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Reviewlettes: Invictus, This Day, The Bell Jar

The hilarious Raych at books i done read calls her mini-reviews “reviewlettes” and I love that. I borrowed the term from her to describe some short reviews of books I didn’t have a ton to say for, and I hope she doesn’t mind!

invictusTitle: Invictus
Author: John Carlin
Genre: Literary Journalism
Year: 2008
Acquired: Borrowed
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Summary: Nelson Mandela became president of a terribly divided South Africa in 1985. He put most of his political eggs in one basket when he convinced the nation to all get behind the national rugby team — the Springboks — a former symbol of white supremacy. The chances for the Sprinkboks to win the Wold Cup were pretty slim, but with Mandela’s charisma and some good karma, the team succeeded and helped bring the nation together.

Review: After a friend and I went to see the movie Invictus — starring Morgan Freeman (whom I love) and Matt Damon (who is just gosh darn adorable) — she bought the book to read and I borrowed it. The book doesn’t quite capture the same emotional intensity of the movie, but certainly puts Mandela’s efforts to unite South Africa into context. The book tends to name drop a little bit, and with so many characters to keep track of it could sometimes be confusing. But this is the prototypical inspirational sports story, and for that reason I pretty much had to enjoy it.

this day in the lifeTitle: This Day in the Life: Diaries from Women Across America
Author: Joni B. Cole, Rebecca Joffrey, and B. K. Rakhra
Genre: Memoir
Year: 2005
Acquired: Bought
Rating: ★★★½☆

Summary: This Day in the Life is the third collection in a series created by Joni B. Cole, Rebecca Joffrey, and B. K. Rakhra. In each, the authors ask women from across the United States to keep a diary for a single day, highlighting everything the do or feel. The book then collects those diaries, printing many in full and using excerpts from others. The result is a picture of what a “typical” day is like — if you can call any day truly typical.

Review: I’ve read both previous books in this series, and as expected this one did not disappoint. Reading the day dairies is funny, emotional, and relaxing. There’s something comforting about knowing there are other people going through the same types of ups and downs and having the same times of insecurities that I feel almost daily. As with the previous books, I feel like the collection skews a little old, but that could just be my bias showing through. I think this would be a fabulous read for the Women Unbound Challenge.

the bell jarTitle: The Bell Jar
Author: Sylvia Plath
Genre: Fiction
Year: 1971
Acquired: Sent from publisher in giveaway
Rating: ★★★★☆

Summary: Esther Greenwood is a young woman from the suburbs working her first internship in New York City. She doesn’t love New York, instead feels confused by the city and her colleagues, not sure what she wants to do. After being rejected from a writing course, Esther goes home for the summer where she becomes increasingly depressed and tries to commit suicide multiple times. She is diagnosed with a mental illness and is eventually admitted to a mental hospital where she receives electroconvulsive therapy and tries to work though the issues that sent her there in the first place.

Review: I’m not sure what there is to say about The Bell Jar since it’s such a well-known work. I really enjoyed reading it, despite the depressing and difficult topics. There was something about Esther that I really connected with — maybe her circumstance or her sense of dry humor or the matter-of-fact way that she described everything, even in the depths of her illness. In some ways the book is quite funny, even if the humor is tinged with a hint of despair. It’s definitely a book I recommend reading.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Iris May 8, 2010, 9:25 am

    I still have to read The Bell Jar and I’m glad to hear you liked it.

    The “This Day in the Life” series sounds interesting. I had never heard of it before, but I agree that it looks like a good read for Women Unbound.

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:22 pm

      Iris: Yes, I’m glad I enjoyed the book too. It’s a book I’m glad I read now, since I think part of what I connected with was Ester’s age and life circumstances.

      The “This Day” series is just great. This was the third — the other two were similar, although one focused specifically on women at work. I really enjoy them.

  • Aarti May 8, 2010, 10:27 am

    I have that same edition of The Bell Jar! I am supposed to read it with Eva, but I don’t know when we’ll get around to it. I also find your thoughts on Invictus interesting. Thanks!

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:24 pm

      Aarti: I got it in a giveaway at a publisher blog I read. I love the cover, and the inside font is pretty neat too.

  • Steph May 8, 2010, 11:06 am

    I read The Bell Jar when I was in highschool, which I think was the best time to do so. I remember really enjoying the book (which seems odd to say, given the subject matter), and I’d like to re-read it sometime this year. I have the same copy as you do, which I think is oh so pretty!

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:25 pm

      Steph: I’d tend to agree. I think there are certain times when what Esther is going through — all the transitions and insecurity — really ring true. I can imagine high school being another good time for that.

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) May 8, 2010, 6:51 pm

    The Bell Jar does sound good, even thought it’s addressing a dark subject.

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:25 pm

      bermudaonion: It takes on the dark topic with a sense of humor, which is I think what makes it work.

  • Jeane May 8, 2010, 9:31 pm

    I still remember my favorite part of the Bell Jar, even though it’s been several years since I last read it: when at some fancy dinner she ate caviar rolled up in something, with her fingers, totally nonchalant. It was just a really clever scene, I thought.

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:26 pm

      Jeane: Yes! There are a lot of really funny scenes in the book. Esther is a fun narrator for that reason too.

  • raych May 9, 2010, 12:03 am

    I don’t mind at all! Reviewlettes are an awesome way to dump a bunch of reviews at once, or to deal with those books that don’t inspire either gushing or gnashing.

    Also, The Bell Jar is totally on my list of to-read-because-come-on-how-have-you-not-already books, and I love my humor tinged with a hint of despair. Will be moving that one up.

    • Kim May 9, 2010, 1:28 pm

      raych: Yes, such a good way. I feel like my review pile got a lot smaller without a lot of work. And “reviewlettes” is just a great word 🙂

      I think you’d really like the tone in The Bell Jar, there are tons of funny scenes and weird analogies that only make sense with this sort of dark and sad sense of humor.

  • Rebecca Reid May 11, 2010, 2:22 pm

    I can’t wait to read Bell Jar. I’m waiting for a time when I’m not sad because even if there is some humor, it sounds like there is pretty intense sadness too.

    • Kim May 12, 2010, 9:27 pm

      Rebecca: Yes, it is a pretty sad book, or at least hard to read because of Esther’s mental illness. I didn’t feel depressed after finishing, bit it’s certainly a little dark.