This week on Fiction Between Friends, anything goes! It was the “What’s on Your Nightstand?” show.
Aileen read Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. A modern re-telling of Pride and Prejudice is always welcome on our podcast if that re-telling is a good one, and Eligible did not disappoint. Aileen walked the gang through the characters and how Sittenfeld cleverly updated each of them while staying true to Austin’s spirit. Entertaining and engrossing, Alisa even got Aileen to admit that a book can still be immensely enjoyable even if you already know the ending. Touché, Alisa. Touché.
Lauren swung for the fences and read a book in Spanish that she’s been trying to read forever. En los Zapatos de Valeria by Elisabet Benavent is about 4 women who are best friends (sounds familiar) who are all on different paths in their lives and in their loves. A good read no matter what language it’s in, Lauren highly recommends it. Or, if language is a barrier, you can catch Velaria on Netflix and read the subtitles.
Alisa read The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Inspiring and a bona fide page-turner, Alisa marveled at how Haig was able to take one character through so many iterations without ever being repetitious. The kind of book that makes one sit back and think about the quality of a life rather than the quantity of achievements, The Midnight Library sticks with you long after you’ve burned through all the pages in a race to find out how it ends.
Josie just can’t quit Naomi Novik. This week she read Spinning Silver and she doesn’t feel guilty about it at all. A marvelous retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale by the Grimm Brothers, Spinning Silver takes a hard look at the much-maligned Shylock character and calls into question the concept of what it is to honor debts. A remarkable work of fantasy fiction, and a dang good read, Josie highly recommends it. And she promises to stop stalking Ms. Novik… eventually.
The following transcript was translated by an AI program so unfortunately, we can’t vouch for its accuracy.
Josie: [00:00:00] Yeah, but even back then, just writing about the courtship and the tension between them that was considered extremely racy.
Aileen: Alyssa, did you have more questions?
Alisa: No, I’m now just wanting to go back and reread pride and prejudice.
Aileen: Well now, now I feel like I need to read it, even though I know, I know it, happens, sort
Alisa: Oh wait. Even though you know what happens, it’s still worth reading.
Aileen: oh shit. I fell into the Alyssa trap.
Josie: Hello and welcome to fiction between friends, a podcast, dedicated to books and book lovers like us. I’m Josephine Angelini
Lauren: I’m Lauren Sanchez.
Alisa: I’m Alisa Hillfinger,
Aileen: and Aileen Calderon,
Josie: we’re four childhood friends from the suburbs of Massachusetts.
Lauren: I’ve always loved to read almost as much as we love to talk to each other.
Alisa: We started this podcast as a way to celebrate how a really good book can come into your life and change it.
Aileen: So if you’re looking for fun and engaging conversations about books, stick around.
Josie: This is fiction between friends. And we’re glad you’ve joined us.
Josie: welcome back. This is season two, episode eight. I’m Josephine, Angelini, and joining me are my dear friends Aileen Calderon.[00:01:00]
Josie: Lauren Sanchez
Josie: and Alyssa hillfinger.
So how’s everybody doing? It’s national beer day, national beer day, and everyone has a beer.
Josie: So we’ve got to do a special shout out to Shauna and Emma
Alisa: know the feedback from the listeners is so fun.
Lauren: this is Shawna. Shawna was the one who was also red Poldark. Am I right?
she was my new BFF.
Aileen: We love them.
Josie: So, um, and next week we are having for the first time ever a guest speaker, we’re going to have a guest author. Well, she’s not really an author, she’s a screenwriter. So we’re just warming up. She’s one of my really dear friends, Barbara Stefanski and she’s a filmmaker.
She’s a writer director here in Los Angeles, but she works on Outlander. So she’s going to talk with us about how to turn a book into a TV show or a film. She’s also, um, she’s originally from Poland, grew up in Germany, you know, lives out here. So she also writes in German and she’s working [00:02:00] on this, uh, other series called Toten fro in Germany and Austria, which is another book to TV adaptation that she’s doing.
That’s going to be out in October. So she wrote that show too. So she’s going to talk with us about, um, turning books into film and TV and in several languages. So I think it’s going to be really interesting.
Aileen: I have two questions about this Josie
one. Is she nice? Well, we like her.
Josie: Oh, she’s one of us. She’s totally one of us.
Lauren: to miss that.
Josie: She’s lovely. Absolutely lovely.
Um, her son was born one day apart from Pia. So her son and my daughter, we were in the same hospital. We think we were in rooms next to each other, but we didn’t meet until we were in like a baby class. And I look up across the drum circle and I see this woman just like the look on your face. It was a drum
Aileen: the drum circle. Hang on, go back
Josie: baby drum
circle. Yeah. There was a giant drum in the middle of the room and like the babies would bang. I it’s like, we were just sitting there and like the look of [00:03:00] defeat on her face was the same as mine. And I was like, oh yeah, she gets it. I was like, we’re going to be friends. And we’ve been friends ever since, but yeah, she’s definitely, she’s a great person to talk to.
She’s a lot of fun.
Aileen: Awesome. My second question. Um, does she have embarrassing stories about you?
Josie: She might, I mean, I don’t know,
Aileen: we’ll find out. We’ll find out
Lauren: I even have an embarrassing story.
Josie: do, I
Alisa: I mean, everybody has to, but
Lauren: I have so many.
Josie: No horrible. Do you ever get one of those like shame waves where like I was at the deli today and I remember something stupid that I did like 25, 30 years ago and I was standing there and I just was like, oh, oh my God. That was so dumb standing there all by
myself in agony for a moment.
Josie: a lot of fun.
Aileen: All right. Should we talk about
Um, all right,
I read eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. Um, Curtis Sittenfeld is a woman, not a man. I’ve read another one of her books. I read it. Um, I think it was prep, which I really liked.[00:04:00] And I thought the whole time it was written by a man. And then this book, I was looking it up and I was like, this doesn’t seem like a book that a man would write.
And it turns out that Curtis is a woman. Um, this is a modern retelling of pride and prejudice. if I had ever read pride and prejudice, I would give you a really intellectual breakdown of the differences between this book and pride and prejudice. But I have never read pride and prejudice.
Josie: I can’t believe that.
Lauren: not nothing. Not judging.
Aileen: I know you can judge me.
Lauren: No, no. If you’ve seen the movie, you’re
Aileen: I I watched the movie.
Josie: And you
Alisa: You didn’t like it.
Aileen: I did. I did not like
Alisa: I didn’t
like that one
Lauren: that actor, whatever his name is, Matt.
Josie: Matt, Matthew Macfadyen or
Alisa: doesn’t brood the way Colin Firth broods.
Aileen: and plus he’s like the dorky husband on succession now and I
couldn’t get behind it.
Josie: Uh, I haven’t seen succession,
Aileen: Like Mr. Darcy and the movie I’m like, you’re such a boring boob. I have no idea why anyone would have [00:05:00] any interest in you. He just kind of like walks around and it’s solid and miserable. And then suddenly they’re in love and there’s all this sexual tension.
And I’m like, where did that
come from? I don’t understand.
Alisa: The book is fabulous. And the book, you get to see the development of the characters and you know why they might actually care for each
other and, and the redeeming qualities that the personalities have. And,
Aileen: Josie pride and prejudice was the first book you did for our podcast. so, you know, pride and prejudice. I don’t, um, you’ll appreciate this though. So this is a modern retelling. It’s
great. It’s funny. It’s like a really quick read. It’s broken up into really like short bite sized chapters, it takes place in
which I know of the original does not. The author is actually from Cincinnati. So Liz Bennet.
is in this. she is a magazine writer, um, living in New York city, her older sister, Jane also lives in New York city and is a yoga instructor.
Like this book goes like full modern. and they come home to Cincinnati because Mr. Bennett [00:06:00] has emergency surgery. So they’re going home to help out. They get home and they’re two sisters, kitty, and Lydia are living at home. There are a couple of deadbeats. They just go to CrossFit and are on a paleo diet and just kind of looking after their figures all the time, not really doing anything to take care of themselves.
Josie: that tracks with the characters.
Aileen: then Mary, the other sister is just always kind of in school and disappears every now and then. And no, one’s really sure where she goes. She’s not really a part of it. I feel like she’s just sort of there,
like, there’s another sister, we’re just going to throw her in there and just make her mysterious.
So we don’t
Alisa: You know what though? I liked that they didn’t make her a loser because it could have been really easy to twist that character until. over the top caricature, nerdy, dorky. Nobody likes her. So I’m
on board with
Aileen: she’s just sort of like mysterious and probably a little nerdy, but like nothing
Alisa: Nothing wrong with nerdy.
Aileen: so this also is consistent. Mrs. Bennett is just hell bent on getting all of her daughters married. Like that’s all she wants. so this is where it [00:07:00] gets super modern, ship Bingley. I think.
Josie: You have Mr. Pinckney.
Aileen: Yes. he comes home to visit, he has been the star of a reality show called eligible, thus the title of the book.
And so Mrs. Bennett is like, oh my God, he’s an eligible bachelor. We need him to marry one of my daughters. So she like sent her daughters off to a barbecue to meet chip. Hopefully one of them will fall in love with him at the barbecue. Mr. Darcy is there he is a neurosurgeon. Um, Same name fits will Fitzwilliam, Darcy. he and Liz ha have a like, love, hate thing going on. Like you’re like, Oh, yeah, you guys are gonna fuck. I get it. Like, you know, they sort of like hate each other, but there’s all this tension. And then they keep running into each other and then she goes for a run and she bumps into them and she’s like, do you want to just go back to your house and do it?
And he’s like, yeah. So they go back and they
screw. So they develop this relationship where they’re just having casual sex all the time
and it’s great. And she’s like, and she is like, I don’t want a [00:08:00] relationship with you, but let’s just keep screwing. It’ll be great. it just, it’s, everybody’s a total character in this, the house in Cincinnati is in a total state of disrepair.
Mrs. Bennett is a hoarder
Josie: Oh, yeah, that track. That’s really cool. It’s a great touch.
Aileen: Mrs. Bennett, um, also is like on a. W what’s the home, the home shopping network, TV thing. She’s just constantly like buying things online and just filling up the house with tons of crap. And they’re actually in debt. So Liz takes it upon herself to be like, you guys have to sell the house, you need to get things like fixed up.
We need to, like, she becomes the fixer she’s like, she just wants to fix the entire situation. So, if I had ever read pride and prejudice, I would say it was a very accurate, modern retelling of it. Um, based on the movie, I think it is. And it just, it gets all kinds of watered themes in there. Like there is a transgender character.
Um, I don’t want to give it away, but it’s, it’s an interesting little twist and it’s just like a really fun read. Um,
Josie: [00:09:00] is there the misinformation like, Mr. Darcy thinks her family is unsafe. And that’s what she takes offense at. And that’s where she’s like, you want to marry me, but you think my family’s unsuitable that they’re tacky and that’s no, I’m not gonna marry you.
You’re a jerk. Is that played out in this version as well? Eligible?
Aileen: there’s like miscommunication. She thinks that he disapproves of her family and
that he’s causing trouble. And then she later learns that he’s actually been very helpful and doesn’t actually think that, and she sort
of misinterpreted things that he’s done. Yeah. it’s a really fun, it’s a really fun book and I actually love that it has short chapters.
It just makes me feel like I’m making great
progress because I read so quickly and I’m like, oh Yeah.
I made it through that. okay. This is a random chapter, but this is describing. Oh, and the other thing throughout the book, like chip has been in this awful bachelor type reality show, everyone in the entire book has watched the show, but nobody really wants to admit that they’ve
Josie: Oh, that’s funny.
Aileen: I mean, everyone will be like, oh yeah. That, that show where, uh, yeah, I think I’ve heard [00:10:00] of it. And then we’ll describe with complete accuracy,
Josie: Every single episode. yeah,
Aileen: but, um, so this is just describing an episode of it. Um, in the final episode with only two women remaining, Carra a wide-eyed blonde ring lifted 23 year old, former college cheerleader turned second grade teacher from Jackson, Mississippi, and Marcy, a duplicitous yet alerting brunette 28 year old high dental hygienists from Morristown, New Jersey, Haiti, Jersey chip wept, profusely, and declined to propose marriage to either they both were extraordinary.
He declared stunning and intelligent and sophisticated, but toward neither did he feel what he termed a soul connection in compliance with FCC regulations, Marcy subsequent tirade consisted primarily of bleeped out words that nevertheless did little to conceal her race.
Josie: So even the language that it’s written, it is very Jane Austin
Lauren: what does duplicitous mean?
Josie: when you’re duplicitous, you say one thing and you do another,
Lauren: like do like, do you is sort of like Latin, right? For like
Alisa: for two,
Lauren: two sided.
[00:11:00] Got it.
apparently AMF, amphibian, amp, the prefix amphetamines. two-sided as well. I learned that today. Fun fact,
Which is amphibian is water and land. And there is a Greek goddess. Josie. You might know this.
Josie: and paternity
Aileen: Wow. Impressive.
Alisa: All right. And
that’s our Latin lesson for today.
Aileen: Thank you, Alyssa,
Aileen: Um, okay, so this is a description of the five Bennett girls. so all five girls had then gone on to private colleges before embarking on what could you for mystically be called non lucrative careers though, in the case of some sisters, non lucrative, non careers with
a more precise descriptor, kitty and Lydia had never worked longer than a few months at a time as desultory nannies or sales girls and the Abercrombie and Fitch or the banana Republic and Rookwood pavilion.
Similarly, they lived under roofs other than their parents for only short stretches experiments and quasi independence that always resulted in dramatic fights with formerly close friends, broken leases and the huffy transport.
[00:12:00] Uh, possessions by a laundry basket and trash bag back to the tutor. Primarily what occupied the younger Bennet sisters was eating lunch at green dog cafe or tellers, texting and watching videos on their smartphones and exercising.
Alisa: Oh, my gosh. Okay. As someone who is currently paying a college tuition, how did they put five children through private colleges?
Aileen: I think that’s why they’re in there now. Bankrupt. There they have no money now. Um,
Alisa: I have so many questions. Like, you know, the cousin, the cousin twice
Alisa: in, wants to, you know, become
Alisa: and yeah.
Aileen: cousin, Willie. He
his name is Willy.
cousin, Willy cousin, Willy shows up and Liz is sort of like a, I guess we’ve always gotten along. Let’s I’ll take you out Willy I’ll show you around.
And then he tries to kiss
her and she’s horrified and is like Willy. No, and he’s like, but we’re only step cousins. It’s okay.
It’d be all right. We can get married. And she’s
Lauren: oh, I like how the author sort of adapts that to seem a little bit more normal, [00:13:00]
Aileen: Yeah. And then
he, and then he, yeah. and then he, ends up falling for her best friend, which I think actually really happens.
original, yeah. Yeah.
Josie: They don’t fall for each other. They just get married.
Alisa: It’s convenient. And she’s out of options
Aileen: it’s Yeah.
And this one, they fall for each other and she abruptly moves to LA to be with him. And then she gets there and he’s like, what the hell am I doing? He snores.
And Liz goes out there and she’s like, well, have you tried earplugs, if you tried this and Liz fixes the situation.
Alisa: is it in the movie? Doesn’t he end up dying by like falling head first into his AP areas and get stung to death because he’s allergic to bees and she’s like, well, here I
Josie: that’s not in the book.
Lauren: no. You’d grab to that part.
Josie: Yeah. That is not the
Alisa: Is that maybe is that a fan fiction adaptation that I may have
Josie: That might be,
Alisa: He doesn’t, are you sure?
Josie: no, he does not die in the.
Alisa: So there was a really steamy, three books set of fan fiction. That [00:14:00] was Lauren. You would
enjoy it right
Lauren: Oh, why?
Ooh, steamy. Steamy.
Josie: You were that into fan FIC that you’ve read like a three series.
Alisa: is some steamy fan fiction based on pride and prejudice. So Jane Austin never got married. And
so what I read was that she, really only wrote about what she knew, which is why a lot of her stories end on the wedding day because she didn’t know what came next.
And so I’ll, you
know, pride and prejudice ends the day they, the couples get married because that’s the story that she
Lauren: or the day of the proposal or whatever.
Alisa: So the fan fiction that I have read at least is, you know, honeymoon and first couple of years of marriage and
Lauren: I don’t know if I want to read about anybody’s marriage necessarily
Aileen: Lauren, as long as we’re on you, what did you read
Lauren: Oh, well I actually, so I, on my way to Portland, I had to grab a book like last minute and I’ve I grabbed this book that I’m trying, I’ve been trying to read. It’s called it’s in Spanish now.
Okay. So our, [00:15:00] listeners may not. Be able to read this book because it’s not actually translated in English yet, but it is on Netflix and you can use subtitles. Now it’s a different story, a little bit on Netflix, but it’s on Netflix. It’s called malaria. And it’s a, I believe it’s Madrid Spain, but it’s a Spanish, um, TV series in the book that I’m reading is called by Elizabeth Ben event.
I may have mentioned before. I may not have, but I love to watch Spanish TV spots specifically from Spain. because I absolutely love to listen to them talk and I, I put the subtitles on, but I try not to use them. I’ve just, I’ve watched so many great shows out of Spain.
So the story of malaria, is about a 30, maybe between 26. Years old and 30 years old character named Valeria.
And she married, she married her husband. Adriaan quite young, maybe like 21, 22. but it’s, it’s about also her friendships and there’s four, friends, and I’ve decided each of us represent one of them, but I’ll [00:16:00] get to that in a minute.
Arrayah, uh, Lola and Carmen, and they’re all very, very different and it’s all about their friendship and their love lives and their sex lives. the different thing about between these four friends is that Valera is married and they are not. so Valeria’s relationship. Her marriage is actually not great.
There’s not a lot of sex happening. Um, there’s not a lot of connecting and in the book, I actually have not finished this book, it’s it? Because it’s in Spanish, it takes me a lot longer to read it.
Aileen: wait, I’m curious about that. Like, what’s the difference when you read a book in English and you read a book in Spanish, like, do you, are you actually actively translating in your head or like,
Lauren: I usually will not read a book in Spanish unless there’s two things that will make me read it. One I’ve watched the show or the movie or two, I’ve read it in English already. That way I can know the story. Um, so I know the characters and I’m not guessing When I watched that show on Netflix, I really liked it. And I Googled, I wonder if it’s based on the book and it was, um, but when I first started reading this [00:17:00] and those about those days Valeria, I
Lauren: Looking up every single word, like, oh, I’ve got to, you know, and every phrase and I had to understand all of this. . Let me just say this. I absolutely love Spanish.
as you guys are fans, our listeners don’t know my husband passed away. He was from Columbia and I learned Spanish living with him in south America. And I miss speaking it. I just love that language and it’s something I never thought I would learn. I never thought I would learn a language.
Alisa: know you took French in high school.
Lauren: I was in Josie and Alyssa’s French class.
I sucked at
Aileen: The only one who
Josie: I was so
bad at French.
Alisa: I know.
Lauren: Josie. You were better than me. Hello. You wrote that to lose Lou Trek, paper, paper.
You wrote it. But I, I was like a C student French couldn’t couldn’t and I just thought, well, I’m just not good at French. And then I moved to Columbia and all of a sudden I’m fluent in another language.
So I’m very proud of that.
Lauren, what was the name of it again?
Lauren: the book
Lauren: it’s called in those in Valerie’s shoes. Um, [00:18:00] but like I said, it’s on Netflix. It’s called Velaria it’s the story’s different than the book, but I loved the dynamic between the friends in the series and I love it in the book.
Alisa: It is a story about this group of friends one’s married the rest aren’t and.
Lauren: Right. And Valeria. Yeah. I should probably explain this a little bit better, but she’s the narrator it’s first person and she’s an author. She had one book published. She’s working on another book, but it’s not just somewhat blocked in her writing. Um, and then she’s having these problems in her marriage.
So, she meets another man named Victor and, um, he’s basically just so hot and you know, she’s resisting
it, she’s resisting it, but
Josie: just come out of her.
Lauren: yeah. And then no, but she actually goes to see her husband and in her, his studio, because she’s really concerned about what’s going on in their marriage and he just doesn’t seem to want her intimately, you know?
and he’s there without a shirt on and there’s a girl there. That’s where I stopped. I haven’t gone [00:19:00] further. I can’t wait to find out what
Alisa: I don’t like it. There shouldn’t
Lauren: Yeah. And after that she’s calling Victor like, Hey
Aileen: keep, keep, reading and fill us
Aileen: Alyssa. What did you read for our random on a win William episode?
Alisa: you sparked it for me AYLIEN because Matt Hague is the author of the midnight library.
Alisa: And so last time we talked, you were rattling off a list of books and you said in the midnight library and he wrote this and blah, and my sister-in-law, I think when this first came out, she was listening to it and she, she just.
Constantly distracted with her earbuds in her ears. And she was listening to this book and she loved it. And so I knew I wanted to add it to my list. And then it was one of those things that you just don’t get to don’t get to. And you had mentioned it and I thought, okay, I’m reading it. I need to read it.
So I did, um, I think the best description of what it’s about is the opening. When you first open the book and turn [00:20:00] to, you know, after the, the quote from Sylvia Plath and the dedication, and there’s just a quote and it’s between life and death, there is a library she said, and within that library, the shelves go on forever.
Every book provides a chance to try another life. He could have lived to see how things would be. If you had made other choices, would you have done anything different if you had the chance to undo your regrets? And that’s the premise of the book. but the
midnight, yes, that’s what I thought of too.
it happens to be a library for Nora. That’s the main character in this book for another character that she runs into. his name’s Hugo, his version is a video store. And so it’s like an old blockbuster kind of a thing. and so it’s this vehicle for trying out different lives is different depending on what best suits the person involved.
I mean, I, I, because this is a fairly new book in people may want to read it. I don’t want to give too [00:21:00] much away, but the very first sentence. gives you a lot of information. 19 years before she decided to die. Nora seed sat in the warmth of the small library at Hazeldon school, in the town of Bedford.
She sat at a low table, staring at a chess board, Nora, dear. It’s natural to worry about your future said the librarian, Mrs. Elm, her eyes twinkling, and then they’re playing chess. And Mrs. Elm is her middle school librarian. And you see that Nora is in the library at school, and she’s fairly young, but it’s 19
years before she decided to die.
So you know that this is a woman grappling with heavy issues and that ultimately her library that exists between life and. Is something that she puts herself in. And, that is not really the, the crux of the book. Um, it talks a little bit about her mental health issues and her struggles and one of the [00:22:00] lives that she tries out.
So once she’s in this place, the idea is that she wants to revisit her regrets and try to address some of them. And that’s what she thinks will help her find happiness, find peace. And she has several regrets and in one of
them, she decides to address it. And the result is that she tries out living this life where she is a famous person and is the keynote presenter at a conference.
And. the other thing that’s fun is every time she decides to try out a new life, there’s this slew thing that has to happen to figure out who she is, what her past has been up to that point.
Aileen: cause she, she is just dropped into
a life. Right? She has no idea like what’s
Alisa: right? So she has to, like, she basically goes on the internet and Googles her name to find out what there is about her.
Or she has to look for
context clues around the room, or she has to look at photographs, hung on the wall to see who she’s [00:23:00] pictured with. so she realizes that she’s the keynote speaker. She realizes what she’s famous for and she’s going to be
Aileen: Can you imagine that would be my worst nightmare. My
God. You’re just dropped on stage in front of thousands of people and you have to sound
Josie: I just jump out the window and be like, I’m going to try a different
Alisa: know I’d be like this. One’s not for me. I will come back to the library.
so sh she’s there and she’s in the audience and her brother is her manager and she’s getting ready to go on. Um, so at least a thousand people were watching the first speaker conclude her presentation, the author of zero to hero the book Dan had beside his bed in another life. But Nora wasn’t really listening as she sat in her reserved seat in the front row. it was hard to breathe in this room.
It smelled of musky, perfume and new carpet. She tried to stay calm, leaning into her brother. She whispered, I don’t think I can do this. I think I’m having a panic attack. He looked at her smiling, but with a [00:24:00] toughness in his eyes, she remembered from a different life. When she’d had a panic attack before one of their early gigs with the labyrinths at a pub in Bedford, you’ll be fine.
I don’t know if I can do this. I’ve gone blank. You’re overthinking it. I have anxiety. I have no other type of thinking available. Come on, don’t let us down. first of all, you know, this replaying of I have anxiety. I have no other type of thinking available is, is core to her as a person. And that piece of her shows up in every life.
But the extent to which it affects her is different depending on the life she chooses.
Aileen: So she’s always herself, but she’s herself in different
Alisa: right, and, and different iterations and often. She has various medications that she takes to help cope with her mental illnesses.
Josie: But her brother is the same. She always has the same family, the same set of people around her. It’s just her life circumstances are
Alisa: she always has the same family. [00:25:00] and it’s interesting because one of the things that Mrs Elm, who is the librarian from her childhood is the librarian in the midnight library who helps guide her and is the person to bring her the books. When she says, I want to address the regret of X, Y, or Z,
Aileen: Lauren. Do you see how important librarians are in people’s
Lauren: librarians are
Josie: like the crux of the universe. Did you realize that.
Alisa: and so one, one of the things that, Mrs M says to her is you see doing one thing differently is very often the same as doing everything differently. And it’s this idea of, of one small change. She says never underestimate the big importance of small things. so in, in one instance, for example, she says, I, I want to find a life from where my cat doesn’t die.
I don’t find my cat on the street dead. I don’t want that. I I’d like to try a
life where my cat lives. Um,
but that’s a very minor change, right? I mean, that’s not necessarily tied to some [00:26:00] huge regret that, you know, 20 years later you’re like, oh my gosh, like that clearly was a turning point in my life.
Alisa: Yes exactly. so her family is always the same. It’s always the brother. It’s always the brother’s best friend, Ravi, who she is also friends with. It’s also her best friend Izzy and her parents, but how the lives play out is very different in S in one life, her brother has died. and, and she’s grappling with that and another life, several other lives.
it’s various iterations of, she’s not speaking to these people and she doesn’t know why. it was interesting because I would think, you know, from an author perspective, like how do you come up with all these different options for what could be
it’s, it’s really fun. so the way the book is laid out is she tries out three or four different lines.
Pretty big detail where you really get to know this new life and how she feels in it and how [00:27:00] ultimately they’re not the right fit because she continually goes back to the library and eventually, and so, I mean, one of the questions is like, well, what happens if I find a life that I like, and Mrs. Elm says, well, then you’ll just become a part of it.
Like you just stop remembering that you’ve chosen this and you just start living it.
Lauren: What a cool concept.
Alisa: a neat one. Um, so, and I don’t know if I can read this whole thing because it’s a whole chapter where it’s literally a list of
Josie: Probably not a whole chapter.
Alisa: In one life. She was an aid worker in Botswana in one life, a cat sitter in one life, a volunteer in a homeless shelter in one life, she was sleeping on her only friends sofa and it, and this whole chapter is just all of these iterations.
She had been a rockstar, an Olympian, a music teacher, a primary school teacher, a professor, a CEO, a PA, a chef, a glaciologist. They do go into her being a glaciologist. I appreciated that.
Some of it [00:28:00] is funny, like some of the iterations of the lives that she comes up with. and there’s just this really dense paragraph of lists of things that, she was or ex or experienced, um, a hotel cleaner, a politician, a lawyer, a shoplifter, uh, waitress first-line supervisor glassblower.
She’d had horrendous commutes in cars, on buses and trains on fairies, on bike, on foot. She’d had a 53 year old boss with halitosis, touch her leg under a table and text her a photo of his penis. She’d had, I know gross. She’d had colleagues who lied
Aileen: was really, she was really a lost soul.
Alisa: She went through so many lives. let’s see, in many lives she chose not to work smart and in some, she didn’t choose not to work, but still couldn’t find any in some lives.
She smashed through the glass ceiling and in some, she just polished. She had been excessively over and under qualified and some lives. She was on antidepressants and in others, she didn’t even take [00:29:00] ibuprofen for a headache and some lives. She was a physically healthy hypochondriac Lauren and in some, a seriously ill hypochondria.
Lauren: Hold on. Wait,
Aileen: Lauren look
Alisa: I’m totally throwing shade at you. do you remember growing up? Oh
my gosh. So many times you were like, do I have this? Do I have that? Am I a hypochondriac?
Alisa: you are.
Lauren: sounds about right.
Alisa: But there’s all these descriptions of like these very little. Things that kind of define who she is and what changes from one life to
the next. Um,
and none of them are particularly significant. And so for some of the lives it’s okay. Nothing really changes. And in other lives, it’s one very small thing is different and, and your life is nothing at all.
Like you would expect it to be.
Aileen: would you say that the general vibe of the book is? Is it like happy, uplifting, humorous,
Alisa: um, I did go and try and look up, you know, some information about the book and some of the reviews that I read were kind of around how [00:30:00] this was a little bit of a missed mark. Like it, it seemed a little superficial instead of. Trying to really dive deep into, I mean, this woman attempts to kill herself.
And, and that is part of the first sentence of the whole book. And she has some pretty serious mental health issues. And, and it could, some of the reviews said that, that there was potentially a missed opportunity to really kind of do a character dive into this woman. And instead it was a little bit superficial with the different lives that she lived.
I personally found it very entertaining. I really enjoyed reading it.
I was compelled to keep reading it, like, and turn the page and find out what happens next and what the different iterations were. you know, overall.
Aileen: that’s such an interesting critique because it’s, it was a wildly popular book. I mean, people loved it. It feels like people are putting something on the author. That’s not fair. Like they wanted it to be a book that it wasn’t like. It wasn’t meant to be a really intense, serious, deep dive into mental health.
Like they [00:31:00] touched, he touched upon it, but that wasn’t the main focus of the story or not in the way that the critics wanted it. I
Alisa: Right. Yeah. And, and I think, I mean, Josie, you, you probably have some perspective on this where, what you put out is a reflection of what you wanted, but if that’s not what other people wanted to see in what you put out, or if they are perceiving like, oh, you could have gone
this way instead of the way you went.
I mean, that’s a really hard thing to battle because as an author, you’re producing a work of art and artists subjective, and you are sharing your intentions.
Josie: I think it’s not just your intentions, it’s your process. It’s like, there’s something that, that author wanted to think his way all the way through. And that’s why he wrote the book. You have to allow the book to be the book. You can’t say it coulda, shoulda woulda been, you know, like there’s, maybe this book worked out something for that author.
Maybe this book helped another reader work through something, a thought process that they, they were starting to go on. And it’s not always like he’s dealing with his depression or anxiety. It’s not always that face [00:32:00] value thing that you get out of it. It’s not always that big thing.
Sometimes it’s just an idea that you can’t stop thinking about. And it’s something that you need to explore all the way to the end. And he felt like he did it for himself and that’s gotta be enough for the reader. It’s like, if you want one of those stories that are dealing with mental health more, there are other books out there like that, that this book doesn’t need to be anything other than what it was
Aileen: Yeah, it would have been such a different story if he’d gotten really intense and serious about her, her mental health struggles.
Alisa: I, I think that’s one of the things I appreciated about it is that you still understood the character. You certainly felt for her and her struggle. but it, it wasn’t depressing. I mean, this is a book
that is relies on the premise of suicide and, and where do you go when you’re trying to decide if you want to keep living or not.
so that could be really dark and kind of sad. and so I would say the, you know, the book definitely has some ups and downs emotionally. It ends on a hopeful note. [00:33:00] I certainly would say it’s not a sad book considering the premise. I mean, I really liked it.
Aileen: I know it’s funny. I read it I read it too. And I forgot about. The whole premise of suicide because I did, it was just such a, it was a fun read. It was just like an interesting, intriguing book.
Josie: And also if you’re talking about like looking at all the different ways, This individual’s life could have turned out, can be very self-affirming. So it’s like, if you’re, if you’re stopping and thinking about the value of a life and all these different ways that it could have been lived, just her going through that process, maybe that was enough for her, or maybe that was enough for the author.
You know, it doesn’t have to be like this big treatise on mental health.
Alisa: Right. Yeah. It didn’t have to be
Josie: Exactly. It’s let the book be the book,
Alisa: What did you read
Josie: I had so much fun. So Ilene said that she was doing a modern day retelling of, you know, a Jane Austen book.
So I was like, I have a book that I just read that was that retelling it’s spinning silver by Naomi Novik. And I swear you guys, I’m going to stop stalking her after this book. Okay. Maybe I’ll [00:34:00] read one more book and talk about it and then I’ll stop stalking her. I’m so frigging in love with the world she’s created.
And this book came out in 2018. It’s uh, at one the locus award for best fantasy. It was a good reads choice. Uh, it was nominated for a bucket load of other awards and
Um, this book is a modern day retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin, um, fantasy. That was really cool. So the description of it is mere young. That’s the main character. Remain female characters, but I’m not going to get into everyone.
Mariam is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders, but her father, isn’t a very good one free to lend and reluctant to collect. He has loaned out most of his wife’s dowery and left the family on the edge of poverty until Miriam steps in hardening her heart against her fellow villagers, please, she sets out to collect what is owed and finds herself more than up to the task.
When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold, but having the reputation of being able to change [00:35:00] silver to gold can be more trouble than it’s worth. Especially when her fate becomes tangled with the cold creatures that hot the wood and whose king has learned of her reputation and wants to exploit it for reasons.
Miriam can, cannot understand. So she’s the star Yuk are these they’re kind of like winter elves, and they, they basically start that king of the starting yuck. He hears this boast. Human can turn silver into gold. And he leaves a pouch of fairy silver on her doorstep. And she does, she takes it. She hasn’t made it into a beautiful crown and she turns it basically, she turns it into gold and she does it three times and then he’s forced to marry her.
Right? So then he brings her into this winter world and she has absolutely no wish to be there. He was like, I don’t want to do this. It’s like, I don’t want to be a part of this. And then she goes through the whole thing of, he has three rooms of silver, and then she’s got to change those into gold. But when she gets there, she realizes, if she just passes her hand over the silver, it turns into [00:36:00] gold.
So it’s like this very retelling the star that kingdom is making when they want to make winter lasts forever because they’re fighting the chair and ABOG, which is this fire demon that’s inhabiting the SAR. So at the, the czar has been taken over by this fire demon and the fairies are trying to smother the world in ice to get rid of him and. A long, long series of events that like, it ends up being Merriam and the SAR who’s trapped. I mean, and he’s the character that I felt was the most interesting. So the Czar’s name is Mir naughtiness and he’s this gorgeous man, but his mother sold him to the channel Bach. So he never had a choice.
Like he he’s been possessed by the spirit who basically tortures him. And he’s just such a Dick in the beginning. And then you get why he’s of, oh, such a brilliant storytelling, such a great character art to make the czar and to the point where you’re just like 100% on his side and the Zarina so that the chairman of bog wants to use the Zarina to get into the very round, to kill the [00:37:00] star yak and take all the silver and whatever.
And. his wife, the Zarina, she ends up saving him and this really clever way and like getting the chair in a bag out of him. And, and it’s just so well told. Cause in the beginning she’s terrified of him. She doesn’t want to be married to him. And by the end of it, she’s basically just trying to save him.
And it’s this, I don’t know. It’s totally lovely. You guys, and such a great retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin tale where it’s, you know, it’s in the silver into gold and you’ll be married to the king and it all comes from a boast. And I loved how it started off with the money lender and dealing with Miriam and her family’s Jewish.
And they’re forced to live on the outskirts of the town and how everyone takes advantage of them. So Mary, she starts collecting the money for her father as a young girl because her dad is too nice. Like he just lets people basically steal their money and never pay it back. And it gives you. The perspective of like, her mom gets sick and she’s like, that’s it, dad, I’m going to get this money or mom’s [00:38:00] going to die.
And it’s like, it’s almost as if the whole town has been taking advantage of this family for years. And she finally stands up for them. And I don’t know, it’s one of those difficult characters, the Shylock character who now we’re on her side and that’s a sign of great writing. When you take a difficult character and marry a mist, she’s not a nice kid.
Like she’s not a nice person. She’s not likable. She’s like, I don’t care if you’re going to go under, you owe me this many eggs, give them to me. You know, like she takes this girl, Wanda, who’s wonderful. Her father can’t pay his debts. She takes Wanda in as her servant. And Wanda ends up eating better there.
So she’s happy, but like, she’s a difficult character that you love and you love how hard she is. That’s such a fine line to walk. You know, we’re not, she’s not a lovable little orphan, you know, she’s not this sweet little urgent, she’s a tough girl. And it’s such great storytelling. When you have three women Nerium, Wanda, and arena, who’s the Sarina.
When you have the [00:39:00] three women who are such different characters with such different paths, different educations, and they all get woven together. So well at the end, like their three storylines really come together at the end and you get the whole story. So I can’t recommend it. I mean, if you’re an end of this kind of thing,
well, let me tell ya. I love it. And it’s just great world-building and so I want to read to it just like a little bit of how she wins over the reader, right? So this is Miriam’s point of view in this part. This is when she’s younger. So they had sent my father away empty handed and their lights shown out on the snow and the smell of roasting meat slipped out of the cracks.
While I walked slowly back to the banker to give him a warm penny in return, for course, half burned loaf that hadn’t been the loaf I’ve made it all. He’d given a good loaf to one of his other customers and kept a ruined one for us. You know, it’s like this, this never ending. Every little bit of her life is made [00:40:00] harder by the people around her.
And she feels like an outcast and she gets back at them and you don’t blame her. But in the end, she sort of like comes around in I couldn’t recommend hiring enough.
Aileen: um, w what do you think makes certain stories worth retelling again and again, like pride and prejudice has been retold a million times, like Rumpelstiltskin.
Alisa: I know that one surprised me.
Aileen: Yeah, but also like every fairytale at the core, I feel like there’s some kind of like moral dilemma or a story that can be woven at a bunch of different ways.
So like, what is it that attracts an author to retelling a story?
Lauren: I don’t know, but I can tell you what attracts me as a reader
because I. Yeah, no, I, I absolutely love Naomi Novik. I read this book. It was a while ago, so I’m not as familiar with the story at this point, but I also read uprooted. I haven’t read her man series yet or her dragon series, but what is it that I love about them? I love fairytales. I love that dragons can be slayed and the [00:41:00] downtrodden can get ahead. You know, I love that kind of thing and I love fantasy, so it works out great for me.
and Naomi Novik always has strong female characters. Like Josie says, sometimes there’s sort of like a sexual tension between the main character and a
ma a male in the book. My kind of thing. so that’s why I’m drawn to her writing.
think, but I think sometimes if there’s an opportunity to, to modernize it,
especially if there’s outdated tropes or stereotypes that you want to remove,
or, or make it something more modern. So that it’s relatable
one of our English teachers says that the best remake of, I think it’s Emma that she has ever seen is clueless. The movie
Josie: Fantastic. So just smart movie,
so well done.
Aileen: Never realized that’s
Alisa: I know. Meet you there.
Josie: Okay. The reason why I like retelling SIS, because. It’s not just basic [00:42:00] morality. It’s like, we all have this footprint in our head about the fairytales that we were told or all of these, like the Grimm fairytales, the way that they were originally laid out. There are these shapes in our head that we’re asking these questions.
this is, this book is all about the post. So the whole thing about Rumpelstiltskin, isn’t just the spinning silver into gold. The reason why the girl was made to spend silver integral is because her father was boasting to the king.
so it’s all about a boast. And then the daughter is the one who’s going to suffer for it. Like she’s going to be killed if she doesn’t spend all this silver and gold.
So she gives her, she promises her first born child to Rumpelstiltskin without knowing his name. She’s got to figure out his name. And then she has to use her Wiles to find his name so that she can get her child back when the child’s eventually born. And that, that idea of being trapped of, owning something and how to get out of owning it.
So she owed Rumpelstiltskin, her baby. He did what he said, a money lender, loans, you money. And, you know, [00:43:00] they pay up and now it’s your turn to pay back. And we all like this idea of being able to get out of what we owe and that’s, what’s at the heart of these stories. Like this sort of turns it on its head.
But those people do, oh, Miriam and her family and they should pay. And we know that and we sort of see it and we go, why do we all like this idea of taking advantage of some, like, we got what we wanted out of the bargain, but now, and when we have to pay up, we don’t want to. And is that really just, and she makes you stop and think about that in this book.
So I like how she’s using the rebel stilt skin story to confront the idea. It’s like, cause sometimes they’re asking too much, man, and that’s the truth of it. And the girl never wanted to turn the silver to gold in the first place. And why should she have to give up her first born child? Because her dad’s a Dick and it’s like, so that’s why we, cause we think about these things.
We think about the injustice of them we think about, and it sticks in our head because it’s one of those moral gauges inside of us. That’s why all of these fairytales [00:44:00] stick in our head behind them is this it’s a moral question. Should we have to pay back what we owe? Even if it is a little unfair, we knew what the term.
She knew her firstborn child, like, but having to pay it back is the right thing to do the honest thing to do. I don’t know. It’s just, it’s one of those quandaries that people still think about today anyway. Oh, you’re having a huge thunderstorming. I see your eyes. You’re
Aileen: yes. There’s like lightning And I have the mute mute on because there’s. Clashes of a nerve with not expecting
that it’s been rainy all day Um, as far as retellings, I get retellings of fairytales more than any other story, because for me, it’s what you grow up as a, with, as a child. And there’s some like core morality to them.
Like, there’s, there’s good versus evil, and this is right, and this is wrong. And it’s, it’s very simple. It’s told in a simple way for a child, but I get being attached to it and then wanting to like retell it or re Alyssa just got some food. What did you just get Alyssa?
Alisa: so [00:45:00] David, made scones
Aileen: like, oh my God. Wow.
Josie: made that
Alisa: I know,
Alisa: I know
Josie: The cutest
Alisa: he’s taking a, um, he’s this is his second. no that he’s taken a cooking class at school. And so he’s making all these things and he’s coming home and he’s like, well, this was amazing. I will make it again. he just,
Lauren: He’s a, he’s liked cooking for a while.
Aileen: going to be a chef.
Alisa: Yeah. He’s,
Aileen: cause you benefit.
Alisa: Yeah. It’s
Sorry to distract you. I just really
wanted him to bring me
Aileen: Now I’m just, I’m just jealous. I had scrambled eggs and a beer for dinner. So we’re in that looks amazing.
Alisa: Well, okay. So, but you’re saying that the most common retellings would be a fairytales, but I think one of the, one of the things about retellings is that it has to be a well-known enough story that the original pervades either a culture or an era, [00:46:00] you know, has some type of, of clause in the zeitgeists of some being,
Aileen: W, which is why fairytales make
so much sense. Cause everybody
grows up like Grimm’s fairytales, like three little pigs, a little red riding hood, like all like everybody knows those, but then something like pride and prejudice, that seems like a really interesting choice for so many
Alisa: So many
Aileen: Cause it’s, it’s so
Josie: that, it’s the enemies to love her story
and it’s, it goes way back. I mean, it’s in taming of the Shrew. It’s it’s a classic love trope.
Aileen: I guess, I guess that’s the origin of So. many modern day stories that you just don’t necessarily realize it, but that was the original.
Josie: I love retellings. Cause I love to see how the author uses it or deviates from it and how they take it and make it their own. And what it is about that particular fairytale that they focus on or that retelling that they focus on, like she was taught is it fair to not pay back what you owe?
It’s a really good question. And it’s deeper than the story. [00:47:00] Like then just, I’m going to use this as a template to tell a story that people already know, so I can make money. You know what I mean? Like she’s adding to the story, so that’s great.
Lauren: Well, it makes sense, Josie. It makes sense because Josie, your book, your star-crossed series is sort of based on a tale already.
Josie: Yeah, no, it’s the alien, it’s the modern retelling of it. And I questioned my whole thing was I really wanted to figure out Helen of Troy. I wanted to figure out this character who who’s very different depending upon whether or not you read Homer Virgil or anyway, she’s this she’s a complicated character.
And I felt like, you know, was she kidnapped or was she, did she want to do this? Like the culpability of Helen was something that always kind of stuck with me. And I thought it was just such an interesting, such an interesting reflection for society. Like this is how we think women are, right. This is what they are to us, something to be stolen, a possession fickle, you anyway, it was just something I really wanted to think about.
Aileen: did we cover everything we’re supposed
Alisa: I [00:48:00] know, let’s say,
Aileen: Well, Lauren, Lauren, Alyssa and Josie have a printed out. I don’t do. Okay. Good.
Josie: Okay. But, okay. So I’m just going to next week, Lauren. You’re not going to be with us, but Barbara, Barbara Stefanski is going to come in for you. And she’s going to take up our fourth square D I didn’t mention this. She’s also adapting my book. What she found in the woods for TV. I didn’t tell you guys that.
Aileen: how did you forget that? Josie?
Josie: I don’t know.
Aileen: Wait, wait, wait, Let’s, let’s talk about this for a second. She’s adapting it for TV. Is there already a deal? Is it a sure thing? Does she need to write it? And then it gets done? Like what’s,
Josie: I’m not, I’m not saying anything about it Not right now. It’s just, I’ve been, I’ve been down this path many a time but yes, she is attached as the showrunner for what she found in the woods,
Alisa: I have a detour question for you then. So alien and I both have the forgotten garden by Kate Morton,
that we can talk about, but, is that okay that we’re gonna be talking about the same book or [00:49:00] should I go reread your book and then be able to talk
Josie: No, no, no. We’re going to talk about the forgotten garden. We’re going to totally talk about the forgotten God, because we can’t talk about what she found in the woods. Cause I’ll
Aileen: but we are, we’re going to read your books and talk about.
them at one
Alisa: I know we need to do a Josie.
Josie: It’s too weird to talk about my books with you guys. And I’ve told you guys why it’s like,
you know, what really did happen to me?
Aileen: blah, blah, blah. We’ll be positive. It’ll
Alisa: It’ll be interesting because we can talk about the book and then you can talk about it from the author perspective. Like
Aileen: Yes. We can ask you
Alisa: I remember when I was writing this particular chapter, you know, PO was, you know, really needing a set of colored pencils for school and wouldn’t stop talking about it or whatever, you know?
Josie: I don’t know everything about this. It’s just so cringey embarrassing for me to Anyhow, so we’re going to be talking to Barbara and we’re going to be talking about the secret garden, not what she found in the word.
Aileen: That’s what
right, I’m going to go eat this delicious scone that
Josie: freaking out.
Lauren: Oh, enjoy it.
Alisa: wants some Cooper really, really
Aileen: Oh, look at your dog. He’s grueling
Josie: So good though. I would have been all over that already, but oh, cause you feed the dog, Alyssa.
Alisa: know that’s why he’s fat. No, I did not give him a chocolate piece. I wouldn’t do that to you.
Aileen: All right, ladies. It was
Alisa: I know. Happy
Josie: great. Thanks.
Josie: Thank you. Yay.
Aileen: 47. It’s amazing.
Oh, ending with
alarm yawn. All right.
Josie: you next week.
Josie: You’ve been listening to fiction between friends to find the show notes for this episode, or to subscribe and get new episodes delivered automatically. Visit fiction between friends.com. Also, if you happen to have a moment and you’ve liked what you’ve heard, please help support our [00:51:00] podcast by leaving a review on apple podcasts.
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