I think -- I invariably end up enjoying a lot of historicals over the course of the year, but I always think, before I start them, that they'll be more work.
The plot of this slender novel is simple: Keturah follows a stag into the forest, grows lost, and eventually meets her death. Death, in this case, is a tall, dark, handsome AngstPuppy. Because Keturah has been wandering in the woods for three days, he's come for her because please, man cannot live by roots and twigs alone. Keturah begins to tell Death a story, however, and withholds the ending -- telling Death that she'll conclude it the next day, if he lets her live. Well, Death, despite being dreadfully emo and easily pissed cannot resist. So it goes for three days, in a tightly constructed fable.
So I pretty much love this book incoherently (I kept making noises out loud and annoying Lover), but I'll try to break it down.
1. Writing. It's very tight. Also, full of little presents to the careful reader like repeated instances of three, barely stated character development, and clever plot twists.
2. Strong girl characters! Without being anachronistic. Keturah is brave, loyal, and independent. She's also afraid, idealistic, and longing for true love, a house to put him in, and a baby. I have to say that after reading a ton of novels where feminist strength is portrayed as not wanting to get married, not wanting kids, not wanting true love -- it was refreshing. I think it's too easy to default to Katniss as a "strong female character." I love Katniss, don't get me wrong, but she is not strong -- she's broken and incapable of love. Her rejection of love is not strength. I love a strong character where the girl is operating perfectly fine without a man, but she's also willing to be open to love. And there's a lot of love of many different sorts in this book. Friendly, familial, romantic.
3. The end. My friend who recommended this book to me said that she almost afraid that the ending would ruin it, but that it came around. As I wasn't exactly sure what ending my friend would like, I didn't have any clue what that meant, even as I was reading it. But then I got there and I thought OH NO IT'S GOING TO END THIS WAY. And then, it didn't. It was perfect.
I'm not sure this book is for everyone; those raised on fairy tales like myself will love it. I'd recommend it for people who loved YEAR OF WONDERS and Jane Yolen and Lloyd Alexander and all of those movies with Disney princesses and princes named Eric.
ETA: um, the rest of the post.