Bitches Book Club Review: At the Bottom of the River

The Book Club:

“At the end of May [2015] I was feeling sort of “meh” about the Goodreads book clubs I’m part of. No offence meant to them at all! I like them. But they’re just so BIG that the books I’m particularly interested in don’t often (read: ever?) get picked and there doesn’t feel like there’s enough incentive to take part sometimes. I wanted something that was smaller so, even if I’m not super jazzed about every single book, I feel motivated to read each one because I knew the other member(s) of the book club are reading too and because of the discussion that will ensue.

SO, of course, I voice messaged Claire about it and we decided on a book within the hour!

How it works is that one of us will pick the book one month and the other will pick the book for the next month.”

This month was Claire’s choice: At the Bottom of the River by Jamaica Kincaid

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Book: At the Bottom of the River by Jamaica Kincaid
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000
Genre: Short stories, prose poetry

Summary:Jamaica Kincaid’s inspired, lyrical short stories

Reading Jamaica Kincaid is to plunge, gently, into another way of seeing both the physical world and its elusive inhabitants. Her voice is, by turns, naively whimsical and biblical in its assurance, and it speaks of what is partially remembered partly divined. The memories often concern a childhood in the Caribbean–family, manners, and landscape–as distilled and transformed by Kincaid’s special style and vision.

Kincaid leads her readers to consider, as if for the first time, the powerful ties between mother and child; the beauty and destructiveness of nature; the gulf between the masculine and the feminine; the significance of familiar things–a house, a cup, a pen. Transfiguring our human form and our surroundings–shedding skin, darkening an afternoon, painting a perfect place–these stories tell us something we didn’t know, in a way we hadn’t expected.
More Information: GoodReads

Nikki’s Thoughts & Rating:

I’m glad Claire picked another short read because, like I’ve said, at the moment my reading brain is pretty sluggish and unmotivated haha. Although it is categorised as a collection of short stories, I feel like this might be better described as a collection of prose-poetry stories or something along those lines.

There were some beautiful parts that came together to create snippets of everyday life and descriptions of fantasy was woven in seamlessly. However, after a while I seemed to crave more ‘direction’ in the stories when the quotidian description meandered aimlessly a little bit too long. That said, because of its poetic nature and the interesting imagery (like the imagery in Mother), I could definitely see myself reading passages of this collection again, if only to draw pieces of it.

This was actually my first taste of Jamaica Kincaid’s writing and I’ve been wanting to get around to reading her work for a long time now. I do like what I peeked here and still want to read more of her other works.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Nikki’s favourite line(s):

“this is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely; this is how you set a table for tea; this is how you set a table for dinner; this is how you set a table for dinner with an important guest; this is how you set a table for lunch; this is how you set a table for breakfast; this is how to behave in the presence of men who don’t know you very well, and this way they won’t recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming”

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Claire’s Thoughts & Rating:

So I’ve read other works by Kincaid and her A Small Place and Annie John are some of my favorite Caribbean reads ever. Her work is so scathing and sharp at times, I love it- she has bite in a place where some women really can tear you a new one and I love that she doesn’t shy from that.

That being said I’ve realised that I am really not a short story person. Especially if the short stories seem to be part of a bigger plot, I get frustrated that I get so invested in the story only for it to cut away either requiring me to read more of something else or forever lonely with an unfinished big picture. However, I did enjoy this read overall because it’s done in such a fun and detailed way.

Claire’s 5-Cents: I’ve just realised that Nikki’s formatted this post in justified and part of me wants to rebel because I hate justified, and part of me is miffed that it seems to look better now that she’s forced me into that route. Darn. I’ll leave it.

Stories that stood out to me are:

  1. Girl: it seems to be some random stream of consciousness from a mother to her daughter, and if you look deep enough, society to women in a way but it really works. Nikki’s quote comes from there.
  2. Wingless: This story is one of those that seems to be part of a bigger picture or narrative but I do enjoy it because it’s said in the first person and you really get to connect with our background narrator.
  3. Blackness: Another first-person narrator, again you don’t really know why they’re talking to you but done in Kincaid’s usual style it’s poignant and heartbreaking.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Claire’s Favorite Line:

“Nikki and I had the same quote!”

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Have you read this book yet?

If you have, what did you think? If you haven’t, do you want to?

May’s Book Club choice is Nikki’s and she chose…

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Feel free to read along with us! 🙂

NameNikkixClaire

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One Response to Bitches Book Club Review: At the Bottom of the River

  1. Pingback: Claire x Nikki Review June 2016 | Bitches With Books

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