Four Quick Reviews

It’s getting to that stage where every spare moment is spent on ‘end-of-year’ stuff, leaving precious little time for writing reviews. I’m taking a short-cut. 

Touchy Subjects by Emma Donoghue

Touchy Subjects by Emma Donoghue is a collection of 19 stories about the nuances of modern relationships – an awkward sperm-donor situation, sexuality, the care of one’s self, finding religion.

I have read some impressive short story collections this year – Tremain, Down and Sittenfeld are tough acts to follow. Unfortunately, the majority of the stories in this collection were lack-lustre.  Minus the kicks, twists or sharp observations that I enjoy in short fiction, these stories finished predictably or simply petered out. The exception was WritOr, about an author who takes up a writer-in-residence position in a small town, only to find himself playing counsellor to the townsfolk and reader of their consistently awful work. It was funny, insightful and delivered a neat message.

2/5 I’m probably in the minority on this one.


My Purple Scented Novel by Ian McEwan

No one does male pride and envy quite like McEwan and this short story about two friends, both authors, and their ‘success’ is a ripper. Perhaps it’s a familiar story, but that’s what makes it gripping.

4/5 When he’s good, he’s very, very good.

I received my copy of My Purple Scented Novel from the publisher, Vintage, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.


Testimony by Anita Shreve

I suspect that I read this story about a sex-and-videotape-scandal in an exclusive New England private school a decade too late.

The story feels familiar (and I have read a number of similar stories over the past few years) but in fairness to Shreve, it was published in 2008. Through a 2008-lens, it was no doubt topical. Through a 2018-lens, it doesn’t offer anything new. That said, it does demonstrate the tiniest shift in opinion because Shreve’s 2008 story includes double-standards that are accepted as part of the narrative – essentially, the double-standards in the boys’ behaviour are not ‘the point’ of the story. In 2018 versions of this story, the double-standard is the point. Progress? Perhaps.



Happy Family by Tracy Barone

Black-market adoptions, drug addictions, a cop-turned-classics-professor, cancer, death-by-Thanksgiving-turkey, opera, post-natal depression, ancient scripts, the war in Iraq, failing marriages, secret families… There was so much going on in this book. In fact, it had everything but emotional reflection. A fairly big omission, I reckon.

1.5/5 The only thing I liked was the cover (which I think is really, really beautiful).

I received my copy of Happy Family from the publisher, Little, Brown & Company, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

6 responses

  1. Anita Shreve and Jodi Picoult are sort of in the same “ripped from the headlines” boat for me, and I don’t usually read them, which I think may be a disservice to Shreve.

    • I don’t read Picoult (have in the past but agree with you). In my mind, Shreve was more literary but again, haven’t read any for so long… This book was well-written but nothing outstanding or thought-provoking (much better was a book I reviewed a couple of years ago, Asking For It).

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