Today I Read…The Friday Society

The Friday SocietyToday I read The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress. You can find Adrienne’s blog here  and the book trailer for The Friday Society here.

Cora, Nellie and Michiko have never met, but they have a lot in common. They all live in London in 1900. They are all the talented, intelligent, strong-willed assistants of famous, powerful men. And together they find a dead body after a ball, a discovery which leads to many questions: Who was the man, and who killed him? Who is killing poor young women in the slums of London, and why don’t the police care? Why is creepy Dr. Mantis so obsessed with eyes? And most importantly, who blew up St. Paul’s Cathedral, and how can the girls stop this mysterious person from blowing up the rest of London as well?

Together Cora, Nellie and Michiko will learn that they have much more to offer the world than just being a lab assistant, a magician’s assistant, and a weapons demonstrator, and that their only limitations are the ones that they accept.

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I know I’ve been on a bit of a steampunk kick lately, and I just want you to know there are more coming. The one nice thing about being out of school and unemployed is all the leisure time to read–thank goodness for the library so I can do it for free. ;p This was one of the books I picked up at the OLA Super Conference in January (you can find my review of the conference here). One of the biggest advantages physical books have over ebooks is that you can get the physical book signed by the author, if you meet them. It’s one of the reasons I like going to conventions like Ad Astra– the chance to meet the creator of a work, ask them questions, and tell them what their work means to you. It makes the book my copy, not just any copy. The Friday Society autograph

One thing that I really liked about this book was that Kress didn’t go for the obvious choice of making the men that the girls work for to be abusive monsters. Cora used to be a street kid, but since being employed by Lord White, she has been educated, housed and cared for, and he values her work both in the lab and managing his life. He perhaps doesn’t say it as often as he should, but he genuinely treats her well. The same thing happens with Nellie’s relationship with the Great Raheem–she used to dance in a burlesque club before becoming his stage assistant, and she does wear skimpy clothing, but she enjoys her pretty costumes, and she is very clearly not a bimbo. Raheem, also failing to conform to the stereotype of a foreign man treating women badly, is both kind and trusts Nellie’s judgement. Michiko’s master Sir Callum Fielding-Shaw breaks the trend by being verbally abusive to her, but that’s also good since it shows that men can’t all be stuck in one box anymore than women can.

Because Nellie and Cora’s lives aren’t that bad, I think they need even more courage to act and change–their lives are good, but they could be even better if they take the risk and stretch their wings. Michiko has already demonstrated her courage by leaving Japan with Callum–he turns out to be a bad man who does not fulfill the promises he made to her, but she still took the leap. It’s easy to be brave when you don’t have anything to lose–it’s harder when you’re jumping from the plateau and not the cliff.

The book comes in on the longer side of YA novels at 437 pages, but most of the chapters are fairly short, so it shouldn’t be a very hard read. The girls are older teenagers, and I think I’d give the book to teenagers as well, for one scene where they have a girls’ night drinking party at Nellie’s home. The scene is played for laughs–it’s a way for the three of them to bond and destress after finding a dead body in the streets–but it is something to keep in mind. There is also a bit of romance, but it is by no means the main focus of the book. Cora is attracted to the new assistant Lord White hires, but decides he’s an ass when he makes it clear that he only likes her looks and doesn’t respect her as a person. Nellie flirts with the young Officer Murphy, earnest and shy, who tries to investigate the murders of the flower girls even though his superiors don’t care how many poor people get killed.

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“Do you really want to be an inventor?” she asked. It didn’t seem like he did. All he’d done in the afternoon was reorganize, yet again, the tools and update the stock sheet. He hadn’t even touched the device, which Cora hadn’t minded one bit. And she had it on good authority from the glass blower, who was still on the premises when she’d gotten in last night, that Andrew had spent most of the afternoon napping in the corner.

Andrew sighed. “I thought I did. On the surface, it all looks marvelous. But after these past few days, I’ve realized it’s a lot of dull work. To be honest, I don’t know what I want, and I don’t think it really matters. Why should someone like me work?”

Cora thought that an odd question. “Because it’s satisfying, because . . . of passion . . .”

Andrew pulled his chair in close at that, and brushed a lock of hair from her forehead. “I have passion . . .”

Cora’s heart was pounding fast again. She didn’t understand how he could have such an effect on her when what he was saying was so pathetic. “Look at Lord White . . .”

“I’d rather look at you . . .”

“He’s rich. He’s a lord. But he gave up his seat in the House of Lords so that he could run for Parliament. So that he could follow his passion of someday being Prime Minister. He didn’t need to do any of it. And this, this laboratory . . . he works just as hard here and only charges for the pleasure so that people don’t figure out he’s someone that can afford to do without. He gives away all the money he earns here to charity, and . . .”

Andrew’s fingers had made it to her neck and were gently caressing it. She lost her train of thought.

“You really like to talk about Lord White,” he said, leaning in and kissing her cheek.

“Well, he’s my boss . . .”

“Not everyone speaks of their bosses like you do.”

“He took me in . . .” She could feel his hot breath on her ear and she closed her eyes.

“What do you think he wants from you?”

That made her open her eyes.

“Wants from me?”

“You know what I mean . . .”

“No,” she said, gently pushing him back so they were face-to-face again, “I don’t.”

Andrew shook his head. “Oh, come on, Cora. Look at you. You’re lovely. And you worship him . . .”

“I don’t worship—”

“He’s trained you well. What else could he possibly want from you?”

Her passion had changed drastically into hot rage. It was an easy transition to make. “I don’t know, maybe he wants my talent. Maybe he wants my company because I’m interesting. Maybe he can’t live without me since I organize every facet of his life, know his dietary restrictions, keep track of every penny in his bank account, all his plans for the future.”

“Now, don’t get angry . . .”

“Why not? Why shouldn’t I get angry? You’ve just said my value as a person is wrapped up in my appearance and—”

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Look, just stop, okay? Let’s not fight again. Besides, you have a lot of work to do.” He tried to smile, but she gave him a look that prevented it.

“You’re right. I do.”

Typically, anger distracted her from whatever she was doing, but there was something in this particular brand of rage that suited the task at hand perfectly. It had something to do with proving to Andrew that she was more than just a pretty face.

“I’m really sorry,” he said quietly a few moments later.

“No, you aren’t.”

“I’m not sorry for thinking what I did; after all, you are beautiful. But I didn’t mean there wasn’t anything else to you. I just didn’t think Lord White was aware of it.”

“Well, he is.”

“Good.”

She hadn’t stopped working, but she directed her focus back where it belonged.

“So we’re friends again?”

She looked up at him and gave him a look of death.

“I’ll take that as a yes?”

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TO THE CITIZENS of London and its surrounding Burroughs:

Are you being blackmailed? Does a loved one’s untimely demise seem suspiciously tied to a brother’s new bank account? Are you receiving threats of a personal and/or physically painful nature? Fear not, for salvation is at hand.

We are a trio of lady heroes. If you need us, we will be there. Respond to this advertisement by post, and we shall come to your aid.

We have many talents and skills. But above all things, we know how to assist.

 

Yours sincerely,

Hyde, the Silver Heart, and Lady Sparkle

AKA

The Friday Society

 

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One thought on “Today I Read…The Friday Society

  1. Pingback: Book 36: The Friday Society | Fluffy Reads

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