Review: The Raid by Lee Lynch

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Review: The Raid by Lee Lynch

Postby FranW » 11 Feb 2014, 18:39

The Raid (Lee Lynch) is both an enjoyable piece of fiction and a historical testament. It’s the only novel I’ve ever read where I’ve been tempted to flip ahead and read the last pages so as to know how it ends. While Lynch is a skilled novelist and I trust her to create a proper ending, I also know she'll create a realistic ending, and this story seemed so very real that I found myself terrified the characters -- who were surely living, breathing, real people – simply might not be able to find happiness in such a homophobic world. Thankfully, though the lives and experiences depicted in The Raid had me alternately raging and bawling, the characters did triumph and I was able to sigh with satisfaction on the last page.

The layers and parallels in the story are so well interwoven that they are unnoticeable, yet they invest the story with an unusual richness and complexity. The narrator, Rockie Solomon, is nearly invisible for the first third or so of the story, as she simply shows the reader the words and actions of the regulars in a small gay bar in pre-Stonewall New York: the camp bar owner, Murphy and her endless stories, Deej the baby dyke trying to find her way. Rockie gradually changes from a passive observer to an active character in her own right, coming out of the closet to the reader both literally and figuratively as a business owner, a Jew, a lesbian, an older woman. Similarly, the other characters' pasts and futures, the town, and its culture are revealed, petal by unfurling petal.

Although quiet and reserved, Rockie is a woman whose passions run as deep as her strength. She stands up against homophobic townspeople, helps her fellow queers recover from the physical and emotional damage wrought by brutal police in the eponymous bar raid, and acts as mentor and, sometimes, first-time lover for women new to the lesbian life. What homophobia leaves undone, the patriarchy finishes – in the end, even the gay men abandon the lesbians. But Rockie, a character who encompasses determined women the world over, remains unbowed. And just as the Stonewall-era world slowly, inevitably accepted change, so too does Rockie as she finally allows herself to fall in love. It is an exquisite pleasure to watch Rockie, a woman in her fifties, embrace change and a new life even as she expresses shock at the fresh ideas and innocent optimism of the younger generation of lesbians. I pretty much fell in love with her myself. I bet you will too.
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Re: Review: The Raid by Lee Lynch

Postby Proofrdr » 12 Feb 2014, 05:08

Spot on review, Fran. As I said in my review, it's a book worthy of sitting side-by-side with Stone Butch Blues.
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Re: Review: The Raid by Lee Lynch

Postby FranW » 12 Feb 2014, 06:00

Yep. It's less heartbreaking than SBB, which makes it much easier to read, but it's also more, I don't know, timely? Relevant? Because while gay rights have come a long way since the era of The Raid, all the other issues it deals with -- misogyny, patriarchy, age-ism, class-ism, etc, are still very much present in our world. It's almost like the homophobia is presented as the 'main' problem as a distraction, so the other, more subtle issues can slip by into your subconscious. (Sorry if I'm making no sense; it's pre-coffee am.)

Lynch's stories and characters are always good, but she's a rare bird in that a day or a week later you find yourself thinking about some aspect of the book and going "how did she do that? How did she create that effect? How did she slide in that theme, or that hidden layer, or whatever?" She has craft -- both understanding and ability -- at a level that few other lesbian fiction writers have attained.
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Re: Review: The Raid by Lee Lynch

Postby Proofrdr » 12 Feb 2014, 09:10

FranW wrote:Yep. It's less heartbreaking than SBB, which makes it much easier to read, but it's also more, I don't know, timely? Relevant? Because while gay rights have come a long way since the era of The Raid, all the other issues it deals with -- misogyny, patriarchy, age-ism, class-ism, etc, are still very much present in our world. It's almost like the homophobia is presented as the 'main' problem as a distraction, so the other, more subtle issues can slip by into your subconscious. (Sorry if I'm making no sense; it's pre-coffee am.)

Yes! The focus may seem to be on the homophobia, but the real story is everything that happens under that pall. The Raid was much more relevant to me too. That's probably because the characters were more like me, more like people I knew back in the early 70's.

FranW wrote:Lynch's stories and characters are always good, but she's a rare bird in that a day or a week later you find yourself thinking about some aspect of the book and going "how did she do that? How did she create that effect? How did she slide in that theme, or that hidden layer, or whatever?" She has craft -- both understanding and ability -- at a level that few other lesbian fiction writers have attained.

She sure does have craft! She does it by caring about each word, each sentence, by editing then re-editing again and again. She does it by knowing where she wants the story to go before she starts writing...none of that "let the characters tell me where to go." I had the privilege of editing a few of her short stories. There was no correcting of grammar or sentence structure; that was done. It was all nuance and fine tuning. It was discussing which word would be better here or a gesture added there. She's a craftsman, a great writer. I wish mainstream readers would discover her.
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Re: Review: The Raid by Lee Lynch

Postby FranW » 12 Feb 2014, 10:20

Proofrdr wrote:I wish mainstream readers would discover her.

Yes, this.
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Re: Review: The Raid by Lee Lynch

Postby ElaineB » 13 Feb 2014, 13:40

I felt that way about Sweet Creek--that the mainstream was really missing out on something. Just glad we've got her!
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Re: Review: The Raid by Lee Lynch

Postby FranW » 13 Feb 2014, 13:57

Ditto re Sweet Creek; I think that one is my favourite, though The Raid is, I reckon, more sophisticated in terms of craft and theme. Her older books, particularly Toothpick House and The Swashbuckler, were likewise enjoyable. I didn't like Beggar of Love as much, as I thought the MC was rather an asshat.
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Re: Review: The Raid by Lee Lynch

Postby Proofrdr » 13 Feb 2014, 14:19

Fran, I think that was kind of the idea In Beggar. We dykes have to have our picaresque characters too. ;) Agree on Sweet Creek with you both.

My being a bit older than you, I think, makes those older books quite precious to me. It's not all my experience, but I lived through it and it's my history.
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Re: Review: The Raid by Lee Lynch

Postby FranW » 13 Feb 2014, 14:57

Proofrdr wrote:Fran, I think that was kind of the idea In Beggar. We dykes have to have our picaresque characters too. ;)


Mom, make her stop using big words at me!
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Re: Review: The Raid by Lee Lynch

Postby ElaineB » 14 Feb 2014, 05:59

lol
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