2012 Challenges, Books

Book 89: Hood – Emma Donoghue

Hood is the first of the 40 books I’ve committed to in Reading Challenges for 2012. It comes from the Mount TBR Reading Challenge and it feels good to cross one book off those three lists. And as mentioned sometime in the past, this is one of the novels my boss brought in for me to read – and it was interesting, not sure I would want to talk about it with her – see my reaction in the last paragraph before the recommendation. But regardless, on to the review!

Written by the author of Room and Slammerkin, Hood is a moving story of love and loss. Taking place during the week of Cara Wall’s funeral, the reader finds themselves at the mercy of Pen O’Grady’s, Cara’s lover of 13 years, sometimes tumultuous, most of the time lacking emotions. Using flashbacks and the days of the week, Donoghue tells the story of Pen and Cara’s relationship while showing Pen’s coping (or lack thereof) with Cara’s death.

The novel takes place in Ireland during the late 1990s, when LGBT rights are still minimal and Catholicism rules – the story of grief and love is lyrically written and provides an interesting insight into closeted (be the forced by society or not) relationships and coping with the loss of a partner. This is doubly hard for Pen as she works in a Catholic school, she lives with Cara’s father ‘as a housemate’ and she isn’t out to her own family.

There is little that surprises throughout the novel (one of the major critiques – is the monotony of the novel), however I felt the emotions and the removal of emotions form the shock and sheer exhaustion worked well with the story and the characters. There were times I wanted to get out of Pen’s head and find out what others thought of her, but I guess that’s part of the charm/burden of a character you can’t escape.

For the most part the characters were believable and I wanted to like them. Pen started to irk me towards the end of the novel, but I had to remind myself that her lover had died and she was going through the grieving process. Of the grieving process I couldn’t tell whether Donoghue meant it to only be that week, or whether this week was just a crash course and Pen would go on to feel all the emotions of grief and loss, or whether she actually was stunted and went through it all in one week.

There was only one portion of the novel that made me slightly uncomfortable and that were the rather graphic sex scenes. Now I have an MA in Gender, Sexuality, and Queer Theory, but knowing that my boss recommended the novel (and even brought it in for me to read), it made me squirm a little when they went into that much detail. I know my face was beet red on public transportation if I read those portions. It always is no matter what the sexual relationship – damn you prudish sensibilities and southern upbringing!

Recommendation: Pass, unless you’re really interested in Irish LGBT fiction. Both Room and Slammerkin are better written, however I believe Hood I believe is probably closer to Donoghue’s heart.

Opening Line: “Mayday in 1980, heat sealing my fingers together. Why is it the most ordinary images that fall out, when i shuffle the memories?”

Closing Line: “All of a sudden I couldn’t see; my mother slid into a fish shape, the table melted into a pool. It had been so long, I’d forgotten what tears felt like. The first drop touched the skin under my eye as the sky opened and send down the rain.” (Whited out to avoid spoilers.)

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