Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Three Novels of Modern Women

Pondering a title for this collection, I tried to find a common theme, but they were all set in different places, in different lifestyles and with characters of varied ages. I thought of “strong women”, but they weren’t at first glance. Finally, I settled on the fact that all the books took place in the last couple decades, which made them modern. It’s not the focus of any of the books, but shows the diverse experiences of women in today’s world.

The Lovebird by Natalie Brown
Lovebird novel An unusual novel, both in plot and style. Margie, a college student, becomes involved with one of her professors and a group of animal rights activists. When events escalate, she becomes a fugitive hiding on a Crow Reservation in Montana, a life very different from growing up in California with her distant, alcoholic dad.
As she learns about the family she’s staying with; warm and solid Granma, her shy and efficient son, Jim and his daughter, aloof preteen Cora, Margie also learns about herself. The past has not let go of her and she doesn’t know how to find her way to the future, made murkier by her need to evade the FBI. As she settles into the community and the landscape, she finds comfort in unexpected ways and slowly becomes attached to the place and the people.
Each chapter had an animal name, both common and it’s Latin counterpart, as well as numbers, something which made me smile and pay closer attention to see what each one meant. And as Margie works through things, she makes mental lists, which are shown in the book as lists, but not in the usual numbered way. Rather, each item is indented and often a paragraph long, which emphasizes their stream of consciousness style.
I have a soft spot for this story and the characters, not just because animals played such a big part. There was an unwinding feeling to the book and a subtle symbolism, giving it the feel of a modern day folk tale, which makes it unique and memorable.
Doubleday 2013 318 pp. ISBN 978-0-385-53675-2

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan
cupcake cafe
At first glance, you think this novel is going to be as fluffy as one of the main character’s cakes, but while it is a bit light-hearted, it’s also realistic. There are selfish boyfriends, class differences, job losses, the problems of starting a small business and uncommitted parents. Issy grew up helping her grandfather in his bakeries and dreams of starting her own little pastry cafe. She can’t quite let go of her priggish boyfriend, yet Austin, her loan officer, is rather attractive. The secondary characters, from co-worker Pearl to roommate Helena, add spice to the narrative and depth to the story. A book that might appeal to Maeve Binchy fans.
Sourcebooks landmark 2013 318 pp. ISBN 140228103 available in traditional and ebook formats

Love in Mid Air by Kim Wright
Wright_loveinmidair This may seem like Sex and the City in the suburbs and there is an element of that, with a close group of women friends who get together and share thoughts on their lives and loves. Though there is more child care than shoe shopping, and all of them are married or divorced, so it’s not all the excitement of being single.
Elyse, a potter, meets a handsome stranger on a plane and begins an affair with him. Her husband is apathetic towards her, but is a terrific father and they appear to be staying together for the sake of their daughter. Her group of friends, which overlap into church and a book group are all reassessing their own marriages, though her affair is a secret. The interactions between all of them are very true to life and is part of what makes this novel feel genuine.
However, the best part of the book is the unflinching look at marriage and the roles played in them. While not exactly cynical, the observations and conclusions are very realistic and I’m sure there are some people who wouldn’t appreciate such bluntness. Though there are some laugh out loud moments and surprising twists in the story, what makes it memorable is the absolute honesty about human relationships.

Grand Central Publishing 2010 312 pp. ISBN 978-0-446-54044-5

2 comments on “Three Novels of Modern Women

  1. Sue Williams
    May 16, 2014

    The first book looks like I would love it. The last one with the mysterious man affair looks good too but I don’t think I could relate to people discussing marriage and kids. It’s just too far out of my range of normal. The book with the animal chapter headings seems very much more like I would want to read. Thanks Jackie for another great review.

  2. Jackie
    May 16, 2014

    Thanks Sue! I think you would definitely like The Lovebird. It has animals, activism, and Native Americans woven through the story & you would probably relate to the main character, as well.

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  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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