The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams
Published August 7, 2012
Mode read: ARC
Summary: Bored with her life in Victorian London, Catherine Sorgeiul begins following a set of recent brutal murders in the newspaper. Her troubled past gives her insight into the killer’s motives so she begins writing an account of the crimes. When the killer begins leaving notes on her manuscript, Catherine must make a choice about how close to the murders she wants to get.
Bechdel Test?: Catherine talks to a lot of her female friends about the murders but the conversations seem wooden. This could just be from Catherine’s distaste for Victorian society but it quickly frustrated me.
Williams tries to create a connection between Catherine and the shadowy Jack the Ripper-type figure but ultimately fails. I was frustrated at how long it took for Catherine’s past to be revealed and when it finally was it was underwhelming. I was looking forward to a strong female character who took charge of a situation — either by having a serial killer past or detective skills, I’m not picky! — but what I got was a teenager with an overactive imagination who dramatized her past.
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The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
Published July 24, 2012
Mode read: ARC
Summary: The book follows the story of one middle-aged man’s journey across England by foot. When Harold Fry finds out that an old co-worker is dying, he immediately leaves his home and begins the journey to say goodbye. Though many people think Harold is crazy — including his wife — he continues his journey, largely without outside help. When the media begins following Harold the purpose of his walk gets distorted and he has to fight to remember why he started his journey in the first place.
Bechdel Test?: With a male main character, this doesn’t really come up. So much of the book is focused on Harold’s inner journey that there isn’t much time to see women conversing.
There are so many things to love about this book: the English countryside, a lovable (if a little silly) man, a broken family, an epic journey and a sweet premise. I was definitely pulled along for the ride (or walk as it were) with Harold Fry and I found myself wanting even more. If I am not mistaken, this is Joyce’s first novel and a rather amazing one at that! The only thing that would’ve made it more enjoyable for me is a little more action during certain chapters; at times I felt as though the contemplative silence Fry was feeling wasn’t quite enough to keep the story going.
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