A wicked day for amnesiacs and flight attendants: books read

Mary Stewart wrapped up the story of Merlin in The Last Enchantment but then went ahead and gave us the Fall of Arthur in a final, fourth volume. THE WICKED DAY blew me away the first time I read it and it impresses as much on rereading (and I really like Steven Stone’s cover). What makes it work is that it’s the only time I’ve seen Mordred written as a rounded person rather than a complete villain (though often an entertaining one).

As covered in the earlier books, Morgause saved Arthur’s bastard from the massacre of baby boys arranged by Morgause’ husband Lot (though widely blamed on Arthur). Mordred is happy growing up as a fisherman’s son, but then a chance meeting with Gawain brings him to Morgause’s court. From there, events eventually lead him to Camelot, where he discovers Arthur is not the blackhearted villain of Morgause’ stories but a truly great king. Then Arthur reveals who Mordred’s father really is …

Stewart says in the afterword that the earliest sources to reference Mordred make no mention of him as Arthur’s enemy, but she’d already prophesied him as Camelot’s doom and couldn’t see a way around it. However she handles it beautifully — Mordred is ambitious, sure, but had events played out a little differently than they do at the climax, he’d never have set himself up as king. Stewart even shows Mordred has the potential to be a great king, taking what Arthur’s built up and improving on it. Alas, it’s not to be … a terrific finish to a great series.

When I found it in the library, SIRI, WHO AM I? by Sam Tschida looked like classic thriller material. The twenty-something protagonist wakes up in a hospital bed, amnesiac and has to figure out who the heck she is. Unlike characters from forty or sixty years ago, she does it in past by studying her cell-phone’s Instagram feed, Uber history and text messages. It turns out she’s a dynamic entrepreneur with a cool match-making website and an amazing boyfriend — or is that just the face she shows to the world?

My assumptions about the book are partly to blame for why it didn’t grab me: it’s not a thriller but a chick lit/New Adult novel about the protagonist finally outgrowing her shallow influencer role and getting real. That wasn’t as interesting to me, and led to further misconceptions: to me, the guy who’s so nice and helpful screamed “I’m the one who tried to kill you!” but no, he’s just a nice guy.

THE GREAT STEWARDESS REBELLION: How Women Launched a Workplace Revolution at 30,000 Feet by Nell McShane Wulfhart made an interesting companion to Jet Sex, taking us back to the 1960s when stewardesses were hemmed in by weight restrictions, height restrictions, age restrictions and makeup and dress requirements. Worse, their membership of the Transportation Workers Union produced no benefits as the union refused to take women’s complaints seriously (one leader declaring in the 1970s that they’d kick out the feminists just like they had the commies). Eventually, however, the stewardesses pushed back against both the airline rules and the TWU, forming their own union and turning flight attendant jobs from a brief pre-marriage phase (those age requirements got a lot of women tossed out) to careers. A bit more detail than I needed, but that’s not the author’s fault.

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