The Snakes by Sadie Jones

Bea has spent her whole life remaking herself as an individual separate from her family. She has forged her own career, found her own relationship with Dan, a man without connections or money, born and bred in Peckham, London. She lives as honestly and cleanly as she can, away from the corrupting influence of her father’s money and her mother’s shame; a shame Bea has done her best to bury deep inside. Continue reading The Snakes by Sadie Jones

My Name is Monster by Katie Hale

My Name is Monster is divided into two parts in which two women, both with the name Monster, tell their tale. To describe the book, even only a little, will involve some plot spoiling, so if you don’t want to know, don’t read on.

The Monster of Part 1, has the name as a nickname, given to her by her father. She is a woman who prefers things, mechanics, to people. The novel begins with her walking towards her home having been stranded somewhere on the Scottish coastline after the world wars and the sickness have seemingly wiped out all human life.

She walks towards her parents home because it is as good a direction as any.

Slowly, as she walks, our sense of what happened to the world becomes clearer and we see this new world through the eyes of a person who has never really, until now, missed human contact and always sought solitude. Continue reading My Name is Monster by Katie Hale

May We Borrow Your Country by The Whole Kahani

May We Borrow Your Country: an anthology of short stories and poems has a forward by Preti Taneja, whose novel, We That Are Young, won the Desmond Elliot Prize 2018 for the best debut of the year. This forward discusses the need for a whole story told by multiple writers, referencing Arundhati Roy and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

This collection is the beginnings of telling a whole story by The Whole Kahani (handily, in this context, this means The Complete Story), which is a collective of British novelists, poets and screenwriters of South Asian origin. The stories and poems form the beginnings of a picture of what it means to be British and of South Asian origin, what it means to have more than one set of cultural expectations, more than one home. Though the stories and poems offer many different perspectives, there is an overall feeling of pensiveness – I wanted to say melancholy, but the causes of this feeling are all too overt. As Reshma Ruia puts it in her poem ‘Dinner Party in the Home Counties’:

‘Is female infanticide still common?’

‘Are you going for an arranged marriage?’

‘How long before you go back?’

The questions fly like arrows thick and fast

Wounding me until my skin is a battleground

How gratified they look

This well-meaning, thoughtless racism floats through many of the stories and poems of the collection. ‘Lost and Found’ by Shibani Lal has a protagonist who acquires the contents of some lost luggage and discovers memories of childhood in the saris and scarves inside, that reawaken a forgotten identity smothered by her adopted Britishness, especially in the face of an English charity worker totally uninterested in listening to her.

This photograph by Jags Parbha is of The Whole Kahani: Reshma Ruja, Kavita A. Jindal (co-founders), Mona Dash, Radhika Kapur, CG Menon, Shibani Lal, Deblina Chakrabarty and Nadia Kabir Barb. Continue reading May We Borrow Your Country by The Whole Kahani

Milkman by Anna Burns

As the winner of The Man Booker Prize 2018, Milkman has had a lot of reviews and many words shared over it. Part of my reason for wanting to read the novel was because it has been described by some as ‘difficult’. I’m never really sure what people mean when they say a novel is difficult and I was intrigued to decide for myself quite what it was they meant in this instance.

Milkman is the story of middle sister who lives in an area of Northern Ireland controlled by the local renouncers. She likes to read eighteenth-century literature while she walks. She likes to run and she likes to take French classes somewhere where people from both sides of the Troubles can meet and where her teacher ‘from over the water’ discusses the beauty of sunsets that challenge the accepted monotone colour description of the sky. She also has a maybe-boyfriend in another area that not everyone – certainly not her mother – knows about. She doesn’t act as she should. She lives as if the Troubles exist outside of her, as if they don’t affect and control her. Continue reading Milkman by Anna Burns