In no particular order:
The First Day by Sophie Masson, a teen novel from the mid 1990s. Good story, poorly told. It’s hard to get an authentic adolescent voice and I don’t think this quite nails it. And it could have dealt with the whole cult thing more deeply. Luckily, it was an easy read and I didn’t invest much time.
Bury the Dead (1986) by Peter Carter describes life in East Berlin before The Wall fell. The author was British but he really got the German sensibilities. This was not only a well-written young adult novel but quite intellectually challenging, dealing with political concepts, Cold War and the Wall, the role of denial as families protect themselves. I am unsure of the ending. Did the family get caught and suffer? Or was there a double catch? A triple? Or is the novel showing the Communist totalitarian system is just as evil and will destroy innocence? Such a contrast to the simplicity of The First Day.
The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker is a modern retelling of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Bits were quite good but overall I’m not sure about it. And I’m not sure the novel knows what it is itself. What happened to the ghost that two characters saw at the beginning? That really needed a good editor to suggest removal or development. And without needing a spoiler alert, I found the ending disappointing
Between Us Woman of Letters, I bought because the book I wanted was sold out and I thought I liked one of the editors, Marieke Hardy, notice the “thought”. This is a collection of letters written by various people – to someone significant, to their younger/older self, about loss, youth, the past and so on. There were a few pieces that made me laugh or think. Jane Caro’s piece on aging, a version of which you can read here was funny and resonated with me. But that isn’t enough for me to want to buy or borrow any of the other books in this series.
Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover. I loved this- the memoir of a local radio presenter and journalist. We all have wounds from growing up; his are understandable given the strangeness of his parents. Glover touches on finding your roots, your identity, the truth (whatever that is) and the reasons people reinvent themselves.
Another memoir, The House in South Road by Joyce Storey. This a less literary one but very interesting. Recalls her life living in poverty in Bristol from the 30s to the 70s. Her frustration at the limitations of her life due to poverty and the expectations on woman caused her much anger – which she passed onto her family much as her mother passed on her anger to her as a child.
You knew how I love googling as I read? Well this memoir had me googling all about the prefabs build after WWII to house those who lost their homes in the bombing and to get people out of overcrowded slums. The prefabs were meant to last 10 years. Some are still going! Built by German POWs. That says enough. Pride in workmanship. As always there’s some interesting sites on the web about prefabs. Try the museum. I wouldn’t mind doing their walk around London prefab history.
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante. I know everyone is reading this. And so they should. It’s brilliant. So evocative of the time and class in which the central character grows up. Such great characterisation. I will eventually read the rest in the series. If you are one of the few who haven’t read this, hurry up.
Still Alice by probably deserves a post on its own. Not least because while reading this I self-diagnosed early onset dementia. (Don’t worry, I’ve got something else now.) but it also deserves its own post because of all the questions it raises. How would you cope if your partner developed this? What would you do if it was yourself who developed it? If euthanasia, how and at what stage? Who are we – mind, intellect, personality? And does/can who we are change? This is engaging writing and from the point of view of someone with dementia, rather than about.
There’s some others but I forgot to write the titles down. I know they’ll come to me, probably in the middle of the night – “Oh, that’s right!” Mr S waking startled by my exclamation, “What?” Me, “Nothing. Just remembered something.” – and then I’ll forget it by morning again. (Further evidence of dementia?)
One novel is just in my peripheral vision. It’s in hard cover. I took it to the second hand book shop. They commented in what good condition the fly cover was. Now what was it? No, gone. Anyway, I’ve been reading.