July had several wonderful discoveries in store, but also a massive literary outrage. I suppose it's all a matter of balancee.
The Diviners, by Margaret Laurence
This is a book that had been waiting for years on my shelf. I discovered it in translation class while studying for my English bachelor degree. I loved with the extract we were working on and the author's style, so I'd bought the book second-hand. I tried a first time not long after but couldn't get past the first few pages. I let it rest, almost forgotten, until now. The second try was the right one. Once again, I felt enthralled by Laurence's writing style. She has a way of describing the river running by her protagonists house that drew me in and made me pay attention to the smallest details and alterations.
The book itself is about Morag Gunn, a middle-aged writer moving in a rather remote area of Canada. Her story is told in snapshots interspersed in her current thoughts. I'm not the biggest fan of books that go through the life of one character, but I loved her voice, at times very literary and at times very down-to-earth. The different characters were fully-fledged and to me the writers avoided brilliantly any type of cliché.
As far as representation goes, there is an Indigenous secondary character and a mixed-race important character in this book.
The Children of Húrin, by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien
Let's talk Tolkien, for a change! Do you feel daunted by The Lord of the Rings? I can't blame you. With an average of 1200 pages, it's a long journey to embark on. May I suggest you start with The Children of Húrin then, for a taste of Tolkien's writing for adults?
This is a tragic tale set centuries before the events of The Lord of the Rings. It follows Túrin and his sister Niënor, trying to escape their fate in the vast expanses of Middle-earth. There are Elves, Dwarves, and even a dragon. The first chapter may seem a little tricky with all the new names, but the story quickly finds its pacing and chances are you'll be able to enjoy Alan Lee's stunning illustrations during your reading. He provided both full-page watercolours as well as pencil chapter headings, and they guide you beautifully through the narrative.
The Knight, by Pierre Pevel
Tread carefully, rant ahead.
Pierre Pevel is a well-known French writer of SFFF (science-fiction, fantasy and fantastic) who has received several literary prizes. In The Knight, he tells about Lorn Askariàn, a promising knight and best friend of the prince, how he fell and rose back to power. Lorn was wrongly imprisoned in the realm's worst jail, where a dark power drove prisoners and jailers mad. When he is released after a three-year nightmare, he is given the task to protect the very realm that precipitated his downfall.
Pierre Pevel can write a story in which men ride dragons, but not one in which women are considered. Alongside the story, he implies that women have no place of importance in his universe. By the end of the book, I had pages of notes about the author's comments on women, but that's what he stopped at. Comments. He wouldn't give them agency. He wouldn't consider the diversity the word "woman" encompasses, and certainly not physical diversity since the description of each of them stops at "pretty". The queen, for instance, is described as being "still pretty" (meaning that she is past her prime but, mercifully, she is still desirable). She is despised by everyone and her authority is constantly questioned. She also rules with an adviser because, in Pierre Pevel's world, no queen can rule alone. Only a king can do that.
The author never gives women a will, a voice, or motivations.