This Is Not a Book about Benedict Cumberbatch by Tabitha Carvan

This Is Not a Book about Benedict Cumberbatch by Tabitha Carvan is totally a book about Benedict Cumberbatch, but all within the context of finding something to be passionate about. You see, Carvan was embarrassed (and ‘….afraid, guilty…ashamed’) of her ‘obsession’ with a celebrity, and the book came about after she decided to explore where and how her obsessive thoughts/ shame came from.

What am I doing in the spare room, lit only by the laptop’s false dawn, while my family sleeps? Why am I, a wife and mother, creeping off in the dark to think about celebrity thighs? Why am I, a grown woman, sticking up pictures of a heart-throb on my wall? Not even in nice frames, but torn out of magazines and stuck on with Blu Tack! It will ruin the paint… Continue reading

Love and Other Puzzles by Kimberley Allsopp

I have been in a MAJOR reading-rut. In fact, I’ve been faffing-about with two novels (both good, both stories that I’m enjoying) for a month (IKR?!). I decided I needed to change things up. So, I turned to a genre I very rarely read from – rom-com/ ‘chick-lit’ – and picked up Kimberley Allsopp’s debut, Love and Other Puzzles. It was everything I expected – light, warm, and pleasing in a way that a good rom-com always is (i.e. predictable but comforting, and no-loose-ends). Continue reading

You’re Doing it Wrong by Kaz Cooke

When I was a teenager, most of my health information came from Dolly Doctor. Pretty sure it was the same for my friends. Occasionally, someone would access a copy of Cosmo from an older sister or their mother – Cosmo had a ‘sealed section’ that was full of the details that Dolly Doctor only hinted at. I mention this because girls and women have talked about their health for an eternity; the sources of information are varied (in accuracy and reliability); and there’s lots of myths that persist well beyond what seems sensible (who hasn’t heard the story about the washcloth, glitter and a visit to the gynecologist?).

Kaz Cooke examines centuries of ‘bad and bonkers’ advice to women in You’re Doing it Wrong. The book begins with health and relationship advice, and moves on to how to manage housework, how to dress, and how to behave (essentially, ‘be pretty and be quiet’). As Cooke describes, each sub-heading in the book is a lie that woman have been told, and those alone are enough to horrify – Continue reading

The Performance by Claire Thomas

When I read Charlotte Wood’s brilliant novel, The Weekend, a few years ago, there was much discussion about the fact that the story focused on the inner lives of ‘older’ women, and that this is largely ignored in contemporary literature. At the time, I didn’t think it was but nor could I easily name any solid examples to prove otherwise. So, when I read Claire Thomas’s novel, The Performance, I realised it had been a long time between drinks. Continue reading

Reading Challenges 2021

It’s technically possible to squeeze in another couple of books before midnight on December 31, 2021 but unlikely, so I think I can safely draw a line under the reading challenges for the year.

I participated in six challenges this year – finished three; one is ongoing; and I failed two – (one miserably, one by a whisker). Continue reading

Catching up on reviews

I always have the best intentions to write thorough reviews of the books I read, but time is in short supply in December and I’m nine reviews behind… So, quick thoughts on a bunch of books: Continue reading

Lapsed by Monica Dux

I have no religious education or upbringing (a reflection of the fact that my parents did, and as adults, they wanted none of it). Yet, as a child of the seventies, Christian traditions were an unquestioned part of the school curriculum, and as a result, we had a nativity play to finish the primary school year. In Prep, I was chosen to be Mary. I had one line; the kid playing Joseph said it, and furious, I stole his lines after that. From memory, it kind of changed the tone of things.

I refer to this story because Monica Dux opens Lapsed, her memoir about growing up Catholic, with her recollections of being given the part of Jesus in her school’s Easter play.

My selection was an honour made even greater by the fact that in the past, the coveted role of JC had always gone to a Grade Sixer, while I was in Grade Five. As a child with a strong sense of her own manifest destiny, this seemed quite unremarkable to me. Continue reading

The Mother Wound by Amani Haydar

Amani Haydar suffered the unimaginable when she lost her mother in a brutal act of domestic violence perpetrated by her father. Haydar was five months pregnant at the time, and her own perception of how she wanted to mother (and how she had been mothered) was shaped by the murder. In The Mother Wound, Haydar reflects on her parents’ marriage, her family’s history, and the social and cultural context in which she grew up.

We couldn’t call it ‘the night Mum died’ because she didn’t just drop dead. All of the available words betrayed reality.

What was most striking about this memoir, was Haydar’s clear account of her childhood, when she ‘…hadn’t yet found the language of abuse…’ but understood her parents’ relationship was bound by cultural, religious and personal complexities that she didn’t fully understand –

It is hard to spot a red flag in a man who is simply doing what everyone else is doing. Continue reading