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Books by the Blogger:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


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READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


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TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


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paperback | hardcover (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


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SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


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ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


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IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


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I've decided to stop accepting review copies. The downside of getting buried in free books is that reading increasingly becomes an obligatory act. After some seven years of blogging books, it's time for me to return to the simple pleasure of reading only the books I want to read, when I want to read them.



  
From a random review:

  

« York, Lynn: The Piano Teacher | Main | Hall, Parnell: A Puzzle in a Pear Tree »

Weber, Katharine: The Little Women

  

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux © 2003, 256 pages [amazon]
4 stars

The three Green sisters who are the little women of Katharine Weber's title--Meg, Joanne, and Amy, who were indeed named after the characters of Louisa May Alcott's classic--have, like their literary counterparts, lived an insular life centered on their family. They have in fact constituted, they understand--together with their English professor mother and their inventor father--the perfect family, []the sort of nuclear unit other families aspire to be, a self-contained quintet of tall, attractive, intelligent people who pepper their discourse with literary allusions and entertain themselves with ingenious made-up games. But when the girls discover that their mother has had an affair, and when their father refuses to join them in condemning her, the sisters become as disgusted with their family's imperfection, with their parents' failure to live up to the family's moral standards, as they had been convinced of its superiority. The younger Greens choose to divorce themselves from their parents, and they move out of their New York apartment to New Haven, where Meg is in her third year at Yale. Together the sisters face the logistical difficulties, unanticipated by them, of a life lived without parents.

But when the girls discover that their mother has had an affair, and when their father refuses to join them in condemning her, the sisters become as disgusted with their family's imperfection, with their parents' failure to live up to the family's moral standards, as they had been convinced of its superiority.Katharine Weber's The Little Women, which follows in broad strokes the plot laid down by Alcott's book, takes the form of an autobiographical novel written by middle sister Joanna and punctuated with disapproving notes penned by her sisters. Meg and Amy complain throughout about, alternately, Joanna's departures from the truth in her novelized portrayal of their exploits and her too intimate revelations about them. Their comments refer to events that occur outside the scope of the story Joanna tells, and thus supplement what we know about the Greens' lives while furthering our understanding of their characters.

Weber's novel tells an interesting story in an unusual way, and in sometimes very pleasing prose, such as this description of Joanna's initial response to the lobby of their New Haven apartment: "The small lobby was disappointingly dingy, and Joanna privately hoped its faintly urinaceous atmosphere had arrived with them as a lingering memento of their taxi ride and wasn't going to be an olfactory theme of their new lives." I do have some complaints with the book: Amy's tyrannical substitute teacher in her public high school in New Haven seems too cruel to be believed, and a scene in which the girls' roommate Teddy, acquired at the beginning of the school year, expresses a romantic interest in Joanna seems unprepared for.  In the early part of the book the girls' dialogue sometimes struck me as unrealistic, but this fault may be attributable to the purported author of the book--Joanna, about whose lack of facility in writing her sisters regularly complain--rather than to Weber herself. It is noteworthy, at any rate, that my other complaints about the book were answered, in a sense, by the book itself: just as I was becoming annoyed at Joanna's over-long description of her family's perfection, for  example, her sisters' scholia intruded to tell the author to cut it out. And while I found it difficult to sympathize with the Green sisters' overreaction to their parents' "faults"--sundering a happy home because they are unable to forgive their mother--I was not alone in my criticism of them: parentless, good guy Teddy was present to express his own impatience with the girls.

Well-written, and interesting for its unusual form, Weber's book also appeals--to me, at least--for its accurate depiction of Yale life and New Haven landmarks. Readers familiar with Weber's earlier work, too, will get a nice surprise in the appearance--in a sort of deus ex machina role--of photographer Harriet Rose, the protagonist of the author's first novel, Objects in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.

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Book-blog.com reviews by Debra Hamel are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/).

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About the blogger: Debra is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece, including Trying Neaira: The True Story of a Courtesan's Scandalous Life in Ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  






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Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.