There’s nothing I can say about Douglas Stuart’s 2020 Booker Prize winning novel, Shuggie Bain, that hasn’t already been said. Know that I laughed, I cried, and I ached for Shuggie, his alcoholic mother, Agnes, and his siblings. This story is raw and tender and hopeful and heartbreakingly sad.
In my tradition of not reviewing books that have a squillion reviews on Goodreads, I have instead put together a mix tape, drawing on some favourite passages in the book. Needless to say, I had dozens to choose from in Shuggie.
When I was sixteen, I visited my grandma one afternoon and, on arriving at her house, found her in tears. The last of the ‘Old Girls’ had died. The ‘Old Girls’ were her life-long friends – a group of women who had met during the War and stayed close for decades. They always referred to themselves as the ‘Old Girls’, even when they were young women. And so suddenly, my grandma was the last Old Girl. It was deeply shocking for me because, until that moment, I had never really thought about friends dying.
This is the subject of Charlotte Wood’s novel, The Weekend. Three friends in their seventies gather for a last weekend at the holiday home of their mutual friend, Sylvie, who has recently died. There’s former restaurateur Jude, organised and bossy; Wendy, an acclaimed intellectual, who continues to write; and beautiful, flighty Adele, a renowned actress whose work has dwindled to almost nothing. Over the course of the weekend, the dynamics of their relationships are revealed, and the absence of Sylvie felt.
This was something nobody talked about: how death could make you petty. And how you had to find a new arrangement among your friends, shuffling around the gap of the lost one, all of you suddenly mystified by how to be with one another.Continue reading →
Sample Saturday is when I wade through the eleventy billion samples I have downloaded on my Kindle. I’m slowly chipping away and deciding whether it’s buy or bye. This week, all three samples are from the Man Booker 2018 longlist. Continue reading →
01. The picture above is of Gardiner’s Creek. The creek adjoins an oval where my kids play lacrosse (in fact I took this pic last Saturday as they were warming up before their game). The local council is planning to rip up the grass and replace it with an artificial soccer pitch (with a 1.8m fence and extensive car-parking). I can’t tell you how angry it has made me, for all sorts of reasons (environmental, hydrological, community access to open space, light pollution, provision of multi-use facilities, and I could go on). Needless to say, I’m protesting the development. Hard. Continue reading →