The Prettiest Horse in the Glue Factory by Corey White

The current thinking in social work circles is that there are better long-term outcomes for children left with their family in an unstable home, than those removed and placed in foster care. This was in the back of my mind as I read comedian Corey White’s recently published memoir, The Prettiest Horse in the Glue Factory.

The details White shares of his childhood made me sick with fear from the first page. His father adored him but belted his wife and daughters. His mother, a drug addict, would disappear for days at a time. White was sexually abused by a ‘friend’ of the family, and as a young child he was violent toward his mother and sisters.

I drink in my father’s anger, see how it makes him glow and other people cower, and I repeat it. I punch my mother in the stomach and call her a stupid slut. Continue reading

Putney by Sofka Zinovieff

A few years ago I read a book that was well-written, demanded conversation, and was extraordinarily memorable. And I didn’t recommend it to a single person. Because it was harrowing and devastating and exhausting – you have to be ready for that. Putney by Sofka Zinovieff falls into the same category. Continue reading

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I totally understand why Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng was a favourite of reviewers in 2017.

It would be a terrific choice for holiday reading – it’s pacey and easy to read.

I imagine when Ng was writing she had a complex plotting diagram on a whiteboard, or lots of sticky notes on her wall – clearly every word has been thought through. Continue reading

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Have you ever looked at a copy of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (commonly referred to as the ‘DSM‘)? It’s a reference book published by the American Psychiatric Association, and it is used by clinicians for diagnosing mental illness. Each ‘disorder’ is described using a number of diagnostic criteria, risk factors, cultural and gender considerations, differential diagnoses and so on. It makes for very compelling reading, as Jon Ronson discovered in his exploration of psychopathy, The Psychopath Test.

I was much crazier than I’d imagined. Maybe it was a bad idea to read DSM4 when you’re not a trained professional…

Yes, even on a good day, I could browse through the DSM and slot myself into a whole bunch of disorders (today for instance, sluggish cognitive tempo disorder, otherwise known as lack of motivation). Continue reading

The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

Four elements in The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce stood out (and will leave me feeling fondly toward the story) –

01. It’s a book version of The Castle – local shop owners on Unity Street (somewhere in London) battle a property developer, who wants to demolish the existing buildings and replace them with apartments. Furthermore, Frank, who owns the music shop, only stocks vinyl. As CDs begin to take over the music market, Frank holds out.

“CDs aren’t music. They’re toys.” Continue reading

Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan

Ian McEwan sure does have the corner on the middle-class-white-men-having-existential-crises market, doesn’t he?

In Machines Like Me, McEwan conjures a world not quite like the one we know. It’s the eighties in Britain – the Falklands War has been lost, Margaret Thatcher battles Tony Benn for power and Alan Turing achieves a breakthrough in artificial intelligence. Continue reading

The Fragments by Toni Jordan

I’m prefacing this review by saying that I like Toni Jordan’s writing (and in particular, Addition was a terrific book).

The Fragments is a literary mystery (in every sense of the word). The story alternates between 1930s New York and Brisbane in the 1980s. In New York, celebrated author Inga Karlson dies in a fire and her highly anticipated second book is also burnt, leaving just a few scorched fragments of the manuscript. Continue reading

Did You Ever Have A Family by Bill Clegg

Many years ago, a friend-of-a-friend lost her whole family in a terrible accident. To have a family one minute and lose them the next was incomprehensible. As my friend mentioned how this woman was doing in the months and years after the accident, I marvelled at how people endure the seemingly unendurable.

How do you recover from that? How would you even begin?

And this is the question at the heart of Bill Clegg’s novel, Did You Ever Have A Family. Continue reading