The story of two best friends growing up in the eighties… Well, obviously I was going to read Dana Spiotta’s Innocents and Others.
Meadow and Carrie meet in high school and although their opinions differ on many things, they bond over movies and become best friends. Both pursue a career in movie-making (it’s LA in the 80s so everyone’s in the business, right?) although take different paths. Meadow makes gritty documentaries while Carrie finds success through lighter films with broader appeal. Continue reading →
Yates, Shriver, Tropper, Dee and Franzen – these are my go-to authors for books about family relationships. And I really love books about family relationships. And I really love adding a new author to the contemporary-lit-books-about-family-relationships stable. So does Andrew Porter make the cut? Not quite. Continue reading →
A ‘classic’ was defined by Italian author Italo Calvino as “…a book that’s never finished saying what it has to say.”
Now, I’m not claiming that the books I truly loved this year are ‘classics’, however, I’m borrowing Calvino’s definition to guide my list of top picks for 2016. This year, I’m paying less attention to five-star ratings and more attention to the books that are still speaking to me. Continue reading →
The reviews for Zadie Smith’s latest novel, Swing Time, have been glowing. Which is a good thing, because: glowing, but a bad thing, because: expectations.
My expectations were high. And perhaps nudged even a little higher thanks to The Embassy of Cambodia, which is still fresh in my mind.
Swing Time tells the story of two biracial girls growing up in the eighties in neighbouring housing estates in London. The pair meet at a dance class run in the local hall – the unnamed narrator is intelligent but self-doubting, while the other girl, Tracey, is confident, talented and self-destructive.
“There were many other girls present but for obvious reasons we noticed each other, the similarities and the differences, as girls will.”Continue reading →
Every year I vaguely think about dropping reading challenges and instead becoming a truly free-range reader. But then I find myself signing up (mostly because I like a list and I like a reason to look through lists).
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I began Sara Stridsberg’s The Gravity of Love, a story about a Swedish psychiatric hospital*. What I got was a mesmerizing, beautifully written and sometimes alarming story, told predominantly through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Jackie, the daughter of one of the hospital’s patients, Jim. Jim is an alcoholic with a suicide-wish –
‘He has made up his mind to die, again. He announces it, in so many words, as soon as he comes through the door… “I don’t want to be old, Jackie. There’s nothing left to live for.” He has come to Stockholm to say goodbye… and asked for my blessing; and I have given it to him because I generally give him what he asks for. I have always been silenced by his presence, all thought inside me erased.’
The narrative moves back and forth in time and throughout, there’s an ethereal quality to the writing. Vignettes – of twilight hours, a fur coat, a broken string of beads, a curiosity shop, a doctor who may be as mad as his patients, and trees in the park – are stitched together with Stridsberg’s tremendously lovely words.
‘The stars seemed to have slipped slightly in the sky, and in the darkness we hear the ocean’s breathing, which never stops, the heavy waves beating against the shore before they draw back into the deep.’Continue reading →
I continued my theme of reading ‘art thrillers’* with The Muse by Jessie Burton.
The story begins in 1967, in London, where Odelle Bastien, a budding writer from Trinidad, gets a job as a typist at a well-known art gallery. Her boss, the elegant Marjorie Quick, takes a special interest in Odelle and her writing. Meanwhile, Odelle meets Lawrie Scott, a young man who has inherited a mysterious painting – the masterpiece, Quick believes, of a Spanish artist called Isaac Robles.
The history of the painting takes the story to a village in southern Spain in 1936, where Olive Schloss is living with her art dealer father and her glamorous but troubled mother. Although Olive is a painter of considerable talent, her father dismisses women as artists.
“Was the difference between being a workaday painter and being an artist simply other people believing in you, or spending twice as much money on your work? As far as Olive saw it, this connection of masculinity with creativity had been conjured from the air and been enforced, legitimised and monetised by enough people for whom such a state of affairs was convenient – men like her father.”Continue reading →