I’m limping to the reading finish line this year, and in order to get there, I’m choosing books that demand very little from me. Ghosts by Dolly Alderton fitted the bill nicely.
‘Chick-lit’… ‘Women’s fiction’… I’m not even sure what these labels mean now. When I was in my twenties, it meant you could walk into a book store, pick up a novel with a hot pink cover and a picture of a stiletto shoe on the front, and be sure that you would have a fun bit of reading ahead. This genre has not been my choice in the last 15 odd years, but 2020 seems to have changed all sorts of things. Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
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 →
In our household, death and dying are not ‘taboo’ subjects. This is largely because much of my volunteer and professional work is with people who are near the end of their life; experiencing grief; or are bereaved. I made a comment about something grief-related at dinner one night and my then 13-year-old rolled his eyes and said “Yes, Mum, we know it’s okay to talk about death.” Not sure he appreciated the fact that in some families, it’s not okay to talk about death.
Similarly, I know a family that go around the table at Christmas and answer the question ‘Bury or burn?’ – this sounds flippant but in terms of a family understanding of death, they’ll have a less painful time in bereavement than those who have never spoken of it.
Grief Works by grief psychotherapist Julia Samuel, is a collection of case studies about people who have experienced significant loss, and how they managed their pain. I stress the word ‘significant’ – some of the stories are traumatic and unbelievably tragic. Continue reading →
You might be surprised to know that I rarely get so engrossed in a book that I’m reading for hours – I think there’s an assumption that people who ‘read lots of books’ devote great rafts of time to the pursuit. I wish that were the case! In reality, my reading is done in short bursts – ten minutes at breakfast and lunch, a couple of five minute ‘power-reads’ during the day, and then half an hour before I sleep. But occasionally, I have to put everything on hold because I’ve become absolutely engrossed in a book. Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason was such a book.
It’s the story of Martha. Martha knows there is something wrong with her but she doesn’t know what it is. Her husband, Patrick, thinks she is fine, and that the important thing is that life carries on –
‘Martha… everything is broken and messed up, and completely fine. That is what life is. It’s only the ratios that change. Usually on their own. As soon as you think that’s it, it’s going to be like this forever, they change again.’
Patrick’s response to Martha’s struggle is borne from his love for her, rather than pig-headed denial, and much of the emotional energy in the story is directed toward the particular issue of wanting to be ‘well’ for the people we love; and the feelings of guilt and anxiety that go along with that.
I was desperate to cancel. But he bought a Lonely Planet. He had been reading it in bed every night and as ill and scared as I was, I couldn’t bear to disappoint someone whose desires were so modest they could be circled in pencil.Continue reading →
I didn’t need much convincing about the importance of feeling ‘wonder and awe’ when I started reading Julia Baird’s part-memoir-part-essay-collection, Phosphorescence. The book begins with Baird’s experience of ocean swimming. I know the feelings she describes. I know those feelings from the sea. I know those feelings every time I look up at the clouds. I know those feelings when I gaze at the muddy sweep of the Yarra.
Something happens when you dive into a world where clocks don’t tick and inboxes don’t ping. As your arms circle, swing and pull along the edge of a vast ocean, your mind wanders, and you open yourself to awe, to the experience of seeing something astonishing, unfathomable or greater than yourself.Continue reading →
I think Tegan Bennett Daylight added the subtitle ‘Reading, Love and Death’ to her memoir/essay collection, The Details, just so that I’d buy it. Obviously I did. Immediately. What’s better than reading about reading, love and death? Nothing!
I will preface this review by saying that I very much admire Curtis Sittenfeld’s work… But Rodham was not the book for me.
In summary, the novel is a ‘sliding doors’ look at Hillary Clinton’s life, and what might have happened had she not married Bill, and instead ‘remained’ Hillary Rodham. Sittenfeld gives Hillary a career as a law professor and a successful life in politics, but these things come at a cost – she has no family of her own, and few intimate relationships.
The story exposes the double-standards between male and female politicians, imposed by the public, the media, and society in general.
…complaints about sexism were perceived as sour grapes. Proof was elusive, situations subject to interpretation.Continue reading →