My general reaction to “famous author returns to world of legendary early work” is to cringe, because the results usually suck. John Le Carré’s A LEGACY OF SPIES was therefore a pleasant surprise, as Peter Guillam — a former aide to George Smiley — learns that The Spy Who Came In From the Cold has a son who’s now suing Peter and the British government for getting his father killed. Investigating the real story plunges Peter back into the Cold War to show how the scheming in Spy was partly to unmask the traitor Smiley and Control suspected in their organization (instead the mole wouldn’t be outed until Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy) I could have done with less of the spycraft details (they don’t seem as important as when Cold War espionage was current events) but overall very good; I find it encouraging for my future that Le Carré could turn out something this readable at 86 years old. I have now read all of Le Carré’s novels until he writes another — though I may get around to his autobiography at some point.
THE LONG SEXUAL REVOLUTION: English Women, Sex and Contraception, 1800-1975 by Hera Cook looks at how England went from discomfort and ignorance over sex, women’s pleasure and methods of contraception to the sexual revolution and the acceptance of birth control and optional parenthood. Very informative about how uninformed people were, and how they coped (wives refusing to put out was a common solution — maybe that’s why today’s religious right rejects marital rape), how male privilege was the default setting (it was argued condoms were a bad idea because they made it impossible for the man to act on impulse) and how big a difference effective birth control made — Cook is writing partly to refute previous arguments that the sexual revolution wasn’t all that. Dry and specialized, but informative.
THE LONG SOUTHERN STRATEGY: How Cashing White Voters in the South Changed American Politics by Angie Maxwell and Todd Shields argues that the GOP’s success has effectively spread Southern standards of racism, religion and gender nationwide, though the only point I was interested in was the gender aspect. While this made a couple of interesting points — it reminds me a lot of Mothers of Invention in discussing the restricted role of Southern womanhood — it’s mostly political information I already know, though backed up by a lot more polls and stats.
77 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GETTING A CAT: The Essential Guide to Preparing Your Family and Home for a Feline Companion by Susan M. Ewing is a competent Getting A Cat book but doesn’t tell me anything my previous reading on this topic didn’t.