Sunday, April 28, 2013

Ash (Young Adult Fantasy Novel)

A Stepmother. An Orphan. Fairies. A Curse. An Agreement. A Huntress. An Eligible Prince. Choices. 

Ash by Malinda Lo takes the basic story of Cinderella and gives it some major twists. While this young adult novel is popularly considered a lesbian love story, it can also be interpreted metaphorically as a young woman claiming the power of her inner feminine — think Carl Jung.

Briefly, twelve year old Ash loses her mother after a very brief illness. Ash is devastated and spends long periods of time sitting and lying on her mother’s grave. During some of these episodes, Ash becomes aware of a fairy world, a world that her father and popular society now deny. One of the male fairies takes a special interest in Ash. Her father soon remarries a woman with two daughters. After Ash’s father dies, her stepmother claims that he left a huge pile of debts. In order for Ash to pay off the debts, she must work as a servant to her cruel stepmother. One of the twists is that the King usually has a Huntress. At a party where Ash is excluded, the current Huntress is one of the few people to recognize Ash and her pain. Later,a new Huntress and Ash experience numerous coincidental meetings. At the end of the story, Ash must make a life changing choice.

Although Ash is aimed at the young adult audience, it also spoke to me as a middle-aged adult. It poignantly describes the longing I have felt for the people in my life who have died. It describes surrendering to the conditions in our lives and then rising above them. It describes love. This is a lovely fairytale, and I hope that people don’t avoid it because of any labels attached to it.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Guard of Honor (Pulitzer Winning Novel)

A Birthday Celebration. A Fight. Publicity. Airplanes. An Army Base. Segregation. Officers. WACs. 

Guard of Honor by James Could Cozzens won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1949. I have mixed feelings about the novel. On the one hand, it is a long novel, over 600 pages, that has very little action. Much of the story is filled with discussions, politicking, and verbal sparring. On the other hand, the novel is well-written and describes some interesting aspects of WWII.

Briefly, the novel takes place over three days in 1943. Most of the story takes place on an Army Air Base in Florida. We are first introduced to some of the characters, mostly officers, who are flying to the base. While trying to land, their plane has a near collision with a plane filled with African American officers, who are just about to begin a special project on the base. Benny, a war hero, assaults one of the black men, increasing racial tension in the story. In the meantime, a huge birthday party, complete with a simulated air attack, is being planned for General Beal’s birthday. The characters also must contend with publicity, including a leak of “confidential” information.

While not one of my favorite novels, Guard of Honor has some interesting aspects. It describes what happens to civilians who were already established in their careers and families and who now must function as Army officers. The novel describes some of the issues involved with trying to racially integrate the military during WWII. It shows a bit of the role of the Women’s Army Corp. It describes a bit of the Air Corp when it was under the jurisdiction of the Army and before it became a separate branch. From a personal perspective, I would have liked more focus on the African American Officers and on the WACs. Guard of Honor is a good novel but not necessarily an entertaining one.