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

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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

Mary & O’Neil by Justin Cronin

I was recently asked what sort of books I liked. I replied “Contemporary relationship stories.” I think that made sense to the person who had asked the question!

I like stories that explore relationships, particularly families. I like stories that examine regular feelings – grief, love, loneliness, joy and so forth – in a new way, that puts fresh words around the familiar. Some authors are able to articulate particular emotions with astounding clarity (most recently, Jessie Cole’s memoir Staying took my breath away, and earlier this year Paula Keogh’s The Green Bell did the same) – these are the book I enjoy most.

That’s a long introduction to Justin Cronin’s short debut novel, Mary & O’Neil. The story traces the lives of two characters, Mary Olson and O’Neil Burke. When they meet, both have suffered profound losses (all is revealed in the blurb but if you intend to read this book based on my flimsy review, just dive straight in). Continue reading

The Clasp by Sloane Crosley

Last week I visited Canberra, and popped into the Cartier exhibition at the National Gallery. It was spectacular. In fact, it was so sparkly it was obscene (it’s hard to believe that emeralds and rubies as big as golf balls are the real thing).

So it was fitting that my holiday reading was Sloane Crosley’s first novel, The Clasp. Continue reading

The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac by Kris D’Agostino

Nothing is a better barometer of failure than the success of other people.

Calvin Moretti is the reluctant star of Kris D’Agostino’s The Sleepy Hollow Family Almanac, a story about a guy whose life is going nowhere much. Forced to return to the family home in order to pay back student loans, Cal finds himself in a job he hates but with little motivation to change his circumstances.

Back in my parents’ house, it wasn’t long before I started acting like my high school self. I did nothing, just sat around the house moaning. Continue reading