Monday, 9 April 2018

The End of Loneliness

The End of Loneliness
By Benedict Wells
Translated by Charlotte Collins
Published by Sceptre
Available in trade paperback and ebook
Paperback is forthcoming

"The antidote to loneliness isn't just being around random people indiscriminately, the antidote to loneliness is emotional security."

This quote from Benedict Wells' novel, The End of Loneliness, a German bestseller, perfectly sums up this book. This is an incredible story about loss, loneliness, family and love.

Marty, Liz and Jules' childhood is full of warmth, adventure and happiness but this is shattered by the death of their parents in a car crash. 

The tightly-knit family is pulled apart with the children being sent to a grim state boarding school. Here their paths split off, and each one tries to find a way of fighting against the hole of loneliness and fight against crippling grief. Liz becomes a party girl only interested in boys, Marty locks himself away with his computer while Jules floats through school, with only one true friend. Jules fears living, and seems to retreat into a world where his parents are still alive, and he has a happier life. He is nostalgic, much like the main character from Midnight in Paris, longing to be living in the past as this is the only place he is happy.

Like Olivia Laing's The Lonely City, the exploration of loneliness digs deep into the soul and it is fascinating the way Wells pulls apart the many ways loneliness can creep into our lives. Jules is detached from his life, sometimes unable to take the leap from observing to being emotionally involved with life. This fear of living holds him back from being happy with failed jobs, and relationships - running away from commitment, hiding away from society. Yet, there are tender moments when Jules finds happiness, finally marrying the women he has loved since childhood, being a parent.

Wells shows how grief shapes people's lives and the decisions we make when gripped by grief. The End of Loneliness shows how grief never leaves us but morphs into a different shape.

This is a beautifully written and translated novel, full of emotion. I can see this book being on my book of the year list for 2018. End of Loneliness is available from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via the publisher.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

March's reading

Only three books read in March?!

But last month felt like it stretched for years. Lets blame the horrendous cold I had and the fact it made my concentration levels shrink to less than thirty seconds. Actually, that excuse is the truth.

Lets not forget the adventures to Stonehenge, being the last person on the planet to watch Black Panther (fantastic, go see it), becoming hooked on Booktube, and having a clear out of books and old clothes.

The End of Loneliness - Benedict Wells (translated by Charlotte Collins)
I'm going to be writing a longer review later this week but I should probably give you a heads up and tell you that this book is fantastic. Exploring the themes of loss, loneliness, family and love. This book follows the lives of three siblings after their perfect childhood is shattered by the sudden death of their parents. Grief pulls them apart, sending them in different directions with their lives. This is a fantastic book.

Life Lessons from Remarkable Women - various writers
Finding this book turned into a mission with me walking around four bookshops in London (oh I know, the hardship) before getting my mitts on this. This essential book, in a handy size to carry around in any bag, covers essays on starting over, self love, embracing ambition, grief, motherhood, dealing with mental health. These essays are necessary for the modern world, and are all in bitesize chunks so you can easily read one while on the train. Life Lessons is thought provoking, empowering, a call to arms for women - to raise up and not hide in the shadows. I'm definitely going to be going back to this book, and re-reading these essays.

The Course of Love - Alain de Botton
"That strive to normalize our troubles and show us a melancholy yet hopeful path through the course of love." Part romance, part story on surviving and enjoying a modern relationship, part philosophy. My cat was sick on it twice. I enjoyed the book more than she did.

What books did you read in March?

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Book Review: Here We Are Now

Here We Are Now
By Jasmine Warga
Published by Hodder
Available in paperback and ebook

I really enjoyed Jasmine Warga's previous novel, My Heart and Other Black Holes, and her lovely responses to the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A so I was happy to receive her newest book, Here We Are Now.

Taliah's quiet teenage life is full of being in a band, having a best friend, going to school, being moody. But this is about to be shaken up and for her life to change. 

This is a novel full of angst, heartbreak, families, friends and music. This is Taliah's coming of age story which Warga captures brilliantly with an authentic teenage voice, full of frustration of stepping away from being a child and annoyed that she still isn't an adult.

Taliah has been writing letters to a rock star for years, telling him she knows he is her father. Her mother is protective of the past, trying to build a better life for her daughter and wrap her in cotton wool from the real world. While her mother is out of the country, Julian Oliver, rock star, knocks on the door, saying that he his there to see his daughter, and asking Taliah to come and visit her dying grandfather. This is the adventure she has been waiting for.

Warga looks at the things that can bring together families during times of crisis. This is a journey of self-discovery for Taliah as she deals with the uncertainties in her life, builds confidence and deals with the unease that she feels towards her family. This is also for her to learn that her mother is more than just the person so how looks after her. Her mother also makes mistakes and this self-realisation brings about a maturity in Taliah.

Set across a week in Taliah's life, Warga packs a punch with all of the events that happen, and keeps the momentum building and the pace fast. I found that I could put this book down as I learned more about Taliah and her parent's past.

You can buy a copy from your favourite bookshop.

I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr.com

Monday, 19 March 2018

Marius Gabriel's Imaginary Bookshop


Today Marius Gabriel, author of The Ocean Liner, has popped by to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series. The Ocean Liner is published this week, and tells the story of Masha and Rachel aboard the SS Manhattan in September 1939, bound for New York. The boar must make it across the Atlantic Ocean and through the danger of German U-boats. Will they achieve their dream of a new life in America?

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What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
Wonderful Novels!

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Oh, I think in London. On the Strand, or perhaps on Piccadilly (though not too close to Hatchards)

Would your bookshop have any special features?
Absolutely no distractions. Silence would be enforced by lady wrestlers, who would put a choke-hold on anyone talking too loud or disturbing the peace. But there would be comfy sofas where customers could sit and browse. Customers who sat too long without buying anything would be swallowed up by special jaws in the sofas, funnelled underground and spat out onto the street. On the way, their credit-cards would be charged £20.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
I would try to keep a stock of good second-hand books, especially fine old novels now out of print. And they would be at affordable prices. Anyone who looked shabby, but picked up interesting novels, would be given an automatic discount.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
It would be all-inclusive fiction. No non-fiction, coffee-table books or celeb bios. Just novels from Don Quixote onward.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
I would display whatever I was reading at the time, as well as all the books on my to-read list. That way, I would have lots to talk about with customers.

If you could run only one author event who would you have? You can pick a living or dead writer. What sort of event would they run?
I would get Kazuo Ishiguro, our wonderful Nobel prize winner, to come and talk about his novels, which are among my very favourites. And we would serve sushi and green tea.

A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
I would give it to them for free. And then face my indignant wife.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
I envisage a huge wedding-cake sort of thing, with ten tiers, and hundreds of little marzipan figurines of famous authors on each level. The inside would be a rich fruit cake, and there would be rainbow icing. The authors would be exquisitely-modelled, but so delicious that lucky recipients wouldn't be able to stop from devouring them.

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Marius Gabriel’s The Ocean Liner is published by Lake Union Publishing on 20th March. To find out more, click here.

Friday, 16 March 2018

January & February's Reading

I have been hibernating for the past 18 months of winter. Okay, that's a slight exaggeration but winter has been long and when the nights are longer then its harder to pull my bum to the desk and type - it's time for sleeping, reading, having candles burning on the bookshelves while curled up on the sofa.

Right, let's talk about the books I've read for the past two months before March finishes...

January

The Fault in our Stars - John Green
Hazel, in remission from cancer, she keeps herself on the fringes of her life, trying to not make a fuss, tucked away from being a teenager. She knows that the tumour-shrinking medication has been a miracle but she still thinks death is waiting for her. But then Augustus turns up at her cancer support group and her life is about to break out of the confines of her bedroom. This is a sweet, funny and also sad story about being alive and being in love.

Guest - S.J. Bradley
Guest follows Samhain, just as he is breaking into a hotel with his friend, to squat there to escape the horrendous squat they were previously living. This is what Samhain is good at - running away, escaping the truth, turning his back. This is the story of Samhain realising that only he can improve his life and also find out about his past. You can read my review here.

All Grown Up - Jani Attenburg
If you've liked Fleabag or Girls then you're going to like this book. Andrea, a New Yorker, navigates through sex, friendships, work and family. People around her think she's dissatisfied but she enjoys living off-script. This is a modern portrayal of being a woman.

February

Simon - Alex Masters
This was my work's first book for our book club. Alex Masters tells the story of his landlord, the mathematician, Simon Norton. Simon is an eccentric genius obsessed with maths and public transport. This is a marmite book - I enjoyed the learning about Simon's life but I didn't like the way the narrative was broken up with the author interrupting the story.

Before this is over - Amanda Hickie

Amanda Hickie’s novel captures the fears and hysteria of epidemics and the way people slowly unravel in times of crisis. You can read my review here.

Everything I know about love - Dolly Alderton
This collection of essays explore growing up, falling in love, getting dumped, drinking, and ultimately the love of female friendships. This is a great comfort read.

Here we are now - Jasmine Warga
This is a coming of age novel where Taliah discovers her father and a whole new family. This is a story of family, friendship and music. I'll be writing a review soon for this book!