Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Book Review: A Man Called Ove

A Man Called Ove
By Fredrik Backman
Published by Sceptre
Available in paperback and ebook

Ove is a grumpy old git - he knows it and he wants the whole world to know. Don't worry this isn't Victor Meldrew in novel form...

His miserableness might be down to the fact that his wife, the love of his life has recently died or the fact that he was dismissed from his job or even the new neighbours have no fucking clue about the way things are done in the neighbourhood. Either way he wants to kill himself but life keeps getting in the way.

Along the way, he helps neighbours with their parking problems, DIY disasters and ferrying them back and forth to the hospital. Ove even hits a clown on one of his adventures and somehow inherits a cat who becomes his shadow, watching Ove and his failed attempts at suicide.

Fredrik Backman's novel, A Man Called Ove, may sound like a depressing read about being old but this is actually a comic story about friendships, growing old, and the need for community.

The old man next door isn't mister average but Ove doesn't want a fuss especially after he rescuses a man from the train tracks. He tries to avoid the journalist who wants to write an article about him. If anything his stubbornness is making him more appealing to his neighbours and the journalist. This book will have you laughing at Ove's antics and his misadventures. We can all relate to wanting to be left alone to be miserable and we all know that it never happens.

This is one of those books that will get lots of book groups nattering about the issues surrounding elderly care - especially the question of when should the state step in and assist - and who has the ultimate responsibility.

By the last page you'll be warming your heart to Ove and his grumpiness, and maybe stepping outside your front door to hug the next elderly person you see walking past.

A Man Called Ove can be purchased from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr. 

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Book Review: The Household Spirit by Tod Wodicka

The Household Spirit
by Tod Wodicka
Published by Jonathan Cape
Available in hardback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

'Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours...' This is what went through my head as I came to the last page of Tod Wodicka's The Household Spirit.

Howie Jeffries and Emily Phane are neighbours, living side by side in the only two houses along route 29 in upstate New York since Emily was born next door. Times have changed - Emily's grandparents, who owned the house have died, and Howie, once a newly-wed with a young daughter is now divorced, living on his own.

Both Howie and Emily think there's something wrong next door - Howie is a recluse who dreams of sailing away from himself while Emily has developed a passion for nocturnal gardening and has sleep paralysis.

The small space between their houses could literally be the size of the Grand Canyon as they have hardly spoken to each other over the years...

The Household Spirit is a book about accepting friendship when times are tough, and the realisation that you do not need to deal with the crap that life throws at you on your own. These two unlikely characters are pushed together and they must save each other and themselves from falling over the brink.

Wodicka explores the way people isolate themselves when times are tough and the way people can slip from society and down into the cracks without realising it. Both characters must let go of the past, and not let the past events and relationships define the present or even define the future.

Howie and Emily live outside the confines of society, and are struggling to find their way back to reality - they have lost their definition and purpose in life. I found The Household Spirit refreshing as a lot of novels have characters who want to break out of the confines of society to find an identity.

Wodicka's reminded of a Wes Anderson film with its quirky characters, socially awkward situations and bitter humour. If you like Wes Anderson films then you're going to love The Household Spirit.

Now lets all sing together - 'Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours...'

You can buy The Household Spirit from your favourite bookshop.

I was kindly sent a copy by the publisher.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Books Read in June

Books Read in June

Writing in June

June saw me trying to rework chapter seventeen of my novel but it just wasn't playing ball so at the moment chapter seventeen is one room and I'm in another, waiting for it realise it has made a very big mistake and then come begging back to be redrafted. I remember writing this chapter quite quickly and there are definitely too many scenes and it starts in the wrong place. I'll either be able to fix it or I'll scrap it - that should show chapter 17 who's the boss around here!

I had a very short story published in June. Blink and you'll miss it as its very short! You can read For Sale by clicking here > For Sale

Books read in June

The Opposite of Loneliness - Marina Keegan
This was a present from a dear friend. This is a posthumous collection, collated by Marina Keegan's family. Her essay, 'The Opposite of Loneliness' went viral after her death. This collection contains both essays and fiction. I preferred the essays and would have preferred the book to have been purely non fiction as she gives a good insight into the anxiety of students on the verge of graduating.

Intimacy - Hanif Kureishi
This novel tells the story of a man walking away from his marriage. I liked the writing style and the way the novel is set over a 24 hour period but the main character, who doesn't want to put any effort to any relationship and wants things served to him on a plate, is a complete douche.

A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman
Ove is the grumpiest neighbour you could possibly have but he does have reasons for his surliness. This is a great story about the power of neighbours and community. I will be reviewing this soon.
Fredrik Backman also popped by and took part in the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A.

The Weightless World - Anthony Trevelyan
This book was the last in the Curtis Brown Book Club and tells the story of Ess and his assistant heading to India on the search for an antigravity machine. I'll be reviewing this one soon.

What did you read in June?

Monday, 29 June 2015

Book Review: A Reunion of Ghosts

A Reunion of Ghosts
By Judith Claire Mitchell
Published by 4th Estate
Available in hardback, ebook and audio
Paperback is forthcoming

I'm a sucker for stories within stories, where echoes of the past bleed into the present, and historical events (both true and untrue) are woven into the plot. This is why I enjoyed Judith Claire Mitchell's novel, A Reunion of Ghosts.

A Reunion of Ghosts tells the story, told in a suicide note, of several generations of the Alter family throughout the 20th
century. Three sisters, Delph, Lady and Vee have made a pact - they want to commit suicide before millennium night. They have been unlucky in love, have poor health, introverted, and detached from society. The sisters blame the actions of the previous generations for their misfortune.

This is a funny and interesting novel and drew me into the lives of the Alter sisters and their family history. I couldn't help but laugh at the jokes about cancer, and suicide - which is openly discussed by the sisters. It seems to be the most popular option for many members of their family - the sisters even have a diagram showing the different methods used within their family.

A Reunion of Ghosts reminds me of Jeffrey Eugenides's Virgin Suicides with the way it uses first person plural and so the reader never knows which sister is speaking - all of the sisters it seems start to merge into one. You can also see the influence of Eugenides's other novel, Middlesex too with the way generations of families seem to influence the present. And if you like the dysfunctional family from The Royal Tenenbaums then you'll love this.

The sisters are consumed by the past deeds of the family. And you can see why - this is a complicated family. Sorrows and stumbles alongside accomplishments - suicides, run aways, cancer, widows alongside love and death. The sisters believe the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children of the third and fourth generations. Their great-grandfather, Lenz Alter, a scientist in Germany, becomes involved in creating gas used in the gas chambers. This single event is a long chain of events which the sisters believe are cursing them. They must break this curse.

A Reunion of Ghosts is full of rich details, scars of the past, and funny moments. This is a rich portrait of a family who are not perfect, and full of dysfunctional family members.

You can buy A Reunion of Ghosts from your favourite bookshop.

I was kindly sent a copy from the publisher.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

New Published Story: Flash Flood Journal

Today my flash fiction piece, For Sale, has been published on the Flash Flood Journal in celebration of National Flash Fiction Day.

National Flash Fiction Day celebrates the micro fiction form with readings across the UK, journals publishing flash fiction pieces through the day and competitions.

You can read my story here > For Sale