Unlike the Heart by Nicola Redhouse

When I was studying counselling, I had frequent debates with one of my lecturers about the intersect of the mind and our biological instincts – I am a scientist at heart; I have always listened to my instinct or ‘gut feeling’; and believe that although our mind can be powerful, sometimes biology drives what we do. It’s a huge topic, with many facets (for example the links between gut health and mental health, and the study of epigenetics in terms of inherited trauma), and one that goes well beyond the scope of a blog post, but it’s why I was drawn to Nicola Redhouse’s Unlike the Heart (a book billed as a ‘memoir of brain and mind’).

Redhouse wrote the book in response to her experience of postnatal anxiety. Prior to pregnancy, she had been devoted to psychoanalysis –

What use would it be to spend more years patching up where the cracks were by using the putty of another person’s positive affirmation and kindness? Psychoanalysis with Dr Parkes served the purpose of an engineering surveyor: it felt out the cause of the cracks to begin with. Continue reading

Gotta Get Theroux This by Louis Theroux

My enjoyment of Louis Theroux’s memoir, Gotta Get Theroux This has nothing to do with the sentiment expressed on these pencils… I promise.

Okay. I admit that I have always been a huge fan of Louis Theroux. It’s something about his slightly bewildered approach to everything; his self-deprecating humour; his genuine curiosity; his listening super-powers (and I say that because, as someone in the listening business, Louis’s capacity for hearing people’s stories and the timing of his questions, is glorious to watch). Continue reading

Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume

Much of what I loved about Sara Baume’s second book (A Line Made By Walking) – namely startling descriptions of nature and being completely immersed in a character’s perspective, no matter how uncomfortable – is evident in her debut, Spill Simmer Falter Wither.

In summary, it’s the story of a loner, Ray, aged fifty-seven, ‘too old for starting over, too young for giving up’, who adopts a mongrel he names One Eye. Ray and One Eye are similar in many ways – both are accustomed to being alone; and both know what it is to be unloved and overlooked.

Sometimes I see the sadness in you, the same sadness that’s in me. It’s in the way you sigh and stare and hang your head. It’s in the way you never wholly let your guard down and take the world I’ve given you for granted. My sadness isn’t a way I feel but a thing trapped inside the walls of my flesh, like a smog. It takes the sheen off everything. It rolls the world in soot. It saps the power from my limbs and presses my back into a stoop. Continue reading

Night Fishing by Vicki Hastrich

I’m not particularly into fishing and nor have I ever visited the byways of Brisbane Water on the Central Coast of New South Wales (although from a hydrological point-of-view, it sounds like my kind of place), and yet, I identified with much of Vicki Hastrich’s memoir, Night Fishing

Essays covering a range of topics from stingrays and aquariums to the acquisition of a bathyscope and her grandfather’s welding business, are loosely linked to fishing and Hastrich’s trips to the family holiday house on an inlet near Woy Woy. Each essay is overlaid with Hastrich’s elegant observations about family, nature, and writing and the result is cohesive and deeply pleasing.

At night, tucked in bed and daubed with calamine lotion, we listened to the parents having a few beers in the kitchen and playing cards; the cheerful noise of friends. Continue reading

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo has been billed as a book about desire, which might suggest something positive or empowering – “I desire x and therefore I shall have it.” It is in fact, quite the opposite.

Taddeo delves into the far-reaching reverberations of particular events in the lives of three women. It is overly simplistic and in fact false, to say that the women’s stories begin with desire of a sexual nature. More accurately, each of the women have complex emotional needs (as a result of rape, sexual assault, a history of self-harming behaviour, cultural expectations, and challenging family circumstances) that are, to a certain extent, expressed in their sexual relationships. I emphasise their emotional needs because as their stories unfold it is painfully clear that what they are seeking (what they ‘desire’) will never be found in the relationships with the (abusive) men they are drawn to.

We pretend to want things we don’t want so nobody can see us not getting what we need. Continue reading

The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan was everything I expected and didn’t expect.

What I expected was Spargo-Ryan’s musical sentences – follow her on Twitter and you’ll understand what I mean. She combines the pithy and the insightful in such a way that everything she writes is humorous and heartbreaking and true. Continue reading

The Aftermath by Rhidian Brook

Why, why, why have I left my review of Rhidian Brook’s historical novel, The Aftermath, so long? I had so much to say about it when I finished it in July (although, perhaps too much and that’s why my thoughts were a jumble). Anyway, it’s worth a brief review because it’s a book that I think will be among my favourites for the year. Continue reading