Brat by Andrew McCarthy

I recommended to a friend on Twitter that she listen to the audiobook, Brat by Andrew McCarthy – it’s his memoir about the eighties (read by him).

And then this happened:

I squealed.

My kids came running. I told them that Andrew McCarthy had tweeted me. Before they could say anything (‘Who?’), I said Pretty-in-Pink-St-Elmo’s-Fire-Andrew-McCarthy.

It is possibly the highlight of my 11 years on Twitter. Continue reading

Kokomo by Victoria Hannan

I really, really wish Victoria Hannan hadn’t started Kokomo with a sex scene. The tone of the scene is not representative of the remaining 294 pages, which are insightful, subtle, and wonderfully atmospheric.

On the other hand, maybe that sex scene is exactly representative of the book – that all is not as it appears. The book takes it’s name from the Beach Boys song. Apt, because while we think Kokomo is a song about a tropical island paradise, it is in fact “…not even a real place … Well, it is, but it’s an industrial city in Indiana…” And like the song, the characters in Hannan’s novel appear one way, but their inner lives reveal something quite different – full of complexities, insecurities, desires. Continue reading

The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon

Well, The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon is a little power pack of a novel.

I didn’t know much about this book heading in but I was engrossed within the first few pages. In fact, it was perfect welcome-to-lockdown-#4-reading – taut writing, big themes, and a plot that begins with a climatic event and then rewinds to reveal how things unfolded. Continue reading

Unseen by Jacinta Parsons

Illness is like a natural disaster. In that way, it is simple, because you have little choice but to accept it.

Through my work, I am in contact with many people living with, or caring for others with chronic illness. COVID presents an interesting situation for these people – on one hand, they are under increased pressure because regular support services have stopped or are reduced, and with that comes isolation. On the other, many have told me that now ‘everyone’ is experiencing what they live with every single day – a sense of isolation, having to plan every outing, and being fearful for their health.

Jacinta Parsons’s memoir, Unseen, chronicles her experience with chronic illness. It was published last year, in the middle of the pandemic, and she refers to the ‘groundhog day’ elements of COVID and chronic illness – Continue reading

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

When I was in Prague a couple of years ago, I was struck by how completely foreign the language (and alphabet) was. Yes, you’re probably saying ‘Duh’ but despite attempts, I came away with no more Czech than I started with (i.e. zero). Nothing stuck. Even things as simple as recognising the name of the train station near to where we were staying – I simply couldn’t find a way of retaining any of it.

I was reminded of that feeling of absolute foreignness when I read Elif Batuman’s oddball novel, The Idiot. Continue reading

20 Books of Summer (except that it’s Winter)

Cathy at 746 Books is hosting the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge again this year. As Cathy states, it’s the most relaxed reading challenge you’ll participate in (swap books out, change your target, do whatever). Continue reading

The Loudness of Unsaid Things by Hilde Hinton

Child characters with troubled attachments? Sign me up.

The Loudness of Unsaid Things by Hilde Hinton won me from the very beginning. We meet seven-year-old Susie, who lives with her dad in Melbourne. Her mum lives in the ‘mind hospital’, where Susie visits her on weekends.

All the times her father had picked her up and … told him that she had a nice visit, even when it wasn’t nice. Because it made it easier for her. It meant she didn’t have to talk about how hard it could be in there. How character building. Continue reading