Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

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

The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams

Every year I look forward to the announcement of the ‘word of the year’ – some years I agree with the choice, other years they’re less meaningful to me (‘youthquake’ didn’t shake my world in 2017 but I’m pleased ‘climate emergency’ was recognised last year).

Pip Williams’s novel, The Dictionary of Lost Words, explores the development of the Oxford English Dictionary through the lens of gender, historical events, and social structure. Williams uses real and imaginary characters to tell the story, which spans the women’s suffrage movement and the beginning of the Great War. Continue reading

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Things I wonder:

  • When Elizabeth Strout first wrote Olive Kitteridge, did she envisage a sequel?
  • And when she started thinking about where Olive’s story would pick up, was it easy to know what she wanted for Olive?

No doubt I could find an interview with Strout about Olive, Again, and these questions would be answered. Instead, I’ve chosen to ponder over Olive – because she is far from an easy character. She’s cantankerous. She’s prickly. And yet we love her. Olive is judgemental. She’s tone deaf. She lacks the emotional insight needed to guide her through tricky times. And yet, her obliviousness to discomfort is precisely what allows her to be a comforting presence at the most unexpected times. Continue reading

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

In choosing fiction, my preference is for narratives driven by emotion rather than action – I want to be in a character’s head and to know what they are feeling, as opposed to being a bystander, ‘watching’ what happens to them.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore is very much an action-driven story. It tells of two sisters, Mickey and Kacey, whose lives begin in the same troubled home but then take very different paths . Kacey lives on the streets of Kensington, Philadelphia, addicted to heroin, and doing what she has to do to feed her habit. Mickey also knows the streets of Kensington but that’s because she joined the police force. Although the sisters are estranged, Mickey keeps an eye out for Kacey. When a string of unsolved murders occur – the victims all young women with drug habits – Mickey fears for her sister. Continue reading

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

I accept that some bloggers, whose reading tastes lean toward the more literary end of things, will unfollow me for what I’m about to say…

…but when I watched six seasons of The Hills (yes, that ‘reality’ show with LC and Heidi and Spencer), I was engrossed in the detail – the parties, the holidays, the break-ups and make-ups, Justin Bobby, the workplace dramas. It was all very ‘up close’. And then the last episode happened – had the producers been playing the audience the whole time?! 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