Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Reviews: 'This is How It Always Is' by Louise Frankel and 'The Thirteenth Tale' by Diane Setterfield

Note: I found both of these books on a BuzzFeed list of 31 Books You Won't Be Able to Stop Thinking About.

1. This is How It Always Is, by Louise Frankel:
This book tells a story that is really important and I recommend it to anyone who likes a good family drama, and to anyone who knows that there are more than one definition of normal. This is How It Always Is is about five-year-old Claude, who wants to be a girl when he grows up. His parents are very supportive of the entire situation, but they can't always say the same for the rest of the world. I can say that it tore my heart to pieces at times and the characters stuck with me long after I had finished it, and I know that symbolizes a strong book. Gender dysphoria is still so misunderstood and this book makes such an effort in fighting for the discussion to continue. I also loved that there were fairy tale metaphors and allegories throughout. I thought the story dragged a bit towards the end and some chapters were unnecessary, but nonetheless I am happy that this story was told. There needs to be more of them. 4.5/5 stars.

2. The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield:
If I could rate a book based solely on its aesthetic value, I would definitely give The Thirteenth Tale 5 stars. The dust jacket description describes it as a "love letter to reading", and it very much is. It stresses the importance of books, reading, words and stories, four things I hold very dear. There are some very beautiful quotes and passages that I have already saved and will copy down into one of my notebooks. However, the story itself was lacking something to allow me to be fully engaged with it. The Thirteenth Tale is the story of biographer Margaret Lea and famous novelist Vida Winter, who has spent her entire career building lies about her own backstory and she is now finally ready to reveal the truth. I don't think it's necessarily not engaging or lackluster, but I feel like the author was trying a little too hard to create a Brontë-esque story with rich secrets, pasts and characters and I just found it to be a little cliché, boring and draggy at times. I found that a lot of things that happened in the end were a bit predictable and convenient, and I will admit I rolled my eyes a few times while reading. I don't think the storyline was bad, but it lacked some originality for me. But this is not to say that I don't appreciate The Thirteenth Tale for stressing the importance of books and reading. I very much enjoyed that angle of it. The rest was just rather boring and unoriginal for me. 3/5 stars.

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