Waking the Moon is entitled to its 5 stars, if only because Hand introduced me to the melancholic Greek poet C.
P Cavafy Fortunately, this was such a captivating read as well Partly because I first discovered Waking the Moon when I was living the college life myself, flirting with the occult and occasionally attending goth parties in abandoned churches The parallels I thought I found were the sprinkles on top of this book and its successor Black Light Hand masterly crafts a story that often reads as a opium poppy fueled trip and has been compared to The Secret History, due to its rich language, college setting, pagan influences and peculiar characters In Waking the Moon, eccentric and pretty Oliver comes sit next to our narrator Sweeney Cassidy in class and mistakenly befriends her Oh, Sweeney knows that she was never supposed to meet an Oliver Nor a spectacular Angelica, with her scent of sandalwood and oranges But she accidentally becomes involved with the two, just when a thousands of years old suppressed Pagan goddess chooses Angelica to destroy the world A patriarchal world which was, up until now, carefully controlled by the Benandanti, an ancient male cult They are willing to do anything to prevent the goddess from gaining power But she has a few tricks up her sleeve as well, and planning to sacrifice Oliver is one of them I was and still am quite impressed by Hand s excellent research on pagan cultures and her ability to blend archaeological discoveries and rituals into a compelling story Some parts are delicious to read, such as the scene in which Magda discovers the Lunula a magical blend of thrilling reality and feverish dreams, peppered with lush descriptions of creatures and scents Sigh An all time favorite.
Like All New Students, Sweeney Moves With Caution At Washington, DC S University Of The Archangel And St John The Divine It Is A Strange Place Of Brooding Shrines And Gleaming Towers, Guarded By Stone Angels For Sweeney, College Is A Time To Experiment With Sex, To Explore New Friendships It Is A Time Of Freedom And Discovery Until She Makes The Wrong Discovery I can tell, even before I ve finished typing one sentence into this dialogue box, that this is going to be a very long review Why Because I really liked the first two thirds of this book Loved it even, for the sensual, pungent writing, the overwrought but undeniably effective atmospherics, the genderbending, the rampant bisexuality of the ensemble cast, the references to UC Berkeley, the evocation of a very specific kind of college aged lethary alienation, the violence of feeling that is all but gouged into these pages, the deft incorporation of fantasy elements Speaking of fantasy elements HOW TITILATING DO I FIND THEE The malignant, black winged angels The creepy hallucinations The brutal bloodbath rituals and the threat of sex edging every exchange and the secret doorways leading to worlds unknown The gothic mystery of it all The first third of this book, especially, reads like a perfumed, sweat saturated medley of plot points taken from Jennifer s Body and Donna Tartt s The Secret History I say this understanding that this book predates both of those titles The writing was only slightly overripe There were some deeply felt feminist tirades in this story that made me sit straight up, gripping the book hard, excited to see where they would lead Man, I was loving it So it comes as an enormous disappointment that after 500 pages of scene setting and tension building and feminist chestbeating, Hand leaves us with the ending that she does Did no one else on Goodreads have MASSIVE FUCKING PROBLEMS with the way Hand pun alert handled the resolution to her story Specifically, Hand seems to allow for the possibility of a multifaceted Goddess in the first half of the book, cf when Sweeney leaps into Balthazar s portal, which leads into the Goddess s world, refusing to believe that worshipping Othiuym can only result in a future besieged by darkness and evil BUT THEN, somewhere along the way, it s like Hand threw up her hands at the idea of ever producing a morally ambiguous scenario that somehow mediates a third space between EVIL PATRIARCHY on the one hand AND EVIL MATRIARCHY on the other, so the last third of the book degenerates abruptly into anti women fear mongering Replete, of course, with descriptions of taut long fawn legs and itty bitty waists and boobies overflowerth What had earlier seemed so empowering and erotic, a celebration of the female body, now seemed esp with a particular character s descent into cackling villainy exploitive and gratuitous SPOILERS FOLLOW I mean, it s one thing to write a fantasy novel about a militant feminist cult and have it all end in a totally sensationalized orgy of blood and sex and death where the female uprising has its punishment meted out to it if you re a man it s another thing to do it if you re a woman Not to say that either of these hypothetical authors should be excused but it seems particularly egregious that the writer, here, of this book, is female It feels like Hand s exploiting some very serious modern day issues for the purpose of telling a sexy, violent story, and then leaving these issues to the wayside without engaging with them in any meaningful way They form the pivot of her story but are discarded, thoughtlessly, after having served their use i.
e getting us to the nakedness, the blood spattered sacrifices, and the requisite happy ending The fact that women do get beaten, raped, passed over for promotions, consigned to a lifetime of housewife drudgery, subjected to jokes and comments and forms of media meant to police the way they see and use their bodies and brains, is of no significance to Sweeney, or to this narrator Another thing that gets me about this book is its perpetuation of the view that women are all tumultuous emotion and primitive mystics and that it s the men, always the men, who are the lightbringers of order and civilization When in reality, this couldn t be further from the truth Ever wonder why when Mohammad Yunus set up Grameen Bank, he made it a strict policy to lend ONLY TO WOMEN Oh, shit, right, because the women were the ones who paid the bills and fed the children and stocked the pantry and did the bookkeeping and generally kept things in order, while the men did shit like blow all the money on booze I m not kidding, I m pretty sure this has been proven in studies Kinda analogous to another totalizing narrative that gets disseminated a lot in today s media, i.
e that of the civilized white man subduing and then reforming the barbaric, brown skinned savage HBO s adaption of GoT, I m looking atchu.
So you know While I was reading this book, I waved off my usual preoccupations with keenly observed character interiorities, with a certain restraint of language, with blah blah genre conventions It didn t matter that I had no idea why Sweeney was so special that all the beautiful people fall in love with her Seriously, I kept waiting for the revelation that faerie blood ran through her family s veins or something It didn t even bother me that much that Hand s scenesetting signature shorthand is to type the words coriander , cardomom , sandalwood , preserved orange peels , cinnamon , and anise in various endless combinations It was all just so gothic and sinister and immense and exciting But oh, the way she wrapped up this book s themes Or, specifically, the way she didn t This was such a good book until the author decided to resort to comfortable black white binaries in service to her fairytale ending and flip the bird to feminism on the way there Seriously, ugh.
Part fantasy, part gothic horror, part mythology, part twisted love story It s dark, lush, sensual, and quite creepy in places I ll love you next time, I promise just about broke my heart.
The first third is a bit slow but once you get to the weekend retreat, the pace picks up a lot There were quite a few parts where I couldn t look away, let alone put the book down.
I was all set to give it 5 stars up until the climax view spoiler when Oliver is revealed to be the mysterious woman Up until that point, I d taken the I love you next time, I promise and the I ll be right back to mean that Dylan was, in some way, the reincarnation of Oliver After that event, I m not sure that s a feasible scenario and it not being true makes that relationship even screwed up than I had perceived it to be hide spoiler This is my second time through Waking the Moon, and it is just such a PLEASURABLE book, lush and spooky and expansive On first read I expected a horror novel, and was a little disappointed, but taken as a feverishly overwritten dark fantasy, it can t be beat It reminds me a lot of Neil Gaiman s American Gods, but I suppose this is American Goddesses, as narrator Sweeney finds her college friend becoming some sort of moon deity who just might destroy the Earth I love that Hand has not weighted the scales too much toward the Special Spirtualness of Womyn, or toward the righteous Christians holding back the Pagan forces of darkness.
It s a sexy, creepy, romantic book and just a ton of fun.
I tried I don t like angels The early college scenes were great but I didn t like the characters very much Loved the description of Seventies clothing Then I made a huge mistake and skipped ahead and stumbled into that whole Pasiphae thing reminded me of that time I was reading one of Anne Rice s vampire books and the main character sucked menstrual blood from a used tampon and I was just done No rating.
Here is my one run on sentence review I hated the pretentious goth bohemian intellectual stab me in the face characters that I can t stand in real life GOD HATE HATE SO MUCH but I really enjoyed Elizabeth Hand s integration of mythology into her world building, as well as her lovely prose which is why I give this three stars and not negative eleventybillion because of the irritating fucktardness of her characters.
I can t remember exactly when I stumbled upon this book at the library, but judging from the publication date 1994 in 1994 I was in high school, and I probably picked this up somewhere close to graduation I was looking forward to college, so this book appealed to me on that level, and I was messing around with funny things like tarot and runes and moon phases and stuff I loved everything about this book, from Angelica s peacock blue pen and her scent of sandalwood and oranges, to Oliver s beautiful face and shaggy hair, to Sweeney crouching on her dorm room window frame like a gargoyle, looking into her room for a different perspective.
There were other aspects that I couldn t make complete sense of, but was beginning to learn at that time the occult, feminism, cults, anthropology, archaeology, mythology just for starters I was a budding all of that at the time that I read this book and reading it was just like turning on a light in a dark room because it made complete sense to me Okay, I wasn t a budding cult member, but was fascinated by cults So let s say I was about 17 when I read this book Give or take Probably a little younger.
I ve never completely forgotten about this book, though recently it came to mind while I was reading The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, at which time all I remembered was the name Sweeney and sandalwood and oranges Knowing a trip to Grandma s was coming up, I found a used paperback copy of this book to take along.
Let s say about 20 years has passed since I first read this book, and I know I flipped through it on than one occasion after the first reading So reading it now all the way through again was pretty much like reading it for the first time Except with 20 year older eyes.
This is a flawed story The feminism is way militant than I ever wound up being, but I appreciate the main sentiment that there are significant issues with the patriarchy I just disagree that a matriarchy is the only other or best solution A college setting is fantastic for that because it s the best place where people first really hear about feminism and hopefully begin to learn what it s really about instead of whatever they ve learned from the boob tube or from sitting around their family s dinner table.
What happens in the end doesn t really match what the whole first parts were leading up to, and that is a bit of a shame I think Hand had a wonderful premise going but it was hard to manage it all to bring it to a cohesive and satisfying ending She tried, and I think she did a great job But I could see how first time readers as an adult now would think this is all a lot of horseshit.
People talk about the strange story in Donna Tartt s The Secret History, but Hand s story here is even stranger There are hallucinations sober ones, at that , angels, demons, references to bestiality, magic, Benandanti The characters do sort of seem like token 90s characters, like Annie, the lesbian who only wore fatigues and flannel shirts with the arms ripped off even 20 years after college.
Speaking of the story starts to sort of lose it s magic for me after college In fact, while the college scenes were so vivid in my memory once I started re reading, once Sweeney started talking about her life after leaving the university, my interest now sort of waived Maybe because the Sweeney of 20 years later is roughly the same age I am now, and the mid 30s are described really inaccurately in this book I m pretty sure there were references to gray hair, which is just not universal and I felt Hand was trying to say Hey, guys, once you reach 37, your life is over no one will look at you, your hair will be gray, you ll be frumpy and gross, you re pathetic, stop breathing Of course, Hand was about 36, 37 when she wrote this book, so maybe that s how she felt That s unfortunate because that s not how I feel about my life right now, and I would hate for vulnerable 16 year olds to read this book like I did and think life will be over by the time they leave their 20s Life is just beginning, kids So as a 36 year old what did I get out of the book now Well, my teenage years came back to me in sweeping memories Like the raging hormones, mostly This book makes you want to remember that one beautiful person from your past, even though you realize now you didn t really understand that person and your memory of them are just the hormone driven delusions you had at the time view spoiler I mean, what 30 something year old doesn t want to have frequent, hot sex with the barely legal son of a beautiful boy they once had a crush on 20 years ago hide spoiler This had been my favorite book for years Despite, or maybe because of, the dark adventures our heroine, Sweeney, witnesses and partakes of, this book really spoke to me and reminded me very strongly of my own younger adventures Also, this book introduced me to C.
P Kavafy, and I m forever indebted to that Even sitting here writing this review, some of that magic comes rolling back into me, reminding me of that time of my life And Oliver, god, Oliver Haven t read the book in about four years, and yet I m almost crying just thinking about him.
I really need to read this one again