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Caliban's War
James S.A. Corey
The Shining Girls

Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy, Tim Dolin, Margaret R. Higonnet There's this Lars von Trier movie called Dancer in the Dark, starring Björk of all people. She plays a poor factory worker in rural America. She's going blind (which is not great when you work around heavy machinery), but she needs to save up enough money to pay for an eye operation for her son. To escape her misery, she imagines elaborate musical sequences in her mind. She's also kind of an idiot.Now, what Lars is going for here could be called misogyny or satire or sociopathy, but in short: he really loves torturing characters like poor Björk. So many awful things happen to her, and they are so awful, but also... they are frustratingly melodramatic and contrived. Björk's cop landlord finds out she has a lot of cash. He needs money, but when she refuses to let him borrow it, citing her beatific little son, he tries to steal it and somehow, the impossibilities of the scene continue to pile up and Björk winds up murdering him (oh, there are going to be spoilers here, by the way), not only shooting him several times, but also bashing his head in with a safety deposit box, and runs off and gives the cash to the blindness clinic before she is arrested.So Björk is tried for murder and theft of the cash that was actually hers, and there are all these extenuating circumstances that she could use to prove her (general) innocence. But for any number of dumb reasons, she cannot. She cannot even explain where the money went (or for some reason, that she is almost blind) because that will result in the cash being seized, and her son will never get his vague operation. Oh also she promised the guy she killed that she wouldn't tell about his stealing, and she won't, even though he is dead and he screwed her over pretty bad in the process. Even when a friend figures everything out and brings in a lawyer to get her off, she refuses because of her son, resigned to her fate.So anyway, she is convicted, and sentenced to death, and has one last fantasy song sequence as she is walking to the gallows, and just when it reaches its operatic climax (after some awful keening when they attempt to put the hood over her head), they pull the lever and her neck snaps. That's the end of the movie.Everyone I know who has seen it has the same story: by the end, they were rolled into a ball on the couch, quivering and lowing quietly in grief. Though a really excellent movie in many ways, with a devastating lead performance, watching it is a brutal experience, simply because it is so relentlessly dogmatic in its bleakness, its melodrama, its dim view of humanity, and its commitment to punishing the leading lady.I am pretty sure Lars von Trier read a lot of Thomas Hardy when he was growing up. He definitely read Tess of the d'Urbervilles. Facebook 30 Day Book Challenge Day 4: Book that makes you cry.