My Year of Rest and Relaxation – Ottessa Moshfegh

My Year of Rest and Relaxation has been everywhere and is on the Wellcome Prize list for this year. I have heard mix reviews about it, predominately good but with a questionable response of why did I like this book. To be honest, once I started to read this book, I simply found it addictive and I could not and did not want to put it down.

We follow the story of a young woman’s journey to do exactly what it says on the cover her year of rest of relaxation. But this is just the title there is a lot more to the story and it explores some complex topics. Ottessa covers topics that are often shy away from such as mental illness, grief and loneliness. Initially, when I first started reading this book, I just thought like most that this is just a privileged woman having a moment, she is lucky she has her own apartment, plenty of money which means she does not need to work and she is just acting spoilt. However, when you read further it runs a lot deeper then that. You realise that money cannot buy you everything and she is coming to terms with the fact that people may deem she is lucky to have pretty much everything, but it is all material things.

I felt her loneliness, and during the book I just felt her sadness wash over me. She did not have any coping strategies, she has never really needed them when everyone else has done it for her. She didn’t have any strong role models to turn to or guide her, apart from a questionable psychiatrist who simply felt the problem could be resolved by over medicating her and ignoring what she was saying during their meetings.

‘I can’t blame Dr Tuttle for her terrible advice. I elected to be her patient, after all. She gave me everything I asked for, and I appreciated her for that. I’m sure there were others like her out there, but the ease with which I’d found her, and the immediate relief that her prescriptions provided, made me feel that I’d discovered a pharmaceutical shaman, a magnus, a sorcerer a sage.’

What I kept thinking was that she really needed a stable, supportive person who could normalize some of her uncertain and questionable behavior, but there was no one. Or no one she would accept in her life all she wanted to have is destructive “friends” or “professionals” in her life, it seemed that she was not quite ready to move on. All of her relationships were destructive and reflected her behavior and her mind-set.

We are taken on the drug fueled pathway of destruction and watch “friendships” come and go. I think this is where people do get frustrated because I found myself saying “what more do you want” but then thinking twice and realizing that she had something missing, a big gaping hole in her life that she was unable to fulfil.

Towards the end of her Rest and Relaxation year, I felt the change in mood and period of reflection setting in and a new appreciation of the outside world.

‘I focused on the sound and then the universe narrowed into a fine line, and that felt better there was a clearer trajectory, so I travelled more peacefully through outer space, listening to the rhythm of my respiration, each breath an echo of the breath before, softer and softer, until I was far enough away that there was no sound, there was no movement. There was no need for reassurance or directionality because I was nowhere, doing nothing. I was nothing. I was gone.’

It is a book that I found highly addictive and I could not put it down. I am not sure if it is in a likeable way, I am still processing the book. However, it is a book that I wanted to find out more and more. At the end of the book, it does end in sadness (I am not going to say what) and you can almost see her mind starting to clear from the haze and her starting to move on with her life.

This is a book I would recommend to read, for the first time, I am not sure why I am recommending this book, but I feel everyone should read it and experience the turmoil and perhaps understand that mental health, loneliness and the importance of having positive, strong relationships in your life.

About the Book

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. Our narrator has many of the advantages of life, on the surface. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

This story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs, designed to heal us from our alienation from this world, shows us how reasonable, even necessary, that alienation sometimes is. Blackly funny, both merciless and compassionate – dangling its legs over the ledge of 9/11.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation is published by Jonathan Cape and is available to purchase here.

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Heart Of The Grass Tree – Molly Murn

Heart of the Grass Tree is a story about a family – three generations however, they are all unexpectedly linked together without them even realizing it. We follow initially the story of Nell who is the grandmother who dies suddenly and leaves behind a story which none of her other family members were even aware of.

This story is based around the family home on Kangaroo Island. Nell fell in love with a fellow resident on the Island, however, the relationship dynamics was somewhat frowned upon and ended up in tragic circumstances and with Nell living with a lot of regret. It also changed the relationship with Nell’s mother not for the good, distance was certainly put between them both.

This story has never left Nell and has always seemed to haunt her. During her later years, she wanted to make sure the story was never forgotten so, started to write it down which her family found. I felt that this story certainly made the family realise why Nell may have been a certain way. I felt that both Pearl (Nell’s Granddaughter) and Diana (Nell’s Daughter) were sad that they did not ask more questions or learn more whilst Nell was alive and be able to help Nell with her inner torment and guilt. Although both Pearl and Diana are living with their own real-life issues, Nell was looked upon with admiration as she seemed to be the stabilizing factor in all of their lives.

Molly during her writing informs us of the island’s early history of the European Sealers and the first contact with Ngarrindjeri people. When you read it, you cringe and despair around the treatment of the local people. European settlers then just seemed to feel that every land was theirs and every person they met was their slaves. It is just a time in history that my brain just cannot justify or accept that this was deemed acceptable. But I guess, during that period in history it did happen a lot, all over the world.

We experience and witness grief running through the family and the different ways people deal with this. Grief is a topic that does not get spoken about, or if it does it is not always done in the most appropriate way. But I have been there, and I felt their grief, I was with them when they cleared Nell’s house, as I have been there myself, finding Nell’s treasured memories or what they initially thought may have been rubbish when in fact meant something to Nell. Going through someone’s personal possession even when they are a relative, felt incredibly personal, too personal. However, I also felt this brought the family back together as one unit, acknowledgement they are all grieving, they all have their “skeletons in the cupboard” and they needed to get through this for Nell and to get Nell’s story out there and not be ashamed of it.

During the house clearing out, the family stumbled on paintings that were familiar, possessions that struck a chord and poems about what happened in the past. Together these all established the past story, the story that happened on Kangaroo Island and more importantly Nell. Nell’s story which broke my heart and I felt so emotional that she had to hide this story and be ashamed. What I loved the most was that each of the family members had different and fond stories of Nell, she really meant a lot to each family member not in the same way but they each had everlasting memories which I felt they would all cherish forever. They all have busy, and at times difficult lives, but this moment, they came together and thought about Nell and reflected on Nell and what advice she may have given them in the past or done for them in the past and then realizing that she did not have it all great and she herself, had a very difficult past that she has had to live with for a long time.

I adored this story, I feel that most families do have a tale to tell from stories from the war to family tragic events. They should be heard and people should not have to live a life time with regret or lies. I loved Nell from the beginning I wanted to hear her story and help her as much as I could to try and take away the guilt and pain. Kangaroo Island played a massive part in the story telling being so imbedded in the good, bad and ugly of all of their stories. But it is a place they all seem to drift back to for comfort and for the memories and for Nell.

I loved this novel, I loved how Molly wrapped around a historical story about todays, it worked in such a wonderful, beautiful way they complimented one another. I learnt a lot about Kangaroo Island and in fact since reading this book have been to visit because of Heart of the Grass Tree.

About the Book

When Pearl’s grandmother Nell dies unexpectedly, Pearl and her family – mother Diana, sister Lucy – return to Kangaroo Island to mourn and farewell her. Each of them knew Nell intimately but differently, and each woman must reckon with Nell’s passing in her own way. But Nell had secrets too, and as Pearl, Diana and Lucy interrogate their feelings about the island, Pearl starts to pull together the scraps Nell left behind – her stories, poems, paintings – and unearths a connection to the island’s early history, of the European sealers and their first contact with the Ngarrindjeri people.

As the three women are in grief pulled apart from each other, Pearl’s deepening connection to their history, the island’s history, grounds her, and will ultimately bring the women back to each other.

Heart of the Grass Tree is published Vintage and is available to purchase here.

Teacher – Gabbie Stroud

‘One woman’s struggle to keep the heart in teaching’

I am always intrigued to read “tell all” books because to be frank I am just a bit nosy. There have been a few released over the last couple of years, however, this is the first book I have read by a teacher and the real-life story about being a teacher. I knew teachers work hard, I know people always say that teachers get such long holidays, however the immense workload and pressures they are put under it is quite breathtaking.

I find with a lot of government organisations such as the military and in the UK the National Health Service, people do the job because they have a passion and a love for it, as usually the salary is pretty poor. However, now because the government it seems not just in the UK but also in Australia continue to want more and more out of you, with no wage increase or no additional benefits the love starts to somewhat dwindle for the job and you can easily fall out of love for it.

Gabbie writes a heart-breaking and quite an ugly tale of teaching wearing her down. From the stories Gabbie tells it is not necessarily the children, but the political side of teaching, the sheer amount of paperwork, continual changes in syllabus (which is not necessarily for the better), the increase pressures on the children to be perfect and learning in a very one-dimensional way. From reading Gabbie’s book I just felt it did not make sense as during her teacher training, they are taught about different ways of learning and one side does not fit all. However, this is not reflected in the schools or the expectations of the children. It is all a one-way street with no exceptions to this rule.

I went through a range of different emotions, mostly anger at the government for allow not just Gabbie but some of the other teachers you witnessed deteriorating throughout the book. These are good teachers who clearly love teaching and have a passion for learning and want to do the best for their children. Teachers are not just teachers, they are at times parents, social workers, cleaners, laundry maids, cooks and carers – roles that people who are not involved in the teaching profession do not realise.

“Just keep him safe. That’s your key role for this child. His basic needs aren’t being met so we can’t expect that he’s going to learn. At least when he’s here at school we know he’s safe.”

When I read this part of the book, I felt so incredibly sad as that was Gabbie’s role and the responsibility and the thoughts that must have gone through her head when the young person returned home and questioning whether they would be returning the next day at school and whether there could be more that you could do to ensure they are safe and happy and not just living and looking after themselves. I wanted to help to look after these particular vulnerable children and wanted to do more as clearly their parents were unable to do at this present time in their lives.

When the children finish for school, there still seems to be a full-time amount of work still to undertake in such a short space of time as well as the teachers having their family time and life outside of work. We watch the deterioration in Gabbie’s physical, mental state and her family life. Something had to give, she could not have it all.

“I curved my car along the solitary road, my mind still fifteen kilometres behind me, in my classroom but already in tomorrow’s drama. A feeling of being overwhelmed seemed to seep into the space around me, like the darkness of the night was closing in. The feeling grew, consuming the air in the car until I thought perhaps there was nothing left to breath. I touched on the breaks, flicked on my blinker and pulled over to the side of the road.”

When I read this part of the book, I was shouting for Gabbie to stop teaching and have a break as clearly this was having a dramatic impact on her. And it was time to stop and to stop the fire fighting for her own and her family well-being.

I hope the Australian government read this book all of them from both sides and take in Gabbie’s story as she cannot be alone. The only issue is, which was reflected by Gabbie is that due to the continual changes in governments and new initiates and new “bright ideas” schools always feel the impact which means teachers are having to be the face of the new initiatives which they knew will either mean they will be taken away from teaching, having a negative impact on their students or will not work. Teachers need to be listened to.

What Gabbie has done for me, is when my children start school. I will now look at teachers in a different way a more respectful and humane way. I will also have in the back of my mind, how much work has the teacher already done to ensure my children have a good, positive and fun day at school and have the best learning experience they possibly can have and give in such tight and limited resources.

I believe all parents and all the people involved in government need to read this story, it will be uncomfortable and will open your eyes. But it means that you can make the difference and help support and give thanks to the teachers that work hard to ensure the next generation have the best learning experience and bring on the next generation of Doctors, Vets and Engineers.

Thank you Gabbie for your honesty, thank you for your hard work and thank you to all of the teachers out there who are working hard and being just simply amazing.

I will finish this post with Gabbie’s wise words:

“We need to understand and accept that there is nothing standard about the journey of learning. Our schools are not businesses, our students are not clients. They are individual, learning at their own pace, in their own way, with their own circumstances framing their experiences. Imposing standardization on our students, on our teachers and on our schools only serves to stifle creativity, curiosity, progress, self-belief and autonomy.”

About the Book

Watching children learn is a beautiful and extraordinary experience. Their bodies transform, reflecting inner changes. Teeth fall out. Knees scab. Freckles multiply. Throughout the year they grow in endless ways and I can almost see their self-esteem rising, their confidence soaring, their small bodies now empowered. Given wings.

They fall in love with learning.

It is a kind of magic, a kind of loving, a kind of art.

It is teaching.

Just teaching.

Just what I do.

What I did.

Past Tense.

Teacher is published by Allen & Unwin and you can purchase here

Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee

‘A memoir about standing up, speaking out and fighting back’

I have seen this book pretty much everywhere, and with such a beautiful cover and being shortlisted for numerous awards I had to pick up a copy to see what it is all about.

We follow the story of Bri who goes to work as an associate for a Judge for a year. Bri is exposed to many different criminal cases which she would get to hear every little detail, which some are pretty grim. I did not realise the amount of sexual offending cases that would appear before a court, it is a lot. The sheer amount of cases sparks a memory of Bri’s childhood where she herself was sexually assaulted herself. We follow her dilemma of whether she should come forward and report it and the implications this may bring. She witnesses cases being kicked out of court, witnesses and victims not being believed and the impact emotionally and physically it not only has on the victim but the ripple effect it has on families and the wider community.

Bri herself reports the crime, we witness first hand her turmoil she goes through and runs through her head about the forthcoming case. Her frustrations. Her issues with the Australian Criminal Justice System and the negative impact this has on sexual abuse victims. What Bri reflects is usually the offender is someone known to the victim’s family, which makes coming forward incredibly difficult and probably means that the person would not be believed because of how close of a relationship they may have, or whether there was a messy breakup and repercussions from this.

Throughout this book I was Bri’s cheerleader, and willing her to be strong and continue her fight to seek a conviction against the perpetrator, a family friend. You got the sense that Bri did not want to disappoint her family and was concerned whether her family would believe her and walk away from her. However, her family were incredibly strong for her and stood by her no matter what. Even Bri’s boyfriend, Vincent was always there for her and supported her whenever she needed it.

We experience firsthand, all of Bri’s emotions the ups and downs you feel them yourself. What I came to realise was there is still a long way to go when it comes to the Criminal Justice System dealing with sexual offences both with the perpetrator and the victim. More time, more resources and more money need to be invested. I believe talking to victims and finding out what can be done to improve the system they went through would be of a great benefit. There is a lot of learning to be done.

One of my favourite characters in the book was Bri’s Judge. He seemed to be supportive, funny, compassionate and realistic. When he was aware of what happened to Bri, he was there and supported as and when Bri needed.

I adored this book and Bri, she was brutally honest about what she went through, her feelings and her thoughts even when they were pretty ugly. Bri does not hide the amount of sexual abuse and sexual misconduct going on without a lot of it not being reported and victims going unheard. It at times makes an uncomfortable read, but there is light and the frankness within the book in a way is reassuring. Bri reflects how the justice system lacks any empathy or forward-thinking approach on how to deal with sexual assault victims which made me both sad and angry. The justice system seems to continue to be letting people down. You follow Bri’s personal diary of her thoughts and feelings about particular cases she is hearing. She is brutally honest, I sometimes feel that she is punishing herself about what happened to herself. It was not her fault, she was so young and did not really know what was going on. But Bri was unable to break down what happened and who was at fault because it is such a life changing event that happened to her.

Bri is a talented and a frank writer which I respect and will continue to look out for more of her work in the future. If you have to read one book this year, this is one that should be on your to be read list. It will certainly give you some food for thought…….

About the Book

Eggshell skull; a well-established legal doctrine that a defendant must ‘take their victim as they find them’. If a single punch kills someone because of their thin skill, that victim’s weakness cannot mitigate the seriousness of the crime.

But what if it also works the other way? What if a defendant on trial for sexual crimes has to accept his ‘victim’ as she comes a strong, determined accuser who knows the legal system who will not back down until justice is done?

Bri Lee began her first day of work at the Queensland District Court as a bright-eyed judge’s associate. Two years later she was back as the complainant in her own case.

This is the story of Bri’s journey through the Australian legal system, first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, and finally as a judge’s associate in both metropolitan and regional Queensland – where justice can look very different especially for women. The injustice Bri witnessed, mourned and raged over every day finally forced her to confront her own personal history, one she vowed never to tell and this is how after years of struggle, she found herself on the other side of the courtroom, telling her story.

Eggshell Skull is published by Allen & Unwin and is available to purchase here.

The Rain Watcher – Tatiana De Rosnay

The Rain Watcher is a beautiful but hard-hitting real-life story around the reality of dealing with mortality. We follow The Malegarde family, who are like any other family where the children have grown up and their mother tries desperately to get everyone together to celebrate their father’s 70th birthday and their mother and father’s wedding anniversary. Paul is an interesting character he has spent most of his life working with trees to the extent his family consider he loves trees more than he loves them. I think most children feel like this about their parents when they have a passion for something.

Whilst they are in Paris the weather is particularly bad which leads to the river Seine flooding Paris. During this time, Paul falls dangerously ill which potentially has a threat to his life. All of the hospitals in Paris are struggling with the floods and are having to deal with a lot of sick patients and trying to keep their hospital safe and the waters at bay.

Although I may not have made it sound like an interesting book, it is a fascinating read. Tatiana explores family dynamics and relationships. Communication but not necessarily talking, but other forms are explored and understood. Lindon who is Paul’s son (and a famous photographer) takes charge to ensure his father receives the best care possible and deals with issues that have been unresolved for some time. Lindon struggles initially with the lack of communication from his father, but learns from his own profession you do not necessarily need to say anything, but body language can say a great deal more than one communicates verbally.

Linden has a period of reflection of what happened when he was younger and the struggles, he experienced with recognizing who he was as a person and his own sexuality. He walked away from his parents for a period of time and spent more time with another family member to try and find his feet and obtain his own identity. Again, you could see the lack of communication within the family members which could easily be done in most families.

This novel was a beautiful portrayal of family life and communication. I adored the Malegarde family, especially Paul because despite him not being present at times in his children’s life there is a lot more to his story then meets the eye. And, although he may not communicate his love to his children all of the time, it does not mean he loved them any less. Tatiana deals with real people and our faults at times with being human.

Tatiana transports us to Paris, her writing beautifully describes and sets the scene for you, so even if you have never been to Paris, you feel like it is a familiar city. She writes the Seine to be a main character who is fully involved throughout the book and reflects the good, the bad and the ugly the Seine can bring. She also makes the trees that Paul has cared for all of his life like a main character. I never thought I would read and be interested in a character being trees, but I was. I could feel and sense the breathtaking beauty overwhelming the pages and being an integral part of the book. You understood the trees were a vital part of Paul’s life, and it seemed that as Paul deteriorated, the trees took on a new life.

“Linden looks up the word Seine. The name comes from Sequana, used by the Gauls and Romans who navigated along the river and settled by its swampy shores to later form Lutece, the future city of Paris. An ancient Celtic goddess with healing powers, called Sequana, was worshipped at the river’s source near Dijon. She was represented in a small boat, graceful arms aloft.”

At the conclusion of this book, I felt overwhelmed with emotion and made me reflect on my own behavior and communication with my children and family and perhaps I need to reconsider how I behave towards them all.

Tatiana’s passion for her book was overwhelming and she really wanted to delve into the emotions of a family dealing with crisis and having to communicate with one another that perhaps they have not done for a long time.

“I wanted to write about a son who find the courage to talk to his ailing father at last, about himself, about himself, about who he really is. And I wanted to describe the city I love, the city I was born in, Paris, flooded by a catastrophic natural disaster that could very well happen today; the river Seine bursting its banks.”

I will be keeping my eye out for more books from Tatiana as I believe she is an author to watch.

About the Book

It is raining non-stop over Paris. The Malegarde’s family – split between France, London and the US – is reunited for the first time in years. When Paul, a famous yet withdrawn arborist, suffers a stroke in the middle of his 70th birthday celebrations, his son Linden is stuck in a city that is undergoing a stunning natural disaster. While the Seine bursts its banks and floods the streets, the family will have to fight to keep their unity as hidden fears and secrets also begin to rise.

Further Information

You can purchase The Rain Watcher here

If you would like to find more about Tatiana, please click here

You can follow Tatiana on Twitter @Tatianaderosnay

The Rain Watcher is published through @WorldEdBooks

The Face Pressed Against A Window (A Memoir) – Tim Waterstone

I heard about The Face Pressed Against A Window (A Memoir) written by Tim Waterstone whilst listening to Iain Dale’s Book Club podcast and immediately ordered a copy. I always love a book about books and people inspired by books.

We follow the story of Tim Waterstone and how he was inspired to build his book empire from start to finish. It is certainly an interesting and inspirational read and one that I simply could not put down.

Tim tells the warts and all about the life of a bookseller and the hurdles he had to jump over, from publishing houses turning their backs on him, to being laughed out of the bank when he went for a business loan. What I felt throughout this memoir was the passion Tim had for books and getting his bookshop right for his customers.

“Waterstone’s was a statement of personal confidence and drive and tenacity, a statement of personal confidence and drive and tenacity, a statement that great things can be achieved, a statement that vision matters, that leadership matters, that culture matters, that books matter.”

Tim was very particular about his staff as he wanted passionate book lovers who had just left university to gain experience and knowledge from Waterstone’s. What I also loved about Tim’s thought process was that if he had unhappy staff, then he would rather be told by them and for the staff member to move on to allow someone new with enthusiasm to take their place. Waterstone’s also relied on staff members on the ground to be their buyers as it was felt that they really knew and understood what their customer wanted rather than a centralized buying department. I did not know this happened, and I love the personalized service Waterstones used to offer and establish a good understanding of what their customers want and need. Although, I have to say recently in my local Waterstones I felt there was a lack of choice and I knew more about specific books than the staff did as they relied on their manager to know almost everything which was a little disappointing.

“It was at this point that he developed his mantra, communicated to us all more with determination than heart: –

Perfect stock

Perfect staff

Perfect control

As a statement of intent for the business it encapsulated exactly what mattered, a reliable and brilliant range of books; bookish staff and then control, and this remained the burden of TW’s. We were all massive enthusiasts, purchasing every book published.”

Tim not only wrote about Waterstone’s, but also about his family especially his difficult relationship with his father. I do not want to go into too much detail as you will need to read the book. However, I could feel my heart breaking at his father’s approach to Tim and perhaps a lack of understanding where it comes to dealing with military life. From my own experience, my husband had developed an understanding that our children may say things, not out of hurt but because they lacked any understanding especially when he was away with the Royal Air Force and being so young, they lacked any coping strategies to deal with any emotions they may have had. You could feel this moment really was a pivotal point in Tim’s life and you could feel his determination brewing to be a someone. To do it for himself, to prove a point. And you know what, he has done pretty well and should be very proud of his achievements. Not only did he establish some amazing book shops, but promoted reading and literacy throughout the country and established book communities, even during the difficult times such as recession and when technology changed and e-readers become a thing.

What I found the most entertaining is Tim’s relationship with WH Smith’s, again, I am not going to go into too much detail but it is an interesting dynamic and an interesting relationship that was established earlier than you expect.

I, myself like to go into bookshops, I like to talk with the staff and find out what they recommend, I still like to purchase books, it is an experience that cannot be replaced by e-readers.

The Face Pressed Against A Window, is a beautiful fairytale of Tim’s life and love of books. He had a vision so early about what he wanted in a bookshop and he did not disappoint and was able to make this dream a reality. Even now I could feel his passion for Waterstone’s still there and not waning despite his fights he has had over the years about keeping Waterstone’s brand as it was when he first established his first book shop in the 80s. What was most impressive was Tim’s influence over his staff members and his vision becoming theirs and their help and guidance all lead to the success of Waterstone’s. This is a must-read book, and Tim is certainly a role model in the literary world.

About the Book

Tim Waterstone is one of Britain’s most successful businessmen, having built the Waterstone’s empire that started with one small bookshop in 1982.

In this charming and evocative memoir, he recalls the childhood experience that led him to become an entrepreneur and outlines the business philosophy that allowed Waterstone’s to dominate the bookselling business throughout the country.

Tim explores his formative years in a small town in rural England at the end of the Second World War, and the troubled relationship he had with his father, before moving to the epiphany he had while studying at Cambridge, which set him on the road to Waterstone’s and gave birth to the creative strategy that made him a high street name, and Waterstone’s the largest booksellers in Europe.

The Face Pressed Against A Window is available here

The Face Pressed Against A Window is published by Atlantic Books

To listen to the interview of Tim, please click Iain Dale Book Club

The Girl On The Page – John Purcell

Whilst I was in the UK, I have heard so many good things about The Girl on the Page and John Purcell. From what I read, he is a man that knows his stuff about books, as he used to have his own bookshop. So, as soon as I saw a copy of The Girl on the Page at Perth airport, I left the children with my husband and immediately had to purchase this book (I also use any excuse to have five minutes peace from the children).

I was so excited to get this book started, I abandoned what I was reading and immediately started reading this novel.

We follow the story of Amy Winston who is a young, up and coming editor. She has an interesting method to her editing style, but it seems to work and she seems to get results and is able to get the best out of her authors. She certainly has an interesting lifestyle which is very sociable and busy and she fits in work whenever she can, by breaking into other people’s laptops to edit a manuscript. I would say that she loves work and has a passion for literature, but does not maintain the regular 9 to 5 hours one would expect and would not fit the usual editor mold.

Amy’s next project is to edit the novel of a well-known author, Helen Owens who seems to be stuck in rut and is unable to move on and produce her next novel. The other problem with Helen and her publishers is, the amount of money Helen has been paid and yet nothing has been produced. Helen seems to be struggling with what her identity is and what her readers may want from her. Helen is married to Malcolm Taylor who has spent most of their married life writing together in a small, intimate office but things have changed and Malcolm is struggling with the changes that have occurred. I could feel Malcolm’s eyebrows raise when Amy introduces herself as Helen’s new editor. He judges straightaway that Amy does not know anything about the literary world and what Helen stands for. I was fascinated with the changing perspectives of Malcolm once he gets to know Amy a little better and you can almost feel that he may have judged too soon and may have got his opinions wrong. He also seems amazed by Amy taking on his advice and listening to his views about the literature world he knows.

Amy is also dealing with her boss Julie, who seems to be the most unbookish person I have ever met in the book world. She is just a numbers person and I felt she was out of her depth and maybe a little envious of Amy, as she seemed to get results, positive results which left the publishing house and the author happy and supportive. Isn’t that the best way to work? I wanted to ask Julie when she last picked up a book, as I would not be too surprised it was not for a long time.

Amy is certainly not what you expect an editor to be, she does what she wants, when she wants, but to me the main thing is that she gets the end results and her authors she supports seems to love her and respect her. What I felt most about Amy was her loneliness it was immense. Her family are not around for her, and she has a co-dependent relationship on her friends. She tried to maintain these friendships on her terms, which did not always work out in her favour or as she anticipated. However, she seems to have certain people who were her fall back and protected her as and when she needed them to.

Amy also helps out Liam who is a thriller writer. She approaches both him and his publishers about his books and is able to make him the next hotshot writer. Amy seems to lack the confidence that she is amazing at her job and actually she could really be something in the literary world and she has many many positive talents which could be made of good use.

We meet Amy’s ex-Max. I was not overly keen on him as a character, I felt he was a book snob and that he would have judged what I read as not being good enough. I considered my reading choices to be a bit like Amy’s, in that I would read anything and everything and would not necessarily judge its just reading. Max seems to be a negative and a positive in Amy’s life, I was willing her to move on with her life and concentrate on her work and herself. She seems to lack any self-care in her life or self-worth. But I adored her and wanted to spend time with her, let her teach me the tricks of the trade and find out what her favourite reads are and what she would recommend. I could see her now being very popular on social media.

We go on the dare I say it “literary journey” of not only Helen but Malcolm. Their writing styles changing and adapting to the changes happening in the literary world. Changes happening in their own lives. Living with happiness and sadness and trying to work their way out of the rut they have got themselves him and whether they can meet the new expectations that is set out before them.

At the moment, I reflect the book industry especially when it comes down to blogging it seems there is competition with bloggers trying to read as many books or read the newest books. I do not really care, I just want to read, read what I fancy at that particular time to fit my mood, not to promote new books. And with publishers only picking up bloggers with the most numbers and not considering the new bloggers or helping to support and establish new bloggers, I find the industry a bit of a let down at the moment. I hope my views change.

Anyway, back to this amazing book. If you love books about books and about the book industry this is certainly a book for you. I loved it from the first page to the last and I will be re-reading this book again. Which, by the way is something I never do. You could feel John’s passion for books and the book industry oozing from the pages and I loved the reading choices at the back of the novel for each of the characters. I am going to be reading some of their recommendations as they would be books that perhaps I would not have considered picking up.

All I can say as my conclusion for this book is, John, when is your next book coming out…….

About the Book

Amy Winston is a hard-drinking, bed-hopping, hot-shot young book editor on a downward spiral. Having made her name and fortune by turning an average thriller writer into a Lee Child, Amy is given the unenviable task of steering literary great Helen Owns back to publication.

When Amy knocks on the door of their beautiful townhouse in West London, Helen and her husband, the novelist Malcolm Taylor, are conducting a silent war of attrition. The townhouse has been paid for with the enormous seven-figure advance Helen has received for the novel she wrote to end fifty years of making ends meet on critical acclaim alone. The novel Malcolm thinks unworthy of her. The novel Helen is yet to deliver. The novel Amy has come to collect.

Amy has never faced a challenge like this one. Helen and Malcolm are brilliant, complicated writers who unsettle Amy into asking questions of herself – questions about what she values. Before she knows it, answering these questions becomes a matter of life and death.

“The novel has never held a position of importance in society. This importance is a fantasy of novelist, their publishers, their critics and their most earnest admirers. Even arranged the privileged minority who read regularly, the novel is regarded as a form of entertainment only. As entertainment the novel is very much alive. More novels are being read today than at any time in our history. They’re just not the kind of novels I, would choose to read.”

The Girl On The Page is published by 4th estate and is available to purchase here.

To find out more about John, or what he is up to click here

With Or Without You – Shari Low

I have been an avid fan of Shari’s for some time so when I get the opportunity to review her next book, I simply cannot refuse.

With or Without You is a reflection on our decision-making process. I know many of us live with a lot of “what ifs” and question ourselves as to whether the decisions we made could potentially have worked out differently. I live pretty much on gut feeling and to my knowledge, this has worked out okay.

We follow the story of Liv and Nate, who are married however, things change and we follow one story where they remain together and another where they do not. The stories run in parallel to see what changes happen, friendships made or broken, lifestyle changes and just a different direction for the future. What With or Without You makes you do is reflect on the changes you could potentially make in your life, and the potential ripple effect this may have not just on your life, your partners, your family and your friends. Despite you not realizing, it has an impact whether small or insignificant to bigger changes others have to make too. Friendships change and have to adapt; which people are not always happy to do as people in general find change difficult.

Throughout With or Without You, you will find yourself going on your own personal reflection journey. You may not want to make any initial changes to your life, but what you will find is that when you do make changes, you will suddenly be reminded of this book and consider the potential impact your decision making has on others and whether you want to take this into consideration, or just make the changes.

I found both Liv and Nate relatable with their decisions and choices and how they both tried to move on with their lives. I actually adored them both as characters as I felt we all have a Liv and Nate in our lives and they felt a familiar character, almost like they pulled you into their circle of friends. There were times when I wished Nate was a little more challenging and decisive about his decision making, but upon reflection, this would make him a completely different character and one that I may end up not liking as much. Everything about the story and the novel you could find to be relatable from the friendships to love to work it was just “real” life.

Shari has not let me down, her writing was perfect for me during a big transition time as it allowed me a period of reflection but also made me realise that change is okay and people may initially find it difficult, however, it is okay.

Big thanks to Shari, I cannot wait to read your next book………

About the Book

What if one decision could change the rest of your life?

When Liv and Nate walked up the aisle, Liv was sure she was marrying The One. But six years later, the excitement has gone and their love beings to fade.

In the closing moments of 1999, Liv and Nate decide to go their separate ways, but at the last-minute Liv wavers.

Over the next twenty-years, these two stories play out in parallel, will Liv’s life, heart and future be better with Nate or without him?

With or Without You is published via Head of Zeus and you can find out more about Shari via her website, please click here.

“When I was on the edge of losing it, I’d learnt to channel my thoughts elsewhere, sometimes to a moment that I was planning for the future, sometimes to the past.”

Mr Doubler Begins Again – Seni Glaister 

Mr Doubler Begins Again is a story around friendship, family and loneliness. I felt a real affection towards Mr Doubler, as I have myself experienced periods of loneliness whilst being a military wife. 

Mr Doubler has lived on his own for a long period of time and bought up his children as his wife was not around. He seemed to try and be both mother and father at times his children probably saw this as a detriment to their time with their father. However, upon reflection, when all the emotions are dissolved – Mr Doubler did an amazing job, despite being in a difficult situation. Mr Doubler is also a passionate potato farmer, however, he has many other talents that others may not realise that he is hiding and he is trying to make a difference. 

Mr Doubler has a housekeeper, Mrs Millwood, who helps him maintain the house and they often share lunchtimes together. Even from the beginning, I felt they both had so much in common and a mutual respect for on another that was simply infectious. Their relationship seem one of co-dependency and Mrs Millwood encouraged Mr Doubler to fulfil his dream but pushed him to do things that he would never had dreamed of such as volunteering at the local animal shelter. During this time, he did not realise that he would be spending time with like minded people and people that he may have more in common than he expected. 

Mr Doubler starts to open his eyes to his adult children and their own issues they have within their own lives, good, bad and ugly.  One of his children, Julian was particularly vile and full of greed and jealously. But, what he needed to do was to step back and really look at what is going on and to stop being self-centred. He has spent a long time protecting his children, but now he deems it to be the appropriate time to speak of what actually happened, the home truths. Does his children really want to hear this? 

I adored this book from start to finish and it filled my heart with warmth and joy. It showed to never underestimate people and to never judge people on inital impressions. Seni’s writing was simple, but yet beautiful and I just found the book to be one that made me smile at the end. You saw the incredible strength of friendship and at times unlikley ones – but, most of all you experienced a strong bond within the community and the strength and power that can bring. You experience the growth of confidence and well-being within the group of friends. You see the fog slowly lifting from Mr Doubler’s eyes and he can finally see a positive future. 

Even now, I continue to smile when I think of this novel. Bravo Seni!

About the Book 

Baked, mashed, boiled or fried, Mr Doubler knows his potatoes. But the same can’t be said for people. Because, since Doubler lost his wife, he’s been all on his own at Mirch Farm, perched high above a small town. 

And that suits Doubler just fine. Crowds are for other people. The only friends he needs are his potato plants and his housekeeper, Mrs Millwood who visits everyday. 

So when Mrs Millwood is taken ill, it ruins everything – and Mr Doubler begins to worry that he might have lost his way. 

But could the kindness of strangers be enough to bring him down from the hill?

Mr Doubler Begins Again is a celebration of food, friendship and kindness, and a reminder that it’s never too late for a new start. 

“True love doesn’t go away, but the pressures of life can do things to people. Who knows why some people react so differently? Sometimes it’s just an ageing thing like wine. Some wines are best drunk right away, as soon as the wine is made. And then no amount of keeping it and nurturing it will make it any better. Others aren’t that great first of all, but they get better and better.” 

Mr Doubler Begins Again is published by Harper Collins 

Louis & Louise – Julie Cohen 

When I first started reading this book, I was first not sure what was going on, but once I had completed a couple of chapters, I was hooked. We follow the story of Louis and Louise, one person, two genders and their lives. 

What fascinated me the most, and I have not really reflected on it was how different people react to genders. This is not just the wider community, but family and friends. I adored both characters, and I felt Julie wrote both characters equally and reflected simple day to day activities which at first you question the point, but when you finish the book you realise that in actual fact it has an impact and makes you question your own behaviour towards different genders, it also reflects the difference of behaviours in generations too which I found powerful. 

This book makes you question your own behaviour and the behaviour of others and the treatment of people depending on their gender. I adored this book, but I may be a little bias as I love anything Julie writes. This is a book to certainly watch out for in 2019.  

About the Book 

Louis David Alder was born on the 8 September 1978 to Peggy and Irving Alder of Casablanca, Maine

Louise Dawn Alder was born on the 8 September 1978 to Peggy and Irving Alder of Casablanca, Maine. 

In their moment of birth, Louis and Louise are the same person in two different lives. They are separated only the sex announced by the doctor, and a final ‘e’. 

Louis and Louise are the same in many ways – they have the same best friends, the same parents, the same dreams of being a writer and leaving their hometown in Maine as soon as they can. But because of their gender, everything looks different which makes you question:

If you could look at one life in two different ways, what would you see?
“But this is useless speculation, anyway, we can’t decide that one thing happening controls everything else in our life. Every choice is the result of other choices, which are a result of choices before that. We can’t control what bodies we’re born with or how people treat us because of them. Maybe the world is similarly out of control; small forces, large ones, one choice leading to another, a machine of causation beyond understanding.”

Louis and Louise is published by Orion Publishers