Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is such an amazing novel with beautiful writing and powerful themes. It starts in 18th century Ghana and tells the stories of two sisters – Effia and Esi. Effia is married to a white British soldier who works in slavery at the Cape Coast Castle. Her sister Esi, who she never learns about and who grew up in another village, ends up being captured and sold into slavery and is taken by ship to America to work on a tobacco plantation. Continue reading
The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland is a gorgeous book inside and out. The cover is to die for and inside the book each chapter is named after a different wild flower and accompanied by a stunning illustration. Even if you never read this book, you’d want to own it based purely on its visual loveliness. So it’s good to know that it’s also a wonderful story.
This debut novel tells the story of Alice Hart, a young girl whose childhood is marred by a terrible tragedy that sees her mother, father and dog killed in a fire. Up until this point, Alice has grown up isolated on a property under the thumb of her abusive father. Alice is emotionally scarred by all that she has been through. Continue reading
Circe by Madeline Miller was a book that I gobbled up in a few days. I tried to pace myself but I just couldn’t. The magnificent writing, the story, the characters and settings all just flowed so beautifully and made this such a pleasant reading experience.
Without giving too much away, Circe tells the story of the nymph Circe (fancy that), daughter to the sun god, Helios. She is one of his many children and is considered ugly and weak-voiced compared to all the other gods. She is laughed at and ignored by her family, until the day she discovers an ability to transform gods and people using herb lore and witchcraft.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah was an amazing read. At first I had trouble getting into it (not the book’s fault), but then the story suddenly latched onto me and sent me on an entertaining and emotional ride. I am very rarely reduced to tears when I read, but this book had me wiping away tears on public transport and having to hide behind my sunglasses. Be careful reading parts of this book in public!
The story is told from the point-of-view of Lenora (Leni) Allbright, who we first meet at thirteen-years-old. She is the only child to a beautiful, fragile mother and a damaged father. Her dad was a POW during the Vietnam war and returned a changed man, prone to outbursts. But her parents love each other intensely. Continue reading
Surrogate by Tracy Crisp is a powerful, beautifully written novel about two women from different generations and their experiences with family, personal relationships and motherhood. Set in Adelaide in the present and past, it follows the story of Rachael Carter, a young nurse who agrees to house-sit for a colleague, Dr Cate O’Reilly, and then becomes deeply involved in Cate’s quest to become a mother. It also tells the story of Mary Bowen, a young woman who finds herself pregnant after her boyfriend heads off to the Vietnam War and is forced to give her baby up for adoption.
Two stories, two women and two generations entwine in Surrogate and as the story develops Continue reading
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 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. Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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.