Showing posts with label child abuse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label child abuse. Show all posts

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Lyddie by Katherine Paterson

Rating: WORTHY!

I twice had mixed feelings about this novel, but both times in the end, it came through for me, and so I have no choice but to rate it a worthy read! That's my kind of author, despite the fact that she won a Newbery for some other novel she wrote. I started out int he first few chapters wondering if I could drop this at a quarter the way through, but as soon as Lyddie left her rural background and headed for the city, it picked-up and never stopped from there on out. That was when I began enjoying it.

This is the story of a young girl who lives on a farm with her mother and her younger siblings, but their father has left them and offers no hope that he's coming back. Their mother is weak and worn out, so it would seem that it's all up to Lyddie Worthen (come on - if she'd been named Worthy it could hardly be any closer!). She almost despairs when her mother announces that the family must be split-up in order to pay off the debt that's owed. Mother and the youngest are going to stay with relatives, but Lyddie and Charlie, despite their tender age, are to be let out as servants in order to start working down the crushing debt.

The paltry little farm will stand idle and Lyddie hates that. She isn't happy with her lot either although Charlie, in a luckier situation, flourishes. Lyddie hears about the money that's to be made up in Lowell, Massachusetts, working in the yarn-spinning factories, and she jumps ship.

The life in the factory pays well (by Lyddie's previous standards), but the work is long, long, long, and the conditions are awful. Get used to this folks because this is where the The Business President is aiming to take us all in the next four years. Lyddie struggles at first, but eventually becomes the best loom operator in the whole factory. It's piece-work which means that the workers have no peace, because they have to meet a quota and unfortunately, saving is slow and problems abound.

Some girls are talking of agitation for better conditions, and all the while the factory makes greater demands - running the looms faster, reducing pay and raising quotas. The horrible condition inside the factory are best exemplified in the BBC TV serialization of Elizabeth Gaskell's novel North and South which stars Richard Armitage of The Hobbit fame. Several scenes in this show display in graphic detail how god-awful working conditions in a spinning factory were back then.

Lyddie has no time for agitation. She focuses on working hard, and being the best, so she can run four looms and make more money, but even as she almost literally slaves away, her family and farm situation deteriorate bit by bit. The ending seemed obvious and I was getting ready to down-rate it because it looked like this author was going to perform a YA weak, dependent, girl atrocity on her main character, but once again she turned it around and sent Lyddie in a different direction: one which returned control to Lyddie, and one of which I fully approved. It was this that really won me over, because the girl had not given-up. She had merely refocused her goal and went for it with a control-taking dedication which I admired and approved of. I fully recommend this read.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

One Among Us by Paige Dearth

Title: One Among Us
Author: Paige Dearth
Publisher: Amazon
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

This is my second review of a Paige Dearth novel today. I wish I had better news to report because she writes about important topics, but I can't recommend this one either, and for many of the same reasons that I couldn't recommend her debut novel, I'm sorry to report. This is her third novel, and it looked to me like there was no change in her writing style between the first and this one.

This novel is even longer than the first one. I wasn't able to make myself read 400 pages of the first one after reading the first seventy or so because of the dry, matter-of-fact writing, and since this one was much the same tone, I wasn't going to make any attempt to read even seventy pages in a novel which runs to almost six hundred pages of dire straits, gratuitous abuse, and bad language when there was not a thing to lighten the load. It's far, far too much.

The writing is this was, as I said, like the first - more like a police report than a novel. The men were universally lowlife mean-as-a-junkyard-dog rapists without a nuance to share between them, which I find personally insulting. Yes, there are men like that - and there are boys like that - too many, in fact, but not every single man and boy is like that and I think the author does her stories a serious disservice by adopting this approach in her writing. I can read a novel where character X is a rapist or an abuser, but when the novel is effectively telling me that I'm a rapist or an abuser by dint of my gender, I draw the line!

The dialog didn't feel realistic to me, and main character Maggie was just a shade too good to be true or even realistic, and the characters weren't much better. All of them seemed more like cardboard cut-outs than real people.

I mentioned in my other review that a more seasoned author would have leavened the mix with a pinch of beauty or an ounce of hope. It's quite simply depressing to read and to try to keep reading a novel, no matter how well-intentioned, no matter how important the topic, which is nothing but one horrible thing after another with nothing to offer any kind of hope. Though this is rooted in real life, it's still fiction, and therefore does not need to detail a real life down to the nth degree of depression. Consequently, the writing here kept on reminding me with almost metronomic frequency that this was fiction, and I wasn't allowed to forget it and become completely immersed in this story. I couldn't get beyond page fifty and I can't recommend this novel.

Believe Like a Child by Paige Dearth

Title: Believe Like a Child
Author: Paige Dearth
Publisher: Amazon
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

Today is Paige Dearth Day on my blog - I'm reviewing two books by this author and I wish I had better news to deliver than I do.

This novel, in some ways, is autobiographical. According to her bio in the book, the author was raped by a live-in uncle when she was very young, and this is an exploration of how that might have panned-out had things gone differently from how they did unfold in the author's own life. As far as that goes, it's admirable. There is nothing worse than violating a child's trust and confidence, especially in such an abhorrent manner, but this novel was so front-loaded with abuse, and pain and torment that it was for me, unreadable. I made it to page 74 and I knew I didn't want to being regaled with a non-stop story of endless and unremitting pain for another 360 or so pages.

The problem for me was that it didn't read like a novel. It read like a police report, and it was consequently unappealing. The text was dry as a bone and did nothing to draw me in or make me feel like I could empathize with the main character Alessa, who herself wasn't exactly the smartest Smarty in the Smarty box.

On top of that I had issues with Alessa's inability to report this abuse and the poor advice she was given by someone in whom she confided. I know people who are abused typically have problems in revealing what's happened to them either through shame or through fear, or because they don't even realize that what's happening to them isn't appropriate, but the way it was written here wasn't convincing.

Instead to going with her to the police, Zoe, the mom of Alessa's best friend, set up Alessa with sufficient money to run away, where she got ripped off by a seedy landlady for a piece-of-trash apartment in a lousy part of town. I knew exactly what was going to happen next, because it was telegraphed way in advance. All the mystery was removed and I was left looking at yet more abuse piled onto what had already happened. Zoe in effect, became just another abuser.

One major problem is that there were no shades of gray here. In some ways it's understandable since this is a debut novel, but it doesn't make it a better read. For example, in the portion that I read, men were presented universally as rapists waiting to happen, which is bullshit and insulting.

A more seasoned author would have found a way to leaven writing of this horrific nature with something lighter. They would have put a dash of hope in there instead of repeatedly dashing hope. They would have found a way to add a sprinkle of beauty somewhere, somehow, to bring something better into this world of unrelenting awfulness, but this author did nothing of the sort. It became, therefore, a dire litany of abuse, bad decisions, and poor advice, and it wasn't entertaining or engrossing to read, it was just depressing and despite the fact that these things actually do happen to children, the writing paradoxically made this novel feel unrealistic. I couldn't get beyond chapter nine and I can't recommend this novel.

I know it was lousy what the author went through, and I admire her attempt to put this into fictional form and get the word out to people, but she failed to convince me that this was the best-advised way to do that.