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

Advertisements

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

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

Berlin Syndrome by Melanie Joosten

Melanie Joosten’s fresh-to-the-big-screen thriller, Berlin Syndrome, is a story about Stockholm Syndrome. Set in Berlin, obvs.

Australian photographer (with an interest in former Eastern Bloc architecture), Clare, meets native Berliner and English teacher, Andi.

He was not really following her, he told himself, he was just curious to see where she was going. An anthropological study of a foreigner in Berlin.

There is an instant attraction and suddenly a holiday fling turns into something more sinister than Clare could have anticipated. Within days, Clare realises that she is trapped in Andi’s apartment and although she initially tries to escape, her attitude changes and she becomes a compliant prisoner. Continue reading

Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett

I’m very keen on books that incorporate music into the story and I’m not fussy about the format it takes. Things I love: literary mix tapes; words put to song; songs put to words; and authors who include playlists in end-notes. So, of course I was going to read Laura Barnett’s latest, Greatest Hits.

Greatest Hits is a fictional memoir. Singer-songwriter Cass Wheeler reflects on her life by choosing sixteen tracks that define her. Each chapter begins with the lyrics to one of her songs, followed by Cass’s account of important events in her life. Cass’s childhood, in particular her relationship with her mother, sets the foundation for an interesting story, and it moves on to her troubled teen years, her discovery of music, her rise to fame, and her tumultuous relationship with fellow musician, Ivor. Continue reading