Stray by Stephanie Danler

There are no earth-shattering revelations in Stephanie Danler’s memoir, Stray, but what it does highlight is how the patterns of our formative relationships reverberate into adult years.

The memoir is ostensibly about Danler’s parents – her mother, who is disabled by years of alcoholism and further handicapped by a brain aneurysm; and her father, who abandoned the family when Danler was three-years-old, and battled drug addiction since.

I was either hiding from her rage or trying to get her attention – there was no safe middle ground while she was drinking. Continue reading

Things that are making me happy this week

01. I was supposed to be at Philip Island this weekend… which would have meant I missed out on the Yarra Valley Writers Festival – so the silver lining of Lockdown 5.0 is that I got to ‘attend’ (virtually) the Festival (and my trip has been rescheduled). I’m classing it as a win, okay?!

02. Related: When Meg Mason was talking about Sorrow & Bliss, she said that in the first version the story, Ingrid was going to be in Martha’s imagination i.e. how Martha might be without her mental illness – WHAT?! I’m glad she made Ingrid a real person. Continue reading

Fathoms by Rebecca Giggs

This review could be as big as a blue whale or as small as a krill, because I have so much to say about Fathoms, and it’s almost too much – like any book I loved, it’s impossible to know where to start and my inclination is to simply say ‘just read it’.

The subtitle of Fathoms – ‘The world in the whale’ is both literal and metaphoric. Rebecca Giggs writes of a whale found with an entire greenhouse and its paraphernalia in its stomach –

We struggle to understand the sprawl of our impact, but there it is, within one cavernous stomach: pollution, climate, animal welfare, wildness, commerce, the future, and the past. Inside the whale, the world.
Continue reading

Twenty-one Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

You’ll either love the format of Matthew Dicks’s novel, Twenty-one Truths About Love, or it will drive you crazy. Personally, after labouring over two essays for uni last week while reading, a story written entirely in list format was light relief.

The story focuses on Dan – list-maker, bookstore owner, soon-to-be father. Dan needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat to save his failing business. Plus, there are things that are nagging him – his estranged relationship with his father, and the spectre of Peter, who was the first husband of Dan’s wife, Jill.

There will always be a part of Jill’s life that will remain a secret to me because you can only tell your second husband so much about your previous life with your dead husband. Continue reading

Milkman by Anna Burns

I need a special rating for books that I’m glad I read but didn’t particularly enjoy. Milkman by Anna Burns is such a book.

There’s much to admire in Milkman. Burns’s unwavering and meticulous stream-of-consciousness account of the Troubles is told through the eyes of our unnamed narrator, an eighteen-year-old girl who comes from a large family impacted by political violence. Although the narrator is trying to distance herself from the turmoil that surrounds her, she is drawn in after being accused of having an affair with a married man known as ‘milkman’ (this is despite the narrator having a ‘maybe-boyfriend’). In fact, the milkman is stalking the narrator, and it is soon revealed that he is a paramilitary figure who holds great power in the community.

As for the community, and my affair with the milkman according to this community, I was now well in it, that being the case whether I was or not. It was put about I had regular engagements with him, rendezvous, intimate ‘dot dot dots’ at various ‘dot dot dot’ places. Continue reading