Blue Nights by Joan Didion

Much has already been said about Joan Didion’s memoir, Blue Nights. Equally, much has been said about grief, ageing, parenting and health – by Didion and hundreds of other authors. For that reason I won’t dwell on every element of this book. However, one part stood out – ‘the chosen child’ narrative.

To provide context, Blue Nights examines the period after the sudden death of Didion’s husband, playwright John Gregory Dunne, AND separately, the slow death of their daughter, Quintana. It’s not about the raw and immediate grief, but rather the fragments – the bits we’re left with after everyone else is ‘getting on with life’. And it is these bits, scattered memories, that Didion interrogates in Blue Nights, looking for clues as to whether she was a ‘good’ mother and wife.

Memory fades, memory adjusts, memory conforms to what we think we remember. Continue reading

No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

I spent the first half of Patricia Lockwood’s No One is Talking About This thinking “What…?” (similar reading experience to Fun Camp by Gabe Durham). And at some point I updated my progress on Goodreads by noting that I didn’t think I was cool enough for this book… because what the hell was going on? And then SUDDENLY it shifts gear, and the first part of the book sits in stark contrast to the second.

Something in the back of her head hurt. It was her new class consciousness. Continue reading

The Book of Malcolm by Fraser Sutherland

Canadian poet, Fraser Sutherland, documented his son’s life with schizophrenia and his sudden death in a posthumous memoir, The Book of Malcolm.

…every day that week was difficult; each had the potential to be the hardest yet.

Sutherland’s memoir is divided into three parts – the first tells of the weeks following Malcolm’s death; the second is a chronological account of Malcolm’s life, including Sutherland’s recollection of memorable family moments; and the third describes Malcolm’s diagnosis with schizophrenia and his subsequent experience of the mental health system in Canada. Continue reading

Love Stories by Trent Dalton

The idea behind Trent Dalton’s latest book, Love Stories, is absolutely gorgeous – it started with a sky-blue 1960s Olivetti typewriter (the much-loved machine of his best mate’s mum). Add a portable table, a sign stating ‘Sentimental Writer Collecting Love Stories’, and a couple of months on a busy street in Brisbane, and the result was a collection of stories about the many facets of love – love that is sustained, lost, returned, unrequited, deep, or fleeting… Continue reading

Catching up on reviews

I always have the best intentions to write thorough reviews of the books I read, but time is in short supply in December and I’m nine reviews behind… So, quick thoughts on a bunch of books: Continue reading

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez

Someone has said, When you are born into this world there are at least two of you, but going out you are on your own. Death happens to every one of us, yet it remains the most solitary of human experiences, one that separates rather than unites us.

What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez is a story about assisted dying. It’s a complex topic and frankly, not one that I am going to explore on this blog. However, I was attracted to this book because of the topic – I want to read about it, I want to think about it, but I don’t want to ‘review’ it. And there’s lots to say about aspects of this book other than assisted dying. Continue reading

The Mother Wound by Amani Haydar

Amani Haydar suffered the unimaginable when she lost her mother in a brutal act of domestic violence perpetrated by her father. Haydar was five months pregnant at the time, and her own perception of how she wanted to mother (and how she had been mothered) was shaped by the murder. In The Mother Wound, Haydar reflects on her parents’ marriage, her family’s history, and the social and cultural context in which she grew up.

We couldn’t call it ‘the night Mum died’ because she didn’t just drop dead. All of the available words betrayed reality.

What was most striking about this memoir, was Haydar’s clear account of her childhood, when she ‘…hadn’t yet found the language of abuse…’ but understood her parents’ relationship was bound by cultural, religious and personal complexities that she didn’t fully understand –

It is hard to spot a red flag in a man who is simply doing what everyone else is doing. Continue reading