Friday, January 13, 2017

Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450 --1650


The title is what first caught my eye when I browsed the new books shelf at my library. Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450 – 1650 by Carlos M. N. Eire. It is arresting because of the pluralized form of the word: reformations. Normally we think of the great disruptions that rocked the religious world of early modern Europe as all falling under the rubric of “The Reformation” a label that encompasses the great discontent of a nascent Protestant movement against the perceived corruption and moral laxity of the Catholic Church. This book by Carlos M. N. Eire seeks to complicate the picture and does an excellent job at that.

The years covered span 1450 to 1650, a sizable chunk of time with a lot going on. For the most part the setting is Europe though the new world (North America) and the Middle East are discussed tangentially. There are four main sections to the book each a logical step in the historical development of the era. We begin with a section on the pre-reformation time of the late middle ages, a time of growing unhappiness and overall disgruntlement with the status quo. The next section is simply titled Protestants and covers the religious revolution brought on by Luther, Zwingli, Calvin and others. The proceeding section is titled Catholics and covers the reaction of that camp to the movements of the Protestants (a period often referred to as the counter-reformation). Lastly a section called Consequences fills out the picture of these tumultuous two hundred years.  As I said the outline is logical and it makes the rather lengthy treatise (the book runs to about 760 pages) flow a little quicker.

The simplicity of the outline is, however, misleading---in a good way. What Eire does is demonstrate the dynamics of influence ebbing and flowing between all of the participants in this historical drama. For example, at one point Eire talks about the Deists and their rational-religious movement and how the Protestants and Catholics both reacted to them in similar ways with similar critiques. The inclusion of such disparate players on the political stage with the usual participants (Protestants and Catholics) makes for a fuller account of the era. Another example of the dynamics of influence is the inclusion by the author of critiques of geographic place. The reformation was viewed differently and reaction to the events of this time played out differently depending on where one was on the continent, that is to say, the energy of the epoch diffused differently depending on where one lived. The Scots were restless in one way the Spaniards in another. I appreciate how the author shows the different actions and reactions to all that was happening at the time. I like that the picture of the time is muddied.

This is essentially the great merit of this work, it demonstrates how complicated the era was. Most accounts of the Reformation simplify the narrative to Protestants vs Catholics. But Eire shows how there were smaller reformations occurring even within these two larger camps. There were reactions to various renditions of the Protestant theological outlook happening within the Protestant communities that did as much to divide them as to unite them. Similarly, the Catholic Church was having to deal with many different and often competing catholicisms (if I can use that word). For example, heresy flirting mystics did battle with theologians who insisted on their form of orthodoxy. Add to this interesting Catholic-political-theological cocktail the explosion of new religious orders, with the Jesuit order being one conspicuous example, and you have a recipe for fascinating political history; fascinating because it’s messy.

All of it, the nuances in theological debates, the new religious orders, the rational and atheistic reactions to the ongoing religious strife, the shifting alliances, makes for enjoyable and informative reading. I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in religious ideas, high stakes political debate and conflict and, generally, a love of European history.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Muslimah Who Fell to Earth: Personal Stories by Canadian Muslim Women



Twenty-one women contributed to The Muslimah Who Fell to Earth: Personal Stories by Canadian Muslim Women, edited by Saima S. Hussain. Hussain selected a diverse assortment of stories to reflect the myriad lives of Canadian Muslim women, thus no two stories were the same. Some women were born in Canada, while some were from immigrant families. Some women wore hijab or niqab, while others didn't. Some were not heterosexual while others cussed like sailors. Most women were able-bodied but one was blind and used a wheelchair. The point in selecting these contributions was to show the reader that there was more than one kind of Muslim woman out there, and she could be as diverse within her faith as in any other religious group. I was touched by the stories by women who were struggling in their marriages or going through divorces. 

Many of the immigrant women wrote to praise Canada for its openness to diversity and acceptance of Islam and the choice of some Muslim women to wear hijab. These testimonials touched me most of all. Azmina Kassam wrote:

"I was learning more about being Canadian, which has meant for me openness, tolerance, curiosity, and respect. It has been about engaging the other in meaningful dialogue so as to learn and expand one's understanding."

Mona Hashim, who wears hijab, wrote: "I have to admit that throughout my ten years in Toronto, I always felt welcome wherever I went. People helped me to get my shopping cart to the bus, guided me through the downtown streets. Once, on a dark and cold Christmas eve, a nice bus driver pointed out to us the mosque in Scarborough. Of course there were a few incidents where I was called names and had the middle finger raised at me. But generally speaking, I didn't feel like a stranger."

The hijab is a major theme in some of the stories, as the writers shared their reasons for abandoning it when they came to Canada, or for deciding to wear it later. Each woman had her own reasons for wearing hijab or niqab, and all of them do so freely as their own personal choice. Mariam Hamaoui sums up the whole "issue" of wearing hijab in a paragraph that the French government should read and apply:

"I support those who wear the hijab and I support those who don't wear the hijab. Hijab is a choice. Often difficult, but the choice has to be made by the woman. If a woman chooses to wear it, it is not for the sake of anyone else but for herself and God. Neither her mother nor her father can order her to wear it. Neither her brother nor her husband can order her to wear it. It is a choice and as such should be respected. By the same token, women who decide that the hijab is not for them should be respected equally and should not be ridiculed or disrespected."

Yet Tammara Soma summed it up the most succinctly:

"It takes a strong heart and a thick skin to wear a hijab."

If I ever hear Islamophobic prejudice against the hijab or niqab, I draw attention to women of another religious group, a group protected in our own constitution: Catholic nuns. Nuns are covered in a garb very close in resemblance to that worn by some Muslim women. Why does a nun's head and body covering threaten no one, yet a Muslimah's gives rise to such prejudice? 

The women write about their struggles with mental illness, integrating and finding work, yet the comic relief is provided by the stories about overbearing relatives who try to fix them up with potential husbands. I especially liked the poems and vignettes by Meharoona Ghani in "Letters to Rumi". In it, she feels conflicted while ogling a muscular construction worker:

"We passed a construction worker whose tight white t-shirt outlined his muscular upper arms and chest, revealing a hint of a tattoo below his collarbone. 'I've always wanted a tattoo...wait...I don't think I should be staring at him while I'm wearing a hijab and observing Ramadan!'"

Almost all of the stories followed a similar style of narrative, as a first-person chronological account of each writer's history as a Muslim woman in Canada. Two of the stories were endnoted and one in particular was like a formal dissertation: Maryam Khan's "Queering Islam Through Ijtihad", who tripped over herself from the very first paragraph in trying not to offend. Two stories integrated the authors' own poetry, which was a welcome treat within the reading experience.  

Hussain left the writers' stories in their original states, without any kind of editorial explanations or parenthetical insertions to elaborate on some Muslim (or specifically Arabic) terminology. For the most part, meanings could be derived from context, yet there were some instances where an explanation would have been helpful. Perhaps Hussain left the texts in their original states to show the authenticity of the writers, however I feel that the following grammatical gaffes should have been corrected. In all of the quotations below, the I in italics should be me:

"As we settled into our new life in Cairo, my parents had to make some difficult choices regarding schooling for my siblings and I." (pp. 34-35)

"...and as our family grew bigger, the distance between my biological father and I grew wider." (p. 73)

"It eventually become [sic] a home to my brother and I when many years later my mom remarried..." (p. 99)

"Yup, those white kids surrounded my sister and I, made fun of our names and yelled 'Paki' and 'Hindu.'" (p. 153)

The Muslimah Who Fell to Earth took its name from one of the stories within, and its author, Munirah MacLean, explained the origin of the title. It certainly is a brilliant title for this collection. As a non-Muslim man, the twenty-one stories left me feeling proud of Canada and of being Canadian, yet most of all proud of living in a country that welcomes diversity and thrives on it, while our neighbour to the south recoils in horror at the thought of a threat to its national security from Syrian refugees. The US should hang its head in shame. Please take the opportunity to see Hussain and some of the contributing authors as they promote this book in public readings throughout the Greater Toronto Area. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Genius of Dogs: How Dogs Are Smarter Than You Think




By Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods


Authors Hare and Woods, experts in evolutionary development, share many fascinating insights into canine – as well as human – evolution in their book, The Genius of Dogs

While an undergraduate, Hare realized that he was much more interested in studying evolution than in pursuing a career in baseball. He would go on to become a famous anthropologist and author – and also married the research scientist, Vanessa Woods, author of Bonobo Handshake, and co-author of this book.

Brian Hare starts with the story of their family dog, Tassie, who learned quickly how to distinguish between its own dog toys and those of the new baby – through inference. He then goes on to tell the story of how, as a seven year-old, he would play ball games with his dog, Oreo, who developed skill in reading the boy’s pointing signals. Ten years later while helping his university professor with a signalling game with chimpanzees, Hare commented, “I think my dog can do it.” They gave Oreo the test, and sure enough, the dog passed it with ease. Through further experiments, Hare and his professor proved that dogs are capable of inference. For example, a dog can understand that a human is referring to a new, unnamed object if s/he uses a new word to refer to it. 

Hare uses a table to show dogs' cognition relative to other mammals, such as apes and dolphins. He states:

The genius of dogs is their ability to understand human communication and their motivation to cooperate with us. Their genius is why they are so easy to train. But dogs also have biases and limitations to their understanding of how the world works.

A university professor comments on a study of domesticated foxes in Siberia. Hare sees the congruence in the evolution of these foxes, dogs, and prehistoric humans. No animal was harmed in the experiments. 

This book will appeal to dog lovers, especially those who seek to understand better how dogs think and why they behave as they do. The Genius of Dogs may also prove a great read for those interested in evolutionary development.

Find this title in the Library catalogue.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North


Canadians might be disappointed to learn that Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North is not about Canada.

We sometimes refer to Canada as the Great White North, but the Canada that most Canadians inhabit has little in common with the stark landscapes that author Blair Braverman called home. In the northernmost reaches of Norway or on an Alaskan glacier,these are lands of stark conditions -- brutal cold, perpetual darkness, and little in the way of creature comforts. They are also places of great natural beauty. Often, too, a rough world with very few women, where sexual violence always hovers as a possibility.

Braverman grew up romanticizing The North and craved it as her proving ground. She seized some opportunities and created others, to test herself in the The North that she dreamt of.

In Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube, we travel with Braverman to a tiny village in the north of Norway, where she works to fit in with an insular and unwelcoming local culture, to a Norwegian folk school where she learns to dogsled and survive under extreme conditions, and to a glacier in Alaska (the "ice cube" of the title), where she works as a tour guide and dogsledder.

These adventures alone would make an interesting and entertaining book. Braverman's clear, sparkling prose makes a fast and easy read. But Braverman brings another layer to her adventure story: the treatment she encounters as a young woman in a hyper-masculine world.

As an exchange student, Braverman is bullied, demeaned, sexually menaced, and finally assaulted by the father of her Norwegian host family. Frightened and without support, Braverman takes the all too common route: she blames herself. Then she takes that blame and self-doubt, and an ever-present (and not unfounded) fear of sexual violence, with her on her northern journeys.

Braverman blends these threads into a coming-of-age memoir, a travelogue, and an adventure tale.

I love dogsledding and the North from afar, so I was in awe -- and more than a little envy -- of Braverman's adventures. Her descriptions of driving a dogsled through a blizzard whiteout, or taking care of tourists stranded on the glacier, are true page-turners. At the same time, her descriptions of her dogs, and her love for them, bubble with honesty and enthusiasm. Her reflections on her relationships -- with a boyfriend who bullies her, with an elderly shopkeeper who becomes her chosen family, and finally, with a true partner -- are insightful and articulate. Braverman has a great ability to bring out one or two sparkling details that paint a vivid picture, without slowing the pace or getting bogged down in dense descriptions.

I had only one criticism of this book. The narrative jumps between different times and places. In general this would be fine, but with flashbacks and flash-forwards within flashbacks, I was often unable to follow the sequence of events. Was this before or after Alaska? Is this a subsequent trip to Norway or the same one? I couldn't piece together the timeline.

That's a flaw, but not a deal-breaker by any means. I just stayed in the present and didn't worry what happened when. By the time Braverman is ready to mentally and emotionally graduate from the tests she has chosen for herself, I was cheering for her all the way. And I hope it's not a spoiler to say the book has a poignant and very happy ending. [This review was originally published on wmtc.]

Monday, October 31, 2016

The Basque Country: A Cultural History



As a lover of world languages I embrace all things Basque, and would love to immerse myself in a Basque language course as I did with Finnish, Romansch and Breton. I studied each of those three languages in locations where they are still spoken as everyday languages (although I admit finding Finnish courses in Finland was rather easy to arrange). If I ever study Basque it would have to be in Basque Country, or Euskal Herria. I would be in language heaven, yet after reading The Basque Country: A Cultural History by Paddy Woodworth, I would have a tough time deciding where to study: in the Basque Country of Spain or France? Woodworth makes attractive cases for both regions. 

Basque is a language isolate, and is the oldest language of Europe. How did the Basques settle and where did their language originate? I had to chuckle at the opening lines of chapter two:

"The origins of the Basques, and of their language, Euskera, are at once enticingly mysterious and politically contested. This has been a complex combination, and at times a lethal one. A vacuum of hard evidence has sucked in a deal of lunacy."  

Woodworth didn't deal with any of the lunacy, but debunked claims of the language to Neolithic or Stone Age origins. Book chapters dealt with the frontón and pelota, gastronomy, music, fiestas, Basque politics and the ETA, and "The Basques on the Other Side of the Mountains" = the French Basques. Basque literature was one of my favourites among the fifteen chapters. Bernardo Atxaga, undoubtedly the most famous Basque author of international renown was cited throughout the book and more so of course in this chapter. I read Atxaga's Obabakoak before I started to write book reviews and I recall seeing a beat-up Basque edition at Schoenhof's during my last visit. Woodworth wrote about many more Basque authors whose names I have recorded for future interloan requests or Abebooks purchases. 

While a joy to read for those who love Basque culture, I found that my notes were dominated by references to check on-line for photos. Woodworth unfortunately only included a few black and white photos with the text, and dark ones at that. I don't have a cell phone to Google for photos as I read, so I had to wait till I got on-line to find out what some buildings and places looked like, such as the parish church of San Salvador in Geraria, which is described as:

"...so much in the building, from the floor to the obscure complex of arches that makes up the roof, is tilted, uneven, askew. But the curious architectonics of the church are due to something much more deliberate, and much more radical, than awkward location and idiosyncratic workmanship. Move right around the building and you will often find elegant curves, but rarely be offered a straight line."

The Basque Country wasn't the first book I had read about the Basques but it was, thankfully, the least sensational. The most striking observation I found wasn't about the Basque past, but rather the present. Woodworth, in exploring the shops that dot the French Biscay coast, lamented the kitschy nature of merchandise. Both the Spanish and French sides realize that Basqueness is marketable and a selling point for tourists who like a "Basque experience" in B&B's and at restaurants, yet in France the stores go overboard with tacky souvenirs. Granted, the French side of Basque Country encompasses the Biarritz beach resorts, yet the shopping experience must nonetheless be a disappointment. I wonder if Woodworth had the same impression that I had when I first visited Amsterdam: every fridge magnet in every souvenir store depicted either a marijuana spliff or a lady of the evening. It was an effort to find a magnet not associated with sex or drugs. When compared to the kitschy French side, Woodworth noted in Spain:

"...you can scour the streets of the old part of Bilbao and only find a single shop selling Basque souvenirs. Even in that one shop, they take third place, after suitcases and belts in the window display."

There were a couple grammatical errors in the text, most of them caused by missing words. However I did encounter the nonword empherality on p. 133, when Woodworth likely meant ephemerality. Woodworth included three pages of further reading resources, and I have already copied the titles by Basque authors. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Born to Run


This is a run-don't-walk review. Fans of Bruce Springsteen: run to find a copy of The Boss' memoirs, Born to Run. This book was seven years in the making, and (like Chrissie Hynde's and Patti Smith's memoirs) written by the artist himself. It is by turns hilarious and heart-wrenching, poignant and gripping, and always profoundly insightful and a joy to read.

Springsteen is an intellectual -- a man of great intelligence who, for better and worse, lives in his own head, analyzing and at times over-analyzing the world around him and his own reactions to it. Because of this, he brings a powerful self-awareness to his life story -- an ability to articulate where his art comes from, and how his personal pitfalls have affected the most important relationships in his life.

Born to Run is also noteworthy for what it is not. It's not a tell-all or an exposé; readers looking for dirt will be disappointed. Springsteen protects his closest friends from exposure, and when it comes to blame, usually points the finger only at the man in the mirror. If there are personal disagreements, they remain personal: Steve and I had some issues to work out, so we sat down and had an honest talk, and moved past them is a typical approach. Even about his first manager Mike Appel, whose one-sided contracts hobbled Springsteen for years, and whose idol was the infamous "Colonel" Tom Parker, controller of Elvis Presley, Springsteen is measured, compassionate, and forgiving, professing a deep affection for him. The story is honest and revealing -- what was in those contracts, why Springsteen signed them -- but there is no anger or blame.

Born to Run is also not a memoir of a fast life through the great trinity of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Springsteen was 22 years old when he had his first drink of alcohol, and has never used recreational drugs. He mentions the rocker's on-the-road sex life, but only obliquely, to let the reader know it existed, and was then outgrown. That leaves rock and roll, and plenty of it.

In the musicians' memoirs that I've read, the most exciting writing has been their recollection of their moment of discovery. Keith Richards, Patti Smith, and Chrissie Hynde were all able to articulate how music -- literally -- changed their lives, how the discovery of a certain music at a certain time altered their chosen path forever. Springsteen can also pinpoint those moments, and his great self-insight and writing talents make it fairly leap from the page into the reader's heart.

Springsteen's writing style itself is deeply evocative. Sometimes his writing takes off on a flight of fancy.
Conditions were generally horrific, but compared to what?! The dumpiest motel on the road was step up from my home digs. I was twenty-three and I was making a living playing music! Friends, there's a reason they don't call it "working," it's called PLAYING! I've left enough sweat on stages around the world to fill at least one of the seven seas; I've driven myself and my band to the limit and over the edge for more than forty years. We continue to do so, but it's still "playing". It's a life-giving, joyful, sweat-drenched, muscle-aching, voice-blowing, mind-clearing, exhausting, soul-invigorating, cathartic pleasure and privilege every night. You can sing about your misery, the world's misery, your most devastating experiences, but there is something in the gathering of souls that blows the blues away.
Other times, there's a sparking turn of phrase: "He had the shortest highway between his fingers and his heart I'd ever heard". Or a metaphor that brings the truth home.
We'd navigated the treacherous part of the river, the part Mike and I couldn't make, where the current changes and the landscape will never be the same. So, breaking into the open I looked behind me in our boat and I still had my Clark. Up front, he still had Lewis. We still had our own musical country to chart, many miles of frontier to travel, and music to make.
I have been a diehard Bruce Springsteen fan since my teenage years, one of the millions who grew up in the New York/New Jersey/Philadelphia area who feel a special kinship with Springsteen and a special ownership of his music. I've been amazed and thrilled that his music has matured along with his fans. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I wondered if the latter half of Born to Run might be a let-down. The story of how a working-class New Jersey boy discovered his talents and navigated the treacherous waters to rise to fame -- that's a gripping tale. But how that now-famous musician lives the rest of his life -- is that going to be interesting, too?

Yes. Emphatically yes. In the second half of Born to Run, Springsteen explores his ongoing relationship with his parents, his struggles to free himself from the patterns of his father, and the struggles, challenges, and joys of learning how to parent. The E Street Band broke up, then reformed, and two of the original members died. There's a long, restorative motorcycle journey through the American desert, and a cross-country road trip of self-discovery. There are fascinating details about Springsteen's writing process. There is poetry in all of it.

Throughout, Springsteen is honest about his struggles with anxiety and depression. He relates the roots of his own issues to those of his father's, whose mental illness, like so many from his generation, was undiagnosed and untreated. Interestingly, Springsteen never says "mental health" or "mental illness" -- simply illness. I thought that was a very interesting and positive choice -- making no distinction between mind and body. Springsteen writes about how he found relief, from both talk therapy and medication, pulling no punches: these drugs saved his life.

Fans may also be interested in the companion CD, Chapter and Verse, which chronicles the music written about in the book, and includes five previously unreleased songs.

I'll close this already-long review with a telling passage that speaks to the style and depth of Born to Run.
I learned many a rough lesson from my father. The rigidity and blue-collar narcissism of "manhood" 1950’s style. An inner yearning for isolation, for the world on your terms or not at all. A deep attraction to silence, secrets and secretiveness. The distorted idea that the beautiful things in your life, the love you struggled so hard to win, will turn and possess you, robbing you of your imagined hard-fought-for freedoms. The hard blues of constant disaffection. The rituals of the barroom. A misogyny grown from the fear of all the dangerous, beautiful, strong women in our lives, crossed with the carrying of an underlying physical threat, a psychological bullying that is meant to frighten and communicate that the dark thing inside you is barely contained. You use it to intimidate those you love. And of course . . . the disappearing act; you’re there but not there, not really present; inaccessibility, its pleasures and its discontents. All leading ultimately to the black seductive fantasy of a wreck of a life, the maddening boil lanced, the masks dropped and the long endless free fall into the chasm that at certain moments can smell so sweet from a distance. Of course, once you stop romanticizing it, more likely you're just another chaos-sowing schmuck on the block, sacrificing your treasured family's trust to your "issues." You're a dime a dozen in every burb across America. I can't lay it all at my pop's feet; plenty of it is my own weakness and inability at this late date to put it all away, my favorite harpies, the ones I count on to return to flit and nibble around the edges of my beautiful reward. Through hard work and Patti's great love I have overcome much of this, though not all of it. I have days when my boundaries wobble, my darkness and the blues seem to beckon and I seek to medicate myself in whatever way I can. But on my best days, I can freely enjoy the slow passing of time, the tenderness that is my life; I can feel the love I'm a part of surrounding me and flowing through me; I am near home and I am standing hand in hand with those I love, past and present, in the sun, on the outskirts of something that feels, almost . . . like being free.
[This review was originally published on wmtc.]



Monday, October 17, 2016

Unbuttoning America: A Biography of "Peyton Place"



I read both Peyton Place and its sequel Return to Peyton Place in 2009, before I started to write book reviews: 


In 1956 no one had written a book like Peyton Place and it caused a scandal. It was even illegal to import copies into Canada. How times have changed, where everything now is a shade of grey. Unbuttoning America: A Biography of "Peyton Place" by Ardis Cameron is an academic study about this groundbreaking debut novel by Grace Metalious and the New England environment and social conditions of the mid-fifties. It was not a biography of the author or a retelling of the novel itself (for that, I will have to read Inside Peyton Place: The Life of Grace Metalious by Emily Toth). Cameron covered the state of sex in the US, focussing on sexual repression in the early part of the twentieth century and attitudes towards domestic life, premarital sex, infidelity and abortion. The reader must plow through some, in my frank opinion, boring histories about American sexual mores which were all the more unpleasant to read since the text was set in an unfortunately tiny typeface, with endnotes and photo captions set even smaller. I did not enjoy reading this book since the layout was so hard on the eyes. Cameron included several photos of Metalious and Peyton Place book covers and movie posters, so the break from the tiny text was most welcome. I also enjoyed the quotations from letters sent to Metalious, which illustrated the impact the novel had on a wide demographic of readers. That said, the subtitle was nonetheless accurate, as this was indeed a biography of the novel and how it was born out of post-WWII and post-Kinsey America. 

Sixty years after it was written, Peyton Place is now moving from the smut pile to join the ranks of feminist literature. How? Metalious gave women a voice in their personal lives, and the courage to speak up for themselves about all matters sexual. Before the novel, no one talked about back-alley abortions or women who enjoyed fooling around. Those who suffered the pain of incest read about a character in the novel and found the courage to speak up:

"As with so much of Peyton Place, it blasted open silent topics and propelled secrets like incest and abortion into the public domain. Through the characters it was possible to talk about behaviors that were otherwise difficult to discuss."

Letters sent to Metalious read like correspondence between the closest of friends. Writers unburdened themselves of their most intimate sexual secrets, and Metalious even wrote back:

"Because it was frank rather than romantic, female-centered rather than sentimental, Peyton Place represented a radical leap in its conception of women characters, encouraging readers to recognize themselves or one of their neighbors in its pages. 'What hurts in Peyton Place,' one reader notes, 'is that it hits home a little hard.'
"New Englanders were not alone. Across the nation, readers felt the stab of recognition. The women of Peyton Place touched a national nerve, their true-to-life stories simultaneously well known and silenced, the subject of clandestine gossip and a will-to-not-know." 

and:

"Compelled and buoyed by her story, they named the problems women faced but no one would talk about: unhappy marriages, the difficulty getting a divorce, low wages and poor jobs, the stigma of widowhood, single motherhood, and the sheer lack of public discussion."

Peyton Place opened up the bedroom door and its readers found out that they could escape if they wanted to. Others saw the open door as a welcome sign to enter.