Free worldwide delivery with every order
Welcome back (Sign out)

Latest Book Reviews

  • Different and worth it for the poetry and myth

    A young woman is chained to her sick mother, whose mysterious, undefined and variable illness has led them both to an eccentric alternative doctor in the desert and deserted south coast of Spain. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016, this was unlike anything I’d read before. The nearest I can get to describing it is a modern-day Hamlet, where the centre of the woman’s protagonist is whether she is free to live her life if she remains a carer for her difficult, negative, sick mother.

    (Although the book is good, I do have to protest at this point at the familiar trope of the poor carer trapped in caring for the annoying invalid, who may or may not be faking her illness. Our media right now is saturated with two narratives about disabled people: 1) that those with fluctuating or ‘invisible’ illness are no doubt fakers, and 2) disabled people are burdens on others. It would be lovely for those of us who live with fluctuating illnesses to have disabled fictional characters who reflected the lived experience of most of us with disabilities – friendly, hardworking and resilient – instead of getting shunted into these categories).

    The writing style is its main selling point: halfway to poetry, each short sentence is visually evocative and full of literary allusions. It has a dreamlike quality – strange, colourful, lucid scenes, with a background of stream of consciousness Woolf-esque inner monologue. You can smell the salt on the sea, the fish guts in the market, the sweat on her skin.

    There’s not much of a plot, and none of the characters are particularly likeable. But it reads like a work of art. It does a lot with few words: exploring the power and weakness of women, the parent-child relationship and the ways we chain ourselves to each other, doomed love and the different ways we live in fantasies of our own making. Be warned: our book club was split, with many finding it plotless, slow and just plain weird.

    But if you are a lover of poetry, alert to the classical allusions, the interplay of myth and psychology, this is a rich and rewarding read – and so different from anything else that it’s definitely worth your time. Highly recommended.

    *I received a review copy and this is my honest review*

  • A young woman is chained to her sick mother, whose mysterious, undefined and variable illness has led them both to an eccentric alternative doctor in the desert and deserted south coast of Spain. Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016, this was unlike anything I’d read before. The nearest I can get to describing it is a modern-day Hamlet, where the centre of the woman’s protagonist is whether she is free to live her life if she remains a carer for her difficult, negative, sick mother.

    (Although the book is good, I do have to protest at this point at the familiar trope of the poor carer trapped in caring for the annoying invalid, who may or may not be faking her illness. Our media right now is saturated with two narratives about disabled people: 1) that those with fluctuating or ‘invisible’ illness are no doubt fakers, and 2) disabled people are burdens on others. It would be lovely for those of us who live with fluctuating illnesses to have disabled fictional characters who reflected the lived experience of most of us with disabilities – friendly, hardworking and resilient – instead of getting shunted into these categories).

    The writing style is its main selling point: halfway to poetry, each short sentence is visually evocative and full of literary allusions. It has a dreamlike quality – strange, colourful, lucid scenes, with a background of stream of consciousness Woolf-esque inner monologue. You can smell the salt on the sea, the fish guts in the market, the sweat on her skin.

    There’s not much of a plot, and none of the characters are particularly likeable. But it reads like a work of art. It does a lot with few words: exploring the power and weakness of women, the parent-child relationship and the ways we chain ourselves to each other, doomed love and the different ways we live in fantasies of our own making. Be warned: our book club was split, with many finding it plotless, slow and just plain weird.

    But if you are a lover of poetry, alert to the classical allusions, the interplay of myth and psychology, this is a rich and rewarding read – and so different from anything else that it’s definitely worth your time. Highly recommended.

    *I received a review copy and this is my honest review*

  • Worth the time for this Magnum Opus

    My verdict in short: Auster makes you work hard for it, but the writing and storytelling are outstanding – it feels like his magnum opus. His exploration of identity and what makes up a life is subtly yet powerfully done, and will leave you thinking long afterwards. Highly recommended for literary types.

    Paul Auster is a literary heavyweight, best-known for his intelligent novels where he plays with absurdism and existentialism (for example, the New York Trilogy where a private New York investigator is hired to track down someone who may or may not be himself). This is quite different: a beast of a book, with 900 (large) pages of Dickensian-like detail, exploring the lives of one person, Ferguson, who tries to find love and purpose in 1950s and 1960s. This is almost a straight saga, but it’s ‘lives’, rather than ‘life’, as the twist is that, depending on the actions of his father on one crucial night, the protagonist’s life goes in four different directions. We never know which life is the ‘real’ one, and in some senses it’s a ‘choose your own adventure’ story, as you find yourself rooting for different versions of his life. I especially loved the way Auster interweaves the political and cultural turbulence of 1950s and 60s America, so it feels well-earthed in time and place.

    Having four versions of the same character also has the effect of distancing yourself from the main character, observing from above, rather than in the middle, but it is redeemed by the effect that it has on the reader, plus the Auster-ish twist at the end. I kept reading because of the vivid storytelling and incredible writing. At one point, the protagonist describes himself as a person equally passionate about the body as the mind. Paul Auster could be describing his writing: he writes powerful, erotic sex scenes (sometimes disturbingly so, in instances of power imbalance and abuse), and captures the physical sense of every environment – New York and Paris being particularly evocative – yet he also takes you deep into discussions about literature, art and philosophy. It talks of the fragility of life – how one absurd event you have no control of can alter everything. It also highlights the pros and cons of political involvement, the role of the writer, and the complexities of fighting for civil rights. It felt eerily timely for America (and much of the world) today.

    *I received a review copy, and this is my honest review*

  • Great resource for clergy and their kids

    I had the privilege of reading an early draft of this and loved it, and it was published this month. This was my endorsement of her book:

    “Musings of a Clergy Child is essential reading for clergy children and parents. It’s also perfect for anyone who grew up in a Christian home who’s lost their identity or faith along the way. A happy combination of funny stories about clergy life, raw, honest prayers, and pastoral wisdom for fellow clergy children, it’s like flicking through a helpful magazine in a coffee shop with a good friend.

    “Nell Goddard’s writing is a rare treat of dry wit, bracing honesty, passion and compassion – a real rising star in the Christian writing world. As a clergy parent, I’m listening intently to Nell Goddard’s wisdom.

    “What shines through her writing is the simple beauty of a faith honed by challenge, heartbreak and perseverance. Highly recommended.”

  • Short, pastoral, biblical

    This is a short book designed for those who are undergoing suffering, and has ten chapters that take you on a healing journey through the Psalms. It has much in its favour: it’s short and readable, though there’s plenty of biblical study packed in; the author is sympathetic to those experiencing complex emotions during hard times and does well at making you feel understood; it gives you a great introduction to a wide range of psalms.

    Simon Stocks is a seminary/theological college lecturer and ordained Church of England priest, and it’s written with a pastor’s heart, who clearly knows from personal experience what it is to wrestle with God. His doctorate was on the theology of lament, and the sections which advocate complaining and expressing anger to God in times of suffering made me want to cheer.

    At times I felt there were too many Psalms per chapter to really focus on, and in a couple of chapters I felt a little rushed to be emerging through the healing journey, but overall this was an excellent read, and very approachable. Highly recommended for any Bible-lover going through hard times and feeling stuck in their relationship with God.

    *I received a free review copy in exchange for my honest review, which this is*

  • Good, though trigger warnings for some ME patients

    In brief: good, but some important caveats and potential trigger warnings for some ME patients.

    Through the Shadowlands is a fascinating memoir, with a compelling story, nuggets of wisdom, and a thorough survey of the scientific research around ME and mould- based illnesses. It is a science-writer’s personal story of contracting ME – (myalgic encephalomyelitis, labelled as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the US), and how she made a good, though not full, recovery via extreme mould avoidance and psychological ‘brain retraining’. It also covers her troubled upbringing and how her chronic illness impacts on her relationships. (It’s written intelligently but informally, which makes for plenty of swearing, for those who find swearing difficult.)

    Rehmeyer approaches her chronic illness with enviable resilience. As a scientist she resolved to view her disease with ‘curiosity’, rather than fear; as a highly-intuitive person, she also approaches her limitations with a non-religious loosely-theistic spirituality. For the first ten chapters, where she describes her descent into ever-worsening ME, and simultaneously tells of the highly politicised history of the illness, I wanted to give her a standing ovation.

    Is it a good book for long-term ME patients like me, who have tried All The Things, and have been wearied by so much disbelief of our illness and people pushing miracle cures? My answer is yes, but with some caveats. If someone reads it carelessly, looking either for a miracle cure, or a reason to think ME is a psychosomatic illness caused by childhood trauma, they might find ammunition here: some of the mould avoidance and consulting-with-a-psychic episodes initially sound, as Rehmeyer herself admits, ‘whacko’. There was one part I found triggering, and almost wanted to stop reading – and for those still feeling raw from the trauma of having their neurological illness shunted into the psychiatric sphere, this may be too hard to read right now.

    But I’m glad I read to the end, because if you absorb her thoughtful commentary throughout, she explains clearly that her story should not be seen as the single narrative of the ME experience. Although mould avoidance and psychiatric techniques have been significant for her, she puts both theories in scientific context, openly acknowledging the weaknesses as well as the strengths in any theory, and making clear that there are plenty of other ME patients who have open-mindedly tried these therapies without success. (Her epilogue is important for this.)

    *I received a copy from the author, with an invitation for an honest review, which this is.*

  • Still relevant today

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that if one is a feminist, or indeed even a woman, one is obliged to have read Woolf’s short but seminal work on equality for women, particularly in the world of writing and academia. It started life as a talk for students, and you can almost hear her voice as she writes these crisp and witty essays exposing the many ways that women don’t start off on the same footing as men, particularly as writers and academics. I underlined anything that seemed particularly pertinent to our culture today – and there was an awful lot of underlining by the end.

    Eerily relevant today, it’s highly recommended for female writers and anyone who aspires to be a feminist (and if you’re short of time just read the first chapter and feel good.)

  • Still relevant today

    It is a truth universally acknowledged that if one is a feminist, or indeed even a woman, one is obliged to have read Woolf’s short but seminal work on equality for women, particularly in the world of writing and academia. It started life as a talk for students, and you can almost hear her voice as she writes these crisp and witty essays exposing the many ways that women don’t start off on the same footing as men, particularly as writers and academics. I underlined anything that seemed particularly pertinent to our culture today – and there was an awful lot of underlining by the end.

    Eerily relevant today, it’s highly recommended for female writers and anyone who aspires to be a feminist (and if you’re short of time just read the first chapter and feel good.)

  • Mind blowingly good book.

    Blew my mind from the opening chapter!

    Fantastic book written by a fantastic writer.

  • Absolutely brilliant.

    I absolutely loved RATTLE. One of those books you simply cannot put down. Brilliant storyline. Brilliant writer. An easy 5 star rating from me.