I breezed down the line of cars, so cool you’d never know I was looking for a way to board the boat.
This story shows that you don’t need ten thousand words and great gestures to tell an emotional story. The smallness, the futility of it all makes Holly’s story in solace of the road possibly linger longer than a big show would have.
Holly is in a house for unwanted children. She’s been out for a few times, but there never was a click with the adoptive family. There are few adults she trusts, she misses her mother and the past they share and is stuck in a rut. Things happen and she decides to take her life in her own hands. With a blond wig on she isn’t small, deserted Holly any more, she’s cool, crazy Solace. Who’s going to travel from England back to Ireland, back to her mother.
Siobhan Dowd shows with small details what’s life like if you feel like you’re the only one in the world who cares about you, how someone can rewrite their own history and how devastating it can be to discover something outside that story. And all this without any pity, without any Life Lessons in the spotlight. It just happens. Holly has to come through. And you’re left behind, wondering if she will.
solace of the road, Siobhan Dowd, David Fickling Books 2009
I’m pretty sure I liked this mix up of senior chick lit times contemporary fantasy times classic fantasy. It was messy, though.
The main story is about Brenda and her small town where supernatural things happen. She’s a senior combination of Buffy and Giles (both of the Vampire Slayer) and – with her friend Effie – makes sure things don’t get too weird. Which happens when her best friend falls in love with a vampire, a cult following from another world shows up and an old friend slash demon hunter returns to Brenda. And all this while Brenda tries to keep her B&B on its feet.
I suspect this is part of a series or at least easier to read when you’ve read something by Magrs before. Because now it was three small novels in one.
Still, lovely world building and silly fun. A (late) Summer read if I ever read one.
The Bride That Time Forgot, Paul Magrs, Headline Review 2011
Do you remember how you came to this city, Ulya?
I could have added nine more first sentences because Communion Town is a collection of (short) stories. Each of those has a different protagonist, but the city is such a strong character that it never gives you the feeling of completely starting over with every new chapter. The people pass by, the city will stay forever, unchanging.
Magic realism doesn’t cover this, it’s somehow more and less than that. The abnormal is added in small details, in an effortless way without it ever being thrust into your face. The stories are fragile, scary, sweet but almost contained. No flowery prose, no Big Messages. Each story was a small peek into another exciting world.
Communion Town is really a world contained between two book covers.
Communion Town – A City in Ten Chapters, Sam Thompson, Fourth Estate 2012
People think blood red, but blood don’t got no colour.
People who say that we live in a post-racial society are talking bullshit. People who say that (Western) society can only become race-issue free when we forget everything that happened in the past, need to make an obligatory reading of this. This is a past that should never be forgotten. How we live with it should be the discussion, not how we should ignore/shove it away.
Onwards. The Book Of Night Women tells the story of Lilith, through her eyes. Her mother was a teen slave that got raped by her master. Lilith works in the house of a plant on Jamaica. She’s treated differently by the other slaves because she’s a house slave over the field slaves, but more importantly: she has “white” eyes. Lilith is a half breed, too dark for the white people, too white for the other slaves.
The slaves are considered as something less than animals, somewhere between a faulty piece of equipment and a moral-less, emotionless creation. If you whip, kick or burn one to death, you buy another one. You take their children, because they can’t raise them themselves properly. And there’s no end to it.
All this lies heavy on the heart, but never gets so depressing that it puts you off reading on. The surroundings Marlon James shows could star in a travel guide, the characters are extraordinary without making the mistake of making them the Exotic Ones.
I recommend it.
The Book of Night Women, Marlon James, Riverhead Books 2009
My sweater was new, stinging red and ugly.
Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl was a small big success. People who already were familiar with her work, told me pretty unanimously that Sharp Objects was (even) better. Once again my library provided and I could get into Camille Preaker’s world.
Preaker is a news paper reporter. When in her small home town a girl gets missing and found dead, her boss sees it as the perfect opportunity for a scoop. She’s pretty much an inside source, after all. Camille really doesn’t want to go back there. She left for a reason, her family isn’t her family and she knows how a small town can turn on an outsider. Yet she goes where her boss tells her to go.
Things go from dodgy to bad and worse: more young girls are missing, Camille’s half sister gets under her skin while her mother’s passive aggressiveness exhausts her. The town sees her as a traitor, the police as a nuisance. Camille tries to cope, but her paranoia and insecurity drips from the pages. It’s unsettling without being loud, small horror in which the humans are the monsters.
I wouldn’t say that Sharp Objects was better than Gone Girl. But I would recommend it sooner.
Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn, Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2006
When my mother was angry with me, which was often, she said, ‘The Devil lead us to the wrong crib.’
This was a surprise feminist story. And much more. Winterson admits that she can’t write chronologically, that her pen goes where her mind goes. So this is autobiographical, a story about growing into feminism, a story about adoption and a history shot: the frozen time of the sixties in a place that’s neither North nor South England. Don’t expect any laughs, because it’s a very sad story as well.
Jeanette Winterson is adopted by Ms. Winterson and her husband, a shadowy figure in the back that is never really part of anything. Ms. Winterson is an incredibly angry, joyless person who is waiting for the End of the World to happen. She is continuously disappointed by everything, disapproving and a dark cloud in Jeanette’s life. Even though you try to understand that this is a human being and there will be reasons for the way she is, it’s very easy to cast her as the horrible villain of this story.
Not that there are no other contenders for that spot. Society, the small town they live in and Jeanette herself, struggling with so many thoughts and feelings and always coming back to a point a not-adopted child simply couldn’t recognize as a problem. As a reader you’re ping-ponged between the heavy feelings of ‘why bother’, being unloved and never fitting in. It doesn’t make for a book you want to curl up with for a nice escape.
It makes a book that shows how incredibly important family is, how important the feeling of belonging and having connections are. To this day, Winterson is still working out how love fits into her life, how a healthy relationship should be. A lot of things are said by adoption, but this book gives you the first person view on it.
Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal, Jeanette Winterson, Cape 2011