The Ice Storm by Rick Moody – a literary mixtape

I loved The Ice Storm by Rick Moody. It’s a brutal, sad story.

There’s not much to like about the characters but there’s lots to like in Moody’s words. This book was extremely visual for me – perhaps because I saw And Lee’s insanely good movie version of the story years ago, or perhaps it’s because Moody has created a distinct sense of place and time. Either way, writing a review wasn’t working so I’ve gone with an audio approach.

I Write the Songs / Barry Manilow

Once his dreams had been songs. He’d been a balladeer of promise and opportunity. Continue reading

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The Near Miss by Fran Cusworth

Fran Cusworth’s domestic-drama, The Near Miss, tells the story of three strangers, brought together by an ‘almost’ accident (hence the title).

Grace is an exhausted mother, who is plagued by a ‘…smorgasbord of worries’, from money, work, and her temperamental daughter to her husband who spends more time inventing things than focused on his job.

Continue reading

Non-fiction November – Book Pairings

I’m not a huge reader of non-fiction but my book shelves reveal my weaknesses – books about genetics, pop-science, the Art Deco era, and memoirs (am I allowed to count them as non-fiction?) make up the bulk of my non-fiction reading.

On the strength of that (and a little belatedly), I have decided to take part in Nonfiction November (spotted at JulzReads and Sarah’s Book Shelves).

This week’s non-fiction topic is ‘book pairings’ – pair a non-fiction title with a fiction title. Continue reading

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

So, this is weird – I finished The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters last week and today, as I sat down to write a review, I realised that I have no recollection of how the story ended. This means one of two things – either I have some serious memory issues or the ending wasn’t a particularly good one. I’m going with the later.

It’s 1922, and in South London, in a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants, life is transformed for widowed Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances when they are forced to take in lodgers – to ‘make ends meet’.

Frances and her mother sat with books at the French windows, ready to eke out the last of the daylight – having got used, in the past few years, to making little economies like that. Continue reading

Sisters by Lily Tuck

Lily Tuck’s latest novella, Sisters, opens with a quote from Christopher Nicholson’s Winter“First and second wives are like sisters.” The quote sets the scene for the unnamed narrator’s story, who describes life with her new husband, his two teenagers, and the unbanishable presence of his first wife, ominously known only as ‘she’.

A partnership that stems from a betrayal is on uneven ground from the outset – history is on the side of the ex; there will always be nagging doubts about trust; and comparisons will be made. Continue reading

Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down

There’s grief-lit aplenty at the moment. Honestly, you can’t scan a bookshelf without YA novels about parents or best friends dying; memoirs about cancer battles; suicide stories; and generally just loss, loss and more loss. But if you only read one bit of grief-lit this year, make it Our Magic Hour by Jennifer Down.

Audrey, Katy and Adam have been friends since high school—a shared history of inside jokes, sneaky cigarettes, ‘D&Ms’ and looking out for each other –

Katy’s family ate dinner together every single night. Her parents umpired at weekend netball matches, took orange quarters for the girls in their pleated skirts. Audrey’s parents destroyed each other.

Now in their twenties, they juggle the pressures of adulthood – relationships, work, their families. When Katy takes her own life (within the first few pages), Audrey and Adam are left to deal with their grief. The story explores the ripple-effect of Katy’s death rather than the reasons why she took her own life. Continue reading

Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks

Here’s the thing about Geraldine Brooks (because I’m totally qualified to comment on Geraldine Brooks, obvs) and Caleb’s Crossing (which, according to many aggrieved Goodreads members, should be called Bethia’s Crossing) –

01. Stating the obvious but she knows how to write historical fiction. I reckon Brooks tests every single word for authenticity – it’s meticulous.

02. Even the emotions her characters are feeling are ‘historically appropriate’ (tricky, right?) and yet, she manages to create these wonderfully strong females who both make a mark on their time and offer something for the present.

Is it ever thus, at the end of things? Does any woman ever count the grains of her harvest and say: Good enough? Or does one always think of what more one might have laid in, had the labor been harder, the ambition more vast, the choices more sage? 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