Normal People by Sally Rooney – a literary mixtape

I became so involved with Marianne and Connell that I never wanted to leave them. If you haven’t yet read Normal People by Sally Rooney, hop to it.

4.5/5 Half a mark off because I didn’t cry.


Mad World | Tears for Fears

Marianne had the sense that her real life was happening somewhere very far away, happening without her, and she didn’t know if she would ever find out where it was and become part of it. Continue reading

Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

Almost Love, the latest from Louise O’Neill, examines an all-too-familiar trope – the attraction of the ‘bad boy’.

Twenty-four-year-old Sarah falls for Matthew, a successful property developer in his forties. Matthew has an ex-wife and a teenage son. His ‘relationship’ with Sarah is limited to hurried meetings in a nondescript Dublin hotel room. Despite their sexual relationship, there is no intimacy. Matthew insists on keeping their meetings a secret; responds sporadically to Sarah’s text messages; and shuts down Sarah’s attempts to make plans.

And Sarah does what most women have either done or witnessed in a female friend – she waits by the phone. She goes as soon as she is beckoned. She accepts being treated like trash. She begs and then apologises… It’s the familiarity of this destructive behaviour that makes Almost Love compelling reading.

Did all women take half-truths and implied promises and side glances and smiles and weave them together to create a narrative, the way she had done? Continue reading

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

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