[BOOK REVIEW] The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo @ClaireLombardo #TheMostFunWeEverHad

There’s something about family dramas/dysfunctional families that immediately catches my attention but even so I’m very picky because I prefer family dramas set during a longer period of time because I feel like they cover more ground and get more precise or dissect the family better. The Most Fun We Ever Had was that book, it ticked all of the boxes for me. Family life in itself isn’t that much fun but adding to it the ‘getting into the psyche of the characters’, discussing certain topics over decades is what makes it fascinating (at least to me). The Most Fun We Ever Had offers so much brain food with the topics it discusses (familial bonds, affairs, adoption etc) and that’s what I appreciated a lot.

The story revolves around Marilyn and David Sorenson and their four children. It goes from the present (2010s+) where we get to see an ‘arrival of a newcomer’ to the past (1970s+) where we get the story of Marilyn and David. The way Lombardo switches from past to present is gorgeous, she manages to keep us in the loop on all happenings which I appreciated while reading. The way Lombardo writes about siblings is so accurate and fascinating. While reading I highlighted many quotes and my copy is filled with sticky notes. The perception of children is something I was surprised to see in the book whilst reading and it’s something I loved because oftentimes we’re oblivious to how much information children absorb and how much of that information stays with them like a scar, etched in their brain. The main topic of the novel is love. Sibling love, spousal love, parental love. It all stems from Marilyn and David and it was so interesting reading about how their daughters lives are followed by their love. Each one is aware that Marilyn and David are something else, something special, that their love is something special. Their daughters are Wendy, a widow and a bit of a drunk, Liza, an educator who’s pregnant but not sure if the man she’s with is the right one, Violet, a retired litigator who has a new role as a housewife with two boys and Grace, a college-aged youngest daughter who hasn’t been telling the truth to her family. Lombardo presents the reader with a lot of information but does it in a way that isn’t overwhelming because you find yourself wanting to know that information, even more than what you’re presented with.

The novel as a whole works beautifully and presents the Sorensons in all their glory – their failures, hopes and more. I couldn’t stay away from the Sorensons because I always wanted to know more, to get another peek at their lives.

This review is a bit of a mess I believe so moral of the story – read it! If you love family dramas this is a MUST READ.

My rating:

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Claire Lombardo is a fiction writer, teacher, and Post-It enthusiast. Her debut novel, The Most Fun We Ever Hadwas released in June 2019 and debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List. It has been translated or is forthcoming in over a dozen languages, and is currently being adapted for a series on HBO with Laura Dern and Amy Adams co-producing and Lombardo writing.

Claire is a 2017 graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and has been the recipient of an Iowa Arts Fellowship, a Sun Valley Writers’ Conference Fellowship, and a Key West Literary Seminar Scholarship. She has taught fiction writing at the University of Iowa and the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. Her short fiction has appeared in or is forthcoming from, among others, PlayboyBarrelhouse Magazine, Little Fiction, and LongformHer short story, “I Only Want to Talk About the Nice Things,” was one of 2016’s Best of the Net, and was #1 on Longform‘s 2015 fiction list.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[BOOK REVIEW] Schrödinger’s Dog by Martin Dumont transl. John Cullen @otherpress

Schrödinger’s Dog is Martin Dumont’s debut novel. Told in first person it follows Yanis, a cabdriver, who is a single parent to Pierre. In the early days when Pierre was younger his dad used to take him everywhere in his taxi and they had fun together – but the one thing they both love most  is diving. Their mutual love for diving is something they both come back to even now when Pierre is in his twenties. Yanis mostly works nights as a cabdriver so that he can have time to see his son during the day. Pierre has friends, he goes out and Yanis can’t always watch him carefully. Yanis and Pierre are great divers, Pierre (because of his age) is even better than Yanis and can last longer underwater. One day when diving Pierre complains that his back hurts and that they should stop – this is worrisome to Yanis because Pierre never complains when it comes to diving. From this moment on, Pierre begins to get worse and ends up in hospital. Yanis does his best to help his son, but at what cost?

Schrödinger’s Dog is a short book but a powerful one. The writing style in it is gorgeous so kudos to the translator! The chapters are relatively short so you can definitely read it in a few hours but the story inside is quite sad. I found Yanis to be so dedicated to helping his son and I loved that about him. I feel like his actions could be justified because if a person is brought into that situation they’d always do things to make their loved ones feel better. I really loved hearing Yanis talk about the times spent together with his son as well as Yanis’ descriptions of what diving means to him, how it transports him. Ah, that ending…

Definitely recommend.

I would like to thank the publisher (Other Press) for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by the fact that I got this book from the publisher.

My rating:

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Martin Dumont was born in Paris in 1988 and spent many years in Brittany, where he fell in love with the sea. In addition to writing, he works as a naval architect. Schrödinger’s Dog is his first novel.

John CullenJohn Cullen is the translator of many books from Spanish, French, German, and Italian, including Susanna Tamaro’s Follow Your Heart, Philippe Claudel’s Brodeck, Carla Guelfenbein’s In the Distance with You, Juli Zeh’s Empty Hearts, Patrick Modiano’s Villa Triste, and Kamel Daoud’s The Meursault Investigation. He lives on the Shoreline in southern Connecticut.

[BOOK REVIEW] Find Me by André Aciman #FindMe @aaciman @faberbooks

I’m one of the lucky ones that got an early copy of Aciman’s Find Me and yes I do realise you want to kill me because you want to read it too! I’ve intentionally kept writing this review until closer to its publication date because of many fans out there who won’t get the chance to read it early like I did (there’s less than a month to go now until its out into the world). Was Find Me what I expected? No, but it’s a sequel I found very satisfying.

Find Me in its first chunk (which is kind of a huge one) is about Elio’s father who upon going to Rome encounters a woman who’ll change the course of his life. The second part deals with Elio and his life as a pianist and the third with Oliver who’s a college professor.

I largely expected Find Me to be about Elio and Oliver so I found myself taken aback with Samuel’s part in the book. I have to say that I enjoyed Aciman adding Sammy to the story because I always found him to be interesting.  Whilst reading Samuel’s part I found so many quotes I highlighted which I’ll share with you below:

“Is it that you don’t like people, or that you just grow tired of them and can’t for the life of you remember why you ever found them interesting?”

“It’s just that the magic of someone new never lasts long enough…”

“Me? Loneliness. I can’t stand being by myself yet I can’t wait to be alone…”

“Each of us is like a moon that reveals only a few facets to earth, but never its full sphere…”

I enjoyed reading Samuel’s part although it wasn’t what I was expecting in terms of the book as a whole. I feel like a huge chunk of it was devoted to him instead of Elio and Oliver but moving onto Elio and Oliver’s parts I can say that they were both satisfying to me. There were a few choices I didn’t like when It came to Elio’s and Oliver’s now lives. While getting towards the end of the book and finishing It I felt satisfied but not entirely of course because if you’ve been a fan of CMBYN you’ll have an ending of your own (or at least I do). When it comes to Aciman’s writing he’s fantastic as always – getting into human psyche and describing our conditions. I always enjoy reading Aciman’s books because they provide such beauty and pain of love and being in love.

“You could just be the dearest person I’ve ever known. Which also means you could hurt me, devastate me actually…”

Find Me by Andre Aciman is a sequel I believe will satisfy Call Me by Your Name fans!

I would like to thank the publisher Faber&Faber for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed here are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating:

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**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

André Aciman was born in Alexandria, Egypt and is an American memoirist, essayist, novelist, and scholar of seventeenth-century literature. He has also written many essays and reviews on Marcel Proust. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Condé Nast Traveler as well as in many volumes of The Best American Essays. Aciman received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University, has taught at Princeton and Bard and is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at The CUNY Graduate Center. He is currently chair of the Ph. D. Program in Comparative Literature and founder and director of The Writers’ Institute at the Graduate Center.

Find him on:  Twitter and Goodreads

[BOOK REVIEW] The Furies by Katie Lowe #TheFuries

Ever since I first saw the buzz about The Furies on Twitter I became obsessed with it! It has such a mesmerizing and spooky cover that immediately attracts your attention. I won a giveaway hosted by lovely Laura from SnazzyBooks and you can guess what my pick was! Regarding the look of the book: all I can say is that the UK hardback looks absolutely fantastic!

I’ve finished reading this book over a month ago and just now got around to writing a review for it so if I make some mistakes, apologies! The Furies is Katie Lowe’s debut novel and it’s centered around four girls living in a small town where a strange thing has happened: a girl has been found dead on Elm Hollow Academy’s grounds. Immediately after the prologue we’re introduced to Violet, a new girl who joins Elm Hollow where she meets three other girls who invite her to become part of their group. Robin, Grace and Alex are a very intriguing bunch of girls who Violet finds interesting. As she joins the Academy she becomes enrolled into Art class which is led by Annabel. (As far as I remember) Violet likes drawing things and unrelated to this she gets invited to Annabel’s secret classes on ancient rites and rituals. There she finds the same three girls in her group and learns many things about the dead girl (how she looks like her and how she was Robin’s best friend). The girls begin practicing witchcraft and soon everything they knew changes.

The synopsis other than the cover made me very intrigued because it reminded me of The Craft which is a fantastic movie revolving around four witches and the dark side of magic. Before reading this book I’ve come upon mixed reviews but I did my best to read it with fresh eyes. I really liked the beginning of the book where the reader got introduced to the Academy and the girls. I liked the writing in the book because it gave life to the book. The characters weren’t what I was expecting them to be and at some points in the book I found them to be annoying. I would also mention that judging by the synopsis I was expecting a lot more from the book but it didn’t fully live up to my expectations because I was craving something more – more action, more story, just more. I feel like the synopsis made me expect more from the book in a way and it sadly didn’t fully live up to it. I have to mention that the issue of rape is something I didn’t expect being mentioned in the book and that is great but I wish it was better executed that the character’s psyche was better explored and that the character dealt with it in a better way. In the end, yes, I did find certain things that bothered me but I wouldn’t scare people away from reading The Furies because it was such an interesting read and while reading I found myself reading on and on because I wanted to know more.

Again, my wish to read this book was granted by Laura, so thank you!

My rating:

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Katie Lowe is a writer living in Worcester, UK.

A graduate of the University of Birmingham, Katie has a BA(Hons) in English and an MPhil in Literature & Modernity, and is returning to Birmingham in 2019 to commence her PhD in female rage in literary modernism and contemporary women’s writing.

The Furies is her first novel.

Find her on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[REVIEW] Enigma Variations by André Aciman @FaberBooks @aaciman

Aciman’s short story collection Enigma Variations title comes from Edward Elgar’s piece called Variations on an Original Theme (Enigma), Op. 36 (1898), better known as Enigma Variations. I wasn’t aware of this connection until I finished the book and googled the title. I’ve spent about 40 minutes listening to Elgar’s piece and I just love it! It’s so beautiful!

I honestly don’t wish to butcher the synopsis of this short story collection so I’ll post the synopsis I found on Goodreads: “From a youthful infatuation with a cabinet maker in a small Italian fishing village, to a passionate yet sporadic affair with a woman in New York, to an obsession with a man he meets at a tennis court, Enigma Variations charts one man’s path through the great loves of his life. Paul’s intense desires, losses and longings draw him closer, not to a defined orientation, but to an understanding that ‘heartache, like love, like low-grade fevers, like the longing to reach out and touch a hand across the table, is easy enough to live down’.” I feel like this synopsis sums up the book wonderfully and if I tried to do it I’d ruin its magic.

Enigma Variations consists of five short stories dealing with love, loss, infatuation and more. Aciman has the ability to masterfully showcase human emotion through words. In reading Call Me by Your Name  I’ve noticed that Aciman’s so skilled in entering the human psyche and making the reader infatuated with words they’re reading. Although his stories are often sad Aciman writes with such precision that it feels as if he’s softening the ‘blow’. I have to say that the first two stories were my favourite because I loved Aciman’s writing in them the most and the way he described the village as well as the tennis court were perfection to me! By reading this review you’ve probably guessed that I adore Aciman’s writing style and the way he has with words so I’ll bore you no more with that. If I dive deeper into the analysis of each story I feel like I’ll ruin it for future readers so I won’t be sharing anything further but I have to say that Enigma Variations was a phenomenal read where although each story has about 50 (or more) pages it contains everything that satisfies the reader – from wonderful writing to a brilliantly crafted main character.

Fans of Aciman will definitely enjoy reading this short story collection and even if you’re not familiar with Aciman, you’ll fall in love with his writing in Enigma Variations.

Many thanks to the publisher Faber&Faber for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by the fact that I got the book from the publisher.

My rating: 

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André Aciman was born in Alexandria, Egypt and is an American memoirist, essayist, novelist, and scholar of seventeenth-century literature. He has also written many essays and reviews on Marcel Proust. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Condé Nast Traveler as well as in many volumes of The Best American Essays. Aciman received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University, has taught at Princeton and Bard and is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at The CUNY Graduate Center. He is currently chair of the Ph. D. Program in Comparative Literature and founder and director of The Writers’ Institute at the Graduate Center.

Find him on:  Twitter and Goodreads

[BOOK REVIEW] The Rapture by Claire McGlasson #TheRapture @FaberBooks

Having read both Clare and Amanda’s amazing reviews of The Rapture by Claire McGlasson I knew that this book would be for me! Luckily, I got my copy from the wonderful publisher Faber&Faber and I have to say that I loved reading it!

The Rapture is a book revolving around The Panacea Society, an English cult which existed back in the 1920s, and one particular person called Dilys who’s a member of the cult. The cult was founded by Mabel Barltrop, better known as Octavia, who was self-proclaimed as the Daughter of God. The cult consists of mostly single ladies and Dilys is the youngest member in her mid twenties. One day she meets a woman named Grace and invites her to visit The Panacea Society and find out more about it. Grace soon becomes a new recruit and begins living in the Society as help. The friendship between Dilys and Grace becomes stronger and closer as time passes and while that is going on the Society begins to change. Each person has something to hide. Dilys, once a full-blown believer, now becomes suspicious as to how the Society actually works.

I read The Rapture in two sittings – it was captivating, interesting and compelling. The story being based on truth is quite interesting as well! I loved the atmosphere in the novel, the whole unease surrounding the cult. Dilys as a character was very interesting and I found her to be well-written because her psyche matched her actions. I also liked how the author included some queer aspects into the novel making it much more interesting to me! I really loved the descriptions of Dilys’ feelings for Grace. The Rapture being a book that surrounds around a cult felt very eeire and I was at times scared for Dilys and was anticipating her next actions. The story in itself included many revelations that I liked and gasped at some of them because I was not expecting that. The author addressing Octavia as Her in the book sent shivers down my spine because you could sense that Octavia is someone who’s in charge. The ending of the book left me feeling satisfied which I appreciated although I wouldn’t have predicted it’d end like that because in my mind I had something darker as the ending. There is no particular reason why I’m giving this book four out of five stars but it didn’t feel like a five star read although it was a great and compelling one.

The Rapture is a spine-chilling and fascinating book about a woman living a cult who slowly begins to find out that not everything is what it seems.

I would like to thank the publisher Faber&Faber for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written here are my own and weren’t influenced by the fact that I got this book from the publisher.

My rating:

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Claire McGlasson is a journalist who works for ITV News Anglia and enjoys the variety of life on the road with a TV camera. Her role gives her access to high-profile interviewees, and takes her behind-the-scenes at places that she’d never ordinarily get to go. But the biggest privilege of her job is spending time with people at the very best, and very worst, times of their lives and helping them to tell their stories. She lives in Cambridgeshire with her favourite people – her husband, daughter and son.

Her first novel, THE RAPTURE, which is based on true events in an Edwardian women’s cult, was published by Faber in Spring 2019. McGlasson’s debut novel about a real-life cult, set in 1920s England, is being turned into a television series after Hillbilly Television optioned the rights.

Find her on: Goodreads and Twitter.

[REVIEW] A Different Drummer by William Melvin Kelley @QuercusBooks

I first heard of this book from Instagram and Twitter but mostly from Ana [who works at Quercus] who loved this book a lot. What I found amazing is that Quercus gave a copy of A Different Drummer to their employees and gave them a morning off to read it which shows how they feel about it. I am so glad and grateful I had this book sent to me.

‘I mean it seems horrible that the most you can do for people you love is leave them alone.’

In a fictional town called Sutton, one black man, Tucker Caliban, throws salt on his fields, shoots his horse and cow, sets fire to his house and departs Sutton. Along with him other black towns folk follow. From this point the story is told from white towns folk perspective – whether it be male, female, adult or child.

‘It was that gradually, going back as far as I can remember, they kept saying less and less to each other until the time came – this is the time I’m talking about – that they didn’t say anything at all to each other . . . except maybe at night when I guess married people feel most alone, when they realize how little they have in common, and how much they’ve lost.’

I don’t tend to read these stories often but when I do I really appreciate them because I love learning something new from them. When I say ‘these stories’ I mean stories tackling race issues – where I live there are not many black people and it’s predominantly white but I have always been raised to view everyone as equal which I’m grateful for. I found A Different Drummer to be such an interesting read that I teared up a few times while reading it. The ending of the book left me broken because of how people can be cruel and selfish.  I love the idea of telling the story from white people’s POV because it is very fascinating. I have actually raced through at least 200+ pages in a day and finished the book because I found it to be so compelling and the story-telling to be excellent. William Melvin Kelley shows great writing skills and I would absolutely love to read the rest of his works. The story felt and is relevant today and I think more people should get to know this author better by reading A Different Drummer. This is the kind of book that makes you dissect it after you’ve finished it. I honestly don’t know what else to say about this book except that I found it to be so well written considering that the author was 23 at the time.

Read it.

I would like to thank the publisher Quercus Books (Riverrun) and Ana for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

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William Melvin Kelley was a prominent African-American novelist and short-story writer. He was educated at the Fieldston School in New York and later attended Harvard University (class of 1960), where he won the Dana Reed Prize for creative writing. William Melvin Kelley has been a writer in residence at the State University of New York at Geneseo and has taught at the New School for Social Research. He currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College. In 2008, he won the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award.

Goodreads

[REVIEW] The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton @BloomsburyRaven

I have seen this book all over social media and when I say all over I truly mean all over – Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, Youtube and book blogs. What first attracted me to it was the synopsis because it sounds so good and unique. I’m sure that the synopsis of Seven Deaths will intrigue every lover of mystery books (if one could classify it as such).

The story revolves around one woman called Evelyn Hardcastle who upon attending a party thrown for her by her parents gets murdered. This happens every night and the quest of saving Evelyn falls upon one man called Aiden Bishop. Aiden re-lives this whole day through the eyes of different guests and what he’s tasked with is solving the mystery around Evelyn’s death. But solving her death is very tricky and Aiden must give his all in order to find out the truth behind her death[s].

I have kept this synopsis short and sweet because it’s all you need before going in. The first question that pops into my mind is – is Seven Deaths worth the hype it got and still gets? I would say that it is because it offers something unique and something I haven’t read before. The story is complex and interesting and very rich in terms of characters and happenings. Because I’ve been busy with tests/exams I’ve been reading it for a longer period than usual but I have to note that I’ve read around 400 pages in two days which says something about the book as well as Turton’s writing. I found the characters as well as different timelines to be confusing at times because a lot of stuff happens in it. I enjoyed the mystery around Evelyn as well as Aiden’s attempts at trying to figure out what exactly happens every night. The last one-hundred pages were so good and fast-paced that I couldn’t look away so even though I was in class at one point I just kept reading instead of paying attention [sorry professor]. I love the complexity of the story Turton has created because even when I was trying to guess what Aiden was missing, Turton managed to add a new layer to the story and point to a different direction. I found the conclusion to the book to be very interesting and wanted at least twenty more pages just so I could see what happened! What bothered me the most and what I mentioned at the beginning are the characters and switching timelines but other than that I found the book to be such a strong mystery.

If you’re someone who gets sort of distanced when it comes to hyped-up books I can assure you that with this one you won’t be disappointed because it will thrill you, mislead you and entertain you. The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle stands as a strong mystery book and one of the most interesting ones I’ve read in a while.

I would like to thank the publisher Bloomsbury UK (Raven Books) for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by the fact that I got this book free from the publisher.

My rating: 

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Stuart Turton lives in London with his amazing wife and daughter. He drinks lots of tea.

What else?

​When he left university he went travelling for three months and stayed away for five years. Every time his parents asked when he’d be back he told them next week, and meant it.

Stuart is not to be trusted. In the nicest possible way.

He’s got a degree in English and Philosophy, which makes him excellent at arguing and terrible at choosing degrees.

Having trained for no particular career, he has dabbled in most of them. He stocked shelves in a Darwin bookshop, taught English in Shanghai, worked for a technology magazine in London, wrote travel articles in Dubai, and now he’s a freelance journalist. None of this was planned, he just kept getting lost on his way to other places…

Find him on: Website, Goodreads and Twitter.

[REVIEW] The Parting Gift by Evan Fallenberg @OtherPress

When it comes to books that feature LGBTQ+ themes I’m all ears so getting a chance to read The Parting Gift was very exciting for me. Oh boy, was this book brilliant! I have to mention the hardcover copy and how brilliantly it was designed. Wow, just wow. Well done Other Press!

The story centers around an unknown narrator who upon coming back from Israel crashes in his friend’s apartment and the book is written in a form of one long letter addressed to that friend, Adam. Since our narrator has found a new location to live in he decides to leave an explanation as to why he came to crash at his place for four months. Our narrator tells Adam the story of Uzi, a spice merchant he met during his trip as well as meeting Uzi’s family, of love, of obsession, of dedication and more.

I think that my summary is enough to read before going in and that’s why I kept it short. I’ve no idea what’s happening lately because I’ve been reading fantastic books – let’s not jinx this because I want to read more fantastic books in the future. I read The Parting Gift in a day because it was so fast-paced and so good that I couldn’t look away. I just made breaks to make more cups of tea. Fallenberg writes so masterfully and keeps your attention at all times and the way he crafted this tale was fantastic. I love how he created the characters in it especially our unknown narrator who is so fascinating and whose psyche I loved examining throughout the book. Unknown narrator is so interesting and his actions made me question many things about him. The story is developed very well and there’s no dull moment in it. If I was to compare this book to other ones I would definitely say that it reminded me of Gone Girl in a way – now I know everything is compared to Gone Girl nowadays but this book really left me with that impression. When I reached the end of The Parting Gift I found myself wanting more and exactly this ability the author has to make the reader want more is what amazes me. I honestly don’t know what else to say because I fear I’ll ruin your experience with this book so just do yourself a favour and pick this book up.

The Parting Gift is a fascinating tale of love, paranoia, jealousy and deviance set in a in a small town north of Tel Aviv.

I would like to thank the publisher Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written here are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

My rating: 

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A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Fallenberg is a graduate of Georgetown University and the MFA program in creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts and has lived in Israel since 1985. He is coordinator of fiction for the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University; coordinator of literary translation in the Department of English Literature at Bar-Ilan University; and an instructor in the low-residency MFA program in creative writing at City University of Hong Kong. The recipient of fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Vermont Studio Center and the National Endowment for the Arts, Fallenberg serves as an advisor to several literary prizes, including the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. He is the father of two sons.

Find him on: Goodreads

[REVIEW] The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker @PenguinRHUK

What attracted me to this book was the plot – Trojan War, Achilles! – but most of all the promise of it being told from the point of women and being centered around them. I also have to say that the cover is so beautiful and it just suits the book so well.

‘I was immediately aware of a new desire, to be part of it, to dissolve into it: the sea that feels nothing and can never be hurt.’

The book begins with Briseis, who upon taking shelter as the war rages on in her city decides to check on her mother-in-law because she’s sick. Making sure her mother-in-law got what she needed she returns back to the place where women and children hide and await their doom. When the Greeks enter Lyrnessus, Briseis is standing on the roof of a building of the shelter and what she witnesses is very horrific – Achilles killing her brothers and husband – but if that’s not enough to cause chills down her spine, Achilles looks up and stares at her and then continues his quest in conquering the city. What she feared happens and once fighting’s over the men turn their attention to women and children. Most of the women become imprisoned as slaves to certain kings. Briseis becomes awarded to Achilles who happens to have killed every person she loved. She’s put in this horrifying situation where she has to be brave in order to survive and although she hates Achilles and all the men who destroyed her city – she must not show it. From this point on our story begins and what we as readers witness is the ugliness of war.

The way Pat Barker told this story brought shivers down my spine at times because I felt like I was witnessing the horrors the women in it went through – from being raped to preparing men’s bodies for cremation. Barker is a fantastic writer and her skills to make you feel like you were there are something to admire. Briseis was such a fascinating character and I loved her strength. Barker showed that it’s not just the men who fight in the war that have strength but the women whose roles are so important. The ‘godlike’ Achilles was wonderfully written as well as Patroclus who I loved throughout the novel as well as the portrayal of their ‘friendship’. What I found annoying was the use of certain words that made me cringe e.g. ‘mate’ because they didn’t fit this story. I mean it is a retelling of an important event in Greek mythology so that’s why I found it cringey. I loved how women were portrayed in this novel because of their strength but not so much when it came to the raping and using of the women – the author including the brutality of it made the story richer in a way because that’s how women were treated. I liked that the author didn’t shy away from gory scenes and described certain scenes in detail. The Silence of the Girls came at a perfect time in my life because I spent many hours lost in it.

The Silence of the Girls is a fascinating look into the Trojan War from the perspective of a queen turned Achilles’ slave, Briseis. Inside this book you’ll find the brutality of war and pain women had to endure in order to secure their survival. More often in these tales women are cast aside but their roles are much greater whenever a war rages.

I would like to thank the publisher Penguin Random House UK (Hamish Hamilton) for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and weren’t influenced by anything.

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Pat Barker was born in Yorkshire and began her literary career in her forties, when she took a short writing course taught by Angela Carter. Encouraged by Carter to continue writing and exploring the lives of working class women, she sent her fiction out to publishers. Thirty-five years later, she has published fifteen novels, including her masterful Regeneration Trilogy, been made a CBE for services to literature, and won awards including the Guardian Fiction Prize and the UK’s highest literary honour, the Booker Prize. She lives in Durham and her new novel, The Silence of the Girls, will be published by Hamish Hamilton in August 2018.

Find her on: Goodreads