Feebleminded by Ariana Harwicz

How do I write about Feebleminded? The stream of consciousness narration has not been simplified into overtly signalled shifts between present, past, dream, or reality. Instead, we are presented with a bombardment of visceral impressions and thoughts that express an intensity of existence, forcing the reader to find their own sea legs in the ebb and flow of this young woman’s mind, slowly understanding that she was forced into an early sexualised adulthood by her single, alcoholic mother. 

Though her life might give the impression of someone feebleminded, her language won’t allow it. She describes her mother’s face as ‘The face of a zealous alcoholic, of someone caught in between, body tingling with desire, granted neither death nor satisfaction’. She describes a day in which her mother runs off – it’s suggested this is a fairly common occurrence – and after hours of looking she finds her under a bridge: ‘I move closer, she looks at me then walks off to finish filling the lake with her vulva.’ These aren’t the words of a feebleminded woman. They are full of careful observation and precise detail, buzzing with a longing for things to make sense in a way that drags meaning from taking a piss in a lake.  Continue reading Feebleminded by Ariana Harwicz

The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

Not surprisingly, the Netflix series put me onto The Witcher. I have never played the video game and wasn’t really aware of this massively famous writer, Andrzej Sapkowski, often referred to as the Polish Stephen King, but once I’d started with The Last Wish I found myself quickly rushing on to the Sword of Destiny and Blood of Elves with very little pause. It was too much fun to delve into this world filled with faery tale motifs – princesses in towers, wizards, magic wishes, elves and gnomes – and the customary fantasy reflections upon our world through the mirror of this invented magical world busy looking back on the old days with sentiment and looking on at encroaching war with a mixture of incredulity and fear.  Continue reading The Witcher by Andrzej Sapkowski

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

Little Dog is twenty-eight, a Vietnamese American who suddenly decides to write to his mother after rereading Roland Barthes’ Mourning Diary. The novel that follows unravels his life in fits and starts, moments and memories awakening from each other into a work unafraid of shifting forms, exploring what it is to live as an immigrant in small town America. 

But Little Dog isn’t just an immigrant, isn’t just an outsider whose family came to America to escape the burnt remnants of their life in Vietnam, whose mother and grandmother never speak clear English and work in nail bars until their lungs give out with the fumes. Little Dog is also gay and the novel, the work he writes to his mother, is his way of coming out to her, even though he knows she can’t read.  Continue reading On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

The girl of the title is Adunni, a young Nigerian from a small village whose mother has just died and who must face new realities now that there is no one fighting for her to stay in school. Her mother was the one who believed in education, who believed that Adunni should become a girl with a louding voice. But with her mother gone, her alcoholic father needs money to support himself and Adunni’s younger brother. He wants to marry her off to an older man. An older, rich man who already has two wives. 

I could describe the entire plot of the book – because Adunni’s journey is both gripping and memorable – without spoiling the real heart of the novel, Adunni’s beautiful, clever, and thoughtful voice, but I won’t. It’s simpler to say that this is a book you fall in love with because it is almost impossible not to fall in love with Adunni.  Continue reading The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

This isn’t an easy book to read. Such a Fun Age looks at two women caring for Briar, a little girl just on the cusp of her third birthday as the novel opens. Emira is a young black woman who babysits for Briar three times a week. Alix Chamberlain, a rich white woman with her own business, is Briar’s mum.

The novel starts with an incident. Alix’s husband is a local news anchor. He makes a throwaway remark that is unintentionally, but nonetheless, racist during his broadcastand in response their window is egged – the glass smashed on impact – late at night. They decide to call the police and don’t want their two-year-old to witness the police coming so they call their sitter and ask her to take Briar for a little while. Continue reading Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid