Four Quick Reviews

It’s getting to that stage where every spare moment is spent on ‘end-of-year’ stuff, leaving precious little time for writing reviews. I’m taking a short-cut.  Continue reading

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Heart Berries: A Memoir by Terese Marie Mailhot

I have a weak point when reading – the loss of a child. Stories about losing a child – through death, family separation, to addiction, to crime – hurt my heart more than any other. I’ve mentioned a passage in Yanagihara’s A Little Life that haunts me because it gets to the very core of the issue.

When the loss of a child was revealed at the beginning of Terese Marie Mailhot’s memoir, Heart Berries, I prepared myself for a tough read.

You asked me for my secret. I told you about the son who didn’t live with me. I told you I lock myself in the bathroom to cry when I remember his milk breath… You said you’d be on the other side of the door. That’s how perfect love is at first. Solutions are simple, and problems are laid out simply. Continue reading

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

My thought as I was halfway through reading Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Less, was why the Melbourne Writers Festival team (i.e. Marieke and her off-sider, Gene) were so invested in the book (they were mad for it).

And then I discovered that there was so much more to Less.

It’s the story of Arthur Less, a mediocre novelist who is about to turn fifty (‘Arthur Less is the first homosexual ever to grow old’). When Less receives an invitation to ex-boyfriend Freddy’s wedding, he plans a round-the-world trip to avoid the nuptials. A string of speaking and teaching engagements takes him from New York and Mexico City, to Rome, Berlin, Paris, Morocco, India and Japan.

While snow glistens on Charlottenburg Palace, Freddy is standing beside Dennis in the California sun, for surely it is one of those white-linen-suit weddings, with a bower of white roses and pelicans flying by and somebody’s understanding college ex-girlfriend playing Joni Mitchell on guitar. Continue reading

Carol by Patricia Highsmith

Believe it or not, Carol is my first Patricia Highsmith. In the past, I’ve dismissed her work as ‘not my thing’ (on account of me being coverist* – you know those crime novels with darkly coloured covers and the author’s name in blocky gold-foil font, often found lying about at beach houses? That.) Anyway, I changed my mind a few years ago when I saw the fantastic play, Switzerland – Highsmith is the subject and the play included bizarre biographical details (things like carrying snails around in handbags). I was intrigued. Continue reading

But My Brain Had Other Ideas by Deb Brandon

Call me a stickybeak (I call it curious / deeply interested) but I love memoirs. I want to understand the emotional context of situations that would otherwise be completely foreign to me.

Medical memoirs occupy a bit of a tricky spot in the memoir market because they usually appeal predominantly to people who are experiencing a similar thing – it makes sense to read about other people’s experience to make sense of your own. While you’ll usually find me in the ‘misery memoirs’ section, I do occasionally stray and Deb Brandon’s But My Brain Had Other Ideas is such an example. Continue reading

Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

Seems people have strong feelings about celebrity memoirs (usually along the lines of ‘Haven’t you had enough of the spotlight already?!’). I don’t seek them out but nor do I avoid them. I picked up Mara Wilson’s Where Am I Now? because she was appearing at the 2018 Melbourne Writers Festival.

Wilson’s name might not be instantly recognisable but her six-year-old face is. She was the ‘cute’ little star of Mrs Doubtfire and Matilda, as well as many other films and television shows (including Melrose Place!). As the title of the book suggests, Wilson tackles what happens after the ‘cute’ is over (seemed no one wanted Matilda with boobs…). Continue reading

Beloved by Toni Morrison

As a reader, I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain with Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

My reading waxed and waned – distracted and unfocused. I feel bad because there is no question that Beloved is an important book, and one that needs careful and close reading. Continue reading

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

 

Should I have included e) None of the above? Possibly… Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach was dull. Continue reading

My Movie Business by John Irving

John Irving’s memoir, My Movie Business, is a book that will appeal to the narrowest of audiences: hard-core John Irving fans and/or people interested in screenwriting. Fall outside of those groups and you’ll probably find this book self-indulgent.

My Movie Business is Irving’s account of the long, frustrating process of turning a book into a screenplay, and a screenplay into a movie – in this case, the book/movie was The Cider House Rules. Over the course of its thirteen year development, the movie had two producers, four directors and countless rewrites (which were all done by Irving at the behest of the producers and directors). When the movie was finally complete, it was perfection – that’s my opinion but critics agreed and it won two Academy Awards in 2000 – Irving for Best Adapted Screenplay and Michael Caine for Best Supporting Actor. It was also nominated for Best Picture (but lost to American Beauty). Continue reading

Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover is a memoir about domestic violence (the story about a Mormon girl getting an education is secondary).

I’m unapologetic about that spoiler and feel cranky that publicists and reviewers have failed to mention, or have simply skimmed over, the horrific physical, psychological and financial abuse that dominates Westover’s memoir.

According to the blurb, the book focuses on Westover’s childhood and early adulthood, and her experiences growing up with survivalist Mormon parents in the mountains of Idaho.

I am only seven, but I understand that it is this fact, more than any other, that makes my family different: we don’t go to school. Continue reading