No Female President, But Women-Centered Novels Are Still to Be Read

When I prepared to write this blog post on November 7, I fully expected the United States to elect its first female president the next day. So I decided my topic would be novels that are very women-centered.

But Hillary Clinton shockingly lost to Donald Trump, and these four things came to mind: 1) Many people dislike what America’s political and corporate elites are doing in this have/have-not country, so Bernie Sanders (or Elizabeth Warren, if she had run) would have had a better chance than Clinton to beat the fake populist Trump. 2) Huge crowd drawer Sanders never had a chance during the primaries because the mainstream media under-covered him or covered him with negative bias, because the supposed-to-have-been-neutral Democratic National Committee backed Clinton, because unelected superdelegates also tipped the scales, etc. 3) Clinton is smart, hard-working, resilient, and experienced, but didn’t fit America’s current anti-elite mood, even as she was slammed with sexism.  😦  4) My topic will still be fiction that’s very women-centered.

(If you want to agree with or dispute my election analysis, please do! I should also mention that my book columns after this one will return to discussing politics only occasionally. But political thoughts in the comments section are always welcome!)

Back to this week’s literary topic: So many novels — and not just thrillers — are male-oriented that it’s interesting when things get less testosterone-y. Books focusing mostly on women are often more subtle, more nuanced, more psychological, more emotionally satisfying, etc. — though it’s of course hard to totally generalize.

One example of a very women-centered novel is Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, which I happened to read during this past election week. The elegantly written, heartbreaking book features three generations of women from the same extended family who live in virtual isolation in the Pacific Northwest.

There are also novels that are women-centered mainly because they feature multiple sisters — for instance, five in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and four in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, and Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies. Fewer, but still memorable, sisters in such works as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.

Other novels spotlight strong female friendships (and sometimes conflict between those friends), as in Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale and Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride.

Then there are books featuring lesbian relationships, including Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle, Colette’s Claudine at School, and Jane Rule’s Desert of the Heart.

Plus fiction set at women’s colleges (such as Dorothy L. Sayers’ Gaudy Night), set in towns where female inhabitants are the focus (such as Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford), and that feature workplaces of all or mostly women (such as Fannie Flagg’s The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion and Lisa Scottoline’s The Vendetta Defense and other Scottoline novels starring characters from the female Philadelphia law firm of Rosato & Associates).

What are your favorite women-centered novels?

This literature blog and my local weekly humor column usually don’t intersect, but I decided to give the latter a book theme for one week. Many authors and novels are referenced.

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else.)

I’ve finished writing a book called Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Writers, but am still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as “Dear Abby” and Ann Landers, and other notables such as Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

82 thoughts on “No Female President, But Women-Centered Novels Are Still to Be Read

    • Thanks for commenting, saidunzoo!

      My blog is much more literature than politics, but I have mixed feelings about Hillary Clinton. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primaries and Jill Stein in the general election (which didn’t hurt Clinton because I’m in a safe blue state that Clinton won big). Still, Clinton is way better than the atrocious Trump…

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  1. Having written about this book only a few weeks ago, I will not tax the attention of readers today with a lengthy description of plot or characters, but:

    H. Rider Haggard’s She (1887) is a literally fantastic tale written at the height of the empire on which the sun never set, and apes the African adventurer tales (somewhat truthy) that were very popular among readers of the time. The central character is an ancient yet ageless queen, She (also known as She Who Must Be Obeyed), of absolute and awesome power, who rules a benighted population of thralls in the wildest and most remote area of wildest Africa. Through the power of a subterranean and mysterious fire, she has acquired a near-immortality and divine status. By the time the party of Englishmen, one of whom narrates the tale, have encountered her, she is over 1000 years old and can kill with a touch. Yet she remains unrequited in love down all the long years, which proves her eventual undoing.

    As a period piece of colonial fantasy, I doubt She could be bested. As a book in which a woman character is central, dominant and even gold-like, She most eminently qualifies.

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    • Thank you, jhNY! After you discussed that book a few weeks ago, I looked for it in my library. Not there then, but will keep an eye out for “She.”

      Great description again, and can’t wait to read H. Rider Haggard’s novel.

      Reminds me of some of the ageless or aged characters in such works as “Lost Horizon,” “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Pete Hamill’s “Forever” (New York City!), several Heinlein novels (Lazarus Long), various vampire tales, etc.

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    • Thank you, energywriter! Yes, various Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker novels would qualify. I haven’t read Sue Monk Kidd yet — waiting for “The Secret Life of Bees” to reappear in my local library. 🙂

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  2. Hi Dave, Well, I’m done with talking about the election, as it still seems so surreal to me. Now it’s just figuring out what I can do on my own about it. I’d love to go to the women’s march in DC the day of his inauguration if it actually happens, but I fear my marching days are over, unless someone pushes me in a wheelchair! 🙂
    To get back to books, I’m currently reading the 8th book in the Flavia De Luce mystery series written by Alan Bradley (“As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust”). The series’ female protagonist and narrator is an 11 year-old living in a decaying ancestral home in 1950’s England. Not only is she an amazing sleuth, she is a chemistry whiz proficient in mixing up all manner of things, including poisons. Somewhere along the way, she finally turned to 12 years of age, and in this book has been shipped off to a private girl’s school in Canada where her deceased mother was a student. Of course her first night there, she finds a corpse (her 8th as she notes) that was stuffed in one of the chimneys. It’s been said that these books have been written in the style of the Golden Age of Mystery Writers, which you know I love. No blood and guts, no sex, and no bad language, but well-written and somewhat humorous.
    That being said, Bill just finished a Reacher novel that he picked up at Goodwill and is now sitting on one of my kitchen countertops. It’s “Persuader,” and is this one you’ve read and liked? Should I attempt to read it after just finishing my latest Flavia book, or would it be a shock to my sensibilities? 🙂

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    • I know what you mean, Kat Lib. The election results DO seem surreal. And I will never support Trump “out of respect for the presidency.” Not only is he a racist, a sexual predator, and other awful things, but Hillary won the popular vote despite all of the GOP’s voter suppression.

      “As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust” sounds interesting, and your description of it is terrific!

      Have you ever read any of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins mysteries? They were recommended by bebe, and I just took the first one (“Devil in a Blue Dress”) out of the library this morning.

      “Persuader” is good (I’ve never read a Reacher book I didn’t like), but it’s not one of my favorites. Not one of my least favorites, either. Somewhere in between. Each installment of Lee Child’s series has some pretty violent moments, so one has to be ready for that…

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      • Yes, I do remember that there’s some violence in the Reacher novels, but that’s not necessarily bad in and of itself, as I really like many similar authors and books. However, I just learned that there is a new Flavia novel out, “Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d.” Bradley comes up with great titles, and I’ve started getting all of his books in hardcover. They all are the same size (smaller than normal), no jacket cover, and they all have the same look, except different colors. They make me happy just touching them (does that sound weird to you?).

        Yes, I did read the Mosley book, “Devil in a Blue Dress,” which as I recall, I liked OK, but I’m not sure if I read any others. I was looking at his list of books on Wikipedia, and noticed that most of his Easy Rawlins books have a color in their title. Not that it matters, but this was something John D. MacDonald did in his Travis McGee hard-boiled detective series. The one of his that I remember most was “The Green Ripper,” which was one of the character’s memory of how to think of “The Grim Reaper.” I’m not sure how that stayed with me for so many years. Anyway, I noticed that Mosley was awarded as a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America in 2016. I may have to give him another try, especially if bebe recommended it!

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        • Definitely sounds like the Flavia novels have great titles, Kat Lib! Touching (and looking at) aesthetically pleasing books? Sounds okay to me!

          Just peered at the Easy Rawlins titles, too, and there are indeed many colors in them. Nice observation! That thematic element reminds me a bit of Sue Grafton’s alphabet mysteries. (It appears her “T” installment was thankfully not called “T Is for Trump.”)

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          • Dave Easy Rawling`s were all set during 60`s era, that is another reason I enjoy his books so much. They are so much about what Blacks had to go through. But the man is very “easy” going I find them so relaxing.

            On Jack Reacher I realize is also a big hit. If there are any younger days Reacher there is one well known actor coming up only this is his face is super perfect. Other than that he is tall and strong..but Cruz will never cast him. Check him out . I first time noticed him in Gosford Park (2001) .

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            • Coincidentally, bebe, I just started “Devil in a Blue Dress” last night. I’m loving it!!! It’s set in 1948, when Easy Rawlins is in his 20s, but I guess a number of the later novels take place in the ’60s — definitely a great decade for a book to be set in.

              From the looks of that clip, Ryan Phillippe would make a GREAT younger Reacher. As you know, Lee Child’s “The Affair” and the new “Night School” are “flashback” novels with a younger Reacher, and the early books (“The Killing Floor,” etc.) have Jack in his 30s and 40s. Phillippe is 42, says Wikipedia, so that would work! But, yes, Tom Cruise wouldn’t want that.

              Thanks!

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        • “Bradley comes up with great titles”– yep, he reads Shakespeare! This from Macbeth:

          “Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
          Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.
          Harpier cries ’Tis time, ’tis time.

          Round about the cauldron go;
          In the poison’d entrails throw.
          Toad, that under cold stone
          Days and nights has thirty-one
          Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
          Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot.
          Double, double toil and trouble;
          Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

          Fillet of a fenny snake,
          In the cauldron boil and bake;
          Eye of newt and toe of frog,
          Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
          Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
          Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
          For a charm of powerful trouble,
          Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

          Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
          Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
          Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
          Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
          Liver of blaspheming Jew,
          Gall of goat, and slips of yew
          Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
          Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,
          Finger of birth-strangled babe
          Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
          Make the gruel thick and slab:
          Add thereto a tiger’s chaudron,
          For the ingredients of our cauldron.

          Double, double toil and trouble;
          Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
          By the pricking of my thumbs,
          Something wicked this way comes.”

          And of course, the last line is familiar to Harry Potter fans!

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            • Actually, I’d guess there are many more Harry Potter fans on earth right now who know that line from the movie than there are Bradbury readers– though among us older folk, the line may well be more associated with Bradbury. And it may well be where I first saw it– on the spine of the Bradbury book– but I never read Something Wicked This Way Comes. I did read Macbeth.

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              • I checked YouTube for that Harry Potter reference and, sure enough, the kids’ choir in one of the movies was singing those lines from ‘Macbeth’. I saw that movie when it came out but, even if I paid attention to the fact that they were putting lines from the play to music it just didn’t make an impression. It was a song in the movie. However, there WAS a film version of ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’ in the 80’s so I think even younger audiences might be familiar with that movie even if they’ve never read the Bradbury novel.

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          • jhNY, that verse you posted is certainly full of recognizable lines!

            As you know, a number of novelists have found titles in Shakespeare. Steinbeck’s “The Winter of Our Discontent,” W. Somerset Maugham’s “Cakes and Ale,” etc. Then there’s Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

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            • “You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!”

              I too endured a bout with the Bard in high school, and Julius Caesar was the selected text to be tortured. The line above was a favorite among us layabouts in the back of the classroom– and still sounds funny to me when I hear it in my mind now, half a century later, howled out irreverently and inappropriately in a Tennessee accent.

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    • Fear no more the heat o’ the sun;
      Nor the furious winter’s rages,
      Thou thy worldly task hast done,
      Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages;
      Golden lads and girls all must,
      As chimney sweepers come to dust.– Shakespeare (Cymbeline)

      Here’s the source for title, should you not know it.

      According to Hugh Kenner, in The Pound Era, the last two lines refer to dandelions– golden flowers first, then puffed out with their air-traveling seeds, then dead. ‘Sweepers’ was a local term (Stratford-on-Avon?) for dandelions in their seeded stage.

      But even without this local knowledge, the deeper meaning of the lines is clear.

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        • OK, Dave, bobess, and jhNY, I bow to your superior knowledge of Shakespearean quotes, which I do know are often used as book titles. As I’ve mentioned to Dave many times, I went to three different high schools and at each one, the play was always “Julius Caesar.” So I obviously knew where “The Fault in our Stars” came from. 🙂

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  3. One book that comes to mind when considering a strong woman-centered novel is one of the first English language novels ever written: Daniel Defoe’s “Moll Flanders”, published in 1722. The story follows the life of the orphaned Moll, a criminal, immoral woman living at a time when her class status and gender offered very few options. However, it is soon apparent that Defoe characterization is sympathetic, as he presents Moll as a strong women, who despite her gender and social status, lives life on her own terms, determinedly doing what she must do in order to survive under these conditions

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    • Excellent example of a woman-centered novel, and, unlike all the books I mentioned in the column, written by a male author. Nicely summarized, drb!

      As I might have previously mentioned, I read “Moll Flanders” way back in college, and liked it enough to still have that now-aged paperback copy on a home book shelf. 🙂

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  4. If only Stieg Larsson the Swedish author had lived what would happen to Lisbeth Salander when she really grow up I wonder.
    The story was not in America where the most qualified Woman fit to be the President was not to win the Presidency instead a racist bigot, xenophobic misogynist did.
    An acquaintance of Larsson named Lisbeth was gang raped and he did nothing to help her, later He apologized which was not granted.
    That was theme for the millennium series created out of guilt.

    In spite of all odds Lisbeth survived and protected all she deeply care for with her life .
    A very powerful woman stood tall against all odds.

    I do know by now Dave what you think of Hillary Clinton but she stands tall in my mind, no other Candidate was more qualified than her.

    I was going to mention The Help but that was already covered.

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    • Good morning, bebe!

      Yes, Lisbeth Salander faced horrendous sexism, abuse, and more, and fought it valiantly and ultimately successfully — even as her psyche was deeply scarred by it all, as you know.

      I do partly admire Hillary Clinton. 🙂 Her smarts, resilience, capacity for hard work, experience, etc.! Just wish she was more progressive on a number of issues, less interested in making money, and didn’t have some ethical taints. Of course, Trump is INFINITELY worse.

      Thanks for your excellent comment!

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      • Dave I consider myself a Democrat and a liberal, but in my opinion too extreme right or left we end up in gridlock and nothing will ever get done. It is difficult to watch TV news each day to watch all the faces of hate, I don`t turn it on. But in the evening it is beyond my control.
        Another issue Democrats are not much into voting , but Republicans make that their first priority but they vote against their own interest.
        WE were in KS when this book was published.

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        • I hear you, bebe. But it seems unfair that, since the 1980s, the Republicans get very right wing presidents (Reagan, George W., Trump) who the Democrats at least partly cooperate with while the Democrats get centrist presidents (Clinton and Obama) who are obstructed at every turn by Republicans.

          As for Democrats voting less, I think a lot of that has to do with things like the GOP’s voter-suppression efforts and the fact the Democrats have many less-affluent people among their members who are so exhausted from working long hours or multiple jobs or dealing with poverty in general that they don’t vote as much or follow the news as much.

          I read “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” a number of years ago, and it’s an eye-opening book. Why do a lot of not-rich Republicans keep voting against their interests? Partly racism, I’m sure. I know there were also other reasons cited by Thomas Frank.

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            • I saw that yesterday, bebe. Absolutely disgusting comment — Michelle Obama has more class in her little finger than the whole Melania Trump has (though I don’t think it’s nice to post unclothed photos of her from her modeling days, and she seems like a halfway decent human being who’s married to an ogre. Still, she revoltingly agreed to marry him — I assume for the money). I hope that West Virginia official is fired (heard she might have been) and that mayor is kicked out of office. Stomach-turning racism is alive and well in the U.S. of A. 😦 And that racist official is saying that SHE’S the “victim of a hate crime.” What a jerk. Like a person murdering their parents and then moaning that they’re an orphan.

              Interesting to think where former HP posters have gone. Didn’t realize Raw Story was one of the destinations.

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              • bebe, not really relevant to our conversation (but maybe somewhat relevant), my local library had Walter Mosley’s “Devil in a Blue Dress” when I was there this morning. Yay! Next on my list after I finish a somewhat-long Peter Straub novel in a week or so. Will let you know what I think of Mr. Mosley — thanks again for recommending him!

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                • Yaa…read that…then look for Charcoal Joe, I was sidetracked with this ridiculous farce of election and being sick still now, totally wasted my time but have read half of it, loving it.

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                  • I know what you mean, bebe. During the past month, I read only two novels rather than my usual four or five because of reading about this stupid election, before and after.

                    Will keep “Charcoal Joe” in mind if I read Mosley again!

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          • Okay…1016 election is over DT is the President elect and back to his tweets and we see the selections so it is what it is.

            I have a book in front in front of me title ” Trump and Me”, by Mark Singer.
            Back of the book has ” Mark you are a total loser ! And your book ( and writings) sucks,! ”

            ~ Donald Trump.

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  5. Hi Dave,

    I think I’m still in shock. And still in the denial stage of grief. Although I must wonder, is it denial or just noticing the obvious? I really can’t get my head around how he won. I don’t know many American people, but of the few that I do know, they ALL voted against him. The online opinion seems to be that America got it wrong, and there are even protests by the American people! So if everyone (except for The Donald) is upset that he won, who the smeg voted him in?! And yes, I know he does have *some* support, but I’m baffled as to how it was enough to elect him. Ok, maybe I’m starting to move into the anger phase of grief…

    It is heart-warming to see posts like Kat-Lib’s that remind us that not everything is bad. Good things in my world that haven’t ended despite the Trump victory include:

    1 This blog 🙂
    2 I’ve finished moving house! I can’t find anything, but at least all the things that I can’t find are under one roof again 🙂
    3 Including my kitty-kat. After a day of two of her hiding under the bed, I’m finally waking up to kitty-kuddles again 🙂
    4 I meet with my book group tonight. And though there will be lots of talk about the election, we’ll also have time for lots of laughs. Plus I’ve read both of the books this month! Including Lionel Shriver’s brilliant “We Need to Talk about Kevin” which is the first book that I’ve ever suggested for our group 🙂
    5 It’s not quite as hot today as it has been. In fact the weather is so nice, that I’m very much looking forward to some afternoon walks along the water where I live 🙂

    The first novel that I thought of this week was “Jane Eyre” which I think you may have read before 😉 I know it’s not quite the same kind of strong and powerful as Hillary Clinton, but I was very impressed with Miss Eyre’s independence and integrity. Dave, I have a kind of convoluted To Be Read list, and one of the books on there simply says ‘Dave – Jane Eyre sequel’. I can’t find a conversation where we’ve discussed any other “Jane Eyre” novels, would you know what book it was that I was planning to read?

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    • Thank you, Sue, for your serious and funny comment — and for your kind two words in number one of your five-point list.

      Trump seemingly has tons of support among white people in America’s “heartland” — basically almost everywhere except the Northeast and West Coast, where there have indeed been plenty of protests against the election results. I guess I’m living in a bubble in my town, where only 10% of the residents voted for Trump, and NONE OF THEM WILL GET A CHRISTMAS CARD FROM ME.

      Great that you’ve finished your move, and that your cat is getting used to her new surroundings! “I can’t find anything, but at least all the things that I can’t find are under one roof again” — hilarious line!

      Glad you suggested a Lionel Shriver novel for your book group — what a fantastic contemporary author she is.

      The “Jane Eyre”-related novel you might be thinking of is a prequel — Jean Rhys’ “Wide Sargasso Sea.” Basically about the “madwoman in the attic” as a young woman, and how she and Rochester met.

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    • Hi Sue, Glad to hear that your move went well, and your cat has adjusted to it. One thing I’ve noticed about most cats I’ve had is that they don’t like change, and they immediately notice if just even one new thing is brought into the home they are used to. My poor sweet Jessie barely had time to get used to the move to my new home before I brought in a dog, horror of horrors! I can almost see her staring at me and thinking, “you traitor!” 🙂

      Thanks for mentioning the 5 good things to pass on to others in these rather awful days, and I’ve come up with another 5 to pass on:
      1) Thanks to you, Sue, for sharing your list with us.
      2) On a purely personal and financial note, I’m grateful that I have very good homeowner’s property insurance. I was telling the claims adjuster about this being the 3rd water/flood/damage incident for me in less than a year (she said, well, they do say things happen in 3’s so maybe this will it be it — one can only hope!).
      3) I’ve having Thanksgiving Dinner at a local, beautiful old inn with my sister, her husband and in-laws. There will only be six of us but that’s fine by me.
      4) I recently had lunch with a friend of mine, who had just adopted her 4th dog from the same rescue shelter where I got both Jessie and Willow. He came up here from Alabama, and for 7 years, he and his brother were chained up in a yard their entire lives. Her dog apparently turned out to be sweet as can be, and his brother was also rescued.
      5) Bill, who did vote for Hillary, was saying the other day about how hopeful he was about perhaps being wrong about the damage Trump would do to this country and is willing to keep an open mind. (Personally, based solely on his picks for advisors and possible cabinet picks, I remain extremely pessimistic and want to weep for our country!)

      I’d love to hear what your book club thinks about “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” which can be very unsettling, especially for mothers.

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      • Yes, Missy definitely doesn’t deal well with change. Whenever I do change anything, I make sure to show her what I’ve done, and let her have a sniff and get adjusted. A bit difficult though when it’s a whole house! But I let her jump up on whatever she wanted until she knew what was where. And I know it’s silly, but I kept explaining what I was doing, and when the furniture was coming etc. If any neighbours can hear me, they probably think I’m daft!

        Missy isn’t a fan of other cats, so I know I could never get a dog. Are Jessie and Willow used to each other? I’m so envious of all those photos of cats and dogs lying all over each other. But I’m very lucky to have my Missy-Moo so I don’t complain too much.

        Thanks for sharing your new 5 things to be happy about. Like Bill, I’m hoping that we’ve all overestimated how bad Trump will be. And after all, he isn’t doing things on his own. He can’t actually physically build a wall between The States and Mexico. He can’t send all women back to the 1950s. No matter how much he might want to. It’s just so hard to fathom the difference from Mr and Mrs Obama to Mr and Mrs Trump. Pictures of them side by side make them look like different breeds of people, not consecutive Presidents and First Ladies. I truly do hope The Donald surprises us all with some progressive and liberal attitudes.

        Sadly, my club didn’t seem too keen on Lionel Shriver. And the whole mother vs women with no kids thing didn’t even really come up. We mostly focused on Kevin’s ‘illness’ and how much society may or may not have been responsible. Being that no one else loved the writing style as much as I did, I tried not to gush too much. But I made it clear that they were wrong for not thinking that Ms Shriver was brilliant 😉

        Thanks, Dave. That does sound like a book that I’d be interested in reading. Maybe if I’d put the word prequel instead of sequel on my list, it might have been easier to decipher!

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        • You’re welcome, Sue! “Wide Sargasso Sea” is a beautifully written novel, though it doesn’t pack the emotional wallop of “Jane Eyre.” (When a sequel gets some PR, does it become a prequel?)

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  6. Hi Dave, I started a comment to you last night about books, but I was interrupted by Bill calling me from downstairs that we had a major problem with our ceiling and carpet from (you guessed it) water damage. At that point, I had another glass of wine and went to bed. This morning has been spent calling the contractor (who determined the problem was from a faulty kitchen faucet), getting a claim started for property damage, and am now waiting for the remediation team to start the process of drying things out. It hopefully won’t mean ripping out the entire ceiling. I don’t know if you follow John Oliver’s show on HBO, but he is hilarious, while doing more investigative stories than anyone. Last night’s episode had to do with the election, obviously, and how crappy this year has been (although I can’t use the more colorful language that he did).

    Anyway, last week I read two books that were female-oriented, “Truly Madly Guilty” by Liane Moriarty, and “”Today Will Be Different” by Maria Semple. Both were very good, although the former was not my favorite Moriarty book, but touched on female friendships, and one of the two main characters who had a hoarder for a mother and a deep desire to have a baby. The latter wasn’t as wonderful as “Where’d You Go Bernadette,” but a fascinating account of mostly one day in the life of the protagonist, with some flashbacks. She wakes up on that particular day and says, “Today will be different,” which is now my new mantra. 🙂

    You already touched on novels by Jane Austen, Lisa Scottoline, and Dorothy L Sayers (“Gaudy Night).” I would add a woman I’ve mentioned many times, Lily Bart, in “The House of Mirth.” She to me epitomizes the powerlessness of women back in the early 1900’s, even one with beauty, education, society relatives and friends, but impoverished and who reached the age when she was not yet married and therefore doomed. The flip side of her can be seen in Kate Croy in another Edith Wharton book, “The Wings of the Dove,” who is also impoverished but uses her beauty and “feminine wiles” (sorry, I don’t know where that phrase came from!) to captivate an also impoverished man, so she hatches a plan to get her lover to pretend to fall in love with a rich American heiress and marry her for the money. It seems hard at times to understand how difficult life could be for women, not just then, but even after we were allowed to vote, less than 100 years ago. One of the hardest things for me to accept is that regardless of what you think about Hillary, and I think very highly of her, is she was the most experienced of all candidates and still lost to an inexperienced, racist, xenophobic misogynist. Seems like we’ve not come far enough at all.

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    • Very sorry about the water damage in your house, Kat Lib. So stressful. I hope you have MANY years of no house problems after this.

      I’ve watched John Oliver’s show a few times on YouTube (including his segment on Trump and another segment on charter schools), and he’s excellent. Funny and informative, and he actually gives each topic nearly 20 minutes in this otherwise mostly dumbed-down media world.

      Thanks for your thoughts on “Truly Madly Guilty” and “Today Will Be Different.” Both sound very relevant to this week’s theme.

      While there are various male characters in “The House of Mirth,” Lily Bart and the precarious position of a not-rich, unmarried woman in that time and place are definitely the focus.

      The U.S. indeed has not come far enough when a flawed yet accomplished woman loses to someone like Trump — who IS an “inexperienced, racist, xenophobic misogynist” (you summed him up!). Absolutely sickened by the thought of him being president.

      Like

  7. The President Elect, by his own admission, does not read books. He “does not have time”. Clearly his attention span is limited. So, he won’t be posting on your blog, Dave! He reads tweets, his own, that is.

    Your discussion, saving political discourse: books with women in their center (rights and liberals can apply as well) I will add “The Help.” Was a beautiful story of women of color who came together during the civil rights turbulence of the 1960’s in Jackson, MI. Written by Kathryn Stockett and adapted into an excellent film, shows how women of various ages, colors and creeds can help sustain each other.

    Important lesson in these turbulent times, we most all come together, stop with negativity, clear one’s mind in healthy ways, starting with getting away from computers, devices-go outside and play for goodness sakes! Show strength through positive discourse in wanting a better America for all of us. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, Michele! Yes, the LAST thing the book-avoiding Trump would read is a literature blog. Yet his tweets have up to 140 characters, which may be larger than the cast of “War and Peace”… 🙂

      I haven’t read “The Help,” but it sounds like an excellent example of a women-centered novel — albeit women in an unequal hierarchy. From what you say, there was some coming together in that book despite that hierarchy.

      Excellent advice in your last paragraph. Thank you.

      Like

      • Relating to Trump’s reading habits, I was just responding to an e-mail from my friend that is now working full-time as a substitute teacher. He’s doing lesson plans, meeting parents, etc. He says, “I’m not an English teacher but I play one on TV.” It reminded me of Jack Crabb’s line from ‘Little Big Man’–“I wasn’t just playing Indian, I was BEING Indian,” which also brought to mind the moral of Kurt Vonnegut’s ‘Mother Night’–“We are what we pretend to be; therefore, we must be careful what we pretend to be”. I said I highly recommend that Trump read it ASAP. It’s short; he should be able to handle that.

        Liked by 1 person

          • What a book.. We Are What We Pretend to Be begins with Basic Training, a novella Vonnegut finished near the beginning of his writing career—only two years before his first novel .
            His first and last Novella his daughter published them after the author passed.
            Wish he was still alive.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Fascinating story and photos, bebe! Thanks for the link!

      It seems that, in a lot of ways, the Wellesley-era Hillary was a lot like the 2016 Hillary — incredibly bright, ambitious, consensus-seeking, kind of centrist. I guess she turned somewhat rightward — the story notes that she was antiwar back then, and now she’s unfortunately more “hawkish” than the majority of Democrats.

      Still, so much more qualified than Trump. What a country… 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • I respectfully disagree with some of your comments in your blog.
        I do agree on Bernie Sanders he is a very smart man in good health and a shrewd Politician. What if Hillary Clinton had him as her running mate.
        What if…
        Mr. Sanders gave it all and in the end supported Madame Clinton with the best of his ability and declined Jill Stein`s request. Perhaps in another 4 years he will run again !

        Perhaps in future I could vote for the Green party , but one does not start by running as President , why not run for other positions,in congress ,but Jill Stein was all wrong for that, she was never vetted and lot of her words were scary and she openly stated Trump would be better than Hillary Clinton as president. I posted enough on Jill Stein in your previous blog and that was plenty for me.

        Guess what, Donald Trump is the newly elected President and choosing his cabinet with people who would rather hate.Trump is anti-science, anti-education but again I wish him good health for the next four years, Mike Pence is way more dangerous than Donald trump.

        US of A fell far behind the rest of the World which includes some Third World countries with Woman as Presidents.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, bebe! While we disagree on some things, you made persuasive points.

          A Clinton-Sanders ticket would have handily defeated Trump-Pence, I think. But it was probably never a strong consideration. Clinton is a centrist, and her “friends in high places” would have had trouble accepting Sanders. And Sanders might not have been interested, because most vice presidents have little power and he might have thought he could do more good as an opposition figure — and as a Senator, if the Senate went Democratic, which unfortunately it didn’t. He did support Clinton after the primaries, though his politics were closer to Jill Stein’s, so the Democratic establishment “owes him” for that. I do hope Sanders runs again for 2020.

          I totally agree that Pence is more dangerous than the dangerous Trump. More conservative, and more disciplined. He may be supposedly “moral” as a “family man,” but his views of women and gays are from medieval times.

          I know some of us feel this more personally than others. While I as a white male probably won’t be hurt as much by Trump-Pence as some other people and groups, I do have a Latina daughter who will be living in a country with a president who has said awful things about her ethnicity and gender. 😦

          Yes, SO many countries in the developed and not-so-developed world have had women leaders!

          Liked by 1 person

          • Well with the last name ” Astor” and two protective parents and a sister she would be a okay…I have great hopes for the young and youth, they are more open and receptive hopefully it all will work out eventually Dave,

            Liked by 1 person

            • You’re right, bebe, but the election did upset her. She’s old enough to know that Trump and many (not all) of his supporters have a problem with the very idea of people of color. 😦

              It IS heartening that so many younger voters did NOT go for Trump. If they keep those views as they get older, maybe Trump will be the last right-wing president.

              BTW, as you know, I’m not related to any rich Astor — my paternal grandfather went through the name-change thing when he emigrated from Eastern Europe. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

  8. Your assessment of the crisis that lead to this devastating outcome is spot on, Dave. I’ve written about exactly those examples of why America Lost this election, over and over again in my comments posted on various articles. The blind disregard of ethics and the lack of willingness to understand that the nation was actually wanting, longing for ethics in this election outcome (President Bernie Sanders) has brought us to our heartbroken knees this week. First Wasserman-Schultz was posted at the DNC by Obama. Many of us cried foul immediately and continued to do so, having watched her Blue Dog approach to almost every issue she touched. She is not a true democrat, in my view. Never was. Obama ignored our pleas to replace her with someone of true regard for the working class. Then, the Main Stream media corporate boys decided to blacklist Sanders, his ideas, his platform, and every single person who supported him. The NY Times and the WAPO barely touched the surface of his run for office. Most of the Main Stream Corporate Boys handled it that way or worse. Chris Matthews of MSNBC did a nightly bashing of Sanders and a happy dance for Hillary. It went on day after day after day for months. I wrote to them. They ignored me. Then, in our Primaries, we had our voters suppressed by the local district leaders in some cases, with voters names being purged so they could not vote. Then we had Wasserman-Schultz eventually implicated in the scandal, but NOTHING done to stop her from being pampered, even taken in by Hillary. To take in someone who’s just committed such an unethical thing to AMERICAN VOTERS, is to have utter disregard for those very same voters. This is what Hillary did. She refused to have anyone take responsibility and that refusal turned and bit her hand, in the end. No one has apologized to us yet. Not Obama. Not Wasserman-Schultz. To me, these people, the NY TIMES, the WAPO, the LA TIMES all the owners of CBS, ABC, and NBC owe the nation a huge I AM SORRY! Right now none of them is taking ANY responsibility for what they’ve knowingly done to American Voters. I am so over Obama that I cannot even speak his name without getting sick to my stomach. It’s all been a SCAM of the tallest order. The Order that will likely do long-term damage to a nation, and very likely a number of other nations, as well. I will pray for the entire world, and I will hope and try to believe that we can go forward after this. But it will not be easy to have HopeWFaith any more. This challenge, I hope I am up to.

    Thank you, Dave. Respect you, man! Peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, hopewfaith! Eloquently/angrily said, and you make a number of great points.

      While I have some positive feelings about Hillary Clinton, and her ethical issues paled next to Donald Trump’s catastrophic lack of ethics, Clinton did indeed do (or allow to have done) various things that did not look good at all.

      As you noted, after Debbie Wasserman Schultz was ousted as DNC chair when Wikileaks proved she and the DNC had gamed the Democratic primary process, Clinton actually hired Wasserman Schultz for her campaign!

      And as someone who has been disgusted for years by Republican voter suppression and other GOP electoral shenanigans, I was dismayed to see strong evidence that the Democratic establishment wasn’t playing fair in the primaries. Bernie Sanders was getting 2008-Obama-type crowds, but that amazing support and enthusiasm didn’t put him over the top in many primary states, and one had to wonder why. (Hint: one of my liberal, Sanders-supporting brothers-in-law was purged from the voting rolls in Brooklyn for no reason before the New York primary.) And Sanders is totally ethical and was a very credible change agent at a time when so many people craved change as economic inequality increased to even more horrendous levels. Heck, I lost my job and eventually had to sell my home after bankers and others tanked the economy, and it galled me that establishment Republicans AND establishment Democrats bailed them out and never criminally prosecuted any individuals. Trump cynically took that longing for change and turned it in his sick direction.

      Plus the mainstream media, as you say, was hardly “fair and balanced.” I’m a longtime subscriber to the print New York Times, and I was horrified as that supposedly liberal paper gave Trump MUCH more space than Bernie Sanders, day after day, and, when it did cover Sanders, often did it in a sneering way. (It’s like the NYT thought Sanders would be slaughtered in a general election a la George McGovern in 1972, but this is a VERY different time — plus social media can do an end-around past the mainstream media’s bias toward more “corporate” candidates.) The NYT did try to take down Trump after Clinton became the nominee this summer, but it was too little, too late.

      (I realize parts of my comment kind of repeated some of what you said.)

      And thank you very much for the kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve read very little of Doris Lessing, and really should remedy that. Thank you, Roz — that’s one heck of an enthusiastic recommendation. There aren’t many novels that are life-changing.

      Like

      • I remember being affected by “The Golden Notebook,” and have been thinking about re-reading it. My memory for books written and read back many years ago is extremely poor unless I’ve read them at least several times, which is why I’ve read most of my favorites many times (or seen the movie).

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Dave, before posting about books, I’d like to share the following with you and others. My best friend sent me a letter this morning from a training group and it may be too long, but I’ll do some major editing. This is for any one who is feeling bad about the election:
    “Like many of you, our hearts have been pierced- indeed torn open by the presidential election results. We are reaching out to you in the midst of this heartbreak, fear, and outright rage to bear witness to our collective pain and to affirm who we are together: a strong, loving, international, and ever-growing Relational-Cultural community….In fact, we encourage each of you to take one simple action by sharing “Five Good Things” with one another – maybe an inspiring song, poem or even a kind smile shared with a stranger…In the meantime let’s all hold tight to Hillary’s slogan – “Stronger Together”.  We in RCT believe that; now we must live it.”

    Here are the five good things I want to share with all of you:
    1) Posting this for Dave’s book blog commenters.
    2) Watching the cold open of last night’s SNL with Kate McKinnon singing a Leonard Cohen song, if you haven’t already seen it: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/kate-mckinnon-snl-leonard-cohen-hillary-clinton_us_5828125fe4b0c4b63b0d0949
    3) Remembering that today was the pickup for the paper bag to be filled with canned goods, and boxes of rice and pasta (through the Lions Club of Kennett Square).
    4) The confluence of events (and coincidences) that led to my reunion with the girls in my neighborhood growing up, especially with my best friend from 1st grade.
    5) Bill taking my dog Willow for a walk this afternoon up our street, while I was lagging behind to give him a plastic bag for her poop, until I saw out of the corner of my eye a large dog in one of my neighbor’s yard. I told Bill to turn around, but before I knew it, two large dogs came racing towards Willow, and she slipped out of her collar and leash, while I was probably yelling some obscenities at the neighbor or a guest who’d have two dogs loose without a leash or a fenced-in yard. Fortunately, Willow took off like a bat out of hell to our front door (who knew a little dog could run so fast?). But I’m so grateful she’s OK, and I need to be more careful when taking her for walks.

    I’ll get back to you later about your actual blog!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kat Lib! An absolutely wonderful idea to think positive thoughts (while also fighting against almost everything Trump and his cohorts stand for). And I’m so glad Willow survived that alarming encounter with those two large dogs.

      I did see that Kate McKinnon “SNL” clip from last night. She is incredibly talented, and her past several months impersonating/satirizing Hillary have been just amazing.

      Like

  10. It’s interesting that you should cite ‘Housekeeping’ this week, as I just finished another novel of a household and extended family that is female-centric. In ‘Housekeeping’, of course, you have the grandmother, then the great aunts, then the eccentric younger aunt, plus two teenage girls–not a man around anywhere.

    I just read another novel with a largely female family, Donna Tartt’s ‘The Little Friend’. At the risk of self-promotion, I’m including the link to the review I wrote and posted yesterday:

    https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/75679114?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1

    What I didn’t emphasize in the review as much as I could have was that female dominance. The grandmother and great aunts in that novel bear some similarities to the aunts in ‘Housekeeping’. In both cases, the elderly sisters develop a sort of shorthand communication between themselves while also reminiscing ad nauseum about an ancestral patriarch. In ‘The Little Friend’, it’s Judge Cleve, one of the city fathers of Alexandria. In ‘Housekeeping’, it’s the traveling grandfather who worked on the railroad and seemed to prefer traversing the country to staying at home in remote Fingerbone, where isolation and frigid cold seems to freeze the inhabitant’s communicative abilities. With ‘The Little Friend’, the female Cleve’s and Harriett’s immediate Dufresne family are contrasted with the mostly male brood of Ratliffs. Ratliff is an appropriate name for a clan of poor white meth heads. In that respect, ‘The Little Friend’ is like a distant cousin of ‘Housekeeping’.

    They are both worthy inclusions in those novels with predominantly female casts i.e. the ones you mentioned such as ‘Little Women’ as well as Jane Austen’s novels with sets of sisters such as ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Sense and Sensibility’.

    Now someone just needs to write a novel about a female politician, not based on the one that just lost an election but a different kind of character entirely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, bobess48!

      I guess “Housekeeping” has a couple of minor male characters (the deceased grandfather you mentioned, the embarrassed sheriff), but it indeed has one of the most predominantly female casts I’ve ever seen.

      Interesting connections you cited between “Housekeeping” and “The Little Friend.” Also interesting that Donna Tartt’s most recent novel — the exceptional “The Goldfinch” — stars a male and has a couple of major male supporting characters as well.

      And an excellent idea to have a novel focus on a non-Hillary-type female politician!

      Last but not least, thanks for linking to your review of “The Little Friend.” Your book reviews are always impressive and absorbing.

      Like

    • Thank you, Sheila!

      I know Joe Klein’s “Primary Colors” has a character based on Hillary, but I wasn’t familiar with other novels she has a connection to.

      I’ve haven’t read any of Clinton’s nonfiction books, including her autobiography. I just haven’t had time for nonfiction books with all the novels I read! And I know there are some virulently anti-Hillary books by right-wing authors that I have little interest in reading.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sheila, I didn’t see your comment until after I posted mine. While more books on Hillary would be interesting, I suppose I’d just like to see more of a literary exploration of an ambitious female politician that has some different characteristics from Hillary. I think we need more female political examples than Hillary, or Hillary and Elizabeth Warren. We just need more of them, period.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Excellent point, bobess48. Hillary has been an outsize figure in America’s political landscape for a quarter century, but there are so many different kinds of female politicians — just as there are so many different kinds of male politicians. I’m trying to think of novels with female politicians, and haven’t come up with many — a couple of Fannie Flagg books, “The Hunger Games” trilogy, J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy” (if I’m remembering correctly)…

        Like

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