Three Books I'm Reading Now, 2/2/21 Edition
01 A Burning by Megha Majumdar
“Many years ago I would have been asking why is this happening? But now I am knowing that there is no use asking these questions. In life, many things are happening for no reason at all.”
In contemporary India, Jivan, a young Muslim girl, becomes tangentially entangled with the wrong people and posts questionable comments about the government on social media. As a result, she finds herself accused of being part of a terrible crime and jailed for sedition.
Within the story's orbit are characters like PT Sir, an ambitious gym teacher who stumbles into being a staunch supporter of the right-wing political party, and Lovely, an outcast who might be able to save Jivan by serving as an alibi, if anyone would believe her.
So far the tone of this book is relatively light, which is interesting placed in juxtaposition with the weighty, enraging topics explored here of injustice, punishment, scapegoats, class oppression, and female indignities.
02 The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
In The Once and Future Witches, Harrow, the author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January, writes about three sisters who were raised by a powerful mother and now separated by tragedy in an era when there's no more witching. Or so most people believe.
Each of the three young women is in the middle of her own high-stakes crisis, and none of them expects to ever find the others again. But when they unexpectedly cross each other's paths, the world's seams split, offering a glimpse into another land, a buffeting wind, and a burst of terrible power.
The women must decide whether to ignore what's occurred or to harness and master the spells they've been taught by their witchy grandmother, while also navigating various personal difficulties of their own--an out-of-wedlock pregnancy; involvement in the much-maligned and persecuted women's suffrage movement; and a romantic attraction that would be frowned on and even punishable by law.
03 Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell
O'Farrell, who has written many books I've loved, here tackles a novel of the plague and a story loosely based on Shakespeare's marriage and family and work.
So far, this is a slow climb toward a societal calamity (in the form of the plague) and personal tragedy (in the form of the family's loss of a child to the plague).
The details of the time, household life, and gender, vocation, and familial power structures are wonderful, and the way O'Farrell imagines Agnes as wife of John (the fictionalized William Shakespeare character) is as an independent, witchy, and appealing female character.
What are you reading these days?
Each of these books is a story about class and gender and power in its own way, told in disparate times and through different contexts. There's also a theme running through all three of women striving for more--more opportunities, justice, or control.
Which books are you reading and enjoying these days?