Heart Shaped Bruise – Tanya Byrne
This is a diary by a young girl in prison, a juvenile home, really. It opens with her saying that she is not sorry. And all the while she reiterates that she isn’t, the story weaves back and forth in time, telling you about her past. She’s talks to a psychiatrist and each hard won confession tells you a little bit more of her past. It’s an interesting device in terms of authorial intervention. The story is quite compelling and only the last line finally tells you what her crime was, even though you try and second guess all along.
To a large extent it is very suitable for young adults. A lot of the time I was just looking down on the characters and wanting to pat them on the head and say, ‘There, there, it won’t matter so much, hurt so bad, bleed so furiously, when you’re 35.’ I know, patronising old hag. But you get what I mean, don’t you? That said, very well written.
PS: I lied. Even at 35, somethings will hurt very badly.
A girl’s guide to modern European Philosophy – Charlotte Greig
Of course as luck would have it, I got out of one YA book and fell into another. Yes, I’m just making bad book choices. This one too felt like it was aimed at younger girls. Girls who are still young enough to look around for guidance, not old hags like me who are always willing to give you gyaan and tell you how to live your life. I thought there’s be a lot more philosophy in it. But all I got was a teaser that wasn’t enough for me. Susannah Jones is a philosophy student who has a choice to make. Her older, in control boyfriend, or the new guy in class with unraveling sweater sleeves. It seems like an easy enough choice – or does it? It gets more complicated and as she dithers, I wondered why I was reading it at this late stage in life. There are bits of philosophy, but nothing you wouldn’t have picked up over the years anyway.
Read if you’re below 25 or don’t bother with this coming of age thing. I think I’m going to look for books written by grandmothers, for grandmothers, about grandmothers.
The Art of Undressing – Stephanie Lehmann
I surprise myself with my knack for picking up books of a similar type even without trying. And being very unhappy with the choice. This is yet another coming of age story, except that she’s 25. Ginger is the daughter of a stripper, Coco. Yes, love the names. And like all daughters, she’s the polar opposite of her mother, hiding her breasts in loose tees while her mother plumps up her implants and wags them in your face. Ginger is in cooking school and is torn between male X, male Y and male Z. She is disapproving of her mother’s professional and personal life but can do nothing much about it. Her emotionally distant biological father gives her an opening into his life and also the life of his daughter by another wife. And then one day Ginger realises that she needs her mother expertise in holding a man’s interest. It’s a fast paced story and there’s lots of food involved. You also get a theoretical class in stripping and coming to terms with your body. At times I found it preachy and obvious. Very predictable. But nice for a slow day.
Swimming upstream slowly – Melissa Clark
These are exactly the kind of books I never pick up so I’m not sure what I’m doing with yet another one in my hand. Sasha Salter is the producer of an award winning kids’ show and wakes up one morning to find she is pregnant. Which would be fine if she were having sex, but not a-okay if you’ve had a 2 year dry spell. Further testing reveals she has a rare problem – a lazy sperm. I knew this was bound to happen. Lazy men are common – and now lazy sperm. I can quite see another sperm evolving – the one with a remote control as its extension.
Anyhow, getting back to the book, she now has the uneviable task of tracing her sex life, calling up all her partners and asking for a blood sample so that this medical phenomenon can be researched as thoroughly as it deserves to be. Strangely, she gets a lot more action now than she ever has and has the luxury of choice!
I didn’t particularly enjoy the writing. And it was the same old – so many men, so hard to decide. With a different point of focus. In the last one a stripper mother and body issues. In this one- crazy Ripleys Believe it or not type body issue. Quick one time read and move on.
84 Charing Cross Road – Helen Hanff
A friend who reads good books but unlike me isn’t possessive about them, couriered her copy of it to me, and for that, I will always be grateful. It’s official. I like all books written in the form of communication. Ms Helen Hanff writes to Messrs Mark and Co for a rare vintage edition of a book. They write back. That is their undoing. Because Ms Hanff decides they are to be the best of friends and keeps up the communication. By the third letter I was giggling in bed. The stiff upper lip British employee meets a crazy American writer. I honestly believed there was a love story hidden somewhere in there and it was. A love story between Ms Hanff and London after the war.
Don’t read this if you’re not into humour, heart warming friendships and literature. What I loved most was the guided tour you get through London when Ms Hanff does come to visit. I would tell you more, but I’m terrified of giving away the little poignant bits. Do read. Really.
Ada’s Rules – Alice Randall
Ada is the Preacher’s wife. Overweight, exhausted and running from home to home, serving, she wakes up one day to get an invitation to her college reunion and the memories of an ex flame and the good old days. She’s gained about a 100 pounds since college and there’s no time like the present nor any incentive like this one to lose weight. Thus begins her journey to weight loss. She makes a set of rules and keeps adding to them. The first one being Stop doing what you’ve always done.
Her weight loss journey is not easy and I like how they kept it real. She takes one step foward, she slides back, she takes another two forward. She has her regular life to live and financial constraints too. I enjoyed the way the book dips into her crazy past – those were the best bits to me. Her musician parents, their crazy boarders, their mental state, her unconditional love and caregiving. Her relationship with her twin daughters, her relationship with her body, her relationship with food, make up the rest of the book.
What irked me though, was how the book almost read like a how to lose weight book at times. I thought it would be just a metaphor for shedding baggage and weight but at times it was so literal that I felt almost patronised. I have to admit this is one of the better books I’ve read in the past which is why I am being so harsh on it – I felt it could have been better.
Does she lose the weight? Does she hook up with the ex? What about the fact that she suspects her Preacher husband of having an affair with one of the parishioners? Only one way to find out.
The Postmistress – Sarah Blake
It’s 1940 and the bombs fall on London and American Radio reporter Frankie Bard reports through it all, her voice touching many lives. Not always in a nice way. Who wanted women on radio? They were too shrill, sounded too involved. Far away in Cape Cod, Iris James, a postmaster does her duty diligently. And Emma Fitch, the doctor’s wife waits, for her baby to be born, for her husband to come back from London. A letter that must be posted, binds them all together. I have to confess upfront that I didn’t think much of the plot. But the book had me hooked. The writing is brilliant. You walk through bombed streets in London, you cower in funk houses and you look on helplessly as Jews are coralled and marched towards a certain death. I had great trouble reading this book because I kept going back and re-reading some sections, just for the beauty of the prose. I’m going to try and read this book again, maybe ten years from now. You try and read it now.
Mommies who drink – Brett Paesel
Brett Paesel is an American writer and actress, and this is her journey through motherhood. I read this book about 5 years ago, just after I’d had the Brat and the Bean and I loved it. Her sense of humour is wry and she makes you think. She ran so close to my own counter-culture parenting method that I almost felt like she’d written the book for me. Sign of a great book, I guess, if it speaks to you, whispers to you and at times just yells in your face.
Shall we snort coke? Should we take him to the doctor for that green goop coming out of his eye or ride it out? Why are most mothers so anal retentive about meals? And many more such questions were answered in the course of this book. I don’t know what made me pick it up again recently. This time, with an almost 8 year old I smiled through her panicky moments and at the back of my mind I heard Aamir Khan say, All izz well. New mums, do read it so that you know you’re not alone. Old mums, write one yourself.