Lincoln in the Bardo Review

I didn’t like this Man Booker Prize winning book at all but I admire it as a piece of experimental literature. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders was the strangest book I have ever read. It’s narrative structure irritated and distracted me. I started and stopped this book about ten times and reread a lot of books in between reading this. But finally I got to the end.

Lincoln in the Bardo
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, ISBN 9781408871775, 343pp, Pub by Bloomsbury

Lincoln in the Bardo tells the tale of the death of President Lincoln’s eleven-year-old son Willie and the imagined story of him lingering in a place between life and death. This bardo is inhabited by other spirits who wander restlessly through the graveyard where they were buried arguing with each other and recounting tales of their lives and disappointments.

President Lincoln greatly shakes up this world in between when he comes to the crypt at night to visit his dead son.

This is a highly imaginative book that is told via many different points-of-view. Sometimes it’s a sentence at a time so pages are filled with one line from a character and then a citation of who that character is. Sometimes one little observation about an event is told from ten different people’s perspectives and everyone has a different opinion. It was this manner of narration that drove me crazy because I felt it ruined the flow of writing. It took me three quarters of the book to get used to this style of writing. Continue reading

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng Review

I started 2018 reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I had heard great things about this book so was very happy to get this as a Christmas gift from my husband. I am on a great reading roll at the moment and this makes the third book in a row that I have devoured.

Little Fires Everywhere
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng, ISBN 9781408709719, 338pp, Pub Sep 2017

At first I thought this was going to be a hard book to get into, but I dived into this without any effort and was sustained by a cast of interesting characters and a riveting plot that delved into the lives of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots,’ the conformers and the free spirits.

Set during the time of Clinton’s presidency in Shaker Heights, Cleveland, a meticulously planned town, it follows the lives of the golden Richardson family consisting of two parents and four teenagers. Into their lives comes Mia Warren and her teenager daughter, Pearl, who rent a house from the Richardsons. 

Mia is a struggling artist who moves from place to place and doesn’t like to be tied down. She has a mysterious past and I was pleasantly surprised when the story of her past was revealed. She is the opposite of Mrs Elena Richardson who was born and bred in Shaker Heights and likes everyone and everything to be in its place. 

Little Fires Everywhere is a story about teenagers, mothers, families, parenting, art, race, class, creativity and love, told from many perspectives. There’s also a court case woven into the story that will have you debating both sides as an affluent couple who can’t have a child of their own adopt an abandoned Chinese baby, only to have the birth mother come into their lives after a year and want her baby back. I couldn’t help but cheer at the outcome of this part of the plot, even though I felt for the other side.

I’ve never read any books by Celeste Ng before but I definitely will in the future. I can see why this book was the 2017 Winner of Best Fiction in the goodreads choice awards. If you haven’t already read it and you like quality fiction, give this a read.

Verdict: An absolutely compelling book worth a read.

The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood: A Review

If you have read (or watched) The Handmaid’s Tale or Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood and loved both, can I suggest a book I think you will like? It’s called The Natural Way of Things by Australian author Charlotte Wood and it very much fits into the same category.

The Natural Way of Things
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood, ISBN 9781760111236, 320pp, pub Oct 2015

I first read The Natural Way of Things very early on in its life (at manuscript stage) and it has since gone on to sell tens of thousands of copies (and counting) and win many literary prizes*. Having just finished watching Alias Grace on Netflix over the past week, it put this gem of a book back into my mind.

The Natural Way of Things has an intriguing premise—ten young women wake up after being kidnapped and drugged to find themselves imprisoned in a jail in the middle of nowhere. What is their crime and who has put them there? Soon you find out exactly what they have in common—each had a sex scandal with a powerful man made public—but does that make their imprisonment just? Each woman handles her incarceration in a different way as they are lorded over by two inept male jailers. When the food starts to run low, the tension rises.

Continue reading

Burial Rites: A Review

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (ISBN: 971742612829,338 pages Pub 2013)
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (ISBN: 971742612829,338 pages Pub 2013)

Have you ever had one of those reading experiences where you wonder – is this book difficult or is it just me? Well, I was left feeling that way about Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. This novel, set in Iceland in the 19th century, has been out for a while and has garnered a lot of praise from critics and readers alike. Which is why I was so eager to finally read this.

Based on real events, Burial Rites recounts the story of the last criminal to be executed in Iceland – a woman named Agnes who was accused of taking part in the brutal murders of two men.The novel starts at the farm where Agnes is to be brought to serve out her last days on earth before her execution. Continue reading

All That I Am by Anna Funder: A Review

All that I Am by Anna Funder (ISBN: 9781926428338, 363 pagesPublished 2011, Penguin)
All that I Am by Anna Funder (ISBN: 9781926428338, 363 pages, published 2011, Penguin)

All That I Am by Anna Funder has been on my “to read” list for a long time. As the winner of many Australian literary awards, including the prestigious Miles Franklin Award, I knew this was a book that had impressed the critics. What stopped me buying it was the fact that I thought it was another sad story of the horrors inflicted on Jewish people during World War II. You definitely have to be in the right frame of mind to cope with those reads. So I put it off until I received it as a Christmas gift. And then I put off reading it a little longer.

Finally, I picked it up and started reading. When I did, I realised that this was a story I didn’t know. All That I Am follows the lives of two couples – Ruth and her husband Hans and Ruth’s cousin Dora and her lover the celebrated German left-wing playwright Ernst Toller. It takes place in the years before World War II when Hitler and the Nazi party are gaining more power. Before the rest of the world realised what was going on and the political opponents of Hitler, and those activists who openly opposed the Nazis in the public sphere such as journalists, writers and playwrights, were imprisoned or forced to leave Germany – and as time went by those who stayed were not given the option of a trial and prison, but were executed or sent to camps.

What makes it even more interesting is that it is based on a true story. It tells the fictionalised version of real people and real events. Ruth, Hans, Dora and Ernst were lucky enough to be allowed to take exile. They settle in London and as per the terms of their residency in the UK are told they can only stay if they do not engage in political activity. But they are compelled to continue to tell the stories of those left behind in Germany and of the friends hunted down and killed by the Nazis. They want to get countries like Britain to recognise what is going on in Germany. But they are not safe in London. There are men following them in the shadows. And the Nazis are prepared to go to any length to silence their opponents, wherever they may be. It is hard to know who to trust.

In the middle of all this intrigue is the story of Ruth, now an old woman living in Australia looking back on what happened before. Her story focuses on her cousin Dora – a brave resistance fighter who had an unconventional relationship with Ernst Toller. The book is also told from Ernst’s point-of-view.

I can see why this novel  won so many accolades. It is beautifully written with a compelling storyline. I learnt a lot about a part of history that I didn’t know about before. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone turns this into a film. It is a story that needed to be told.