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Library Wars: Manga review

My local library has the whole manga series of Library Wars: Love and War, a series based on books by Hiro Arikawa. This series is written and illustrated by Kiiro Yumi. Throughout books 1 & 2, she has some notes about what it was like to create and release the books. Although the notes did take me out of the story, as a fellow writer it was interesting to get her perspective on her progress.

Yesterday, I got all ready to sit down and write a review and realized I don’t really have a lot to say about the series. I really like and would love to read the original books someday, but the manga centers mostly around romance. This is not bad, I like romance and love triangles, but there’s just not much to say about them. That libraries could be in a war with government factions bent on censorship–this I believe. There’s something in human nature that wants to destroy and stamp out ideas we don’t agree with. We’ve often done this by destroying and confiscating books, a somewhat futile endeavor, as ideas come from the brain, and even if one stamps it out in the moment, the same idea will surely arise somewhere in someone’s brain in the future.

Along with many others, the most baffling “war” going on is the panicked run on toilet paper and other items, not only in America, but across the world. Although the Coronavirus has been around for months, people are now racing to the shelves and taking everything there as if there’s some shortage we should be afraid of. This is, of course, one of those self-fulfilling fears.

For a few weeks, I have noticed that the toilet paper aisle has been a little low at my local Walmart, but yesterday, as did need to purchase a pack, it was completely out and the store was crammed full of people. The dichotomy between canceled group meetings and events versus everyone rushing to the store to stand in crowded aisles and long lines is striking. I feel for the grocery store workers who have to deal with this. It must be alarming. It’s a strange, strange thing to see everyone apparently so panicked. I don’t remember anyone doing this during other virus outbreaks, not even with Ebola. Not sure what to make of it, but I am praying that everyone will remain calm and stay healthy and safe.

Are Those Who Seek the Truth Mentally Ill? (book review)

At one time, I don’t remember from where, I heard that the CIA or someone coined the term “conspiracy theory” in order to make those who question the official story, from the government or whoever, look crazy. The term is often used to discredit people who question official stories, or sometimes against people who just see things differently, and the media especially encourages the public to look at anyone labeled a “conspiracy theorist” as someone unstable and to avoid associating with. This has been done repeatedly over the years to questioners of the official stories of the JFK Assassination, shooter and terrorist attacks of all sorts, the attacks on 9/11/2001, and the like. “Conspiracy theory” is also a broad term encompassing topics on everything from flat earth and space aliens, to vaccines, to a New World Order, and, most recently, to Qanon. Sometimes these things involve speculations of people actually conspiring, sometimes it’s just a questioning of the mainstream narrative, whatever that may be.

As mental illness does sometimes involve paranoia and the idea that everyone is out to get you, it is prudent to be skeptical of someone exhibiting this paranoia, especially if they are seeing, say, people not actually there. However, it’s also good to remember that 1) conspiracy theorists aren’t always paranoid–they may be speculating about an event that doesn’t presently affect either their safely or well being, and their questions may be valid, 2) conspiracies do actually exist, and have existed all throughout time, and 3) sometimes they, whoever they are, are out to get you, your money, your influence, and even your life.

I am by no means an expert on mental illness, and cannot say offhand how often a person with mental illness is also someone who follows and is interested in conspiracy theories. I do really wonder, though, just why the media and society at large is always in such a rush to portray conspiracy theorists as having a mental illness. Aside from some symptoms that do manifest in some mental illnesses, like paranoia, the two things really aren’t connected. Isn’t questioning just a normal thing to do, something vital to holding those with power to account? And, when it’s obvious that the media in particular never tells the straight out truth, isn’t it crazier not to question things?

In Truthers, author Geoffrey Girard uses his story to plumb the depths of those questions. The book is YA genre about a teenager named Kate who’s father gets put in a mental institution for his wild claims and speculations about the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. In a brave move, even so many years after (it was published in 2017), the two towers now gone are portrayed in blue Matrix movie-like numbers on the front cover. Using a visual connection to the Matrix movies–about a conspiracy that is indeed true–Girard already tips his hat: He thinks the questions are vital.

Kate is sent to live with a foster family. Her father hasn’t been the best dad, but he’s still her dad, and she wants to help him get better and get free. For those readers who may have thought Truthers was going to be about dealing with mental illness, Kate’s next move is a definite step away from that: She starts to investigate the questions, speculations, and claims around 9/11 in the hope to have enough proof that there is good reason to question, so that a court will set her father free. The story pulled me in right away by connecting with what I’ve said above: The media and society at large encourage anyone questioning things to be seen as mentally unstable or really naive at best. It’s truly a fascinating form of gaslighting. Are you questioning too much? Well, it must not be that there are reasons to question, no, it must be that you are going insane or really dumb. See how it works?

Using Kate’s need to research, Girard takes his readers through some of the conspiracy theories about 9/11, from the thought that the government purposely dropped the ball in some way, to the idea that the government did it, that there were actually no planes, only missiles, and even to the idea that the people on the planes were taken somewhere else and executed there. In some ways, it’s concerning stuff, in others it shows just how far trust in our government has fallen. Many, many people don’t believe the official story. They believe they are purposely and even maliciously being lied to. Interestingly, the one person in Truthers who actually does seem crazy enough to go and kill someone is a person chillingly committed to the official story.

As painfully and also as callously as Truthers revels in speculations about 9/11, the author is just as quick to point out flaws in the “truthers” or conspiracy theorists. They are almost all men, most of whom are very paranoid indeed, using strange hacking measures to communicate with Kate, and having what seems to be an unnecessary amount of security set up around them. They jump to conclusions with little, concrete evidence. Kate goes back and forth, struggling, as we all would, with whom to trust. She gets frustrated with the lack of real evidence and real answers. Real, hard evidence is often difficult to come by, especially when considering an event from long ago. Even a recent event is tricky, as those in power have increasing technological tools to make sure their version of history is the only version future generations will know. The invention of the internet has made this difficult as of late, but corporations are now serving as the new gatekeepers by banning and canceling the accounts of people who refuse to toe the current PC line.

Truthers ends up going all spy-on-spy mode at the end, which kind of took away some of the realism it had going, but I liked the ending, and I liked this key scene: Kate and her friend Max are talking. He’s skeptical of a 9/11 Truther’s claims and says that anyone can hop online and think they’re an expert on something in just a few minutes. Before that capability, Max says, people who researched, say, JFK, had to do more due diligence. They earned their theories and their right to question. Max goes on to say that he doesn’t believe the USA is some evil country that did its own citizens in, although it’s certainly made mistakes. He says the cliche of “the USA is the worst country in the world, except for all the rest.”

Kate responds by listing off some very real ways in which the USA has historically done things not in the best interest of either their citizens or other people, and at times even harming them. She tells Max that he is very smart guy, but has a blind spot in his view. She tells him the country she just described could easily have masterminded 9/11. Next in the argument, Kate asks, what if it wasn’t the government that did it, but a powerful corporation?

Again, Max is skeptical, saying she’s really only researched this stuff for a few weeks, and it’s “easy to get swept up in it all.” “Half of the information you need for the truth is deemed too classified to see, and the other half is more info than any one person could possibly wrap their head around.” Kate asks Max if he thinks she would think differently if she spent more time on the subject, ‘earned it’ in his eyes. She then asks him a very profound question that anyone searching for truth should ask those who stubbornly stick to the official story: “Have you ‘earned’ it? Your views on this subject?” Max only grumbles at this, because of course he hasn’t, yet he’s so certain that the Truthers are wrong and off base. The certainty of ignorance works so well to discourage people from really doing their due diligence.

Truthers is an interesting book with much food for thought about questioners, truthers, or conspiracy theorists, whatever you want to call them. It grazes the surface on dealing with mental illness, so if you’re looking for a good book on that issue, this would not be it. This book is also definitely not for someone very emotionally connected to what happened on 9/11. A lot of the theories do sound loony, for some it may seem like Girard is stepping on people’s graves, and it may be traumatizing to read. But Girard’s intention is not to dishonor the dead, but to point to real questions and aspects about 9/11 that need to and should be answered by our government and those in power. He also indicates it is our civic duty to hold our government and those in power to account. Questioning doesn’t do this in and of itself, but it’s a start.

A person can have a mental illness and also have legitimate questions about horrific events like 9/11. This is what I took from the book: First and foremost, do your due diligence. Don’t write off things as crazy simply because they don’t fit either the mainstream narrative or your own personal worldview. The world is complicated and humans are fundamentally dishonest, conspiring against each other in hurtful ways all the time. The more questions, the better. Good thing is, with enough time, the truth often does come out. Truthers has a second good lesson as well: Conspiracy theorists may be asking the right questions, but they don’t often have concrete answers or proof, and one may disappointed they don’t have them. But if indeed those in power are hiding the truth, actual proof will be hard to come by. It’s simply the nature of the beast. I think that if enough people choose to hold those in power to account, therein lies opportunities to get real answers. Maybe someday there will be an American generation that does this. That would be amazing to see.

Annihilation/Silver Spoon/The Hour

Here’s some quick reviews for this week:

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer. This book was kindly loaned to me by my brother-in-law. Watched the movie with Natalie Portman and it was easily one of the most gross and disturbing movies I have ever seen – and I have seen an embarrassing amount of movies. Still, something about the story intrigued me and I wanted to try the book.

The story follows a group of women scientists of different types, all of whom remain nameless, as they make up an 11th? 12th? (I can’t remember, and it doesn’t really matter) expedition into an unknown alien area that resembles Florida. From the start, it’s clear that they have been told nothing that would actually help them figure out what’s going on in this strange environment, and it’s never clear why. Because the main character is a biologist, a lot of focus is put on the natural world, and it’s refreshing to follow a sci-fi story that not a fantasy set in space, or a drama with science-y surroundings, or, really, that’s it’s just not set in space. Annihilation is a book I would call true science fiction, and had me thinking of Day of the Triffids for some reason, another story I would put clearly in science fiction.

Thankfully, the book is much less gruesome than the movie, though just as unsettling as we follow the biologist whilst she morphs into something other than human. An alien? I have no idea, but it is the first book in a trilogy called The Southern Reach, so maybe the other two books explain more about what’s going on. Much like the biologist grew up studying tide pools, her story, too, is something of a tide pool study. The reader is reading a narrative of her observing herself in this new environment. Unfortunately, observation does not equal explanation or lead to the truth of what is happening in this land beyond a border that may or may not exist. Some parts seem it may be simply a journey of her mind, others indicate an alien takeover slowly creeping over the world. That her observations give little answers to, well, anything, was not lost on me. Can this be a criticism of “science” as a whole? The answers that we’ve come up with in observing our world, are they something scientists simply make up? Are our stories of what’s going on on our planet actually true? If we think about it, we can probably remember times when we saw something–a frown, or an argument, or what have you, assumed what was going on, and later, in talking with the people or simply gaining more information, we found that the conclusions we jumped to were incorrect. Observation on its own, was simply not enough. Food for thought.

Silver Spoon by Hiromu Arakawa. I am not obsessed with Japan or Japanese culture—really! I just have, and have always had, friends who are, mostly Millennials. Sometimes I ask myself: Why are so many Millennials obsessed with Japanese stuff? Anime, Manga, the food, the everything? The planners? Ok, don’t get me started on more planning stuff! And then I remember, oh, yeah, there’s plenty of Gen X-ers obsessed with Japan, too. The blame surely falls on Pokemon, somehow, and I have no doubt that a large portion of Generation Z, too, will have the love of all things Japanese. Me, I’m more fond of China, mostly because I lived there, and I like S. Korean drams, but I’m not sure I could breathe in their culture. Same with Japan. But I’ve never been to either country, so it’s really hard to say for sure. Anyway, the point is, Japan is following me, I am not following it.

This was my first time really trying to read a Manga book, or Japanese comic book. I have seen several of the more popular Anime movies in the past decade, so am a bit familiar with how Japanese storytellers tell their stories. And it’s still always so unexpected. At first, I was really dizzy and cross-eyed from trying to read book one of Silver Spoon. Being left-handed, you’d think reading a book from R to L instead of L to R would be easy. Nope. And after having finished the book, it still feels awkward, but I’m really glad I pushed on and read the whole thing.

Silver Spoon is hilarious! It’s about a boy named Yuugo Hachiken who decides to go to an Agricultural high school, thinking it will be easy. Boy, is he ever wrong. As a mostly city person myself, I found I shared some of his freakouts about this strange world of land and farm. In thinking that technology has solved everything, we city people so often forget just how hard and long that the people who run farms and grow the food actually work. People who don’t read Manga, or graphic novels, or even comics often forget that they aren’t all about super heroes and they are not all for kids. Like novels, the genre does offer quite a variety if you know where to look, and if you have a friend who’s obsessed with Japan, they will know just where to direct you. [As an aside, the Japanese anime Weathering with You is awesome. I haven’t written a review of it because I want to see it again before doing so, but have no idea when that will be.]

The Hour. Although I really love the actors in this BBC drama, especially Ben Whishaw (Perfume: The Story of a Murder), and Romola Garai (best Emma ever!), I just couldn’t get into this series. One episode away from finishing season one, or series one, I found I was bored to tears. The plot wasn’t really moving, and the characters had flatlined. Part of it, is the increasing problem with most stories, whether books or movies put out nowadays: Censorship. Not the censorship of old keeping smut off the screen or foul language at bay, no, this new forced “wokeness” that everyone has to conform to actually involves putting smut and bad language on because the stories need to be “real” or something. Stories are never just stories anymore. Characters and storylines must wear their diversity and sex views on their sleeves. These days, one could almost be forgiven in thinking that the only oppressive societies out there must be “right wing,” for that’s so often all the current censorship allows. And The Hour wasn’t even that egregious with the political correctness stuff, either.

The show’s focus was entirely off, spending way too much time on a mundane storyline of infidelity. Ben Whishaw’s rather smart but gamma character does chase after an interesting murder mystery, but it’s so often not at all connected to the producing of this show, The Hour, which is what the series is supposed to be about. It’s also laughable to see how these characters pretend they are standing up to their government telling them what to produce. That is a grand lie that journalists have been telling for decades. I can forgive the writers a little in this one, because it was made in 2011-2012, long before the idea of “fake news” became a thing. Nowadays, it’s hilarious to suggest that any journalist working for any major news organization is doing any free thinking. And they never mean truly free thinking: these supposed wild cards on TV or in movies only spout the same views, whatever current version of political correctness gets one the most virtual signal points. Bo-oring! It was amusing to see the very easily led Bel Rowley (Garai), who clearly is at sea without her smart friend Freddie (Whishaw), be appalled, so, so appalled that she was hired as producer because the big bosses think women are “easily led.” Actually, that part was pretty good. I think the writers were letting some truth into their series, there. Maybe they just weren’t woke enough at the time. Or maybe they were, and now they’re broke? Ha, stupid joke. Maybe The Hour got better in series two, but I doubt it.

Jamaica Inn: Bleak

Since reading Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier a summer or two ago and falling in love with her writing style, it has become my mission to read every novel of hers I can. So far, after reading Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek, My Cousin Rachel, and Jamaica Inn, it is Frenchman’s Creek that is my favorite. Though I don’t condone the adultery implied, the tale is a gorgeous adventure for anyone who longs to escape ordinary life, if just for a bit.

As for Jamaica Inn, the tale starts out bleak and doesn’t improve much from there. Mary Yellan, whose mother has just died, goes to live with her aunt in the moors, though she knows little about the older woman’s life there. Immediately, Mary is swept up into an impossible situation that she may not escape: Her uncle Joss Merlyn is a very dangerous man, bent fully to the life of a criminal life. When she meets his younger, kinder brother, she must decide if she can trust him or not, though everyone tells her the Merlyn family has always been bad. Set in the moors and the coast of Cornwall, Du Maurier placed her tale in a time when murderers and thieves were barely kept in check by the governing authorities. For much of the story, it feels like the entire world is bleak and bad and that Mary will never escape from it.

I also took the time to watch the Acorn 2014 miniseries of Jamaica Inn starring Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) as Mary and Matthew McNulty (The Paradise) as Jem Merlyn. The adaptation was faithfully bleak, and like the book, lost my interest partway through. There just wasn’t enough rays of sunshine or enough plotwise going on to secure my interest. It took awhile for me to finish both the book and the miniseries, and though the tale ends happier than it began, it’s definitely not Du Maurier’s best work. Mary is a treat of a character, a strong woman without the author going overboard about that. The portrayal of the aunt in the miniseries didn’t fit the one in the book. The book described Aunt Patience as childlike and Joanne Whalley seemed neither afraid of her husband, nor long-suffering, thus taking away Mary’s main motivation in the book. But for her aunt, there’s no doubt she would have quite the county forthwith. McNulty was a good Jem, but Sean Harris as his older brother Joss seemed miscast. A larger, brooding, more dark-haired man would have suited better, in my opinion.

The romance in both book and miniseries was adequate, but not swoonworthy. The whole tale suffered from a real lack of adventure despite Mary being thrown in with criminals. Parts of the ending were bizarre and came out of nowhere, and would have made more sense if the mythology hinted at was threaded throughout the book, and if Mary were more religious, which she’s not. Bleakness and despair does not a good story make on its own, and it’s to her credit that as a character Mary survives what the author puts her through. At the end it’s as if she, too, is glad to be done with the story. The miniseries kind of botched the ending, and I think the error was that it was too faithful to the book. Here, a bit more Hollywood drama in both action and takes, would have improved it all around. Jamaica Inn is bleak, and neither book nor miniseries is a must-devour story.

Raskol

This week I’m reading Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky for the third time. Read it the first time in French and Russian Lit in college. Never had I ever read any of those authors before, and I was blown away. We also had to read parts of Les Miserables, which I loved also, but have never, ever managed to finish. The first two times reading C&P I read the translation by Constance Garnett. This time I’m reading the one by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. It’s a crackling, fresh translation, but then, any translation would be or would appear to be, because the story has a snap about it, drenched in a pathos that is somehow never wallowed in. This is the Dostoevsky writing I like, in C&P and The Idiot. Although I made it through them, I couldn’t stand Notes from Underground or The Brothers Karamazov.

Raskolnikov is relatable in the sense that from time to time we all struggle with this necessity and nuisance of having to have work and earn our daily bread. Most people, though, don’t resort to plotting murder and think of ourselves as secret kings or Napoleons above the law in order to get out of it. Incidentally, I’d forgotten Raskol’s first name was Rodion. Ugh. I’m glad he’s referred to by his last name most of the time and that it sounds like rascal. Despite being a murderer, I’ve always kind of liked him as a character. Now that I’m older, though, we’ll see if my opinion is the same.

This is a book in which character after character is given the opportunity to do the right thing, and they continually choose the opposite, at least at the beginning of the story. They do at least begin to do the right thing, but spiral downward, a very human trait. I don’t even remember whether Raskol turns himself in or not at the end, but am excited to find out. It’s also making me want to read both The Idiot and Little Dorritt again, which is by Dickens, but also about people in debt. If you’re looking for good, long stories to read this winter, check out the classics. So many are so, so good.

Everless: Playing with Time

Bending the rules of time is usually something left to the devices of science fiction, but in Everless Sara Holland makes time manipulation a part of the fairy tale world. I really enjoyed this story. The characters are a little blank, and it was hard to remember who some of the background servants were, but that’s a bit expected in fairy tales, anyway, as the story itself is usually the point. Cinderella, Snow White, Red Riding Hood–they could be anyone, any girl, even someone listening or reading.

Everless introduces us to a vaguely medieval land called Sempera, in which time has been forged into human blood as something called blood iron. This can be extracted and turned into money that people use to buy things or can dissolve in liquid to drink to add an hour, day, or year to one’s life. I’m not sure how that all works with the normal aging and death process, but it largely doesn’t matter and it was easy to suspend my disbelief.

Jules, struggling along in poverty with most of the population, decides to go work at Everless, a large estate owned by a very rich family called the Gerlings. Her father warns her against it, but she goes anyway, curious to see the estate after so many years when she lived there as a child. She’s especially interested in seeing more of what’s become of the Gerling heirs, Liam and her old friend Roan. As children she and Roan were fast friends, even if they were from different classes. As a teenager, Jules now bears a grudge against the easy way the nobles live, not having to sell their blood for time or food, and spending the long years they’ve given themselves in partying and frivolity. Her time and fate soon become intertwined with both brothers as well as the queen of the land who comes to stay for a while. Jules soon learns that she has a stunning power over time itself.

Again, as in a fairy tales, Jules passes from one scene to the next, because that’s what the plot requires, but this is novel-length story, and events often fold out a bit too easily for our heroine…until the end, of course. The romance angle was overly predictable, as were some of the twists, but I never found that to be a reason to stop reading. Everless is a lot better than some YA fantasy series I’ve tried to read over the years, and I rather like the background mythology of the world so far. Jules has the normal headstrong flaws found in any real life teenager, but she’s not annoying, and her predicament is relatable. Who wouldn’t want to know the truth about their past? Who wouldn’t be dismayed finding out they’d been tricked? By the end of the story, we fear for Jules and whoever she will come to love in the future, as it seems as if the villain holds all of the cards. I am eager to read the next installment.

My Cousin Rachel: Rebecca Redoux?

Ever since reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, I’ve been captivated by her writing style, especially her otherworldly descriptions, and plan to read as many of her works as I can. My Cousin Rachel appealed to me as the plot seemed similar to Rebecca in some ways–albeit being in a different era–and also because of the title. It’s always curious to read stories in which there are characters with the same name as one’s self.

My Cousin Rachel is narrated by a young man this time, one Philip Ashley, who has been raised by his older cousin to spurn romance and the world of women in general. Philip is only twenty-four, but is already confident that women can offer nothing in life for him, at least romantically. His estate is all men and they don’t worry so much about the niceties of society and it suits them just fine. Set somewhere in the late 1800s, it is likely that both the older and younger Ashleys can live this way because they are very rich men. As we come to see, woe to the rich men who know the ways of women very little.

Philip’s cousin Ambrose is in his forties and due to ill health, must go abroad to Italy for a time. Through letters and secondhand information, young Philip finds that his cousin has amazingly fallen in love and gotten married. Only a year later, he even more astonishingly finds that his uncle is on his death bed. Philip travels to Italy, but doesn’t make it in time, even missing out on seeing Ambrose’s widow. We get a foreshadowing of things to come as Philip gets hints in pieces of letters from Ambrose that the couple relationship was not happy in its latter days. After some time, Philip receives news that the widow, his “cousin Rachel,” will be coming to the estate to stay for a time. At this point, Philip is against her, thinking she drove Ambrose to an early grave and also that she’s upset Ambrose did not leave anything for her in his will. But as I said before, Philip knows little of the ways of women, especially beautiful women, and Rachel is beautiful and able to use it to her advantage.

To say that Philip is young, naive, and stupid is not exaggerating. He is an even more infuriating narrator than the nameless girl in Rebecca. It takes him far too long to realize he has a thing for Rachel and is amazed that everyone in town thinks of her as extraordinarily good looking. Ambrose did him no favors by leaving him so vulnerable, but it is perhaps only women that are truly skeptical of the beauty of their own sex. We are more aware of how it’s used to manipulate than sometimes men are. Philip does one stupid thing after another, and as readers we are left to wonder if Rachel even has to manipulate him at all. He completely loses his senses and seems to care nothing for the future security of the estate he has inherited, including no thought for all of the workers and servants should all the money be drained.

The signs are all there that Rachel has a spending problem, indeed a problem with constantly living to excess. She would be fast friends with The Talented Mr. Ripley in that regard, though it is left in doubt as to whether she understands this is a fault and that she has it. Du Maurier leaves an open ending: Suspicion is deeply cast upon Rachel, but it is also insinuated that she is merely misunderstood and that she herself really doesn’t understand certain kinds of men. You can’t have a one-night stand with a man who has fallen in love with you and lives in a world where people in love get married and settle down. Rachel fails to understand the sharp anger her actions provoke.

As to the question whether Rachel has good intentions or bad, I found it increasingly impossible to care in the light of young Philip’s stupidity. He seems to throw everything Ambrose taught him out the window, and I was left wondering if he cared about his cousin at all. I suppose some men have no defenses against great beauty, and as a woman, that’s rather unsettling to think about. If we are beautiful, will they really give us everything we ask for, let us do anything to anyone at anytime? When Philip finally comes to understand that he is out of control with Rachel, he makes a devastating choice. That he is sorry later makes no difference to her, and we readers are left wondering if she is a figurative angel or devil. Like Philip, we are given no definite answer or assurance.

Although Rebecca is a masterpiece compared to this, My Cousin Rachel would make for quite a drinking game: Take a drink every time Philip refers to “my cousin Rachel.” It gets so egregious that I almost stopped reading the book a couple of times. The atmosphere of the story isn’t as gothic or spooky as its predecessor, and because of the previous work, we kind of know how it will end. The biggest thing I got out of the story was how absolutely ridiculous young and rich men can be. At the end, my sympathy was far more with Philip’s guardian and his daughter than with either Philip or Ambrose. Pride goeth before a fall, and this is definitely a moral tale on two men being far, far too proud of their bachelor status, too proud to understand how weak and vulnerable they made themselves, and most importantly, too proud to understand that the fault here was perhaps not with Rachel, not with her at all. But I’m a little biased. We Rachels have to stick up for each other, after all.