Loner by Georgina Young

I was only halfway through Loner by Georgina Young when I sent a text message to one of my oldest friends telling her that she had to read it because it was like someone had stolen our uni years and put them in a book. Every word of this delightful novel felt real.

The story is about Lona – she has dropped out of her art course at uni, and while her best friend, Tab, immerses herself in university life, Lona works at Planet Skate on Friday nights and at a supermarket during the week. She has lost her creative direction (and questions whether it ever existed). There’s lots of angst.

It’s not enough to respond to a prompt. It’s not enough to subvert or to push back on the assessment criteria. Not when she relied on the rubric in the first place, to know what she should be pushing back on, to define the trajectory of her small artistic and conceptual rebellions.
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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

Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh

How did people go on with their lives as though death weren’t all around them?

After reading Death in Her Hands by Ottessa Moshfegh, I decided that if I had to host one of those ‘choose five guests’ dinner parties, Ottessa would be on the list. She’s so weird. She’d probably make me a little nervous as a host… But I also reckon she’d have a ripping sense of humour. Continue reading

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey

Memorial Drive by Natasha Trethewey made lots of ‘best of 2020′ lists, and I find it hard to pass by a memoir that garners so much praise.

Natasha describes the events leading to her mother’s violent death, and how her experience of grief and trauma has shaped her work (Trethewey is a Pulitzer Prize–winning poet).

Three decades is a long time to get to know the contours of loss, to become intimate with one’s own bereavement. You get used to it. Most days it is a distant thing, always on the horizon, sailing toward me with it’s difficult cargo. 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

The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall

Is there a sub-genre of dystopian fiction called ‘it-could-happen-within-a-decade-dsytopian-and-that’s-why-it’s-terrifying’? If so, it’s my favourite sub-genre. And we can file The Mother Fault by Kate Mildenhall there.

Without revealing too much of the story, it’s about a woman named Mim, whose husband Ben is missing. Everyone wants to find Ben, particularly The Department (the all-seeing government body who has fitted the entire population with a universal tracking chip in the palm of their hand to keep them ‘safe’). When Ben can’t be tracked, Mim is questioned; made to surrender her passport and those of their children, Essie and Sam; and is threatened with being taken into ‘care’ at the notorious BestLife (which is essentially a branded detention centre). Mim goes on a risky quest to find Ben. Continue reading

Infinite Splendours by Sofie Laguna

Afraid I need to retract what I said very recently about being okay with Sofie Laguna telling the same story over and over.

Laguna’s latest novel, Infinite Splendours, sticks to her formula of following the life of a traumatised child. In this case, it is a boy named Lawrence who is groomed and raped by his uncle. The story jumps forward decades, and we revisit Lawrence at different points in his life – at each he is disconnected, struggling to form relationships, and severely damaged. Continue reading

The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey

I’ve heard of death dinner parties and coffin clubs, but a support group that talks about death-related anxiety was new to me – welcome to The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey.

The central character is twenty-something Caitlin, who is convinced she’s going to die.

Just over the horizon. Murder. Multiple organ failure. All the days, disappearing.

Caitlin had been living a ‘normal’ adult life – climbing the career ladder and planning travel with her best friend. A car accident left her believing that she was alive by ‘mistake’, and her life quickly unraveled – failed relationships; self-medicating with alcohol; and a ‘dead-end’ job as a waitress. Her weekly meetings with her support group, the Morbids, keeps her afloat. Continue reading