Friday, October 12, 2012

2012 book 285

Jo Walton's Farthing
I've been meaning to read more of Walton's work since I loved Among Others so much, and this one seemed tailored to my tastes based on a quick glimpse of the description--in the late '40s, a noble (or whatever, I don't know the terms, her dad is a Viscount) girl marries a Jewish man, to everyone's chagrin (especially her mother's), and when they're at her parents' for a house party, a prominent politician is murdered, and it looks like her husband is being framed for it. Awesome, right?! British class issues, post-war stuff, Judaism, AND a mystery--perfect!

But it turns out that I hadn't read the description closely enough, and it took me a little while to figure out that this all takes place in an ALTERNATE version of history, where Britain accepted peace with Hitler in 1941--so he's still in power, ruling over all the Continent, and anti-Semitism is rampant in England even more than usual. And frankly, I found this all very upsetting and often painful to read. The casual and cruel anti-Semitism of some of the characters--and the sense of impending doom for the Jews--it stressed me out. (Side note: like in Philip Roth's Plot Against America, Charles Lindbergh is the president of the US! His was published first, but I don't remember enough about it to say whether they're set in the same universe or not.) I got weepy with anger during at least one scene.

Anyway, the story moves along at a good pace--it's alternately narrated by the woman mentioned above and the (secretly gay) Scotland Yard inspector investigating the murder--but it's just so . . . disheartening. And it's the first of a trilogy! I'm almost afraid to read the next one. A-, because it's very effective and well-written, but too upsetting to be a full A.

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