#NovNov – You’ve Gotta Do What You’ve Gotta Do

Two novellas on Sunday, one nonfiction and one fiction – The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson (118pp) and The Standing Chandelier by Lionel Shriver (129pp).

I chose the title of this post based on the fact that both novellas deal with ‘unavoidable’ situations. In terms of Magnusson’s guide to ‘döstädning‘, also known as ‘death cleaning’, the unavoidable is death itself. It will find us all at some stage. In Shriver’s novella, the unavoidable is subtle – one of the key characters is forced to make a significant decision and regardless of what they choose, there is fallout (as I often say to my clients – “You don’t want any of this but of all of the choices available to you, which is the most tolerable?”). Continue reading

Two books that made me laugh

Very rarely do I read books that actually make me laugh-out-loud. Yes, there’s plenty of smiles, but audible laughs, not so often. Happily, I have enjoyed a few laugh-out-loud books this year (notably here and here), and recently I read two in a row – joy! The first was Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey, and the second, Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny. Continue reading

My Latest Listens

The Albatross by Nina Wan

I know a little bit about golf. I don’t count myself as a golfer but much of my family is obsessed. Anyway, I do know what an ‘albatross‘ is and I understand why it is perhaps more prized than a hole-in-one. So I went into this novel expecting something rare to happen for the main character, Primrose. It didn’t. Instead, we have Primrose, who is under extreme stress (for a variety of reasons) acting fairly impulsively and perhaps a bit recklessly. It didn’t quite ring true for me, particularly as the actions did not line up with the emotions (no self-doubt, no guilt, no remorse). Continue reading

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

I had no plans to read Gabrielle Zevin’s bestseller Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow because I thought it was about gaming. On that basis, I figured I was not the target audience and had pretty much dismissed it. But then my best reading buddy said that she’d loved it, adding that it wasn’t really about gaming but relationships. Okay, a relationship story… my favourite.

My reading buddy was right. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is about friendship and love, but also creativity, collaboration, art, narrative structure, and the hero’s journey. Gaming provides the backdrop, or more specifically an intersection for the main characters, Sam and Sadie. Continue reading

Cult Classic by Sloane Crosley

When it comes to break-ups, I’m of the ‘only-break-is-a-clean-break’ variety. I’ve never got back with someone I’ve broken up with, and nor do I attempt to ‘stay friends’. And perhaps because these break-ups were all a very, very long time ago, I have zero curiosity about ‘where are they now?’.

I would not have been a good candidate as the main character of Sloane Crosley’s latest work of fiction, Cult Classic, a novel that centres on Lola, a New Yorker who runs into a former boyfriend. And then another. And . . . another. Lola can’t dismiss these meetings as coincidence, and begins to reflect on the qualities of her current relationship in comparison with those of her past.
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Tender by Belinda McKeon

When it comes to Belinda McKeon’s novel, Tender, my first thought was that the final destination was better than much of the journey. That sounds harsh but I’ll explain.

The story is told from the perspective of Catherine. She’s from a small town in Ireland, and arrives at university naive, overwhelmed, and desperate to immerse herself in Dublin life. She shares a flat with two other students, through which she meets James. James is adventurous, charismatic, and artistic. He encourages Catherine to go after what she wants, and they soon become close friends, sharing nights out, deep conversations, and hungover mornings. However, as the years progress, Catherine and James begin to move in different directions, and Catherine discovers she is not ready to let James go.

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To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

The word that comes to mind when I think To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara is ‘ambitious’. And I felt somewhat ambitious when I opened the first of its 708 pages (it was during the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge – what was I thinking?!). Anyway, I am a little unfair on big books – I expect a lot for my reading-time-investment – To Paradise delivered in parts.

Yanagihara has essentially created three books in one – re-imagining the past and describing an eerily possible future. The stories are lightly interlinked through names, families, a house in Manhattan; physical and mental illness; and the colonisation of Hawaii. Continue reading

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

My usual policy is not to spend too much time on reviewing books that have a squillion reviews on Goodreads. So, if you want the nitty-gritty on Dodie Smith’s classic, I Capture the Castle, head over there to browse the 10,000+ reviews.

And instead of a review, I’ll share quotes that relate to the themes I enjoyed most about this novel: Continue reading