05 September 2010 @ 11:04 pm
I Shall Wear Midnight  
I finished it today.

I am really not what to make of it yet. I'm worried about a couple of things, especially with regards to word choices, and love others.

It struck me as a very patchy book compared to the other witch books, with plot and cohesion not always stringently followed through. Many of the main characters were introduced, but I still couldn't really care about them by the end of the book. The love stories appeared to be rather stuck on, as though coming-of-age stories about women always mean two things - coming to terms with misogyny and finding love, and that doesn't convince me at all.

I liked the way the text introduces three women with very different background who all three face the same difficulties in different ways and the way the three different stages of womanhood that are always present in the witch books are also present in this one, I like that we get to see how the negative effects of these three different stages or kinds of womanhood can be forced onto women through circumstances they can't control. Tiffany becomes a crone through having too much on her plate alone too soon, Amber becomes the teenaged mother of a dead child through both early love and abuse, Letitia retains her maidenhood through enforced ignorance. Neither of them has much choice in the matter, and each of them has to deal with her lot and to change what they can change and work around what they can't.

I liked that Tiffany has to fight with what I read as misogyny personified. It was convincing, overpowering, affected men and women alike. I also liked that she'd have to fight that battle alone, because it's realistic in a depressing way - because it affects everybody there are no allies, really. I emphatically didn't like the way that this force was characterised as magical - it's not. It's people being people, and I am sad that the author who managed to write empathically about torturers in Small Gods ("There are hardly any excesses of the most crazed psychopath that cannot easily be duplicated by a normal kindly family man who just comes in to work every day and has a job to do") can't manage to see batterers the same way.

The entire Amber subplot left me open-mouthed. So she moves back in with her parents, and that's the end of that because her father, was under the influence of a magical force? It led him to punch her so hard she lost her baby and that's that, and she now understands? I loved the bit about the thistles, that is very realistic, but it is realistic without any mythical magical forces at work, and least said, soonest mended doesn't cut in in this case. Especially, witch or not, if the girl in question is all of thirteen years old. The text seemed to say, "Well, but these things happen, so you have to learn how to deal with them and be understanding about them". No, you don't. That's sort of what being a witch used to be about, about not understanding unspeakable cruelty. While that is true, depressingly enough, soothing someone out of their wits and then informing them that their abusive father was under the influence of magic is no fitting end, especially seeing as how he's been abusive before. While it's sad that he himself was abused, that is not an excuse. Even though I can imagine families staying together after abuse happened I doubt that an "I'll understand" spoken by the survivor of horrible abuse is in any way an appropriate ending, witch or not.

Letitia I couldn't grow that fond of, because while I see that her position was difficult and, in a way, as restrictive as the lives the other two young women were facing, her life-story was introduced too hurriedly and too patchily for me to grow attached to her.

The love plots I hated. I don't see why Tiffany'd need a boyfriend to conclude her coming-of-age, and he seemed to be rather shoe-horned into things. Of course it's helpful to have a partner if you can't ask your colleagues because it goes against a twisted sense of professional honour, but seeing as how Granny Weatherwax also always had plenty of help, it doesn't seem to make sense and just happens too quickly.

Also, "bitch" and "whore"? Really? Really? I never felt as slapped in the face by the use of a profanity in a book before. Even though it emphasises the double-bind and the idiocy of calling someone who is a virgin and completely ignorant of all things sexual a "whore", as well a the strange circumstances under which women are kept ignorant, are then expected to suddenly be sexual beings from one second to the next and get labelled as "whore" once they express an interest in doing so, it just did not fit.

It did not fit the first time, when the word "bitch" was used for the first and only time as something other than a rather unfortunate typo or a word used in reference to female dogs in the discworld novels, and reading the word "whore" in a book which is still a book for children in a coming-of-age novel with a mostly female audience is all kinds of inappropriate, especially because Tiffany's etymological argument for the usage of the word doesn't check out, it seems that the meaning of this word has always been "promiscuous, immoral woman", at least according to my etymological dictionary - which, admittedly, is not very good.

I don't mind bad language, but using misogynistic terms for the first time in the entire series in the book which is a coming-of-age story for girls is just wrong. Yes, these things happen, and young girls will know about that better than anybody, but for me it ruined the book rather than adding them out of respect to people's experience who hear these terms often enough.

I loved seeing Esk again, but I didn't like the way her life was characterised as one spent as the shadow of Simon. Esk is powerful in her own right, thank you very much.

All in all, what I didn't like most of all is the way the book breaks up homosocial groups in favour of heterosexual relationships and constellations, something which is beneficial for Tiffany, who can't ask her witch friends for help at this point, but dangerous for both ignorant Letitia and abused Amber. And while this is, again, realistic, it is not a positive thing, and something that I really didn't miss while reading the other witch novels.

So, I loved the way that coming of age in a misogynistic world as a powerful woman is dealt with, I really didn't agree with the way misogyny is portrayed. I have to think about this a bit more.
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[identity profile] duckygirlrocks.livejournal.com on September 6th, 2010 06:51 pm (UTC)
Wow, this sounds like an interesting, yet disappointing, read. I'm in the middle of reading Game of Thrones for the very first time, but I might check this out afterwards!

Is this book written from a pagan point of view, or is the term witch convenient to a fantasy setting? Just curious, since I'm intrigued by books from a pagan viewpoint. :)
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Mothwing: A'Tuin[identity profile] mothwing.livejournal.com on September 6th, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC)
I can't say much about the witch books from a pagan point of view because, well, I'm not. It does pick up on various European pre-Christian mythology, symbolism and beliefs and is set in the polytheistic discworld, so I suppose it is, even though there are palpable Christian influences throughout the witch series, too. I can't really answer that question competently, but I'm curious about it - what is a pagan point of view for you? What kind of pagan?

Do you like the Game of Thrones? I must say I couldn't stomach all the abuse and violence and opted out. So many people I like are fans of his series that I hoped for more, though I suppose it might get better? I don't know.
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[identity profile] duckygirlrocks.livejournal.com on September 7th, 2010 09:48 pm (UTC)
On the first question; A year ago I fully let go of the last of my Christian background and embraced Wicca, the only pagan religion I knew at that time. The decision wasn't easy (years in the making, truthfully), and deeply personal, but I felt it was right in that I was and am looking for balance in my life. Harmony with the male and female aspects. And the old religions seem to address this far more than the monotheistic Christian religion I followed for so long. I still respect Christianity and all the principles I learned while a part of it, and I've learned that Wicca isn't the only path to the old beliefs. But I'm still learning, and was intrigued with the idea of a book being written from the PoV of a pagan. I'm still learning, and I like to see from different perspectives. :)

On Game of Thrones; I think I would have had the same reaction you did if I hadn't prepared myself for the ugliness. GRRM is RAW, that's for sure! I had heard that there was alot of sexuality in the book, much of it bad, so to prepare myself I went to Google, Wikipedia, and any other website I could find that not only had plot summaries open for me to read (so I could find out if I wanted to continue), but character critiques, plot analysis, and anything that I could strip down and examine well before deciding to read. I just got past the part where an assassin tried to kill Catelyn and the comatose Bran, but I had been prepared for that, and Jaime and Cersie, and Jaime's despicable attempted murder of Bran. The things he does for love?? PLEASE!! The worst part is I believe them!! What does that say about them??? Aahh, but research prepared me. It's the only way I could have dove into these books.

I normally don't like to spoil books for myself, but I make exceptions. ESPECIALLY for sweeping epic and divergent plot lines in these books. Yes, I think it gets better. Princess Dani's storyline alone has me wanting to know more, though I know she's not perfect. With my research, Jaime Lannister has even won my VERY SLIGHT sympathy, jerkoff that he is. But he realizes it. Later.

Si I'm looking forward to the rest of the books, and even the HBO series that's coming out. Should be interesting!
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woldy[personal profile] woldy on October 5th, 2010 05:42 am (UTC)
I think I've read every Discworld book except this one, & your review makes me want to avoid it. The romance plot with Tiffany bugged me in Wintersmith because it came across as unnecessary and heavy-handed, particularly given how young she is, and I'm not sure I want to read a clumsily-handled story about domestic abuse.
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