Her Body & Other Parties is one of those collections you start to read and wonder why you haven’t discovered before. How could I not have heard of Carmen Maria Machado? Why hadn’t I already read some of her stories?
If you haven’t this collection, do it now. Machado manages to give the oppressive politics of human relationships a sensual eroticism that is hard to look away from. Continue reading
Girl, Woman, Other is one of those amazing books that opens many avenues of thought whilst being steadfastly generous. I hate things being described as warm-hearted because it suggests sentimental mush, but this book really is warm-hearted without saccharin sentiment; it is also beautifully crafted, the weave of characters and stories is pleasingly sharp and tight. Continue reading
Keeper is a thriller with a message. Divided into sections that explore Then and Now, the novel looks at the life of Katie before and after her death. We move from the close third perspective of Katie’s Then, to the close third of DS Daniel Whitworth in the Now.
Katie worked in a women’s shelter, caring for women and children fleeing domestic violence or abuse. Her body washed up downstream from an old bridge, popular with suicides. Though it appears to be a straightforward case, Whitworth isn’t quite able to leave it alone. Katie has no records. Who was she? Continue reading
Salesman Joe wants to be a success. He’s sold encyclopaedias and he starts to sell vacuum cleaners, but all he manages to get are slices of pie rather than sales so he holes up in his trailer and spends the day fantasising about having sex with a woman who is only naked from the waist down. As she continues to appear unaffected from the front, going about her daily business, Joe pounds away from behind, her face a mask of propriety, the hidden parts of her body given over to his desire. Continue reading
Funny and agonising, Chemistry’s narrator is a young post-grad chemistry student whose loving boyfriend has just proposed. She doesn’t know what to say, or how to respond and he allows her time to think about it. This state of limbo exists in her research too. She can’t find anything of significance, she can’t even be sure she has settled on the right topic or question for her PhD and yet her Chinese parents, when they speak on the phone, are desperately waiting for her to achieve, to become a doctor, to make something out of their ongoing sacrifices for her. Continue reading
The most compelling thing about The Complex is the atmosphere it creates: it’s as if the characters have been placed in a magical patch of land cut off from the world by a thick blanket of fog. The Hunter family, husband Leo, mother Gabrielle and son Stefan, have been invited to stay at a remote house as a kind of spring retreat by Gabrielle’s new client Art Fisher who will also have his family with him. The house is a modernised stately home with a swimming pool, huge glass walls, a lush garden whose produce is unseasonably ripe, a maze, a surrounding forest, and an underground network of rooms that hold not only a vast library, but something darker, some deeper concrete bunker like network that feels both real and surreal as its architecture is mapped onto a virtual reality game Art’s daughter, Fleur, thinks she is developing without her father’s knowledge. Continue reading
Ara, Sujin, Kyuri, Miho and Wonna all live in the same office-tel in Seoul. The novel gives us an insight into the life of each woman – several are from the same orphanage, but each has a difficult past to explore – of how they came to Seoul and what they hope to achieve in their lives. Continue reading
I deliberately read this novel slowly. Easily devoured in a few hours, if this is the kind of writing you like, you don’t want it to end. Reading Die, My Love was like finding a voice you’ve heard calling at a distance out walking somewhere, in woods or at a crowded beach. It’s a voice that feels both deeply familiar and painfully new. It’s raw and wild and angry and filled with a passion and desire that is both recognisable and selfish. It is a voice that speaks what many dare not. Continue reading
The fact that I’ve long wanted to read this novel and have always been a fan of stream of consciousness literature, Woolf, Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake, river run, on and, the water cycle, doesn’t detract from the fact that reading it takes a lot more concentration than the thinking it represents, brand, identity, big concept, Heinz, Booker, Baileys, drinking, drunk on listening to the sound of the thoughts of the housewife who survived cancer and now makes pies, missing her children, especially her little boy whose chubby toddler phase was lost to her, to her illness, to the cancer, the cells splitting and reproducing in naughty, naughty ways like her DNA was having a tantrum ♪We plough the fields and scatter♪ shows the fact that I, like her, am no longer in the prime of life, no longer as actively angry and filled with belief that I can change anything, the fact that I want a book that not only tangles and mesmerises me with its words, with its poetry, Darrieusecq, why are the Europeans so much better at that kind of fiction? Ariana Harwicz, but also picks me up and lifts me on a journey that I can slip in and out of as I leave the house on the school run or answer an email so the fact that I am reading at all becomes a miracle of time management, of priorities, and the incredibly long sentences of this very clever and diverting book with their interrupting sections about the story of a mountain lion are hard to read piecemeal, regardless of its cleverness, regardless of the messages it wishes to send about the way we live and think today, makes for a novel that I don’t find easy to read but the fact that I appreciate it anyway and am glad such literature has a place among the modern shelf makes this wonderful flood of thought a novel to celebrate ♪the good seed on the land♪ and work hard to harvest the fruit of journeying into another mind added to the fact that it was rejected by the establishment and published by an independent press, the wonderful independent Galley Beggar Press.
I’m reviewing Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz next. Can’t wait to review that one. I won’t be doing it in the style of the novel though, unlike this one (just too hard to resist, even though it’s been done before).
I loved this book. It does what novels can do so well which is take an interesting subject about a far away place in time and space – it is mostly set in a remote fishing village in seventeenth century Norway – and turn it into a fresh, breathing creature that speaks to the world we live in today. Continue reading