When I was immersed in the Stella Prize 2017 longlist, every book I picked up was about grief. It was all rather glum and I needed something fluffy to provide balance. Hence Galt Nierderhoffer’s novel, The Romantics. Continue reading
I confess that it was love at first sight when I saw the cover of Emily Ruskovich’s debut, Idaho. There was something about the rich floral artwork that caught my eye. Thankfully the blurb held up, as did the opening page, and fairly soon I was engrossed.
Idaho could be classed loosely as a literary thriller. It tells the story of Ann and Wade who live in a remote mountainside forest in northern Idaho. Ann tries to piece together the truth of what happened to Wade’s first wife, Jenny, and their two young daughters, May and June –
“Because Wade had thrown everything away – drawings, clothes, toys – each accidental remnant loomed in Ann’s mind with unspeakable importance. Four moldy dolls buried in the sawdust of a rotten stump. A high-heeled Barbie shoe that fell from the drainpipe… Artifacts heavy with importance they didn’t deserve, but which they took on because of their frightening scarcity.” Continue reading
Visiting the Pacific north coast of America is on my bucket-list. Not exactly sure why… it might have started when I had to do an in-depth investigation on the Douglas fir at uni (I did a couple of forestry subjects as part of my hydrology studies). Anyway, it’s this bucket-list item that prompted me to read Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.
Actually, to be perfectly frank, I’d avoided Wild because I thought it was going to be all look-at-me-Eat-Pray-Love-Oprah-is-raving-about-it but when it popped up on an audio list I figured I could just listen to the Oregon bits and abandon the rest if Strayed was giving me the pip.
I was wrong. Continue reading
When I was young, we had family friends that were in a unique situation – two families, each with two girls. The couples then swapped partners (not in a tawdry way, it was just how it worked out…), and then both had two more girls each. My family was friends with both families (pre and post swap) – one family lived down the road, I went to school with the kids from the other. It was this bizarre, fascinating mix of sisters, half-sisters, step-children and parents.
Those that have read Ann Patchett’s brilliant new novel, Commonwealth, will understand why I started with that anecdote. For those that haven’t read it, know that the first line is one of the most appealing I’ve come across in a long time –
“The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin.”
Hurrah! A story where gin is the protagonist in the first chapter. Continue reading
The Futures by Anna Pitoniak starts as a campus novel and then moves to New York. It had my name written all over it…
Julia’s dating guy #1. She cheats on him with guy #2. Meanwhile, she meets guy #3, and they start a relationship. Julia and #3 move to New York, where #3 starts working long hours and becomes involved in some dubious hedge fund deals. Julia, annoyed, hooks up with #2 again (but doesn’t break it off with #3). Julia heads home for Thanksgiving, disgruntled with both #2 and #3. Guess who she meets in her hometown? #1! Continue reading
The story of two best friends growing up in the eighties… Well, obviously I was going to read Dana Spiotta’s Innocents and Others.
Meadow and Carrie meet in high school and although their opinions differ on many things, they bond over movies and become best friends. Both pursue a career in movie-making (it’s LA in the 80s so everyone’s in the business, right?) although take different paths. Meadow makes gritty documentaries while Carrie finds success through lighter films with broader appeal. Continue reading
Yates, Shriver, Tropper, Dee and Franzen – these are my go-to authors for books about family relationships. And I really love books about family relationships. And I really love adding a new author to the contemporary-lit-books-about-family-relationships stable. So does Andrew Porter make the cut? Not quite. Continue reading
I was thrilled to spot Kayla Rae Whitaker’s debut, The Animators. By all indications, it was exactly my kind of book – a contemporary story about two women, Sharon and Mel, who meet in a university art class. Both outsiders, the women become friends, bonding over their mutual love of underground cartoons. Ten years later, they are still working together, as animators. Their first feature film, based on Mel’s dysfunctional childhood, is a hit but in the middle of celebrating their success, tragedy strikes, testing their working relationship and friendship.
“I scowl at Mel, irritated. Maybe I should just be honest and tell everyone that me cleaning up from the night before has become our truest form of collaboration.” Continue reading
I won’t pretend otherwise, I was lured by the cover of Caroline Leavitt’s Cruel Beautiful World. It was something about the muted retro colours, the curl of smoke, the lazy dreaminess it conveyed. But I postponed reading it, purely because of all the hype surrounding Emma Cline’s The Girls – based on the blurbs alone, there seemed to be many similarities between the books – set in the late 60s/early 70s; mentions of the Manson murders; teenage girls losing their way; peace, love and communes; hitch-hiking and breaking rules… In fact, the books are very different. Continue reading