Three short reviews

Three ARCs that have been languishing in the TBR stack for far too long…

All the Good Things by Clare Fisher

Summary: Therapist suggests to a woman in jail that she write about the ‘good’ things that have happened in her life. Slow reveal of the ‘bad’ thing that she’d done to land her in jail.

Thoughts: I never quite connected with the main character, Beth, although I enjoyed the writing style and the structure of the story. Oddly, a week after finishing the book I couldn’t recall the ‘bad thing’ – that says a lot. There’s an interesting theme around remorse but joining the dots between Beth’s self-awareness, intelligence, childhood, and time in jail didn’t work for me in the way that I think the author intended.

Recommended for readers who enjoyed: Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice-Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma and Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.


I received my copy of All the Good Things from the publisher, Penguin Books UK, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Summary: Deming, an American-born child of an undocumented Chinese immigrant, is separated from his mother at age 11 and adopted by a loving couple who change his name to Daniel and provide him with an ‘all-American’ life.

Thoughts: There’s lots in this story about what it means to be a mother (interesting to examine this from the child’s perspective) and, sitting alongside Deming/Daniel’s efforts to ‘belong’ and reconcile his cultural differences, it makes for an emotionally complex story. Without spoilers, I think Ko made some aspects of Deming’s adult life unnecessarily hard and these elements were a distraction rather than an enhancement.

Recommended for readers who enjoyed: Ru.


I received my copy of The Leavers from the publisher, Algonquin Books, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader

Summary: Set in London, in 1321, the story follows three people who are drawn together around the creation of an illuminated manuscript of prayers, a Book of Hours.

Thoughts: As she did in The Anchoress, Cadwallader has struck the perfect balance between telling a deeply compelling story and sharing with the reader niche historical fact. The detail around illuminated manuscripts and the paints and inks used in their creation was breathtaking, and Cadwallader brings the books to life. But the element of the story that I enjoyed the most, was the exploration of the role of women in the 1300s – this was achieved through two very different characters, who found strength and means in unlikely ways. The take home message? Books are good for the soul.

Recommended for readers who enjoyed: The Miniaturist and The Last Painting of Sara de Vos.


I received my copy of Book of Colours from the publisher, Harper Collins Australia, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

7 responses

  1. I read quite a bit of historical fiction (as long as it doesn’t rewrite history that I’m invested in) and I’ve commented about feminism in Philippa Gregory – which I understand. Nevertheless, I wonder if these inspiring accounts gloss over the fact that women were property, more or less everywhere, up until the late C19th. (Jane Austen doesn’t write as though she thinks she’s property, does she? But George Sand does).

    • You could probably argue that, subtly, Austen does in the sense that things are stacked against women having true agency? Austen, herself, wasn’t exactly property but after her father died, she, her sister and mother, were dependent on a brother’s largesse to survive with any level of comfort. She doesn’t labour the point directly in her novels but I think it’s often there?

      • I thunk we agree that women were property. I think we have both discovered that woman writers were surprisingly vocal about it as far back as the C16th. But JA, and following her E.Gaskell and G. Eliot, seem to write about the ‘system’ as it is rather than as it should be – which by say the 1860s Australian women writers were. Points for a much larger debate!

  2. Pingback: Bookish (and not so bookish) Thoughts | booksaremyfavouriteandbest

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