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

Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon

Hmmm… I haven’t pushed much grief-lit lately… So let me to introduce you to Kathleen MacMahon’s superb novel, Nothing But Blue Sky.

David is taking his first solo holiday since his wife, Mary Rose, died in tragic circumstances. Against advice of his friends, David decides to return to Aiguaclara, a small Spanish coastal town where he and Mary Rose holidayed for twenty years.

It was the place where we mended ourselves, marinating gently in a brew of salt water and sunshine. In Aiguaclara, we paused to take stock of our lives, coming to terms with the passing of another year and making plans for the one to come. Continue reading

Kokomo by Victoria Hannan

I really, really wish Victoria Hannan hadn’t started Kokomo with a sex scene. The tone of the scene is not representative of the remaining 294 pages, which are insightful, subtle, and wonderfully atmospheric.

On the other hand, maybe that sex scene is exactly representative of the book – that all is not as it appears. The book takes it’s name from the Beach Boys song. Apt, because while we think Kokomo is a song about a tropical island paradise, it is in fact “…not even a real place … Well, it is, but it’s an industrial city in Indiana…” And like the song, the characters in Hannan’s novel appear one way, but their inner lives reveal something quite different – full of complexities, insecurities, desires. Continue reading

The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon

Well, The Incendiaries by R. O. Kwon is a little power pack of a novel.

I didn’t know much about this book heading in but I was engrossed within the first few pages. In fact, it was perfect welcome-to-lockdown-#4-reading – taut writing, big themes, and a plot that begins with a climatic event and then rewinds to reveal how things unfolded. Continue reading