The American Lover by Rose Tremain

I have two summer holiday traditions when it comes to reading – tackling one really big book (because if I get engrossed I can block out the day for reading), and a short story collection or two (because I can read and doze and not lose track of where I’m at). Which is why I selected The American Lover by Rose Tremain.

I think of Tremain as a short-story-master and this collection didn’t disappoint. The theme of loneliness, or rather loners, runs through the collection. There’s regrets, ‘could-have-beens’, unfulfilled wishes and compromises – all written about in Tremain’s precise style.

Four stories stood out – 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

We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates

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

How many books do you read at once? (Not literally at once…)

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

Book vs. Film: A Long Way Home / Lion

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

Conrad & Eleanor by Jane Rogers

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