Hysteria by Katerina Bryant

‘…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

Make it Scream, Make it Burn by Leslie Jamison

There were stories in Leslie Jamison’s first essay collection, The Empathy Exams, that I still think about more than five years after reading them. And it’s remarkable how regularly I refer others to particular essays written by Jamison. I suspect it will be the same with her latest collection, Make it Scream, Make it Burn.

So which particular essays will I be pressing on people, and why? Continue reading

Can You Ever Forgive Me? by Lee Israel

Who isn’t intrigued by a literary scandal? As I type, a few pop to mind – Helen Demidenko, James Frey, and whether Harper Lee ever wanted Go Set a Watchman to be published. But I’d never heard of Lee Israel – best-selling author and ‘literary forger’. She fesses up to her criminal activity in her memoir, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (and yes, let’s park the fact that she profited from writing a memoir about her crime).

I had never known anything but ‘up’ in my career, had never received even one of those formatted no-thank-you slips that successful writers look back upon with triumphant jocularity. Continue reading

Some more quick reviews

I’ve struggled to write reviews for much of this year. I blame working from home. After a day of work, I have no desire to stay sitting at my desk. And so, I’ll continue to keep a record of what I’ve read with short reviews (these are very, very short). Continue reading

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur

Very occasionally, I’m part way through a book and I have to phone my best reading buddy and say, “Can you please start reading X immediately because I’m going to need to debrief.” She always complies. I did this recently, and a week later we spoke about Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur for a full hour.

Brodeur’s memoir is about her experience growing up with her charismatic and complicated mother, Malabar. When Brodeur was fourteen, Malabar woke her at midnight to confess that she had kissed her husband’s (Brodeur’s step-father) best friend, Ben.

Brodeur instantly became her mother’s confidante and accomplice, helping her Malabar and Ben spend time together.

Deception takes commitment, vigilance, and a very good memory. To keep the truth buried, you must tend to it. Continue reading

Nonfiction November – Book Pairings

It’s Nonfiction November, this week hosted by Julz Reads. The task? Pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title.

Charismatic fraudsters living the high-life – My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams and The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. Continue reading

Grief Works by Julia Samuel

In our household, death and dying are not ‘taboo’ subjects. This is largely because much of my volunteer and professional work is with people who are near the end of their life; experiencing grief; or are bereaved. I made a comment about something grief-related at dinner one night and my then 13-year-old rolled his eyes and said “Yes, Mum, we know it’s okay to talk about death.” Not sure he appreciated the fact that in some families, it’s not okay to talk about death.

Similarly, I know a family that go around the table at Christmas and answer the question ‘Bury or burn?’ – this sounds flippant but in terms of a family understanding of death, they’ll have a less painful time in bereavement than those who have never spoken of it.

Grief Works by grief psychotherapist Julia Samuel, is a collection of case studies about people who have experienced significant loss, and how they managed their pain. I stress the word ‘significant’ – some of the stories are traumatic and unbelievably tragic. Continue reading