Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh

How did people go on with their lives as though death weren’t all around them?

After reading Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh, I decided that if I had to host one of those ‘choose five guests’ dinner parties, Ottessa would be on the list. She’s so weird. She’d probably make me a little nervous as a host… But I also reckon she’d have a ripping sense of humour. Continue reading

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey made lots of ‘best of 2020′ lists, and I find it hard to pass by a memoir that garners so much praise.

Natasha describes the events leading to her mother’s violent death, and how her experience of grief and trauma has shaped her work (Trethewey is a Pulitzer Prize–winning poet).

Three decades is a long time to get to know the contours of loss, to become intimate with one’s own bereavement. You get used to it. Most days it is a distant thing, always on the horizon, sailing toward me with it’s difficult cargo. Continue reading

Make it Scream, Make it Burn by Leslie Jamison

There were stories in Leslie Jamison’s first essay collection, The Empathy Exams, that I still think about more than five years after reading them. And it’s remarkable how regularly I refer others to particular essays written by Jamison. I suspect it will be the same with her latest collection, Make it Scream, Make it Burn.

So which particular essays will I be pressing on people, and why? Continue reading

Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel

Who isn’t intrigued by a literary scandal? As I type, a few pop to mind – Helen Demidenko, James Frey, and whether Harper Lee ever wanted Go Set a Watchman to be published. But I’d never heard of Lee Israel – best-selling author and ‘literary forger’. She fesses up to her criminal activity in her memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (and yes, let’s park the fact that she profited from writing a memoir about her crime).

I had never known anything but ‘up’ in my career, had never received even one of those formatted no-thank-you slips that successful writers look back upon with triumphant jocularity. Continue reading

Drawing a Line Under 2020 Reading – Part 1

These books deserve thorough reviews but I also really want to be done with 2020. So, for the sake of completeness, quick reviews of the books I read in November and December last year – Continue reading

Some more quick reviews

I’ve struggled to write reviews for much of this year. I blame working from home. After a day of work, I have no desire to stay sitting at my desk. And so, I’ll continue to keep a record of what I’ve read with short reviews (these are very, very short). Continue reading

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

Very occasionally, I’m part way through a book and I have to phone my best reading buddy and say, “Can you please start reading X immediately because I’m going to need to debrief.” She always complies. I did this recently, and a week later we spoke about Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur for a full hour.

Brodeur’s memoir is about her experience growing up with her charismatic and complicated mother, Malabar. When Brodeur was fourteen, Malabar woke her at midnight to confess that she had kissed her husband’s (Brodeur’s step-father) best friend, Ben.

Brodeur instantly became her mother’s confidante and accomplice, helping her Malabar and Ben spend time together.

Deception takes commitment, vigilance, and a very good memory. To keep the truth buried, you must tend to it. Continue reading

Very Nice by Marcy Dermansky

Satire isn’t my go-to when I want a laugh but I did enjoy this spiky little story about relationship triangles and over-inflated egos.

Marcy Dermansky’s Very Nice is told from the perspective of three characters – it begins with Rachel Klein, who never meant to kiss her creative writing professor. Said writing professor is Zahid Azzam, and he never planned to become a house guest in Rachel’s sprawling Connecticut home, but he does. Rachel’s mother, Becca, never thought she’d have a love affair so soon after the end of her marriage, but when Zahid arrives, she does… Continue reading

Disturbing the Peace by Richard Yates

It’s time for my AY (that’s Annual Yates, not Young Adult).

I limit my reading of Yates because I find his stories intensely depressing. But I admire them for exactly the same reason.

Given that most of the year has been spent in lockdown, I decided I hardly needed to add a Yates-induced-existenital-crisis to the mix, so chose to re-read one of the first books I read by him (pre-blogging) – Disturbing the Peace. Continue reading