I’m trying not to let my MWF-JCO experience influence my thoughts on Oates’s much-admired family saga, We Were the Mulvaneys.
The story of the Mulvaney family spans twenty-five years and is told from the perspective of the youngest son, Judd. In the beginning, the family is blessed – a successful business, a sprawling farm property (with ponies), and popular children (a cheerleader, a football star and a science-whiz-kid). A single incident becomes a turning point in the fortunes of the Mulvaneys and bit by bit, everything (and everyone) falls apart.
There were exquisite nuggets of truth in JCO’s words that stopped me in my tracks, words that got to the heart of a matter so succinctly that I couldn’t help but admire her deftness – ‘Nothing between humans is uncomplicated’ and ‘But you can’t disappoint me because I don’t love you’ and ‘There are different kinds of homesickness to fit different kinds of families.‘ Continue reading
I’m currently reading five books.
- The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge (CD)
- We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (audio)
- The Mothers by Brit Bennett (hardcopy)
- The Diver’s Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida (Kindle)
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy (hardcopy)
Is that odd? (I’m hoping I’m among friends here…) Continue reading
My problem with audiobooks is that I can’t (actually, don’t) take note of passages that I like, so reviews seem rather flimsy. Anyhoo, some thoughts on three books I’ve listened to recently. Continue reading
I’m skipping a review of A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley and instead suggesting that if you don’t already know this incredible story, see the film asap (note that the main difference between the book and film is that the book includes detail about Saroo’s time in India once he was reunited with his biological family, whereas the film ends with the reunion).
Film – Continue reading
Sometimes you get more ‘enjoyment’ thinking about a book after you’ve finished it, rather than while you’re actually reading it. I use the word ‘enjoyment’ loosely because the post-book thinking I’ve done about Conrad & Eleanor by Jane Rogers has been about how irritating the characters were rather than what was intended (reflections on a dying marriage).
The story is moral-thriller. Conrad and Eleanor have been married for decades. Both are scientists yet Conrad is more interested in their four children than his work, while ambitious Eleanor is focused on her career. When Conrad fails to return from a conference in Munich, Eleanor begins to speculate as to why – her affairs? His jealousy over her career success? His discovery of their daughter Cara’s parentage? Meanwhile, Conrad finds himself in Italy, on the run from a crazed animal rights activist. He has lots of time to think. It’s a hot mess. Continue reading
A quick review of two very different books – perhaps unfair to lump these together but my blogging has not kept up with my reading during the last month, so I’m catching up. Continue reading
Fairly sure I said something about not reading much about the Holocaust in the last decade or so because I overdid it in the eighties and nineties… Anyway, seems that went out the window when I read The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman and The Toy Maker by Liam Pieper, one after the other.
The books are similar in many ways – both tell the story of an Australian man living in the present alongside the story of a Holocaust survivor; both are set in the ‘Canada’ barracks at Auschwitz–Birkenau and examine the role of the Sonderkommando; both have themes of good versus evil, penance, and the measure of crime; both show that there are lessons in history.
“History can provide comfort in difficult or even turbulent and traumatic times. It shows us what our species has been through before and that we survived. It can help to know we’ve made it through more than one dark age. And history is vitally important because perhaps as much as, if not more than biology, the past owns us and however much we think we can, we cannot escape it. If you only knew how close you are to people who seem so far from you… it would astonish you.” (Perlman)
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
Depending on your attitude, it’s either wildly inappropriate or absolutely hilarious that I was listening to Nancy Mitford’s Wigs on the Green concurrently with the podcast, My Dad Wrote a Porno. If you’ve experienced both, you’ll appreciate that the frequent mentions of hedge mazes, manicured lawns, horses and duchesses are quite similar in one sense… and also very much not. Anyway, the important thing is that both made me laugh. A lot.
There’s a juicy back-story to Wigs on the Green, notably that the novel was truly about Nancy’s two Fascist sisters, Unity and Diana, and that the relationship between Nancy and her sisters imploded after its publication (I really should read The Mitford Girls, which has been languishing on my TBR stack for over a decade). Nancy never allowed the novel to be printed after WWII, on the basis that jokes about Nazis were not funny in any context. And obviously they’re not, yet the elements of the story related to class and marriage are sharp and very, very funny.
‘Marriage is a great bore. Chaps’ waistcoats lying around in one’s bedroom and so on. It gets one down in time.’ Continue reading
If you’re looking for a memoir about exploring, ice and braving the extremities of Antarctica, then Alexa Thomson’s Antarctica on a Plate is not for you. Yes, there’s ice but the focus is on the challenge of cooking large quantities of food on a small stove, and the fact that in Antarctica you never run out of freezer space. Continue reading