BOOK | Released this January, THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE is a thrilling debut from newcomer Katherine Arden. As my book club's latest pick, I found myself enthralled by the novel's sweeping, original narrative, and its semi-subtle feminist themes. Inspired by Russian folklore and set in an undefined medieval period, Arden's protagonist Vasya fights against the gender roles of her culture, where a woman's fate is bearing children and running her husband's household. As wild as the dense forests surrounding her village — a place beset by unrelentless winters — Vasya defies this life. Her unflinching spirit is tested, though, when an outsider drives fear into the villagers, and forces them to leave behind their old ways and long-held pagan beliefs. As the book unfolds, Arden deftly weaves history, magic and fantasy into a tale that is — to my elation — set for a follow-up release at this year's end.
FASHION | "I have enough shoes," said no woman ever; this statement directly applies to my own unyielding love for ballet flats of all colors and styles. So when I saw an ad (definitely targeted to me) on social media for some indisputably chic flats made from recycled water bottles (!) I was, naturally, intrigued. Fast forward to $125 spent and one returned pair later (for fit), and I'm here to spread the ROTHY'S shoe gospel. Yeah, it's a hefty chunk of change for some (I saved up my pennies), but these may be the comfiest and most versatile flats I've ever owned. With a fabric-like knit upper that's soft, flexible and washable (you can machine-wash them with no issue), I never need to worry about blisters or sore feet. Rothy's (rothys.com) currently offers a round ($125) and pointed toe ($145) style; each come in a variety of practical and fun colors and patterns.
TV | After becoming a first-time Hulu subscriber for the sole intent of watching the incredible and chilling screen adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (seriously, check it out, and read the book), an equally feminist-leaning drama caught my eye. Also a Hulu original series, HARLOTS is quite opposite the forced breeding-stock world of Handmaid's Tale, but it's just as riveting. Set in 1760s London, a period during which it's thought that one in five women made a living selling sex, Harlots follows two competing bawdy houses: Lydia Quigley's refined, French-influenced house of genteel ladies who serve the city's men of power, and Margaret Wells' rowdier house in the seedy Covent Gardens district. Both women are determined to see each other fail, yet a bigger problem may be religious crusaders who seek to quash them all. Despite the petty brothel-wars plot, Harlots offers a realistic picture of just how awful life was for women of the era, sex worker or not. ♦