Saturday, July 30, 2016

Book Blast

  • The Girls - Emma Cline: If you are a person who reads books and uses the internet you have probably (hopefully) encountered The Girls - the book has been getting amazing coverage. It is an American debut and it tells the story of a fourteen year old girl caught up in a Manson-style cult in 1969 California. Cline is both a beautiful observer of details and a chronicler of the specific pains of girlhood - boredom, loneliness, the longing to fit in, the sometimes dangerous admiration/desire for older, more fully-realised girls. It's all sun-bleached, patchouli-scented, dark and sparkling. I loved this James Wood review.
  • The Empathy Exams - Leslie Jamison: This is a perfect essay collection. I had been meaning to read it for ages because I had read Jamison's Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain and The Devil's Bait which are both included in the book and which are both crazy excellent. The various essays in the book revolve around pain - long-distance running, gangland violence, addiction - and they are so humane and gripping and beautiful. "A work of tremendous pleasure and tremendous pain. Leslie Jamison is so intelligent, so compassionate, and so fiercely, prodigiously brave. This is the essay at its creative, philosophical best'" -- Eleanor Catton. Please read this and then come and find me and we can have a hug.
  • How To Be a Heroine: Or, what I've learned from reading too much - Samantha Ellis: This memoir-in-books is a duvet and a cup of tea and a packet of chocolate biscuits and maybe half a bottle of red wine. It is a pleasure, a delight and a very fine evening in. After being forced to consider that Jane Eyre might be a better role model than Cathy Earnshaw (Ed's note: she definitely is), Ellis reassesses all of the heroines who have shaped her life and world view. Lizzy Bennet, Anne of Green Gables, Sylvia Plath, Jilly Cooper... It is a treat and now I need to read Lace.
  • What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours - Helen Oyeyemi: I love Helen Oyeyemi. Her particular mixture of the fantastical/magical/folkloric with realistic and uncomfortable isn't for everyone but I find it totally compelling. I have read Boy, Snow, Bird and Mr Fox as well as WINYINY and White is for Witching is next on my list. This is her new short story collection and, aside from the very first story which left me a little cold, I found it weird and exciting. And I'm not a big short story reader. Very welcome as either an intro to her work or a top-up of her perspective.
  • The Argonauts / The Red Parts - Maggie Nelson: Cheating a bit here because I have read two Maggie Nelsons in the last few months and I can't pick one. I am in love with her - she is a genius and an oracle. Both books are memoirs and both are written with a clarity that I find truly remarkable. It is like she is speaking inside my head and in my own private lexicon. The Argonauts is the story of her starting a family with the artist Harry Dodge, having a baby as he undergoes top surgery. It's all scorching hot sex, gender bending and investigating, queer family making and love. The Red Parts is the story of the trial of a man for the murder of Nelson's aunt Jane who was brutally killed years before Nelson was born. This is gender from another angle, misogyny and violence, concepts of justice and history. They're both gorgeous and thought-provoking and everyone should read them.
  • The Gustav Sonata - Rose Tremain: I read and enjoyed Music & Silence a few years ago (omg, six years ago! I have just had a birthday and I'm feeling particularly sensitive to the passing of time) but I'm not a Rose Tremain expert. Although maybe you can't be a Tremain expert - she's one of those amazing writers whose novels are all completely different. M&S is set in C17th Denmark; The Gustav Sonata is set in post-war Switzerland. It is quiet and elegant and guttingly sad. There is a long and painful friendship between two boys that might become something more. My mum and I both loved this book so there's that.
  • The Swordfish and the Star: Life on Cornwall's most treacherous stretch of coast - Gavin Knight: You might think that you are not interested in a non-fiction book about Cornish fishermen but you would be wrong. This book is written in all of the voices of the people that Knight spoke to during his research. An extreme job and extreme environment breeds amazing characters and there are drugs and fights and amputated feet and crazy schemes and wrecks and storms and it is a riot. A failed lifeboat rescue might be the most I've cried during a book this year. Totally fascinating.
  • Dadland: A Journey into Uncharted Territory - Keggie Carew: This book has been a BIG part of my life for a long time and it is finally here! It is an everything book - a memoir, a biography, a history, an exploration. “I’m halfway through Dadland by Keggie Carew and OH THIS BOOK. Beautiful and fierce and brave. Memory and war and family and loss and, well, wow” – Helen Macdonald. The book is packed full of photos and archive material and Tom Carew is a rogue and a charmer. He wasn’t a straightforward father but he’s very difficult not to love. Everyone should read this and report back asap!


  1. I'm adding bunches of these books to my list. Been tearing through the summer reading lately

    1. Ooh, I think there is lots you'd like here but maybe especially How to Be a Heroine...

    2. Just read that one! You should read the American Housewife short stories, I quite enjoyed those