Thursday, April 11, 2013

Different Women, Different Reader, Different Review

kids reading books on a bench

My six year old’s teacher has the kids use the “five finger method” for finding a “just right” book to read. Here’s how it works:
  1. Choose a book that looks interesting.
  2. Read the first page.
  3. Hold up a finger for each word you don’t know or are not quite sure about.
  4. If you have one finger up (or none), the book is too easy. Two to three fingers up means it’s just right.  Four, and you should give it a go (or try another page) but it might be a little challenging. Five or more fingers, choose an easier book.
Okay then. Nik's pick of Different Women Dancing by Jonathan Gash. 1998 edition, page one:

  • Finger 1: Stringers - Not the type one uses in buildings, I’m guessing by the context, as these are referred to as girl stringers. Or maybe it’s a girl building? Or a boy building with girl parts?
  • Finger 2: Temazepam flogger - Who is Temazepam and why is the poor guy being flogged? Or maybe he's read too much Shade of Grey and wants his turn under the flogger? 
  • Finger 3: Yellow jellies - Mmm, jelly!
  • Finger 4: Standers - Someone who stands? But it's used in a more sinister way, “the standers caught them," so like some sort of standing spider creature that catches people?
  • Finger 5: Locum - used in different place as an adjective, a noun, and a verb! So one could have a locum doing locum at a locum locum?

So five fingers up and feeling very under-educated for this book. But Nik assured me it’s worth the read (see his post, "Different Women Dancing"), so I got a good night’s sleep, laid off the red wine, and tried again. And it was, most definitely, worth the read.

It turns out the reader isn’t supposed to know some of the words right away, like “stringers” and “standers.” These are particular aspects of the underworld syndicate upon which the story is based and their meaning comes out through the narrative. The story is captivating, following Dr. Clare Burtonall as she digs deeper and deeper into the workings of the city’s underground, trying to discover what her husband is hiding. The new words keep coming and coming, but the story’s so strong and the context so revealing that within just a few pages the new terms stopped tripping me up. (Plus Gash includes a definition at the start of each subsequent chapter for the slower folk amongst us.)

As for the rest of the not-just-right words from page one, here’s what the Google revealed:

  • Temazepam is a prescription sleep medication, also used as no-go pills for military pilots.
  • Googling flogger gets you mostly BDSM links but…umm…where was I? Oh yeah, informally it’s an aggressive salesperson.
  • Yellow jellies brings up both Spongebob sandals and illegal drugs. I'm thinking Gash meant the latter.
  • A locum is what we’d call a sub in the States, “a person who temporarily fulfills the duties of another.”  So a sub could be subbing as a sub teacher, got it.

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