Has anyone else noticed the trend for murderous Victorian servants in fiction? There’s Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace, Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites and then Anna Mazzola’s The Unseeing. Even male writers are interested in the topic; Iain Pears’ An Instance of the Fingerpost is also centred around household help with a literal axe to grind. My point is that it’s a popular topic so I thought I knew what I was letting myself in for. Plus I was having my Brontë binge earlier in the year and I had heard comparisons made to Mrs Rochester in Jane Eyre. And yet it was another classic case of me leaping into a book and then being horrified when I landed. With The Confessions of Frannie Langton, I finally found a book that made me understand why some people demand Trigger Warnings. Yet as I reeled back and rummaged frantically for a comfort read, it got me thinking about Gothic fiction as a genre. What is it for? (more…)
As we all know, 2020 has been a funny old year. We battle on. This year’s World Mental Health Day feels more important than those of previous years because we are all so far apart. For the first time in years, most of my friends are in my phone, rattling about in WhatsApp. We are struggling with the pandemic in our own ways and it can be difficult to ‘casually’ check in. I wrote last year about some of my own personal issues with anxiety and depression. Rereading it, I don’t have an awful lot to add – my dance with anxiety continues and most days I win. My allies are blogging, the exercise bike and books, lots of books. My anchors are my beautiful boys, the grown up one who won’t pick up a book and the baby who never puts them down. As with every other pre-schooler parent that I know, the last few months have been both knackering and also cherished extra family time. I appreciate the slower pace. The walk to nursery collection rather than the frantic sprint from the bus. You can’t be late if you have nowhere to be. A lot of my anxiety triggers have vanished. This isn’t what I want forever. But we are ok for now.
But for anyone who is not ok , I wanted to do my usual and shove some books your way. Here are some books that have had useful advice to me:
But more importantly, please remember the words that I said in last year’s post and that I will say again and again and again because they are always true:
Just a reminder in case your mind is playing tricks on you today: You matter. You’re important. You’re loved. And your presence on this earth makes a difference, whether you see it or not.
No two people read the same book. So if reading is such a subjective experience, the idea of trying to decide conclusively which books are ‘best’ is clearly absurd. Years ago, I blogged about the difficulties I have with the widely used 5 star rating scheme. Yet still every year, panels of judges sit down to hand down prizes to books and every year, feathers are ruffled. In 2019, the Booker Prize awarded two joint winners. Lots of people were very annoyed. In 2020, they haven’t shortlisted The Mirror and the Light. Once again, lots of people. Very annoyed. Including Hilary Mantel who had obviously been hoping for a hat-trick. And I find myself pondering as I do every year – how far do literary awards manipulate the way we look at books? (more…)
Another year has come around again and I’ve managed to keep blogging! It’s funny though – I thought the blog would stop in 2012 when I started teaching then I wondered if it would stop in 2018 when I got pregnant but having come through both those hurdles, I am not so surprised to be still running after nothing more complicated than a global pandemic. 2020 serves as further evidence that we have all been fated to live in interesting times. The view from where I am though is not so bad. I have done lockdown in my little team of three and have been very grateful for both of my wonderful boys. If I think of the year on personal terms, it has been the period of time when my son learned to walk, went from single words to full sentences and when he discovered a deep passion for dandelions. Incidentally – dandelion sap is sent by the Devil and leaves stains that are impossible to get out of clothing. I have been fortunate to view the wider situation from a distance, safe in our little bubble. (more…)
I have never believed that you have to attend every argument that you’re invited to and when I checked Twitter on the morning of this book’s release, I seriously considered not reading it at all. Or at the very least, not reviewing it. But ultimately I decided that I had some strong thoughts that I wanted to share so I’ve decided to risk it. I am aware that other stuff is going on in the Twitsphere but I’ve kind of been watching social media from behind my hands since the pandemic so I would emphasise at the get-go that this post is based solely on my impressions of reading the book. I have enjoyed the Strike series since the beginning, unusual for me as I’m not a big crime fiction fan. I read the last instalment while in labour with my first child – it has a special place in my affections. But my main bug-bear with Lethal White was that it felt poorly-edited and far too long. And now here we are again two years later. Troubled Blood is nine hundred pages. Nine hundred pages. Nine hundred pages. Nine. Hundred. Pages. Anyway you look at it, this is madness for a writer hoping to produce a suspenseful novel. (more…)
It has long been my belief that you never read the same book twice and so it was when I sat down to reread White Boots. The last time I picked it up would have been during the late 1990s but in the depths of lockdown, Noel Streatfeild seemed to be the perfect choice for comfort reading. Various publishers have been unearthing Streatfeild’s back catalogue recently and last year I was underwhelmed by both Noel Streatfeild’s Christmas Stories and The Bell Family. Here though, I felt like I was on secure ground. This was not just any Streatfeild book, it was one of the original ‘classics’ – sometimes known as Skating Shoes, it is one of her best known novels. And yet, it packed quite a sting in its tail. (more…)
Of all the posts that I’ve made in nine years of blogging, this is probably the one that I’m most nervous about. I am a private person and my personal life is not something that I typically share. In the end though, it felt important to acknowledge my own journey with vaginismus for several reasons. The first is that this is in the past for me and the fairly distant one at that. I am a happy and healthy fiancée and mother. This is important for me to make clear because vaginismus was a cloud that overshadowed a good chunk of my early adulthood. I remember how isolated and alone it made me feel and I wish I could reach out to any and every female in that situation and reassure them that there really are brighter days out there. (more…)