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 →
Therapy books (is ‘therapy-porn’ a genre?) sit right alongside misery-memoirs for me – I love them both. And if you favour these kinds of books, I’m certain you’ll enjoy Gottlieb’s insightful case studies and her own experience in therapy. Her compassion and honesty, combined with solid writing makes this book a page-turner. Truly. Continue reading →
For how do you walk towards your father without being a son? How do you leave home without realising where you’re from?
This book… it’s a 568 page poem about brothers, running, fathers, a bridge, mistakes, Homer’s Odyssey, mothers, stories, dying, legacies, horses and a mule, clay, painting, David and the slaves, reading, Pont Neuf, grief, refugees, an engraved lighter, a piano, a typewriter, a peg…
…there was always a bulkiness to us. A bursting at the seams. Whatever we did, there was more: More washing, more cleaning, more eating, more dishes, more arguing, more fighting and throwing and hitting and farting… It didn’t matter how in control or on-top-of-things were, there was chaos a heartbeat away. We could be skinny and constantly agile, but there was never quite room for all of it – so everything was done at once.Continue reading →
Tin Man by Sarah Winman is a simple story about two friends.
Ellis and Michael are twelve when they first meet. Their family circumstances, although very different, become a bonding point and their friendship grows over many years. However, from the beginning of the book, we know that there is a gap in Ellis and Michael’s shared history and the reasons for that break are slowly unravelled.
Winman moves the story back and forth over time, revealing the events that shaped the boys’ friendship. There are a number of twists in this relatively short novel and if I listed them, the story could be perceived as overly dramatic. In fact, it is quite the opposite – it is plausible, gently paced and Winman delivers the blows with a velvet hammer (brace yourself, there are bits to make you cry).
And I wonder what the sound of a heart breaking might be. And I think it might be quiet, unperceptively so, and not dramatic at all. Like the sound of an exhausted swallow falling gently to earth. Continue reading →
I am painfully behind in my reviews – the longer they go unwritten, the less likely it is to happen. These reviews hardly do justice to some of the books I’ve read (sorry Magda) but at the very least provide me with a record. Continue reading →
Sometimes when I’m reading a book I find that a particular element of the story resonates very deeply. It’s usually an element that isn’t the main theme of the story and therefore catches me off-guard.
Such was the case with Paula Keogh’s memoir, The Green Bell. It’s essentially a story about Keogh’s experience in a psychiatric unit of the Canberra Hospital in the 1970s. The events leading up to her admission (notably the death of a very close friend), what happens when she is there (she meets and falls in love with poet, Michael Dransfield who is being treated for drug addiction), and her life after hospital is the guts of Keogh’s story.
There’s no way out after all. I turn around and make my way back to M Ward. I’m worthless, pared down to nothing. I’ve come to the very end of possibility.Continue reading →
I’m skipping a review of A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley and instead suggesting that if you don’t already know this incredible story, see the film asap (note that the main difference between the book and film is that the book includes detail about Saroo’s time in India once he was reunited with his biological family, whereas the film ends with the reunion).