Lately (Spring edition)


Feeling: somewhat anxious about the YES vote (worried people will be complacent about voting, a la Brexit and Trump). Continue reading

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Once We Were Sisters: A Memoir by Sheila Kohler

There’s a line in Sheila Kohler’s memoir, Once We Were Sisters, that is representative of much of her story – ‘As is so often the case, truth is crueller than fiction.’

Kohler begins with the terrible moment when she discovered that her sister, Maxine, had been killed. Maxine’s husband drove them off a deserted road in Johannesburg – he survived the crash, she did not. Continue reading

Six Degrees of Separation – from Like Water for Chocolate to Fear of Flying

It’s time for #6degrees. Join in and see which direction your book chain takes you.

This month we begin with Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate. Every so often, I see a movie before I read the book and this was one such book (I loved both). Continue reading

The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein

This book. Wow.

Harrowing. Courageous. Repulsive. Compelling. Heartbreaking. Uplifting. Fascinating.

The Trauma Cleaner, like its star, Sandra Pankhurst, is genre-defying. Author Sarah Krasnostein shadowed Sandra over a number of years, observing her day-to-day activities and recording the story of her life before she was a cleaner. And that story is remarkable – Sandra was a husband and father, drag queen, sex reassignment patient, sex worker, businesswoman, and trophy wife. As a ‘trauma cleaner’, Sandra cleans places others dare not go – homicide, suicide and death scenes; meth labs; homes of hoarders; and places ravaged by water, mould and filth.

Sandra knows her clients as well as they know themselves; she airs out their smells, throws out their weird porn, their photos, their letters, the last traces of their DNA entombed in soaps and toothbrushes. She does not, however, erase these people. She couldn’t. She has experienced their same sorrows. Continue reading

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney – a literary mixtape

It’s had a squillion reviews on Goodreads; it was a re-read for me; and it’s packed with pithy one-liners – all good reasons for a literary mixtape for Jay McInerney’s eighties classic, Bright Lights, Big City.

If you haven’t already read it, get on it – it’s a brilliant snapshot of grief in its denial phase, set against eighties New York with its largesse, its cocaine, its filth, its beautiful people.

4/5 It holds up.

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Saturday Night / Cold Chisel

The night has already turned on that imperceptible pivot where two A.M. changes to six A.M. You know this moment has come and gone, but you are not yet willing to concede that you have crossed the line beyond which all is gratuitous damage and the palsy of unravelled nerve endings. Continue reading

Pigeon Pie by Nancy Mitford

Sophia Garfield had a clear mental picture of what the outbreak of war was going to be like. There would be a loud bang, succeeded by inky darkness and a cold wind. Stumbling over heaps of rubble and dead bodies, Sophia would search with industry, but without hope, for her husband, her lover and her dog.

And so begins Nancy Mitford’s satire, Pigeon Pie. Continue reading

Mãn by Kim Thúy

Mãn by Kim Thúy is a slip of a novel but looks can be deceptive – it’s a rich, melancholy tale about belonging.

Mãn has three mothers: the one who gives birth to her in wartime, the nun who plucks her from a vegetable garden, and her beloved Maman, who scarifies all that she can for her daughter.

‘In the distance, in the warm light, she saw me, and I became her daughter. She gave me a second birth by bringing me up in a big city, an anonymous elsewhere, behind a schoolyard, surrounded by children who envied me for having a mother who taught school and sold iced bananas.’ Continue reading