Plot Junkie: Entwined, Lighthousekeeping, and American Gods

Today’s the day that the boyfriend, who’s been in town this week on fall break, goes back to school. So, since I’m focusing much too hard on acting like an adult (you know, not wailing in the middle of the floor or anything too terribly revolting) to get anything accomplished at the moment, here’s a bit of what I’ve been reading lately:

88. Entwined, Heather Dixon. Total fluff, but holy mother, very excellent fluff. (And it just might be found in the YA section. Don’t judge me. I’m studying for the GRE and writing lots of very intelligent and insightful papers. And if I weren’t, I’d have another excuse. Except I don’t need one because I’m an adult and can read what I want, dammit. Back off.) (Also: this cover is a little deceiving. Deceiving along the lines of that god-awful red satin Rebecca cover, or some of the recent “teen edition” Dickens and Austen novels. This one is especially, um, special. I don’t even know which character in the book this is supposed to be—perhaps Tiny Tim?)

AnywayEntwined is a straight-up fairy tale, reminiscent of Robin McKinley’s Beauty or M. M. Kaye’s The Ordinary Princess, both of which are absolutely fabulous (and also to be found in the YA section). I got it solely because of this review by the absolutely hilarious Raych at Books I Done Read, whose blog has quickly become one of my favorites.

So. Princess Azalea is the eldest of twelve sisters; she swore to her mother (on her deathbed, natch) that she would take care of her sisters. And this isn’t just your run-of-the-mill deathbed promise: Azalea swore on silver, an old family magic that compels the following-through bit. And follow through she does, in spite of all the other drama… 

Like a dead queen who has to be rescued (and whose fate will turn you off hand sewing forever. You know, if you are part of the 1% of the population that sews), the king kinda sucks at being a father (mmhmm… surprised, are we?), the dancing princesses are mucho in hock to the master of ceremonies—who might just be a little more sinister than previously known , and the dashing prime minister keeps mistaking Azalea for her sister. And the silver sugar tongs just keep attacking. Gotta hate that.

It’s a fluffy read. But it’s good fluff.

89. Lighthousekeeping, Jeanette Winterson. Definitely not fluff. I always enjoy Winterson’s novels, primarily for the imagery and the beautiful word choices and rhythms (she writes like a poet), but I always forget how easy it is to lose the direction of the plot amongst all the wordplay. She doesn’t tell stories in a straightforward manner—she approaches events sideways and through dreams that just might have been real and memories that happen before the events they supposedly mirror and everything gets complicated and dense and so very richly textured that you finish knowing you loved it, but completely unable to tell the story to someone else.

Due to my complete inability to adequately introduce the plot, I offer the first few lines:

My mother called me Silver. I was born part precious metal part pirate.

I have no father. There’s nothing unusual about that – even children who do have fathers are often surprised to see them. My own father came out of the sea and went back that way. He was crew on a fishing boat that harboured with us one night when the waves were crashing like dark glass.
His splintered hull shored him for long enough to drop anchor inside my mother.

Shoals of babies vied for life.

I won.

I so love the way she writes. The story follows Silver after her mother dies to the lighthouse, where the ancient lighthouse-keeper needs a successor to his craft. Every night he tells stories that never quite conclude and always fit together in the most unexpected ways. The past and the present, and the young girl and the old man, are transformed by the stories and the act of telling them. (The power of telling a story in a certain way seems to be a theme of Winterson’s: it’s prevalent in The Passion  and Sexing the Cherry too. And random point of connection—she tells a version of the fairytale of the 12 dancing princesses in Sexing the Cherry… though hers is perhaps a bit more grim.)

90. American Gods, Neil Gaiman. This is one of those books that got a lot of hype, won a zillion awards, and deserved absolutely all of it. A-freaking-mazing. If you haven’t read it, order it immediately. Go. I’ll wait.

The gods all exist. And not just one version of them—when immigrants came to America, they brought versions of their gods with them, who are distinct from the original versions. And in America, well, belief in the gods is on a downward swing—at least, belief in the traditional gods. Belief in the gods of technology and war and drugs and television is keeping those gods quite healthy. It’s just the older gods that are being forgotten. And when a god is forgotten, it ceases to exist.

Shadow, an ex-convict with a dead wife who keeps visiting, gets pulled into the war between the old gods and the new gods. He’s supposed to just be acting as the bodyguard of the oddly powerful Mr. Wednesday… but somehow he has a bit more to do with everything that is going on than anyone has explained.  

And that’s what I’ve been reading lately—anybody else have something fabulous on their shelf? Do tell!

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