Empire Falls by Richard Russo

When I started this blog almost ten years ago, I had an idea for a meme (it’s still sitting in draft posts). The idea was to read the books that my friends considered their ‘favourite’. I never progressed the meme, but I did get a nomination from RoryEmpire Falls by Richard Russo. Yes, shameful that it has taken me so, so long to read this book. And Rory commented on Goodreads that she was nervous that I wouldn’t love it as much as she did. Well… Continue reading

Vladimir by Julia May Jonas

Don’t be fooled – or put-off – by the cover of Julia May Jonas’s debut novel, Vladimir. Sure, it looks like something featuring Fabio but it is in fact a twist on campus-lit.

The 58-year-old unnamed narrator is a popular English professor at a small liberal arts college in New England. Her charismatic husband, head of department at the same college, is under investigation for a number of inappropriate relationships with former students, that had taken place decades prior. Although the couple have long had a mutual understanding when it comes to their extra-marital pursuits, the allegations sit uncomfortably in the present day where the #MeToo movement has created a new paradigm.

At one point we would have called these affairs consensual, for they were, and were conducted with my tacit understanding that they were happening. Now, however, young women have apparently lost all agency in romantic entanglements. Now my husband was abusing his power, never mind that power is the reason they desired him in the first place. Continue reading

7 1/2 by Christos Tsiolkas

Is the most ‘Tsiolkas’ of all of Tsiolkas’s books? The very fact that the main character, an author, renounces writing about race, class, religion, and sexuality, and instead wants to write about beauty (which turns out to be a story about retired porn-star, Paul, and of course slides into all sorts of commentary on sexuality, money, loyalty and self-image), allows Tsiolkas to tackle all of his favourite subjects by default. Because of course, no matter how hard we try to get away from politics, race, class, religion, and sexuality, we can’t – that is life.

And so, since the fire and the pandemic, reminded again of the meaning of labour – for it was the firefighters, nurses, doctors, cleaners who sacrificed – it is any wonder that my notions of how to write and what to write have changed? No more screeds to capital-J Justice and to capital-S Society and to capital-L Love and to capital-E Equlity and to capital-R Revolution: how can those of us with soft hands even contemplate such forgery? Continue reading

Things That Are Making Me Happy This Week

Remarkably, I’ve been a COVID-dodger until this week. Two of my adult children were in isolation earlier in the year, but I was away at the time, so avoided having to isolate. Alas, it’s caught us, and all six of us are confined to the house. This week’s update was going to include Admissions at the MTC and a gin festival… but instead, it has a 2020-vibe (i.e. what I’m watching/ eating/ drinking/ listening to).

01. A win against my least-liked team to open the 2022 season. Continue reading

Higher Ground by Anke Stelling

It took me a month to read Anke Stelling’s Higher Ground. A month, not because I wasn’t enjoying Stelling’s writing, but because I was in the depths of a reading rut. So, I didn’t give this book the attention and focus it deserved. And, had I read it in my usual week, I’m quite certain that the key themes – class and creativity – would have made a much stronger impression.

The story focuses on Resi, a writer in her mid-forties, married to Sven, a painter. They live in an apartment building in Berlin, where their lease is controlled by some of Resi’s closest friends. Those same friends live nearby, in a house they have built together with others from their social circle – an experiment in communal living that the group dreamed about in their twenties. Resi and Sven were given the opportunity to buy a share in the communal house, but opted to continue renting, a decision driven by Resi’s childhood, and her sense of place in the group. Continue reading

Things That Are Making Me Happy This Week

01. I did a group forest therapy session this week (and dragged a friend along with me) – lots of mindfulness and tree-hugging, but my favourite bit was the time spent creating an ‘artwork’ from things found on the ground. I noticed afterwards, how wholly absorbed I was in the task of arranging the leaves I’d collected. Truly therapeutic. Continue reading