One Hundred Days by Alice Pung
One Hundred Days is about a teenage girl who finds herself accidentally pregnant, and initially keeping it from her strict, demanding mother. From a narrative perspective, this story doesn’t break new ground, but Pung has created richly detailed characters and excellent dialogue, and the story comes alive. Small details – descriptions of clothing, tone of voice, and the furniture in someone’s house – add to the picture, and you have the sense that Pung labours over these bits, making them exactly right (and in this book, they serve to highlight the distinction between the teenage and adult world).
Pung’s style is clear, and this story is unmistakably her voice, but I would like to see her write some older central characters. Her work has focused largely on school-aged children, and I understand that she draws heavily on her childhood experiences, but the mother in One Hundred Days was interesting and compelling, and I reckon it’s time for Pung to stretch into new territory.
Theroux the Keyhole by Louis Theroux
I really wish I’d kept a lockdown diary. Louis did. And I identified with every single word. Because although his and his family’s worries and laughs weren’t the same as mine, they had the same tone – zooming in and out from the micro level (counting the children’s screen-time minutes and going to five supermarkets in search of pasta) to the macro (general existential angst). Louis does existential angst very well.
Louis laments that the only people on his side were ‘…Joe Wicks and Jack Daniels…’; despairs at the lunacy of Trump’s America (and then watched as it crumbled); and eloquently expressed the fear and frustration associated with constantly changing COVID restrictions.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book (enhanced because he reads it) and no, it wasn’t too soon to be reading about lockdowns – because that first lockdown feels like a lifetime ago.
The Maid by Nita Prose
I mentioned last week that I was in a reading rut. I picked a rom-com in order to change things up, and The Maid – I guess it would be classed a s a cosy-mystery – was my second book to break the routine (note that I’m now back to my usual fare of contemporary-lit and memoir).
In terms of a mystery, this book was above average – it’s not one where you can guess whodunit from the outset. I suspect that it’s getting rave reviews because of the unique voice of the main character, Molly Gray. Although it’s not explicitly stated, all the indicators suggest that Molly is on the autism spectrum (in the book she is described as ‘socially awkward’). Prose leans heavily on this in terms of the dialogue, Molly’s habits, and her interactions with particular characters. I’m uneasy about novels where neuro-divergent characters could be seen as caricatures. I noticed feeling this uneasiness in a few parts of this novel, but equally, there were parts where I was cheering for Molly and her wins.