Welcome to my new series of cool things I have recently found/seen/read on the internet. I don’t suppose we need anymore introduction than that, do we? Continue reading
The best thing about the new year is signing up to a new Goodreads Reading Challenge. So far, over the last few, I have failed to complete a single year – or if I’ve got anywhere near I wouldn’t know as I’ve failed to log the books I’ve read.
There’s not much to the rules of the challenge to be honest. You input how many books you want to read that year and then, as you complete each one, you check them off on the GR app. It’s quite addictive, at least in the first couple of months as you rack ’em up and see you percentage achieved rise (I’m currently on 12% with six out of 50 books done).
Anyway, I love to read and I love to buy books even though I shouldn’t and I’ve got some real peaches in the immediate pile (anyone else got piles in order of importance?). Here are some of the ones I’m most excited for:
Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
I mean, what a title. It’s also meant to be an absolute belter so bring it on!
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
I’m obsessed with this cover and even more intrigued by the subject matter. I think this is definitely next in line for me.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
A shocking, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature.
Men without Women: Stories by Haruki Murakami
I’ve always been a big fan of Murakami but somewhere along the line I read too much of his work and needed to take a long break. I’m back in the game now after I read his little short Birthday Girl. There’s just something about his prose.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
A classic I’ve not yet read though I’ve devoured the film many times and adore it (boo Polanski). Cannot wait to dip into this deeply unsettling world again.
Help by Simon Amstell
I love Simon Amstell and find him very clever and funny. Darren and I have seen him a couple of times doing stand-up and that’s was enough to make me snatch this up as soon as I saw it.
From a complicated childhood in Essex to an Ayahuasca-led epiphany in the Amazon rainforest, this story will make you laugh, cry and then feel happier than you’ve ever been.
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
I’m currently reading this bad boy and it’s started well with a definite The Woman in Black flavour (which is mentioned on the cover with a bi-line by Susan Hill). As far as I’m concerned you can’t lose with Gothic literature but I just hope this is good as I suspect it’s going to be.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger by Lee Israel
I got the movie tie-in novel after seeing the very, very good movie adaptation on Monday night (review to follow). I loved Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel and frankly, I wanted more as soon as the credits rolled. So this is going to be a lot of fun. What an ingenious idea for a scam though.
Lee Israel’s hilarious and shocking memoir of the astonishing caper she carried on for almost two years when she forged and sold more than three hundred letters by such literary notables as Dorothy Parker, Edna Ferber, Noel Coward, and many others.
Adèle by Leïla Slimani
Slimani’s Lullaby (know as The Perfect Nanny in some countries) was dynamite. In turn beautiful, odd and shocking, it tells the story of how the perfect nanny came to murder the young children in her care. Adèle centers around a seemingly perfect wife, mother and career woman (of the same name) who leads a very secret double life.
I might have to cancel the rest of the month so I can get fully immersed. I will be reviewing as I go too so watch this space.
What are you reading?
“Everybody does have a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay.” ~ Christopher Hitchens
There’s an old adage that suggests that every person has at least one book ‘in them’. I don’t know if this is true but I often think about whether or not I might be someone who does. My gut tells me no, absolutely not, that the fiction I love to read is way beyond me. I like dark and intricate plots – and I know I’d never have the attention to detail required to produce anything in this league. I struggle with timelines at the best of times (everything was the other day to me, even 1996) but I can’t imagine skilfully being able to foreshadow or call back to the exact moment a character turned from ordinary person to arch nemesis of the world.
For as long as I can remember my mother has been on at me to just “Write the book”. I believe I can write competently, it isn’t that I doubt that – I just don’t know if I have that something extra that she thinks I have. Writers are the most extraordinary people in the world to me. Take Stephen King, the man who wakes up every morning and writes a set number of words (1000) no matter what. Come rain or shine he throws his words on the page and something usually sticks. The man has produced some of the most memorable horror characters of all time. He’s built worlds that might look just like ours but are actually more horrible/magical/strange that we could ever imagine. Whether you’re a fan or not, this commitment is incredible – and it seems healthy and cathartic to me too. Perhaps I should try it, just open a Word doc every day and GO.
But if fiction is out of the question, then what? I haven’t enough true story in me for a memoir (I know that’s never stopped a lot of people) plus I’m way too young (LOL). Self help seems like a bit of cheek – who am I to believe I have wisdom to share with the world? This morning I had a Cadbury’s Crème egg for breakfast because “I’m ill”. I know about love, heartache and grief but so do most people. What on earth is my USP?
This is one of the million dollar questions that keeps me awake at night – what was I put on this earth to do, really? Perhaps that’s my pitch: ordinary 40 year old woman goes out into society to figure out her true purpose? Hey it could work. Failing that I’ll just whip up a book of my favourite filthy jokes, none of which are suitable for this blog post.
Happy Wednesday all!
UPDATE: I wrote this for my work blog and thought I’d share it here too.
Eileen is one of those novels that grips you to the final page but doesn’t quite give you the pay off you’re expecting. Not that you really mind when the character is as rounded as Eileen Dunlop. The writing here is so descriptive that Eileen practically pops off the page and this is the reason I really enjoyed it.
The story goes a little something like this: Eileen is a middle-aged woman when we meet her but as the narrative unfolds, she regales us with a tale from her early twenties. A tale it seems that has paved the way for the rest of her life, up to present day.
The daughter of an ex-cop, Eileen dreams of the day she can leave her dreary life and unfulfilling job behind. When glamorous Rebecca Saint John arrives at the juvenile prison Eileen works at, our protagonist’s world is set ablaze with bizarre and potentially devastating consequences.
Again, what I enjoyed most about this book was the way Ottessa Moshfegh paints a picture. Eileen is not an attractive character per se but she is so vividly molded by the author that she becomes something else altogether. As she just about tolerates her home life and the increasingly unstable behaviour of her largely unloving father, Eileen builds an inner fantasy life around the prison.
Lusting after one of the guards, our girl engineers scenarios in which he falls in love with her and her (love) life finally begins (she also dedicates a great deal of her waking day waiting outside his apartment in her car). She also admits that the youthful inmates she’s around every day have an effect on her too and I like the scenes in the prison the best. I love a prison setting and the psychology of why people do what they do and Eileen gives us snippets of their lives to savour.
When Rebecca appears we explore this element in more depth. I couldn’t really fathom where the ending would take us, apart from knowing that Eileen finally leaves her depressing home town for a bigger life – and this is part of the reason I enjoyed my experience so much.
The ending is probably the only part that made me scratch my head a little bit. It’s not that it’s bad and it’s not that it doesn’t fit, it’s just turned out differently to what I expected and I think that’s a good thing. I won’t spoil it but if you do read, I’d like to know your thoughts.
I definitely miss Eileen Dunlop. She’s not your typical heroine but I’d love more of her. I’d like to know more about how her life developed after the events of this book – and way beyond. As a middle-aged woman, she alludes to some of the relationships she’s had throughout her life and I’d like to hear her talk about them.
Ottessa is a great novelist and I will be exploring more. STAT.
Publisher: Vintage; 01 edition (18 Aug. 2016)
Gifted paperback for Christmas
What are you currently reading?
UPDATE: Realised after posting (no I didn’t, Meghan told me) that I’d been calling it ELAINE throughout. Jesus.
The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer is a book I read a lot when I was a teen. I was thrilled to find a copy in HMV the other day when I also bought Rosemary’s Baby in a delicious 2 for £5 offer. I re-read it over last weekend and found it just as sinister and creepy as ever. I think I had forgotten just how sexually active our Laura was and now I’m older I must say it makes me feel uncomfortable to be privy to the way she’s exploited.
Female sexuality aside and her right to autonomy over her own actions and body, she’s such a vulnerable character let down by so many people around her.
The diary is a companion piece to the series’ and film, and fills in some of the blanks around the mystery of Laura’s murder. Sort of.
I never really picked up on any clues back in the day but they are there. The diary itself doesn’t appear until episode 4 in Season 2 of the show. I read it with sadness and despair, the latter of which is an emotion that escalates in Laura from an incredibly young age.
From 12 to 17 she’s tormented by visits from BOB, a presence that takes great pleasure in humiliating and torturing her. At night he takes her to woods and does unspeakable things to her, leaving her frightened to sleep at night.
As she reaches puberty and discovers sex and drugs, she is able to numb herself against some of the trauma but at a price. Her antics further alienate her from her best friend Donna, her parents, her peers – and as she gets in with some deeply unsavoury characters – namely Leo Johnson and Jacques Renault – and gains employment at One-Eyed Jack’s – she begins to spiral out of control.
Sadly we know what happens to Laura (her fate is revealed in the first episode of Twin Peaks) and it’s heartbreaking to witness the demise of such a young woman with so much to offer the world. She is such a greatly complex character and as mesmerising to read as she is watch onscreen.
This is a book that could be triggering to some. At times it is extremely explicit and does allude heavily to the abuse Laura is routinely subjected to. When I read it as a teen I thought I was so edgy reading about sex but as an adult, I am far more aware of the darkness inside this character and of the injustice of it all. It’s really upsetting.
I’m on a massive Twin Peak revival tip at the moment and I’m currently plowing through the TV show at a rapid pace. I’ll be revisiting it on this very blog in the coming weeks. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with Laura, once of my favourite fictional characters of all time.
The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (8 Dec. 2011)
Bought paperback (new)
What are you currently reading?
If Conversations with Friends were a film (and maybe it will be), I would describe it as ‘talky’. This is not a criticism because I like my entertainment peppered with well written dialogue, be it written word or on the screen. But they don’t half go on the central characters and literally do what it says on the tin.
The story itself is quite straightforward. Best friends and former lovers Bobbi and Frances meet Melissa, a well-known journalist when she interviews them for a magazine. The pair quickly become entangled with their new friend and her literary life, though Frances more so with Melissa’s actor husband, Nick. So begins an interesting and at times stressful foursome that looks set to change things up forever.
Sally Rooney‘s writing is delicious. Honestly, I don’t often read a book and wish deeply that I could write in the same way. There’s something about the introspection of Frances that got deep under my skin and I wouldn’t call her a like-able character by any stretch. I may have related to her at times but she isn’t someone who immediately demands sympathy and she would be the first person to admit she is a cold fish. Melissa doesn’t warm to her initially either, not because she can sense a closeness between Frances and Nick but because she’s unfriendly and stand offish.
Despite this, we follow Frances as she becomes more involved with Nick and she even goes to stay with the couple in France for the Summer, Bobbi in tow. Frances struggles with these new feelings of vulnerability but also has to face an unspecified (to begin) health condition, her relationship with her alcoholic father and her own sense of belonging.
Bobbi is an interesting character, a woman who repels as much as she intrigues and she can be a lot to take. She doesn’t let up on Frances however and always calls her out on her shit. I think we all need a friend like that. I don’t really like the girls that much, though I love flawed characters and love to read them. Maybe I’m a little bitter about my own youth slipping away and having to be faced with these two beautiful girls with everything going for them and talent to spare. All I know is that I devoured this book in a couple of days and truly can’t wait for Rooney’s next book, Normal People.
The writing makes me want to cry and at one point Frances ponders the fact that she doesn’t have her own personality yet. I felt that. I mean, I hope I do now but I always used to worry that I was a brittle cocoon of emptiness just waiting to solidify – so I really felt that.
I miss it already.
Conversations with Friends
Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (1 Mar. 2018)
Bought mass market paperback (new)