I am painfully behind in my reviews – the longer they go unwritten, the less likely it is to happen. These reviews hardly do justice to some of the books I’ve read (sorry Magda) but at the very least provide me with a record.
Loyalties by Delphine de Vigan
An intriguing story about parents, children and their teacher. Nothing is what you expect in Loyalties and de Vigan gently weaves the lives of her characters together to build the tension. The shifting point-of-view provides emotional context to the startling events that unfold.
Reckoning by Magda Szubanski
Magda tells her story – one that includes inter-generational trauma, grief, repression, identity, and battles with mental health – with such grace and insight it is breathtaking.
Despite the neat final chapters or eloquent epilogues, I often think that memoirs are ‘unresolved’ – not so in this case. Magda’s writing reveals a clarity and surety that sets this book apart.
5/5 I laughed and I cried.
Goodwood by Holly Throsby
Whilst there was a mystery at its heart, the most interesting aspect of this book was the intricate character sketches – beautifully done with thoughtful and evocative details that put you firmly in a place (small coastal town), time (the nineties), and the mind of a girl in her late teens. Throsby’s skill as a musician shines through – her sentences are like lyrics, melodic and self-contained.
3/5 Gentle and quite lovely.
How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson
Pearson pokes fun at middle-age with a variety of ‘modern’ dilemmas (from the ‘belfie‘ to finding aged-care for parents). I could have forgiven her for cramming a few too many one-liners into the story because so many of them I could identify with, however, ultimately this book is 150 pages too long and covers much of the same ground as I Don’t Know How She Does It. I did enjoy the Twelfth Night riff – perhaps a little heavy-handed but tied many elements of the story together.
2.5/5 Light-hearted and light-weight.
No Country Woman by Zoya Patel
I suspect Patel had a lot to get off her chest in No Country Woman. She covers a range of ‘big’ topics – cultural identity, race, religion, feminism, vegetarianism, cultural appropriation. Her lens – Fijian-Indian who has lived in Australia since she was three-years-old – highlights the frequently reported migrant experience of never fully feeling ‘at home’ anywhere.
The book was thorough but it lacked the cohesiveness and narrative arc of similar memoirs. The small anecdotes – a boy eating pineapple, her sister’s wedding – gave depth and context and I wish there had been more of that kind of emotional reflection and fewer positioning statements about the ‘big’ issues.
3/5 Tackled a little too much.
The Birds of the Air by Alice Thomas Ellis
Oh God. A short but tense book about a family gathering on Christmas Day. I really ought to applaud Ellis for capturing the mood so perfectly – the expectations, the passive-aggressiveness, the meaningful looks, the subtext in EVERYTHING, the disappointing turkey… it’s all there, which is perhaps why I found myself clenching my jaw as I read. There’s another theme in this book – grief – it was explored in an interesting way but alas, not enough to distract me from the Christmas horrors.
2.5/5 Who thinks Christmas Day is fun….?
I received my copy of Loyalties from the publisher, Bloomsbury, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.