Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

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

Grief Works by Julia Samuel

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

Three very different memoirs

One Hundred Years of Dirt by Rick Morton, Wham! George & Me by Andrew Ridgeley, and The Fixed Stars by Molly Wizenberg are wildly different books. In fact, the only thing that unites them is that they are all shelved under ‘memoir’.

Morton reflects on his traumatic childhood and the definition of ‘poverty’ in Australia; Ridgely also recalls his childhood, however his included a stable home, music lessons, and his friendship with a school mate who would eventually be known as George Michael; and Wizenberg focuses on the disintegration of her marriage after she realises that her sexuality is ‘fluid’. Continue reading

Adults by Emma Jane Unsworth

I could make my review of Emma Jane Unsworth’s latest novel, Adults, all about gin, because the (23) gin-related scenes are glorious. For example –

‘OH MY GOD.’
‘What?’
‘GET ME A GIN, MOTHER.’
She gets me a gin. I am in the same position when she comes up: calcified. I take the gin without moving my face or indeed any part of myself.

and

‘Right,’ says my mother. ‘Do you want a gin?’
‘Yes please,’ says Nicolette. My mother runs off.
‘Don’t let her make you a gin,’ I say. ‘You’ll never get out of bed again. She does all-inclusive-package-holiday measures.’

But a review of gin scenes probably won’t inform your decision about whether to read this book. Actually, knowing my blog readers, it might… Continue reading

Gotta Get Theroux This by Louis Theroux

My enjoyment of Louis Theroux’s memoir, Gotta Get Theroux This has nothing to do with the sentiment expressed on these pencils… I promise.

Okay. I admit that I have always been a huge fan of Louis Theroux. It’s something about his slightly bewildered approach to everything; his self-deprecating humour; his genuine curiosity; his listening super-powers (and I say that because, as someone in the listening business, Louis’s capacity for hearing people’s stories and the timing of his questions, is glorious to watch). Continue reading

Royals by Emma Forrest

Imagine if Jeanette Winterson wrote episodes of Made in Chelsea, and set them in the eighties? You’d have Royals by Emma Forrest.

Royals opens with 18-year-old Steven, preparing for a street party to celebrate the wedding of Lady Diana and Prince Charles. Steven is obsessed with fashion, and dreams of leaving behind his working-class upbringing to become a designer. Steven’s mum is his greatest supporter, and his father is a violent alcoholic.

He was jealous of me and Mum. It upset him that I made her happy. He wanted her to be happy, but he didn’t know how to do it himself. He bought her perfume on her birthday and he hit her. He got her kitchen remodelled, and he hit her. Continue reading