Rubyfruit Jungle – A Review

Rita Mae Brown’s bestselling novel Rubyfruit Jungle was published in 1973 and is still as relevant today as it was then. The novel tells the story of Molly, a young girl growing up poor in 1970’s America, and documents the trials and tribulations that she faces as a gay woman during a time when it was deemed unacceptable to be homosexual.

An autobiographical novel, Rubyfruit Jungle is often considered to be the coming of age novel for lesbians as it explores the complex issues surrounding coming out as gay and experimenting with your sexual orientation.

Rubyfruit Jungle features interesting characters with lifelike characteristics rather than idealised traits. The protagonist Molly is particularly likable and her determination and will to succeed result in the reader becoming emotionally invested in her character. It is extraordinarily easily to relate to Molly not only as a lesbian, but as a woman who is constantly told she cannot do something because of her gender.

Rubyfruit Jungle has shown itself to be a very strong feminist novel with the theme of sexual equality present throughout the duration. Molly is constantly told she should not and cannot do certain things because she is female, however, with the unwavering support of her father Carl and her drive to succeed Molly does not let the gender roles or stereotypes of the 1970’s determine her life in any way.

The strong female protagonist featured in the novel results in a very powerful and moving tale of a woman who, despite all the odds being against her, is not afraid or ashamed to be different.

The novel explores and exposes problems surrounding race, class, gender and sexual orientation and has paved for the way for many other novels to do the same. It is intelligently written and, despite the inclusion of complex themes, Brown will have you laughing throughout at Molly’s outrageous yet hilarious exploits.

Brown has created a novel that will make you laugh and cry whilst simultaneously challenging you to think more deeply about society’s treatment of marginalised groups.

An enlightening, empowering and gripping novel, it is easy to see why Rubyfruit Jungle was a bestseller when it was originally published.

Published at The Coffee House.


The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

I first read this novel over a year ago and absolutely fell in love with it. I would actively encourage everyone to read The Goldfinch, as well as Tartt’s other two novels, which are equally as good.  If you don’t fancy reading The Goldfinch but aren’t sure which novel to pick up next, have a look here for other book reviews.

Told in a retrospective first person narrative, Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch tells the tale of Theo Decker, a young boy whose life crumbles before the readers’ eyes when he loses his mother in an explosion in a local art gallery.
The reader witnesses the heartbreaking dislocation of the protagonist, both physically and emotionally, when he is sent to live with his deadbeat father in Vegas. The despair and emotion Theo experiences is presented in such a raw manner that it becomes difficult not to become emotionally invested in his tragic life. The reader becomes drawn into a series of tumultuous events and must watch helplessly as they witness Theo spiral out of control as he descends into adolescence.
During the chaos and panic following the aftermath of the explosion, young Theo takes something from the gallery and the consequences of these actions haunt him throughout the rest of the novel. To Theo, the stolen artefact provides him with his sole connection to his dead mother and he develops an obsession with it that is evident throughout the novel. The reader sees Theo long for this item during the times it is not in his possession and this yearning resonates with the longing he feels to be reunited with his mother and to regain the life that he lost on that fateful day at the art gallery.
The novel follows the journey of Theo through his troubled teenage years into an equally troubled adulthood; however, it also follows the journey of the stolen artefact as it passes through various hands until Theo regains its possession. Theo becomes mixed up with a dark world of art thieves and crime in a bid to retrieve the item he stole as a child and the harrowing tale of a grieving young boy is expertly merged with the plot of an action thriller, resulting in a gripping novel. The two plots of The Goldfinch are rich in detail and wonderfully entwined to create a beautifully written, exciting and emotionally charged thriller.
The Goldfinch is full of fascinating characters that weave their way in and out Theo’s life and the constant stream of dramatic events will keep you in suspense as you become desperate to discover whether adventure or disaster will be next to befall the protagonist.
Theo’s determination to be reunited with what he sees as his only link to true happiness, despite the odds being so against him, results in an outstanding story of survival. A true masterpiece.

Recently published on The Coffee House

‘The Olive Tree’ by Deborah Anderson: A Review

Deborah Anderson’s ‘The Olive Tree’ tells the heartbreaking story of Sindy Black, a young girl struggling with Bipolar disorder and an unsupportive, and seemingly unloving, family. The Olive Tree immediately grips the reader and plunges them into the disturbing web of mental illness, abuse and despair that form Sindy’s life.
The reader is confronted with the brutal ordeals that Sindy endures in a shockingly casual manner, indicating that she has become desensitised to violence and views it as normal and acceptable behaviour. Anderson is brutally honest in her approach and writes about sensitive and controversial topics in such a way that the reader cannot escape them and must instead face the dark subjects of abuse and mental illness head on.
The reader accompanies Sindy as she learns to live with her disorder and in doing so, they are provided with a bleak insight into the reality of mental illness. Anderson’s use of an informal, first person narrative provides those who will never experience mania with the opportunity to witness the internal thought process of someone who is suffering with the illness. The reader sees firsthand the confusion and disjointed thought processes experienced by those suffering from bipolar disorder and the destructive effects that it can have on their lives.
Anderson uses Sindy’s story to highlight the despair experienced by the sufferer due to their lack of control over their own behaviour as their illness spirals out of control and they must face the consequences of the actions they were powerless to stop. By experiencing the frightening and emotional ordeals of Bipolar disorder from a sufferer’s perspective, Anderson provides the reader with a better understanding of mental illness and reminds us that the individuals suffering from them are ordinary people. ‘The Olive Tree’ provides readers with the opportunity to understand mental illness and address any preconceived fears or assumptions they have regarding them. In this sense, ‘The Olive Tree’ helps to spread awareness and oppose the stigma and discrimination faced by those who are mentally ill.
Anderson’s writing style seems to directly reflect the different stages of Sindy’s mental illness as the tone and sentence structure change in accordance to the tumultuous ups and down of her Bipolar disorder. During the transition into Sindy’s manic episodes, the novel’s pace increases in a similar way the speed of someone’s speech would increase if they were having a manic episode. The sentences in the novel become much shorter and they jump from one thought trail to another as they document Sindy’s frantic thoughts.
Through Sindy’s journey for acceptance and peace we are provided with valuable insight into the mind of someone suffering with Bipolar disorder. Such an honest and authentic account of mental illness is rare to find and Sindy’s story, although at times disturbing and harrowing to say the least, is incredibly enlightening and should not be missed.