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

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Fredrik Backman's Imaginary Bookshop

Today we have another fantastic Imaginary Bookshop Q&A from Fredrik Backman, author of A Man Called Ove (which I am currently reading and will be reviewing soon) and My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises.


Hi Fredrik, congratulations on the publication of your novel, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises, and thank you for popping over to Writer’s Little Helper and becoming the latest author to take part in the Imaginary Bookshop series.

What would be the name of your imaginary bookshop?
At the top of my head: "Captain Book".

Where would your imaginary bookshop be located?
Probably in the bottom of the apartment building where me and my family lives. I don't really like to leave home. You have to go outside to leave home, and I find the outside part of the world very untrustworthy. I've heard there's rain and people out there. 

Would your bookshop have any special features? E.g. a performing stage, a cocktail bar, etc.
There would be unicorns made out of ice cream and every night they will be eaten and every morning they will rise from the dead and be eaten again, like the eternal pig Särimner the vikings eat in Valhalla.

What would make your bookshop different from all of the other ones?
Apart from the ice cream unicorns? Nothing much. Normal bookshop.

What sections would you have in your bookshop? And what sections would you ditch?
I would only have one section. "Good stuff". Bad stuff would have no place in my bookshop. You'll have to cross the street for that, to my arch rival "The Wolvereader", who has a bookshop full of donkeys made from nachos.

Every bookshop needs a display table. Which books would you have on your display table? Why?
Everything by Astrid Lindgren. And if you don't understand why I'm afraid we just can't be friends. There would also be ice cream on the table, because sometimes the unicorns are on a break. Union rules.
A customer comes up to your till with a copy of your novel, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises and asks you to give them a reason on why they should buy it. What would you say?
Don't buy it. My wife claims the writer is highly overrated.

What sort of cake would you offer when launching your book in your bookshop?
There's an Iranian sort of cookie that tastes like someone deep fried a cloud. I don't know what it's called. But I wouldn't give it to the guests because sadly it's all eaten now. But I'm sure there are some biscuits somewhere around here.


Fredrik Backman is a Swedish blogger, columnist and author. His debut novel A MAN CALLED OVE has been a number 1 bestseller across Scandinavia.  It has now sold over 1 million copies. Fredrik's second novel, MY GRANDMOTHER SENDS HER REGARDS AND APOLOGISES, also went straight to number 1 in Sweden on publication in 2014.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

April and May Reading

There have been times over the past four months where I have written several posts but haven't hit the 'post' button and I probably will never hit 'post' on them. There have been times where I have decided to go on a blogging hiatus, came home, sat with my laptop on my lap and changed my mind. Sorry, I'm here to stay.

Firstly, I haven't been able to read all of the books sent to me for review. I have quite a backlog, which I do hope to tackle but I apologise now if I don't review it.

Secondly, here are the books read in April and May. So double bonus!

April's reading
April reading
This book tells the fictionalised story of Hemingway's wives. This book book is full of glamorous settings in Paris, and passion. You can't help but find yourself being drawn into the story.

This isn't the greatest Coupland novel but it does make you think that as a human being you are not as crap as the protagonist plus I love the title of this book. Its not describing me, obviously.

This was a one of the Curtis Book book group novels. You can read my review here.

This little book is J.K. Rowling's speech to students graduating at Harvard University about the benefits of failure and the importance of imagination. I would definitely recommend buying this book for someone in your life who has reached a turning point.

April's outings
Letters Live is an event where celebrities from the movies and the literary scene read letters ranging love letters between lovers during WWII, letters to the Guardian with regards to readers' pets and their political stance and letters to ex-wives. This event was bloody brilliant. Trust me, get tickets when this event next happens. You will not be disappointed!

May's reading
How to Become a Writer - Lorrie Moore
This is a short booklet of Moore's short story, and this special edition was published to celebrate the launch of Faber Modern Classics. This is a great story, and I'm glad I bought Moore's debut collection, Self-Help, for future reading.

A Reunion of Ghosts - Judith Claire Mitchell
This tells the story of three sisters as they deal with the sins of previous generations. This is a great book and reminded me of The Virgin Suicides. I'll be reviewing this book very soon.

The Household Spirit - Tod Wodicka
Wodicka's novel tells the story of neighbours, Emily and Howie, who have lived next door for years but have never spoken to each other. Both are suffering with personal tragedies and only they can save each other. I'll be reviewing this book soon.

May's outings
I went to my first Word Factory masterclass, held at Waterstones Piccadilly, and run by Stella Duffy. The workshop was amazing! There wasn't much writing done but there were lots of physical exercises about letting go of the inner critic and finding ways to stop those excuses and just write. I'm off to the Neil Gaiman workshop in June.

May's guest posts
Rosanna Ley popped by to take the Imaginary Bookshop Q&A in May. There are a few more guest posts lined up for the next couple of months.