I was, at the same time, looking forward to this one and dreading reading it. So I had mixed feelings when it was sorted on my list right at the beginning. (I used a random picker to put the books in order.)
I was looking forward to it because Rene herself is such an interesting, captivating character. She’s a staunch feminist with many ideas after my own heart. She has written a few books before, but all of them nonfiction, and all of them dealing with feminism. Her Kill the Body, the Head Will Fall is an essay about female aggression using her own experience as an amateur boxer (and, as far as I know, a pretty good one, too), and it fits so perfectly with my own experiences with rugby I wanted my entire family and everyone who knows me to read it.
On the other hand, she’s a bit of a white feminist. And she has some very deep-set ideas that she refuses to relinquish. For instance (and quite paradoxically) she places most of the responsibility for today’s oppression of women on… feminists. The ones from the 70’s. That was always a bit hard to overlook, for me, but she had really captivated me with Kill the Head, so I was determined to read her first attempt at fiction.
York, one of the inmates in the death row, chooses to stop fighting his case and die. That generates lots of public attention, and soon enough, brand-new attorneys and a private investigator (The Lady) are hired to try and save him. As another, unnamed, inmate of the death row tells of this story, he gives the readers a gruesome and strangely poetical look at the inner workings of this prison.Overall enjoyment:
I liked it a lot. It was not a nice book, though. It’s very heavy and has rape and torture scenes. Do not read it if you’re triggered by those!Plot:
Very well constructed. A bit of a stretch, at times, especially with the parallels (the similarities between The Lady’s and York’s lives seem too convenient) but thoroughly enjoyable.Characters:
Impressively well made. None are too nice, or too bad, they all have their own motivations and personal dramas. For a feminist, though, there are remarkably few female characters. I suppose this might be because the book is set in a male prison (and there are female guards).World/setting:
It was nicely described. It’s somewhat magical, since we see it through the eyes of the unnamed prisoner, and it plays a big part of the story; it would have been very easy to blotch it, but she pulled it off. Sometimes, it does seem too bad, though… Especially the food. Wasn’t there a study showing that prisons in America have better food than schools?Writing style:
Very enjoyable. She refuses to use more words than necessary, but doesn’t lose any lyricism for it. The book is very short, but the story is so dense it feels like a thousand pages. It’s almost like a vine: you can barely believe how much meaning she can put in such few words.Representation:
She avoids mentioning anybody’s ethnicity. She does mention, in passing, that there are way too many black and latin@ people in prisons, but none of the active characters are specifically described as being either. Also, very few women, as said above, so it fails Bechdel, but The Lady is a very interesting one who passes the Mako Mori test with flying colors. Political correctness:
She broaches many polemic subjects, like abortion, death penalty, mental illness, rape and forced sterilization; not to mention the prison system itself and corruption. She could have taken a stronger stance about all of those, but it’s still definitely worth a read.
This one was a good read, but I’m very glad the next one is a light one! I need a break…
Up next: The Fourteenth Goldfish, by Jennifer L. Holm