This really wasn’t bad. A novel where Jane Austen is a character has the potential to be really cheesy, but this wasn’t. It hewed closely to real-life events – main character Anne Sharp was real, was governess to Jane Austen’s niece Fanny, and became very close friends with Jane.
It only broke period and tested my straight face in one respect – when two characters fall ill at the same time, someone exclaims, oh, I hope we didn’t catch any germs from the babies! They’ve closed off the nursery as a precaution. Look, the germ theory of disease had not permeated the Austen milieu of the early 19th century. They thought people got sick from being outside in the rain. The book makes this faux pas once again later, talking about “infectiousness”. Anyone who has read any Austen book knows that people get sick from catching chills, and nobody stays away from them; on the contrary, as long as they are not too fatigued, they get visitors all the time.
This wasn’t enough to turn me off. Things could have gotten a lot more foolish, but our author practices restraint. I thought Henry Austen’s flirtatious behavior and its reciprocation was bewildering, he being an allegedly married man (no wife ever seen with him), but I guess it stayed within the bounds of the possible.
Who’d have thought a book all about food logistics would be so boring? OK, shut up.
It just never seemed to go anywhere. It felt like any paragraph could have been interchanged with any other. It all just read to me like a bunch of random sentences about food logistics.
I also have a pet peeve about the phrase “farm to plate”, and phrases about food getting to your “plate”, and some variation of this appeared on nearly every page. People rarely eat off of plates anymore.
Oh, and the subtitle: “Growing Bananas in Iceland and Other Tales from the Logistics of Eating.” I don’t remember a thing about growing bananas in Iceland. If it was mentioned, it was short enough for me to zone out over.
We tend to think of ourselves as having bodies. The brain will think, “I have a body.” But every now and then the body, so to speak, hits the brain upside the head. Says, “Don’t you EVER call me your fucking body! YOU’RE my fucking BRAIN!”
This book should have been shorter and more balanced. That said, it states some things that desperately needed stating. Pediatric transitioning now seems more disturbing to me than ever.
Something that has always bothered me about our current understanding of trans identity, that I don’t think I’ve ever seen explicitly stated elsewhere, is that it seems to think gender is definable by the most culture-specific, superficial things – i.e. liking pink and liking dresses makes you a girl. Joyce discusses how being trans is explained to children: “You nod along to descriptions of restrictive gender norms, hoping for the right conclusion: that nobody need conform if they do not want to, and that there is nothing wrong with boys playing with dolls or girls playing with trucks. You long to hear that girls (or boys) are people with female (or male) bodies who behave however they damn well please; instead you hear that girls (or boys) are people who behave in feminine (or masculine) ways.”