Tipping the Scales: Background information when reading Nine Days

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Nine Days

A Mystery

by Minerva Koenig

Nine Days by Minerva Koenig X
Nine Days by Minerva Koenig
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  • Published:
    Sep 2014, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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About this Book

Tipping the Scales

This article relates to Nine Days

Print Review

It is estimated that two-thirds of the population of both the United and Great Britain are either overweight or obese. Statistics that show the average American female has size 14 measurements. In Britain, the average woman has a size 16 body (which is equivalent to a US size 14.) The waist measurement of the average American and British man is 39" and 38" respectively. It would appear that slender people are being crowded out, except on the pages of fashion magazines. But what about inside the pages of popular fiction?

Sir John FalstaffAt one time, chubby characters - when they were represented at all - were characterized as some combination of (pick one or all) gluttonous, lazy, selfish, oafish, and/or stupid buffoons. Think Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff, Piggy in Lord of the Flies or Friar Tuck. Almost always in the supporting role, placed for diversion or contrast to the slender hero. This has continued even as recently as Ignatius Reilly in John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces and Dudley Dursley in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

Lady OracleThe fictional fat woman fared little better. If not the perennial sidekick, then even as protagonist she bore the weight of her male counterpart's negative traits plus she was miserable, lonely, sex-starved and generally unlovable, even by herself. There is Joan Foster in Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood or Wally Lamb's Delores Price in She's Come Undone, to name two.

There have been exceptions. Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe makes every intelligent fat person want to cheer as he cannily outwits the savviest criminals and even the cops. Also, in the 1940s, Earle Stanley Gardner created rotund detective Bertha Cool of the B.L. Cool Agency in a series he penned under the nom de plume A.A. Fair.

No. 1 Ladies' Detective AgencyBut what about in the 21st century? Even as the worldwide waistline expands, so too does the depiction of overweight and obese characters in fiction. Depictions of the plump are as many and varied as there are sizes. Jennifer Weiner's Good in Bed and Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary featured curvy single women who succeed in love. And most recently there has been a proliferation of books featuring, not just supporting cast, but protagonists with curvy – even round – bodies. The first that comes to mind is Alexander McCall Smith's Precious Ramotswe of The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series.

Food, Girls and Other Things I Can't Have title=In terms of healthy portrayal of the abundantly endowed, it is best to turn to young adult fiction. Here are pages rich in life's complex tapestry of experiences, ranging from despondence all the way to euphoric self-acceptance and every phase in between. Consider BookBrowse's YA Book of the Year (2013), Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell about a tender relationship between two misfits. Or how about Melvin Burgess's Doing It about, well, what's on the mind of every hormone addled adolescent boy, that includes a dilemma about falling for an overweight girl. And Food, Girls and Other Things I Can't Have by Allen Zadoff, about an overweight boy who learns that his problems are no worse than every other teen. Indeed what many of these recent books – young adult and adult – are demonstrating is that body size is fertile ground, not for a good laugh, but for a great morality story.

Two great lists of books that feature overweight protagonists in young adult and new adult literature are Nerdy Book Club's Top Ten Fat Books and Goodreads' New Adult and Young Adult Books starring a Plus Size Heroine.

Falstaff, painted by Eduard von Grützner, courtesy of AndreasPraefcke
Margaret Atwood's Lady Oracle, courtesy of GrahamHardy
Jill Scott, in the TV remake of No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, courtesy of blog-aroundharlem.com

Filed under Cultural Curiosities

Article by Donna Chavez

This article relates to Nine Days. It first ran in the November 5, 2014 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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