When I plucked Saving Lucia from my To Read pile, I wasn’t expecting another time travelling novel that takes imagination and rethinks reality. I also wasn’t expecting such a slim book to be so dense with ideas and feelings.
The Lucia of the title of Anna Vaught’s book is the daughter of James Joyce, incarcerated in St Andrew’s Hospital for Mental Diseases in Northampton in 1953. One of her fellow residents is the Honourable Violet Gibson, daughter of a Lord Chancellor of Ireland and famous for her attempted assassination attempt on Benito Mussolini. Violet makes it the work of her last few years to save Lucia from the pain of life in a psychiatric institution.
We have an unusual starting book for this month’s Six Degrees of Separation. Our host Kathy at Books Are My Favourite And Best has chosen Jamie Oliver’s The Naked Chef as our chain inspiration. I haven’t read anyone else’s chains yet, as is my wont, but I’m looking forward to seeing how we all fare. If you’re unfamiliar with this literary meme, you can find the rules here.
It’s been a busy first weekend in November, which is why I’m a couple of days late for this month’s Six Degrees of Separation. This bookish meme, in which readers link together a chain of books, is hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best.
November’s starting point is Sigrid Nunez’s novel What Are You Going Through.
I haven’t read this novel yet, but I have read Kate’s review of it, so I know what it’s about.
Rating 5 stars
The Trick is to Keep Breathing is book eight on my summer reading challenge list, part of Cathy’s 20 Books of Summer reading challenge. It is the story of Joy, a Drama teacher whose life is unravelling. It combines narrative with text layout, font weight and insertion of illustrative elements to represent Joy’s unravelling. There’s a feel of concrete poetry to it, and the sort of textual play that Nicola Barker used in her novel H(A)PPY. There’s also a feel of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine to Joy’s story, superficially in the way Joy looks to women’s magazines to distract and instruct, and more seriously in the way her immediate family has treated her, and the damage not having a safety net can do to a person. Continue reading
Rating 5 stars
Permafrost is the first novel by Catalan poet Eva Baltasar. It’s a thing of beauty, visceral and uncompromising. It’s about depression, and being cared about but not loved; it’s the story of someone who tries not to let others in because being self-contained is safer. It’s also deeply, dryly funny.
Oh, hello again. It seems that we’re back where we were, and I am filled with ennui. Ennui is a word I’ve misused in the past to mean boredom. Thank you, Lockdown, for teaching me its true meaning. Continue reading
Rating 4 stars
Wintering starts as a memoir of a time in Katherine May’s life when she felt that she had been frozen. Margaret, who blogs at From Pyrenees to Pennines, included it in her August Six Degrees of Separation this summer. I immediately reserved it at the library.
I enjoyed May’s writing style. She is a clear communicator and observes her own experiences with an unemotional detachment. She reveals early on that she is autistic, which possibly explains the calm clarity she brings to her observations. I could imagine this book as a radio documentary. Continue reading
I thought I’d finished with these random rambles about not going out, but July is a long time ago. Much can change in these weird old times between breakfast and what you probably call lunch but I call dinner. Since my last post in this accidental series, I’ve been reading, obviously, and working, mostly from home with the occasional trip into work. I’ve had a couple of trips out of the house, and a bit of a meltdown. Continue reading
Rating 5 stars
Book 5 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge, a substitution in the original list.
I find it hard to believe that Boy Parts is Eliza Clark’s debut novel. It’s confident, fiercely funny and its chattiness belies the darkness at its heart.
Not since Chuck Pahlaniuk have I felt so delighted to be entertained by the vagaries of human nature. Not since James Kelman has a writer captured so well for me the hard edge of working class play and working class survival. Not since the translation of Virginie Despante’s Vernon Subutex trilogy into English have I been so pleased to meet a character that is so grotesquely charming. Continue reading
Rating 5 stars
This Searing Light, the Sun and Everything Else is a history of the Manchester band Joy Division, drawn from oral history interviews compiled by Jon Savage and from music press reviews and interviews, and fanzines. It made me nostalgic for a moment in my childhood where I could only ever have been an observer. Continue reading