I raved about Dietland a couple of weeks ago at Bacon and pressed it upon my friend Grace Awh, who was headed to Vienna and Prague and was looking for a good read on the plane. She called me today with a friendly report – and a bone to pick. We agreed on many things about the book, but she had a different take on Plum Kettle, the heroine. “I just didn’t like her,” Grace said. “She didn’t see the goodness in our culture or in anyone around her. She responded to cruelty with cruelty…” As we talked, I began to see Plum anew, through my friend’s eyes. Dietland is in many ways an angry book – that much I had observed for myself (and shared with you, Bacon reader!). It is angry about how women hate their bodies when they aren’t thin enough, and angry about women being treated first and foremost as objects of sexual attention, and angry about businesses that prey upon women’s insecurities. But I had focused on the comic elements through which the anger was expressed. I hadn’t so much considered Plum’s narrowness of spirit. Or the fact that there wasn’t one decent male in the entire book. Or the fact that some of the disturbing sexual content seems – well, maybe gratuitous.
So, I’d like to issue a public addendum. I would still recommend Dietland – see my review! I also think I downplayed something sad – and not to be admired – that beats in the heart of this book. Please tell me when I don’t get it quite right! Or when I get it wrong. Seriously.
Grace is quite the savvy reader, but then, so are you, oh, Sizzler Of The Bacon. The takeaway? Not every book works for every reader, not even when that reader is a very good friend.
Miriam, that’s such a nice way to think about it! Thank you! xo
Jennifer, you know that I am always honest with you. This is one of the things that I love about the human mind and heart and reading….we all bring our own experiences to the written word and there are so many layers of reading. Clearly this is a book that I now need to add to my list!
I love and appreciate your honesty, Lawrence! And I would be so interested to know what you think of this book! xo
This happens almost every month at book club meetings here at Parnassus. Someone feels one way about a book; another view is expressed; discussion ensues; minds expanded (and sometimes changed!). Keep up the good work here!
Thank you so much, Kathy! I think one of the great things about reading fiction is that it develops our capacity for empathy. When you discuss a book with someone, you continue that journey. I appreciate your kind encouragement! xo
I like this so much. It’s normal to adapt and change opinions about things we read, especially when we talk about them with friends. Bravo to you for writing about this. It makes me value your reviews even more.
Sometimes I read a book and write about it before it has had a chance to settle in my mind and heart – and often before I have spoken to anyone about it. Talking with Grace reminded me of just how much you can miss. Thank you for your very kind comment, Linda – and I can’t wait for your post in August!! xo
I know! Excited.