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.
‘…the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.’ (H.P. Lovecraft)
Katerina Bryant’s memoir, Hysteria, recounts her search for a diagnosis for chronic illness. Bryant was experiencing seizures, episodes that struck without warning and where she felt disconnected from her body.The seizures left her feeling anxious, exhausted and increasingly fearful of participating in ordinary activities. Continue reading →
I am genetically blessed with what some refer to as ‘good skin’. I never had pimples as a teen and I’ve never worn makeup. My skin routine is essentially washing my face with water and using a supermarket moisturiser when I remember. When I was 42, a cosmetic-surgeon-acquaintance told me that Botox at my age was ‘pointless because the wrinkles were already there’. Apparently you need to start young so that you never have any wrinkles to smooth out in the first place. Thankfully I don’t care about wrinkles* and nor was I in anyway offended that the acquaintance assumed Botox was on my radar!
On his retirement, my dad did what many new-retirees do – research the family tree. There were no surprises apart from discovering that a child was born out of wedlock, raised by his grandmother as her own, and grew up not knowing that his ‘sister’ was in fact his biological mother. On a spectrum of family scandals, it’s lightweight.
Author Eleanor Anstruther had a lot more material to work with, and the result is her fictionalised family history, A Perfect Explanation. Essentially, Anstruther’s father, Ian, was sold to his Aunt Joan for £500. The story also includes postnatal depression, Christian Science, a kidnapping, much family bitterness, a long legal battle, and a large emerald ring. Continue reading →
The cover of Laura & Emma by Kate Greathead suggests a story that is gentle and relatively undemanding but beyond the pastels is a thoughtful examination of the relationships between mothers and daughters, complete with the funny and loving moments, the frustrations and complexities, and the sadnesses.
It begins in 1980, New York City, with Laura who is Park Avenue born and bred. Laura considers herself progressive – she is deeply concerned about the environment; lives in Harlem (well, on the border); uses the subway and shops locally. Yet she has a cushy job via the family trust and her mortgage is paid for by her parents – the slightly eccentric Bibs and the formidable Doug.
After an out-of-character casual encounter, Laura discovers she is pregnant and decides to keep the baby. Bibs falsely informs her society friends that the baby is fathered by a Swedish sperm donor although she’s not opposed to Laura’s single status, saying of marriage, “It doesn’t matter who you marry, one day you’ll be sitting across the table from him thinking, Anything would be better than this.”Continue reading →