Hidden in heaven,
where only the Bears can go
The first bit of this book was extremely challenging. This is one of those YA books that doesn't shirk from dealing with difficult subjects; heck, everybody shies away from what Lanagan tackles immediately. Incest, forced abortions, gang rape, Tender Morsels does it & not gratuitously-- though a little relentlessly at first. Jenny read it & really loved it, called it "startling." Good gracious it is. I want to remark on what a "woman's tale" it is, but I'll have to caveat a lot to say that. First-- it really does invest in gender dichotomy whole cloth. I do want to point out that this is a good time to think about how a "man's tale" is taken as the "neutral" most of the time: like, I have to talk about the strong gender roles in this book because it is about women, whereas you might just shrug another time. Still, yeah. I'm an Essentialist to some extent-- I think "men" & "women" are real, significant clumpings at the poles of a continuum. Not to be anti-queer! Though this book doesn't mention homosexuality even a little, which I did mark as a bit odd. & this book talks about men & women in ways that sort of violently abut my ideas about feminine & masculine; I'm clearly the latter, you know? Swagger. The way the book treats the subject is, well. Initially from the point of view of the damaged (never "damaged" the word-- injured, wounded, but never damaged-- I liked that) protagonist. Men are all horrors, all potential rapes, & you can't blame her; she isn't wrong.
The flavor of this book-- this book is a faerie tale like you can't find any more. I mean, some stuff that would make the Grimms blanche. About half of the book is set in heaven (contrast to "Heaven") & the other half, well, isn't. I don't know how much talk I want to have in specifics-- there are Bears, which are a hilarious commentary on men. I felt summed up! Big & kind of useless but occasionally noble & dangerous. I know of kingtycoon's love of the Bear & interest in gender theory, I've recommended it to him, as he gave the good word on The Ice-Shirt. There are witches! There is a bit of witch-vengeance I have some concerns about, actually; I would have gone longer on the unintended consequences of that.
I know I'm not talking about whether or not I liked the book. Well, I certainly liked it. I was definitely interested in it-- I brought it up in conversation often enough. Any deeper into my opinions is going to take a while. Needs to digest. I probably won't be able to tell you how much I like it till I get to my end of the year best of list. Will it be a contender? Maybe. It absolutely-- oh, I don't even want to say it, it sounds so gross-- challenged me. It put thoughts & notions into my head. It wasn't any single revelation, but kind of a mounting, dawning paradigm, slowly building to a gallop. Obviously Urdda is the easiest to read; Liga is the hardest, & Branza I can't even understand. Branza is an enigma to me. Or I hope an enigma, otherwise I just don't like her. Oh man the ending, ouch-- vivid.