Bookshots: 'The Blondes' by Emily Schultz
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
Who wrote it?
Emily Schultz is the co-founder of the literary journal Joyland and host of the podcast Truth & Fiction. The Blondes was a bestseller in Canada and was a 2013 finalist for the Ontario Trillium Award alongside Dear Life by Alice Munro. Stephen King once declared on Twitter: “Emily Schultz is my hero. You go with your bad self, girl."
Plot in a Box:
A rabies-like epidemic that primarily affects blonde females (Siphonaptera Human Virus, otherwise known as SHV or the “Blonde Fury”) spreads in a series of deadly outbursts across America. Hazel Hayes witnesses the first New York Subway attack on the same day she discovers she is pregnant from a previous affair with her Canadian professor. As people try to escape New York, she drives north to her friends, family and the father of her child.
Invent a new title for this book:
Read this if you like:
Pandemic novels, and satirical thrillers like The Stepford Wives.
Meet the book’s lead:
Hazel Hayes, the daughter of an alcoholic hair dresser who always encouraged Hazel to conceal her natural orange-red hair with brown dye. Hazel falls out of beat with the people around her and struggles to form lasting attachments. As a redhead whose hair color falls somewhere between blonde and brunette, Hazel is subject to the same pandemic paranoia as the blondes.
Said lead would be portrayed in a movie by:
Game of Thrones actress Rose Leslie (after putting on weight for the role).
Setting: would you want to live there?
Have you seen how blonde my hair is? No way.
What was your favorite sentence?
Whenever I heard that phrase, late bloomer, I visualized bright orange mums in autumn, in pots outside a grocery store, their green leaves growing furry with dust stirred up from traffic. Something waiting to be bought and planted.
After reading Still Life with Woodpecker, Tom Robbin’s epic homage to his natural, fiery hair color (“... red being the color of emergency and roses …”), I’ve longed for a book that would do the same for blondes. As a natural blonde, I am all too familiar with Goldilocks and Hitchcock victims, with blondes too aloof to see the trouble heading their way. It’s just never seemed fair.
As an answer to that longing, I got The Blondes by Emily Schultz: a book about blondes who take over the world in a diseased, rabies-like fury. An army of zombie blondes. Although the book didn't satisfy my craving for Robbins-like philosophical hair associations, it was rip-roaring with satire. Even in the novel’s darkest moments, when countless women have shaved off all the hair on their bodies to avoid contamination and, in some cases, been taken away, quarantined, and even killed off, Schultz finds ways to lighten the mood with dark humor. It’s hard not to chuckle when the Canadian border patrol starts checking suspicious individuals (fake brunettes) to see if the carpet matches the drapes; or when It becomes a twisted fashion statement to sport shirts that say: “Blondes have more fun.”
The Blondes is a sharp, funny, self-aware thriller that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and would be a great travel companion for plane flights, beach trips, or long train rides. Hazel’s affair with her professor Dr. Mann reads a bit on the clichéd side, but it’s juicy and I ate it up shamelessly. What shines in this novel is its fleshed-out female protagonists, like Dr. Kovacs and Hazel’s longtime friend Larissa, who prove that blondes are so much more than the stereotypes that try to define them.
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