books

What to Read in March 2019

March is the month of surprise snow storms, excessive Irish drinking, and some time to check out some magnificent books. If you’re pondering what your next great read will be, have no fear. We Voices keep up-to-date with both classics and the newest releases in the book world.


The Source of Self-Regard by Toni Morrison

Toni Morrison was the divine mind behind Beloved, the beautifully creepy story about a family and their life after abolished slavery, chronicling the experiences of a black woman named Sethe. Beloved focused on not just her days as a slave and her time living as a free woman, but also the mental trauma that she endured. Morrison infused Beloved with the heavy theme of infanticide, representing the true historical actions of many slave women.

Morrison was also the writer behind many other great books like The Bluest Eye and Paradise, and in February 2019, she came out with a brand new book, The Source of Self-Regard. As a collection of essays, speeches, and meditations, she evaluates social issues with keen awareness as well as giving insight to her work as a creator and artist.

If you’re interested in some deep reading to get you through the chaotic snow drifts of March, I strongly recommend giving Morrison a look.

Check out  Penguin Random House  for Morrison’s new book.

Check out Penguin Random House for Morrison’s new book.

The Sundial by Shirley Jackson

A possibly biased opinion, but Shirley Jackson was the foundation of modern Gothic literature. With her creepy inspiration, she published a massive collection of short stories along with five novels in her lifetime. Her most popular novels were The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but The Sundial was one of the most deviously clever novels.

What set this book apart from others was the thoroughly unlikeable cast of characters living in a grand house, driven mad with paranoia and potential prophecies of end times.

Jackson appreciated fine architecture. Her work is full of grand mansions that are overwhelming in physical details and personal histories. The Sundial revolved around the large mansion of the family, and turned into their prison as they began to fear the world ending, due to a supposed ghostly apparition claiming that the family would inherit the Earth in a year’s time.

Fearful of destruction, panic from the real world Cold War infused itself into the plot. The family retreats into this mansion like a bunker, preparing for world’s catastrophic events. They begin to burn their possessions to make room for necessities like first aid kits and rations, and slowly descend into madness.

Winter might seem like the end of the world, but you can at least take comfort in Jackson’s delightful dialogue and dramatic plot lines.

Ready to dive into Jackson’s brilliant novel written in 1958? Check out  Penguin Books UK  for this great read.

Ready to dive into Jackson’s brilliant novel written in 1958? Check out Penguin Books UK for this great read.

Looker: A Novel by Laura Sims

I always appreciate a fantastic debut novel, especially when it is so masterfully creepy.

Telling the story about a woman obsessed with her famous neighbour, Laura Sims describes a delicate boundary between admiration and obsession with a master touch. Living just houses away, there is no privacy to be found in this story. The narrator obsessed over not just the woman but her garbage and looks, adopting similar lipstick and clothing to become the woman.

The theme of stalking in literature has become immensely popular due to the Lifetime-turned-Netflix series You, and we have become much more aware of the privacy concerns. We’ve possibly all tried to cyber stalk an ex-partner online, or have been stalked by others, and we have grown startling used to cat-fishing. Looker is a new spin on the issue because it removes romantic obsession from the story, and infuses the desire for friendship and basic relationships.

Friendship is often an undervalued theme in literature, and Looker revealed the danger that can exist between two different people, without the inclusion of a sexual element.

An excellent contribution to the thriller genre, Sims manages to include jealousy and real world infertility struggles into her work. We should all be keenly anticipating her next novel.

Are you ready for an intense, razorsharp read? Check out  Simon & Schuster  for this brilliant novel.

Are you ready for an intense, razorsharp read? Check out Simon & Schuster for this brilliant novel.

The Red Parts: Autobiography of a Trial by Maggie Nelson

Famous for her poetry, Maggie Nelson draws inspiration from real events that impacted her own family when her Aunt Jane Mixer went missing and was found murdered in the 60s.

Her work The Red Parts had been written after her collection of poetry based on Jane, titled effectively as Jane. The poetry shed insight of true crime and the issues of inherited grief, and contained enough research that it became heavily valuable to detectives who picked up the case. She was communicating frequently with the lead detective, sharing her personal research and providing careful insight to certain elements of the case.

Due to limited resources at the time, Mixer had been a cold case before DNA had grown highly useful. With new technology and options available, her case was reopened and connected to two different DNA sources, allowing justice to be legally given.

The Red Parts is a personal examination on the experiences on living exposed. Mixer had originally been suspected to have been a victim of the Michigan Murders, but elements of her case had separated her from other bodies. Because of the mystery behind her disappearance and reappearance in a graveyard, her family suffered trauma and confusion. Death becomes more terrifying when a sister and daughter are found strangled on top of a grave, with her possessions pooled around her.

Nelson cleverly gave testimony as a stranger to her dead Aunt, but it shows how deeply Mixer’s murder impacted her own life, and her relationships with her family. An excellent nonfiction look into the corners of the true crime world, Nelson weaves poetic language into her prose.

Need some true crime in your frigid life? Head over to  Penguin Books UK  and jump into Nelson’s brilliant prose.

Need some true crime in your frigid life? Head over to Penguin Books UK and jump into Nelson’s brilliant prose.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Recently widowed Elise is sent to her husband’s country estate, and is tossed into a Gothic landscape filled with unsettling wooden figures that slowly multiply over the course of the book. Carrying on in the same vein of other excellent books like The Haunting of Hill House and Rebecca, this book is highly recommended to readers who love the feeling of anxiety twisting in their stomachs.

She’s recently released a new novel in the past year, and I highly recommend browsing through her work. She establishes historical scenery and fixates on proper representation of women as both victims and villains.

Modern (and successful) takes on the Gothic genre are incredibly rare, but Laura Purcell managed to successfully transform the element by including brand new material like wooden mannequin dolls. With a dead cow left on the doorstep of the country estate and unreliable narrators, this is a brilliant read that you will fly through. You’ll be pondering over the true villain for days afterwards.

Creepy gothic atmosphere with shades of Jackson? Hit up  Penguin Random House .

Creepy gothic atmosphere with shades of Jackson? Hit up Penguin Random House.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

Is anything more haunting than a postwar mansion slowly crumbling away?

Sarah Waters spins a haunting tale about the Hundreds Hall, a once impressive and massive estate that is now falling to pieces. The garden is overwhelmed with weeds and the house is becoming a challenge to maintain with limited income by the Lady of the house and her two grown children. Doctor Faraday becomes quite close to the family of Hundred Hall, and begins to pry apart the ghostly secrets within the walls.

This book is definitely the opposite of a classic ghost story. Waters uses this novel to reveal the historical downfall of the entire class system post war, with the infusion of a possible ghost running around. With delightful atmosphere and lengthy dialogue sections, this book is fairly lengthy, but a perfect read to get you through the month of March.

If you are a fan of Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, you will adore the tense and unreliable narration, and the vivid characters springing to life across the pages. Waters has written many great novels that focus on different areas of history, but this is one of her most vividly researched pieces.

You can find all of the creepy ghostly themes by Sarah Waters at  Penguin Random House Canada .

You can find all of the creepy ghostly themes by Sarah Waters at Penguin Random House Canada.


Don’t be a victim during the final stretch of winter’s cold, icy grip. Set yourself up with either some fictional tales of ghosts or brilliantly written accounts of true crime, and find yourself a comfortable place to hermit.

Any books catch your attention lately? Let me know @rahel_taller.


rachelitme+.jpg

Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

Why Women Read Thrillers

One of the first media depictions of a woman victimized into insanity was the 1940s film Gaslight. In it, a husband manipulates his wife into thinking that she was slipping into mental instability. Perhaps this is what has sparked our interest in the role of a woman in the thriller genre.

In modern society, women are taught to lock their car doors and to avoid roaming the streets at night. They learn to make weapons of their keys, held tight between fingers and into claws like something from a Wolverine comic. The media reminds women to be skeptical of their drinks at bars and to be careful of hemlines. They are taught to value running shoes over stilettos in running from their attackers, and are trained to have 911 ready on their phones.

The thriller genre, known for exciting plots and chilling suspense, allows women to be confronted with the perpetual danger of their existence. Girls do wind up dead in the ravines and the woods. Their bodies spark national inquiries, directing attention to their lifestyles and relationships. They appear murdered on isolated beaches and inside their homes. The cold reality of women is that once they die, they lose their status as a person, and instead shift into a puzzle.

What makes the thriller genre so wildly compelling for women is that it confronts them with a cold reality. They are either victims, terrorized and stalked, or they become the villain. Take Amy from Gone Girl. Leaving a string of calculated false clues, she manages to gaslight not just her spouse, but an entire audience suddenly invested in her life. An original twist to the concept of toxic relationships, she compels the world of journalism and law enforcement into believing that she is a victim, and her husband is holding a smoking gun. She is powerful in her ability to bamboozle detectives, stringing her relationships along until she has created the perfect trap.

In comparison, The Woman in the Window and The Girl on the Train present narrators caught up in proving a murder did occur, risking their own lives to get answers. In reality, women are constantly dismissed for a myriad of reasons. They are emotionally volatile, distressed with mental instability, or a lone voice opposing the many. Both narrators suffer from extreme gaslighting that makes them slowly unravel, convinced that they have begun to descend into crazed paranoia and insanity.

Women like plunging into the depths of thrillers, exploring the dangers behind their lives. Average internet privacy concerns are examined critically in You, allowing the reader to watch the victim slowly become cornered. In Rebecca, the idea of the victim is constantly altered, switching between the dead wife and the protagonist. Which woman can endure in the story? Which woman can survive, living in toxic relationships and surrounded by menacing figures?

Thrillers are the modern take to fairy tales. Children are taught the value of avoiding strangers in Snow White. They learn that danger exists in the dark corners, and the thriller genre helps to give women their own voices. These are authentic experiences wrapped up in a fictional package. Thrillers tell stories about women; they are mothers and daughters, artists and lovers, as well as complex characters in their own right.

Women want to survive. They want to defy the statistics. Perhaps that is what draws their attention to the dark corners of the bookstore, honing in on the dark covers and gloomy movie posters. Thrillers promise to examine toxic relationships and gaslighting, letting readers identify the signs in their own relationships. The books come to terms with living with anxiety and PTSD, which allow for readers to connect with their own personal experiences.

In reality, dead women act as props. Media can cross-examine their relationships and scream foul when they are exposed with skeletons in their closets. Under close scrutiny, any woman can carry an abundance of flaws that can outlive their lives. The thriller genre, as a whole, restores a woman’s identity and allows them to exist as complex creatures, be it villain or victim.

Photo by Roman Kraft.

Photo by Roman Kraft.


Interested in some great reads? Check out Alice Bolin’s series of essays in her book Dead Girls or plunge into Woman in the Window before it hits the big screen in 2019.


rachelitme+.jpg

Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

A Stone’s Throw Across Generations

ShirleyJack.jpg

Very few pieces of literature have been able to traumatize generation after generation of readers. Most high school English classes feature a collection of short stories, demonstrating the style and themes conveyed in a limited space. Shirley Jackson has always been a standout in these collections, her name grim upon a cover. The Lottery drove her to fame, though, as it was the very work which would not just leave intense emotional scars on my mother’s psyche, but also rattled an entire group of subscribers to The New Yorker when it was first published in 1948.

Arguably, this short story is what escalated Jackson’s career in writing. Acting as both housewife and breadwinner, she was constantly engaged in battles of rearing children.

The Lottery had described a small community blindly following a tradition that featured execution. Readers of The New Yorker were not prepared for the sudden violence that Jackson lobbed at them. They were repelled, demanding answers and directing their disdain for the writing to the author herself.

Perhaps it was because Jackson had written this piece in the post-war years, that caused such havoc. People had begun to realize the dangers of blind faith due to the wildly popular anti-Semitic behaviours that nearly eradicated a group of people through a system of industrial execution. This might have spurred the sharp backlash against the magazine and Jackson. It might have even been that people noticed reflections of themselves in her writing, and felt attacked.

Or, maybe they were simply terrified that a mere housewife concocted such a story.

The Lottery clearly earned Jackson a reputation. Recognized as one of the greatest short stories in American literature, it also triggered a landslide of hate. She was responsible for the most mail that The New Yorker had received at the time in response to a published story. By the end of the summer of 1948 she had received over three hundred letters, and only a handful had been kind. Those letters in particular had been written by friends, she admitted.

However, everyone had something to say about her writing. Her own mother contributed to the burden that her mailbox had become, stating her own disapproval for the piece. Jackson was under immense pressure to change her style and to embrace a more optimistic genre of writing. Nonetheless she continued onwards, featuring more abusive villages in her later novels like The Sundial and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Jackson might have been inspired by her own experiences to produce such works. It was when she was living in North Bennington with her family did she experience the toxic environment of anti-Semitic attitudes. Due to her husband’s Jewish heritage and her married name, she experienced social ostracism and witnessed the unchecked behaviour of her neighbours. Despite that turbulent time, however, North Bennington has taken to celebrating Jackson’s life by declaring June 26th Shirley Jackson Day. Clearly, the passage of time has altered some people and their obsession with her work.

Later letters sent to Jackson about The Lottery often carried more curiosity. Readers were determined to discover not only if there were communities such as this, but if they could visit and watch the public stoning.

Interestingly enough, The Lottery grew in fame and popularity that it was later transitioned into other forms of entertainment. The story has been adapted for a ballet performance, a radio play and was also featured on The Simpsons.

Photo Courtesy of Aperture Vintage.

Photo Courtesy of Aperture Vintage.

Jackson had always been loath to discuss her work, or to give any further explanation of it. Her grim worlds had been something of a gift to readers, something she cared little for being interviewed about. It was with The Lottery that she was forced to give a statement saying, “[]what I had hoped the story to say is very difficult I suppose, I hoped, by setting a particularly brutal ancient rite in the present and in my own village to shock the story's readers with a graphic dramatization of the pointless violence and general inhumanity in their own lives.”

Perhaps Jackson never knew what she would unleash that day she sat down behind her typewriter, struck with an idea of a strange village and a lottery system. Whatever her intentions were, though, she did alter American literature by providing one of the most unique voices to have been found.


Were you traumatized by The Lottery? What do you think about hate mail? Comment your thoughts!


rachelitme+.jpg

Rachel Small

Rachel Small is not a small person and might be the present day reincarnation of Lizzie Borden. She crawled to life one night after midnight in the basement of a bookstore.

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