#49. Pam of Babylon (Suzanne Jenkins)

Book: Pam of Babylon, by Suzanne Jenkins

Genre and Year of Publication: Contemporary fiction, 2004

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 334 pages

Briefly, it’s what happens when a man dies suddenly and his widow discovers that he’s been having an affair – and more.

Comments: Ach, no.  The plot line that I’ve indicated is indeed a theme that could be well explored in fiction.  How does a woman come to forgive the mistress of her dead husband and even develop a friendship with her?  But here is it all too slick, too easy.  Add in all the other revelations that come tumbling out about this deceased creep – all in the space of a few weeks, mind you – and Pam’s acceptance of them all, and it just becomes too unrealistic. 

NB: There is some “mature content” which may not be acceptable to more squeamish readers.

Challenges: ebook reading challenge 2014


#13. The Wife of Reilly (Jennifer Coburn)

Book: The Wife of Reilly, by Jennifer Coburn

Genre: Romantic comedy

Where I got it: Free Kindle download

Length: 304 pages

Briefly, it’s about Prudence, a New York accountant who wants to divorce her husband Reilly, in order to marry the college sweetheart with whom she has unexpectedly re-connected – but who, to assuage her guilt at dumping Reilly, attempts to find a new wife for him to replace herself.

Comments: The plot is totally absurd, yet there are interesting flashes of reality in here – if there weren’t, I wouldn’t have kept reading to the end.  Elements of the story of Prudence’s relationship with her father were revealing, and towards the end there was an unexpectedly positive account of her encounter with a Catholic nun in a hospital chapel.  But the closing chapter?   Ah well, we all need to escape from reality from time to time.

Challenges: Ebook reading challenge.

Maura’s Dream

Book: Maura’s Dream, by Joel Gross

Genre: Historical Fiction

Where I got it: Free Kindle download  (the book was first published in 1982, but released on Kindle in 2012, with a freebie promotion in 2013)

Briefly, it’s about a young Irish emigrant taking her first steps at a new life in New York in the last years of the nineteenth century.  Maura exchanges the completely unrealistic American Dream she harboured when she was still in Kerry for a much more attainable one.  In a short but drama-filled period she is married, widowed, survives the killer steerage class of the emigrant ship, is lured into a brothel where she is gang-raped and prostituted, escapes, meets and rejects a wealthy but self-centred Prince Charming, works in a slave-labour sewing factory where she organises a strike (successful, of course), goes to night school and gets a better job, teaches herself to type, and ends up facing a better, brighter, attainable future.

What I liked:  Interesting plot line, deals with important topics such as the luring of innocent young girls into prostitution (I remember hearing of some nuns in London who, when the mail train from Ireland arrived at Euston station, would be on the platform to seek out any girl who had nowhere to go and bring them to their hostel for the night, before anyone else could pick them up – I’m sure this is a very real danger today too, all over the world); men’s attitudes to prostitutes; labour and unions; back-street abortions; the necessity of being true to oneself and not selling out to another’s vision for short-term benefits.

What I didn’t like so much:  In places it is much too long, and could have benefitted from heavy editing.  Some of the details of Ireland should have been checked (“Brendt” is not a name that I’ve ever come across, and “Maura” is much more likely to have been “Máire” in that context; Wexford is east of Kerry, not west); the role of religion and belief is treated very superficially without real understanding.  There’s a tendency to project 20th century concerns back onto an earlier age.

Anything else: I really laughed at the Goodreads comment where someone called “Maura” was bought this book by her aunt, who seems not to have looked beyond the title when she gave it to her niece, then in 3rd grade!  The book was confiscated as unsuitable by her parents, but Maura found it and read it surreptitiously anyway!