Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

Summary: A mysterious outbreak of typhoid fever is sweeping New York.

Could the city’s future rest with its most unlikely scientist?If Prudence Galewski is ever going to get out of Mrs. Browning’s esteemed School for Girls, she must demonstrate her refinement and charm by securing a job appropriate for a young lady. But Prudence isn’t like the other girls. She is fascinated by how the human body works and why it fails.With a stroke of luck, she lands a position in a laboratory, where she is swept into an investigation of the fever bound to change medical history. Prudence quickly learns that an inquiry of this proportion is not confined to the lab. From ritzy mansions to shady bars and rundown tenements, she explores every potential cause of the disease.

But there’s no answer in sight—until the volatile Mary Mallon emerges. Dubbed “Typhoid Mary” by the press, Mary is an Irish immigrant who has worked as a cook in every home the fever has ravaged. Strangely, though, she hasn’t been sick a day in her life. Is the accusation against her an act of discrimination? Or is she the first clue in a new scientific discovery?

Prudence is determined to find out. In a time when science is for men, she’ll have to prove to the city, and to herself, that she can help solve one of the greatest medical mysteries of the twentieth century.

My Thoughts: Interesting look at disease and the role of women back when female doctors were an unheard of thing. I read this back in June so I can’t think of too much to say–I did enjoy the narrator and the author’s depiction of the women’s movement particularly.

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Climbing the Stairs by Padma Venkatraman

Rating: 6 out of 10
Summary: During World War II and the last days of British occupation in India, fifteen-year-old Vidya dreams of attending college. But when her forward-thinking father is beaten senseless by the British police, she is forced to live with her grandfather’s large traditional family, where the women live apart from the men and are meant to be married off as soon as possible.

Vidya’s only refuge becomes her grandfather’s upstairs library, which is forbidden to women. There she meets Raman, a young man also living in the house who relishes her intellectual curiosity. But when Vidya’s brother makes a choice the family cannot condone, and when Raman seems to want more than friendship, Vidkya must question all she has believed in.

Commentary: If you couldn’t tell from the summary, this novel ends up being a very gung-ho feminist power, education yay book. Not that there’s anything implicitly wrong with that… But it seemed a little too blunt and obvious for my tastes. The message gets a little preachy and overshadows, at times, the characters and the plot.

The protagonist, Vidya, is a likeable enough character. Her relatives are nicely villainous, and her family’s situation is sympathetically pitiable. An ethnic Cinderella–she even finds a lovely prince.

I wish there’d been a little more depth–but perhaps good for the younger reader.

The Jigsaw Woman by Kim Antieau

COVER the jigsaw woman by kim antieauRating: 6 out of 10
Summary: Antieau’s amorphous debut, having no truck with orthodox novelistic ambitions, takes the form of an extended feminist polemic. Keelie, still healing and unable to talk yet, awakens to the realization that she’s a composite of three distinct individuals, surgically fused together. Her head once belonged to drowned Anna, her body is that of poor murdered Bella, while her dancer’s legs derive from suicide Lee. Keelie has been created by Victor to be his lover, and she’s attended by timid medic Griffin, psychiatrist Hart, and Lilith, Victor’s deformed wife.

All of these people, as the young woman’s experiences unfold, are shown to be related by blood or marriage, through space and time. Indeed, Keelie relives something of the miserable lives and sad deaths of the women whose hybrid she is. But before long she’s seized by the death-goddess, Eriskegal, and commanded to remember everything.

Soon Keelie recalls a time in the South American rain forests around the advent of Columbus, where she and the others live in idyllic circumstances—until a ship bringing Victor’s brutal and domineering father arrives to kill or enslave them all. Later, in a prehistorical matriarchy beset by vicious patriarchal invaders, Keelie must persuade her warrior lover, Victor, to reject his father and his horrific conquests. Finally, as she remembers

Summary: I have a mixed opinion about this. The ideas were good, the progression was good, and the characters were all interesting, although I’m still not 100% sure about Victor yet (who was an obvious reference to Victor Frankenstein from Mary Shelley’s classic).

However it did get very preachy in certain areas, no subtlety at all. I alternately enjoyed and raised my eyebrows at the dialogue. Sometimes I liked Keelie’s spirit, but sometimes she bothered me as a character–again, too obvious, not very well fleshed out. The author was successful, in the end, of convincing me of the romance. Very sexual in some parts.

Very feminist. Great ideas, could have done with a little more work.