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
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
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
Metamorphosis is the word I would use to summarise this collection, the second one from Irenosen Okojie. Everything is poised to become something else, to be shifted under the imaginative eye of an author who isn’t afraid to stretch our conception of reality and pull it into new shapes. Her language is full of unusual simile, revealing how the ordinary world is steeped in myth and fairytale. 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
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