Wednesday, 7 June 2017

What I've been reading

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by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

narrated by B. J. Harrison
"An all-female society is discovered somewhere in the distant reaches of the earth by three male explorers, who are forced to re-examine their assumptions about women's roles in society."
An interesting situation made more interesting by the values of the time - early 20th century - when women were assumed to be less than men by nature rather than societal norms, wives were chattels, and rape within marriage was not only legal but thought quite reasonable, at least by the men. The author paints an attractive picture of a society run by women who are intrigued by the three men who intrude upon their world. One of the three is completely won over by their society, one is expelled ultimately because he is unwilling to change his view that women wish to be 'mastered', and the third (the narrator) falls somewhere between the two. The book ends quite suddenly with the narrator and his new wife, a native Herlander, leaving for his home. There is a sequel 'With Her in Ourland', but reading the synopsis and reviews it sounds a bit too much like a feminist lecture.

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Alex's Adventures in Numberland
by Alex Bellos
"Mathematical ideas underpin just about everything in our lives: from the surprising geometry of the 50p piece to how probability can help you win in any casino."
I used to read this sort of book all the time, but I still have a shelf full of other books waiting to be read, getting in the way. Very readable, a good mix of things I already know and new ways of looking at maths, nothing that leaps out in my memory, but I'd be glad to read it again one day.

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The Short Stories of Saki: 65 of Saki's Most Popular Tales
by Saki (Hector Hugh Munro)

narrated by Cathy Dobson
"Sly, observant, unpredictable, and irreverent stories - Saki was a great observer of the English classes and their distinctions and foibles. He had a way of turning an ordinary situation into something clever and surprising."
All with a certain style and many with satirical cruelty, these are my ideal examples of the short story. Beginning, middle and end, sometimes straightforward but often leaving a good deal to the imagination. Masterful use of language - not quite Wodehouse but nearly as good. Only the odd vocal tics of the narrator brought it down a little.

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