Sample Saturday – three swimming stories

Sample Saturday is when I wade through the eleventy billion samples I have downloaded on my Kindle. I’m slowly chipping away and deciding whether it’s buy or bye.

This week, I discovered two titles after reading this article about cold water swimming and depression, and the book by Lee was chosen because I’ve followed her on Twitter for years. Continue reading

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Smile by Roddy Doyle

Reviews of Roddy Doyle’s latest novel, Smile, are taking one of two approaches – focused on style and a brief reference to the plot OR spoilers and trigger warnings.

Although it’s not my usual approach, I’m going with spoilers and trigger warnings (look away if you want).

Smile is the story of Victor Forde – he’s middle-aged, alone for the first time in years, and has just moved into a new apartment. Every evening, he heads to his local pub, Donnelly’s, for a pint. At Donnelly’s he meets Eddie Fitzpatrick, a man who claims to have been at school with him, although Victor can’t recall him. Victor dislikes Fitzpatrick, particularly because he stirs up memories of being taught by the Christian Brothers.

The story switches between the present and Victor’s memories of school; his marriage to Rachel (who became a celebrity); and of his own brief media career on the radio.

So, to the spoilery/triggery bit: Continue reading

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan

In his latest novel, From a Low and Quiet Sea, Donal Ryan has taken three very different characters – Farouk, whose country has been torn apart by war; Lampy, a broken-hearted boy from Ireland; and elderly John, whose past sins are haunting him – and created something special.

The novel is structured simply – a short, stand-alone story for each character and a fourth concluding story that brings the three characters together. The danger of drawing a number of disparate stories together is that the overall result can seem contrived. Somehow, Ryan has avoided this – nothing in From a Low and Quiet Sea feels forced or out-of-place. The connections between each story, once revealed, are surprising but also make perfect sense. And the best bit? I didn’t see any of it coming. Quite a feat. Continue reading

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

For a book to get five-stars, I want to laugh and cry. I want to whoop with joy when a character triumphs but equally, I want to have my heart broken (just a little). Basically, I want a million feelings and Cyril Avery, the star of John Boyne’s big, ramshackle novel, The Heart’s Invisible Furies, delivers it all.

There’s great emphasis from the outset that Cyril Avery is not a real Avery – he’s adopted by the peculiar but not inherently unkind, Charles and Maude Avery.

I was not a real Avery and would not be looked after financially in adulthood in the manner that a real Avery would have been. ‘Think of this more as a tenancy, Cyril,’ he told me – they had named me Cyril for a spaniel they’d once owned and loved – ‘an eighteen-year tenancy. But during that time there’s no reason why we shouldn’t all get along, is there?’ Continue reading

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

It doesn’t seem quite right doing a literary mixtape for a book that I loved so much. Because I should be telling you why I loved it, and urging you to read it. Read this review and also this one – they sum up why it’s ace. Now off you go and read it.

5/5 Magnificent. Continue reading

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney

When you’re twenty-one years old, you think you’ve got relationships down – you’re not as susceptible to shallow or fleeting infatuations (or rather, you accept infatuations for what they are – shallow and fleeting); you’ve probably had you’re heart-broken; you ‘know what you want’ and ‘commitment’ seems a reasonable proposition. But actually, there’s still a lot to learn on the relationship front. A lot. Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney demonstrates exactly that.

Frances is 21 – a university student, aspiring writer, idealistic, and aloof. Her best-friend Bobbi, is charismatic, opinionated and beautiful. Once lovers, the two women now perform poetry together. They’re discovered by Melissa, an established writer in her mid-30s, and are quickly drawn into Melissa’s world, impressed by her sophistication, her beautiful home and her handsome actor husband, Nick. Continue reading

A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume

I’ve never suffered from depression but some people around me have. Although I’ve tried my best to understand how they’re feeling, I’ve never known the depth and darkness of that place. For 320 pages, Sara Baume’s novel,  A Line Made by Walking, showed me that place.

Struggling to cope with life, 25-year-old artist, Frankie, retreats to her family’s rural house, vacant since her beloved grandmother’s death three years earlier. Surrounded by open space, Frankie slowly falls apart –

…I tried to explain that I had no explanation, that I just spent rather a lot of time trying not to cry; that trying-not-to-cry had become my normal state. Continue reading