Stop the Clocks

Today we’re running with a theme, for which we have one full book review and two mini ‘if you like the sound of that, then check out these’ numbers, and although the theme in question is not a cheery one, these books are great at helping explore something we often don’t have words for.

Grief is something we are all likely to encounter at some point, and navigating what it means and how to deal with it is a task that I think no person can, or ever will, be fully able to conquer. Comfort can be provided though, and we can make that path somewhat easier to walk along.

I hold huge belief in the power of stories, they provide a quiet space where you can enter another persons world and often find similar thoughts and feelings reflected back at you, letting you know you’re not alone. As my hero Alan Bennett said

The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.

Because grief can often make us feel cut off from the world around us and leave a person posing some of life’s greatest questions, it makes sense to me that when writers explore this topic they too will not necessarily stick to our everyday scenery to explain what feels unexplainable.

Fairytale and myth have been used as long as humans have existed to pass down tales, but also to find a way to make grand ideas more palatable, to explain the complicated in entertaining and manageable ways, and to hide a great lesson behind a canny bit of metaphor. The books I’ve chosen all do the above, using magical realism as their way of telling an all too human story.

So, let’s have a look at them…

I do love when a book takes me North, when the characters are making their way around the streets I can imagine it that much clearer. Even though I’m a Geordie I’ve spent plenty of time in Edinburgh, and I was delighted to find that ‘Out of the Blue’, by Sophie Cameron, found it’s stomping ground there.

Sophie Cameron

This novel cleverly uses magical realism to explore grief, the effect it can have on the individual and those surrounding them. Jaya finds herself supplanted from her home to a rented flat in Edinburgh with her father and her younger sister. Their father has made plans to stay there for around a month, and with two young girls grieving for their recently deceased mother, you long for him to turn his attention to his daughters. There is little chance of this as he, Joya’s sister and the majority of the world population, have become captivated by a recent phenomenon. Initially passed off as some kind of elaborate PR stunt, an intensity is building as people start to accept this is real – angels are falling from the sky. None of these other worldly beings have survived the fall and over 80 incidents have occurred across the globe, with all hosts of different reasons being offered up in explanation.

Joya is not swept up by this buzz, seeing the angels being hideously treat like animals to be tested on, no care given to where they have came from or why they are falling. To add to her irritation her father is determined he has worked out where the next angel will fall and how he will bag himself the find, as well as dragging her away from her home life, where she longs to sort out the sudden lack of communication from her sort of girlfriend (Joya is happily out as gay but her partner very much less so, causing periods of being on and off).

To escape the city, over whelmed with Fringe festival tourists and disturbing demonstrations by what seems cult like followers of the angels, Joya heads off to walk the quiet pathways of Arthur’s Seat one evening, and is it wrong place, wrong time or vice versa, when she encounters another fallen angel – alive.

Arthur’s Seat

This novel poses great challenges for its protagonist, whether to follow her moral beliefs or succumb to her families wishes, how to deal with the ever present guilt and grief weighing on her shoulders, her first encounter with a person with a disability as she learns about cystic fibrosis, and when is it ok to let go of one relationship and give in to the sparks of a new one. It is a pleasure to join Joya on her journey and see her spread her own wings.

Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron £7.99 (Macmillan)

This next book has been out for some time now but I would hate to think it had passed people by as it is a true gem. ‘The Book of Lost Things’ by John Connolly introduces us to a 12 year old boy called David. He has been struggling since his mothers death and is feeling more isolated since his father has remarried. With World War Two raging around him the world is overwhelming, and before he knows it David finds himself falling into his books, quite literally. He is tasked with rescuing a King and as he does so, we the reader are left watching as a childhood is left behind.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly £8.99 (Hodder)

And last, but very much not least, is another new arrival on bookshop shelves. ‘The Astonishing Colour of After’ by Emily X R Pan looks at the months after 16 year old Leigh’s mother has died by suicide, but returns to her in the most unlikely way – she visits as a bird.

Having never met her maternal grandparents, Leigh soon finds herself heading to Taiwan, part of her quest ‘to remember’, the last thing her mother requested of her. Her story is interwoven with her love of art and beautiful descriptions of emotions as colours that vividly encapsulate what Leigh is feeling. A debut novel that is truly imaginative, fresh but also tender.

The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X R Pan £7.99 (Orion)

Ok, after all that bookery you deserve a cuppa, thank you if you made it to the end of the blog! Do you have any other recommendations that fit in with this theme? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!

And usual admin…

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…but until next time,

Happy Reading!

Stop the Clocks

Love Hurts

Ouch. I’ve finished my latest read and it has left me sore, the story within like an open wound, making me wince whenever I recognised a bit too much of myself in its pages. Louise O’Neill, author of ‘Almost Love’, is one of my favourite voices around because she writes with such unflinching honesty no matter what the topic. She is prepared to face down taboos and lesser said thoughts and feelings, dragging them on to the page and into the light to be examined. Although reading her books may leave you with more than a tear or two rolling down your cheek, they are cathartic and honest, reflecting how life is and not how we want it to be. Another author I wish had been around when I was younger to reassure me.

Louise O’Neill

One of the things I love most about O’Neill’s work is that she doesn’t strive to make her characters likeable, what is important is that they are depicted so truthfully you feel they could walk off the page. It seems to me she wants to press the importance of how necessary it is for us to still be able to stand side by side with a woman/girl who has been through hell and back, no matter what character assessment we make of her. The truth is still the truth, experiences just as affecting, and as a society we have to be there for all, not just those who seem the ‘perfect victim’. Life, and people, aren’t perfect, and that’s ok.

Almost Love is a novel that flits back and forwards over the period of 4 years or so of our protagonist Sarah’s life, each chapter alternating ‘Now’ and ‘Then’ so we know where in her timeline we find ourselves.

Sarah moved to Dublin, away from her small town life and father, after finishing art college. Moving in with a group of friends she watched as their careers took off, while hers seemed to…stall. With no faith in her art work she soon stops trying entirely, taking a teaching position in which she certainly isn’t the most reliable faculty member.

Life is further tilted on its axis when she meets a much older, much wealthier man who quickly has her under his spell. Sarah is infatuated, and despite warnings from those around her not to get in to deep, she pays little attention and before she knows it finds herself adrift from all her previous ties. As we jump back and forward in her narrative her story unravels and we watch as the effects of this blinkered love become clearer to us. Is love meant to hurt this much and will she find her way home again? I so often wanted to scream at her but then immediately wrap her up in a hug as well.

I loved how O’Neill brings in discussion of feminism in her work, with this story raising some great points. A lot of the feminism in play with these characters comes from quite an academic back ground, and I wanted to applaud when Sarah poses questions about how applicable this ‘brand’ of feminism was that she found in the books/academia around her to women like her mother, who worked full time in a more traditional working class role.

There are also interesting looks at the nature of imbalance in relationships caused by money, misogyny running amok and complex family relationships.

Whether you’ve lived experience of what Sarah goes through or you know somebody else who has, I can’t imagine this book not reaching out to each reader and relating to them in its own specific way, and what more can you want from a story?

Almost Love by Louise O’Neill £14.99 (Riverun – Quercus)

Are there any books you wish you’d read as a teenager? Do you think they would have altered your path or would you have charged on anyway? I like to think that even if I’d carried on making all my mistakes they would have planted a voice in my head to help me manage the bumps in the road.

We have lots of great books coming your way so if you want to sign up, here is the usual details…

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and until next time all,

Happy Reading!

Love Hurts

Women’s Prize Longlist

When the clock struck midnight and not just any day began but International Woman’s Day, the long list for the Women’s Prize was released, and yes, I was one of those people who stayed up to see who had made it on there.

I very much like the long list this year, which has been described as ‘outward looking’, with a couple of books on there I’ve adored, some I’ve very much enjoyed, a few I’ve got piled up to read and then the sneaky couple I’ve never heard of.

I thought I’d pull the list together in one place so if you wanted you could see previous reviews of those in the running that have appeared on Dog Eared, a little summary of the ones I’ve read but haven’t blogged about, and my two pence worth on the ones I still have to delve into.

Let’s get straight to it!

H(a)ppy by Nicola Barker

This is the first of the books that I have to confess has never crossed my radar. Having now had a read of the blurb I’ll definitely be having a read now. The novel seems to focus on a future utopia, where there is no poverty, greed, fear or God. Where we are looked after and surrounded by a loving community. Every narrative must have its challenges so what is going to happen in this dreamy world?! Turns out I neeeed to know!

The Idiot by Elif Batuman

This is a contender I’ve read but didn’t blog about. It follows Selin, who is Turkish-American, in her first year at Harvard. Her new environment is quite the shock to the system as she faces up to ‘being an adult’ while studying languages, a topic she thinks about often, and raising money on the side by teaching ESL students. After meeting a fellow student, Ivan, from Hungary, the pair fall into a disjointed relationship that leaves Selin as confused as it does contented. I laughed a lot at this novel which focuses on that unsteady time of transition in life.

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

Im actually reading this one now and only a quarter, if that, of the way in! I loved Cannon’s first book, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, so was eager to get started with this and I’m enjoying it already. We meet Florence, who is living at a home for the elderly, where the staff are always attempting to get her to join in activities she has no interest in. When we are introduced to Florence however, she isn’t taking part in an activity but is lying on her bedroom floor, waiting for somebody to find her. Things have been a little strange around the home lately, although her best friend Elsie questions if she is just getting slightly forgetful and confused, but when a new resident appears from her past it is a cause for fear not celebration. That’s all I can say so far, other than I’m looking forward to getting back to the book later!

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes-Gowar is featured next, and you can read my blog about that by clicking here

Miss Burma by Charmaine Craig

Another novel I haven’t came across. This is a novel based on the authors mother and grandmother, and the lives they led in Burma, from 1939 onwards. With a protagonist from one of Burma’s Karen ethnic minority groups, the story is told with World War Two and then a decade of civil war playing out alongside it. I’ll report back when I’ve read it!

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Egan has a firm fan base out there after her novel ‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ and I’m intrigued to see if this receives as much praise. My bookish friend Emma has been reading this and I know she is enjoying it so far. This novel centres on an Irish family living in Brooklyn during the depression and the Second World War. We have the story of three different characters weaving their way through this book, the one that intrigued me most being that of a woman who becomes a diver to help the war effort. I expect good stuff from this one.

Sight by Jessie Greengrass

This book sounds goooood. It appears to be something of a mediation of motherhood. We have a woman looking at how she is ‘performing’ as a mother herself, while examining her relationship with her own mother and grandmother. Throughout the novel we then encounter moments were significant changes/discoveries were made in medical history. I think this sounds fascinating and am eager to get my hands on a copy!

Sing, Unburied, Sing

I LOVE this book, utter perfection, read about it here

When I Hit You, Or, The Portrait is the Artist as a Young Wife

I honestly cannot believe I didn’t write about this book on the site as it was easily one of my tops reads of the year, albeit not an easy one to swallow emotionally. Stunningly written, it is fiction but does have some of the authors of experience in there, the book looks at an unnamed protagonist who is a successful writer. She meets a professor who she falls for and agrees to become his wife, but soon after the marriage she finds he is a violent man who wants an ‘ideal’ homely wife, and we read in horror as he goes about stripping her of links to the outside world and independence. A remarkable book.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

The return of Roy was quite the anticipated event in the literary world and I too was caught up in the excitement yet…I still haven’t read this! To be totally honest I think the size of the book has put me off, you know when you need to be in the right mind frame to pick up a tome? This is a novel set in India over many years, turbulent war filled years, supposed ‘peace time’ and actual peace time. Again we have a trio of central characters whom we follow, looking at love and hope, what it can mean to be an outsider, how life can tear us apart and how it can heal us again.

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Quite a few of my bookseller colleagues have read this and loved it, and I’ve been desperate to read it from all the buzz. My copy is ready to go in the next few days. The book is a retelling of the Lizzie Borden murders in America. The joy in crime fiction is not know what’s coming so that’s all I’m going to say!


Another favourite read of last year, you can find my review here

A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert

This sounds right up my street. Set in the Ukraine, not long after Germany have invaded, a young boy called Yankel finds his town is overrun by the SS, and that be has to put his self and his brothers lives at the mercy of strangers.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Again, why did I not review this when I read it? I really enjoyed Home Fire, which is a modern day retelling of Antigone by Sophocles. This looks at family, relationships and what happens when politics, religion and a struggle with racial identity all begin to bubble up amongst two families with very different backgrounds. I’d like to have a reread of this one.

The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal

This second outing by de Waal isn’t actually out until the end of March but if it’s half as good as ‘My Name is Leon’ I know we’ll be in for a cracking read. Here our Irish protagonist looks back at her time in 1970’s Birmingham, and an intense love affair that leads to a marriage that may not have been built on the most solid of ground.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

The much feted Miss Oliphant of course found her way on to the long list, our review can be found by clicking here

So as you can see it is quite the list! Have you read any of these? Got any already or tempted to pick up a certain one after finding out a little more about the book? Let us know! Maybe you have already predicted the winner?! As always you can join in the conversation about the books in the comments below! And until next time,

Happy Reading!

Women’s Prize Longlist

My Milkshake brings all the Books to the Yard

Another double serving today and I am dishing up some bookish deliciousness for you! I didn’t deliberately read these two books at the same time but I did adore them both and it seems so natural that they are served up here together. (Do you get where my subtle hints are going? Do you, eh eh?!)

Yes dear reader, the focus here falls on food, glorious food! We have some lip smackingly brilliant YA and a manifesto on all things stomach bound to feast upon. As a person who loves to cook, feed people, eat, and on the other hand also fights to have body confidence and often fails, both books were eagerly picked up by myself. Let’s tuck in shall we?

It seems horribly reductive to introduce our first author, Ruby Tandoh, solely on her Bake Off competitor credentials, she has written two wonderful cook books ‘Crumb’ and ‘Flavour’, and now has brought us a third read musing on everything delicious, ‘Eat Up!’

Ruby Tandoh

A meditation on appetite and what food means to use, the memories we can have tied up in it and the comfort and nourishment it can bring to us is heralded from every page. What really drives Ruby is her passion over making food less complicated than we’ve currently forced it to be. Your food choices should not come with a side portion of guilt, the ingredients you use are not a moral signpost, ‘clean eating’ can be a bloody harmful concept. To each their own, what they enjoy, what they can afford, what works for them. Before you judge somebodies microwave meal walk a mile in their shoes and then eat their dinner or something like that!

About to follow Ruby’s advice…

I learned a lot from the information Ruby pulls together here (note I call her Ruby, not using her surname like most authors, I think she feels like my friend after reading this, somebody I’ve had a good, solid chat with) she never lectures or prescribes a ‘right’ way. I did learn that you will absorb more nutrients from food that you are enjoying than the equivalent in say liquid, mushed up form. The pleasure in actually eating is necessary for our body.

There are discussions on fat shaming, disordered eating, regional and international food, and delightfully the food references used in culture and what they are used to mean. I will never watch that scene in When Harry Met Sally in the same way again. Scattered throughout are recipes from Ruby, all written as if a friend is chatting you through the cooking, rather than a regulated list and bullet point instructions.

I found it to be a thought provoking read, but also one that made me laugh and provided comfort, it also resulted in me getting a giant doughnut due to the intense cravings it provoked, and any book that results in a doughnut is a winner in my eyes!

….I did her proud

Eat Up! By Ruby Tandoh £12.99 (Serpent’s Tail)

Second course now and I bring you a YA read that I gobbled up. Author Laura Dockrill brings us ‘Big Bones’, with an illustration of a gorgeous young women on the front with the kind of thighs that would make Beyoncé proud. Dockrill is not only author but also a poet and illustrator, who graduated from the Brit School of Performing Arts along with her pals Kate Nash and a little known singer called, um, Adele! Her last two books, Lorali and Aurabel, were huge hits with myself and my bookish friends.

Laura Dockrill

‘Big Bones’ is the story of Bluebell, a young woman who knows what she wants, and what she wants is to leave school and get on an apprenticeship to traumas a full time barista at the cafe she currently works part time in.

When an asthma attack results in her mother taking her along to see the nurse she is forced to have conversations she would rather not. It comes as no surprise to her when the nurse pronounced her overweight, Bluebelle knows she is bigger than society considers acceptable, but she feels healthy and she loves how she looks. When the nurse starts reeling off possible health side effects Bluebelle could encounter because of her weight, her mum gets upset and a row ensues. In the end deals are struck, when the nurse encourages gym attendance and the completion of a food diary over a 6 week period, her mum consents to her withdrawal from school if she will do these two things.

What follows is the diary itself, which Bluebelle separates into sections using different foods as headings, then giving us her opinion on them, the perfect cheese toastie to the joys of millionaires shortbread. An unexpected result is that she begins to use the diary to spill the details on, well, every single thing that’s going on in her life. We read about her little sister who has boundless energy, her irritating boss and rather handsome colleague, and her warring parents as they deal with a possibly temporary, possibly not separation. As different challenges come her way, food is a constant pleasure and companion, until a frightening event takes place that manages to sully how she sees both herself and what she eats.

What kind of size cake do you call this?!

It was so deeply refreshing to read about a young woman who had utter confidence in how she looked, seeing sexy in muffin tops and belly rolls. It shows how ingrained it is, for me at least, to be in a space where we expect young women to hate how they look, as I found myself continually having my head pulled up bu this novel surprise. Bluebelle is a pleasure to spend time with, and the story of her family, the navigation of the ‘from child to adult’ years, and be relationship with food are all equally absorbing. Pull up a seat at her table and tuck in!

Big Bones by Laura Dockrill £6.99 (Hot Key Books)

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What books have the best foody memories for you? Let us know in the comments below, and until next time…

Happy Reading!

My Milkshake brings all the Books to the Yard

Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon

Ever since ‘Rebecca’ I have loved an unnamed narrator. It somehow pulls me closer to the character, when you are in close companionship with somebody you don’t really say their name when in conversation, you’re so close there is no need to keep repeating it, so your protagonist has already situated themselves as somebody right by your side by not even mentioning their name. On the flip side you have the juicy delight of feeling oh so close, hearing their every thought and then having that smack bang realisation half way through of, ‘hang on, you haven’t even told me your name, what else aren’t you telling me?’ Can you pin this person down? Does it make them freer to tell you their deepest secrets or more able to invent a fictional life, like somebody hiding behind an avatar on a computer? Does it even matter?! Well, I find it an intriguing decision by any author no matter what the answer!

So you may have guessed, our novella today is told by one of these mysterious, unnamed teller of tales, in such an intimate way it feels like you’ve stumbled upon a diary by a bedside. ‘Women’, by Chloe Caldwell, has our young protagonist asking questions of her self, her sexuality and trying to untangle the answers from the messy situations she finds herself in.

Chloe Caldwell

We watch as she moves away from her birth city where she lived with her mother, and was finding herself more and more dependent on drugs to have a good time, to a whole new city and scene, where she plans to start afresh. We are aware she is a writer, and it is this occupation that brings Finn into her life, an older woman who contacts her on Facebook to say how much she enjoyed her book.

The two meet and it is obvious from the beginning that their relationship is going to become an intense and important one in both their lives. Our protagonist acknowledges from the start that she knows this cannot end well, for starters Finn has a partner of 12 years.

With clandestine catch ups in a sunken, rented apartment and the exploration of a side of her sexuality she had not experienced or expected, our woman falls deep. Her writing stops, and the complications begin.

Feeling so closely involved because of the confidential tone of this novella, you want to grab her hand, take her out for a proper meal with a side of good advice, but we can’t, we just have to sit by and read her account of these heady days and hope she comes up for air.

I read this book in one sitting, I got totally lost in the confusion of feelings experienced within the pages. Was Finn another addiction or a true love? Was this a case of learning about her sexuality or just an intoxication with this one woman? You could have easily doubled the length of the book and I wouldn’t have paused, I was thoroughly wrapped up in what I wouldn’t describe exactly as a ‘coming of age’ tale but more of a ‘coming together of mind’ story (clunky phrase but I hope you get my gist!)

I haven’t read any work by Chloe Caldwell before and she is now happily sitting on my ‘check out anything else she publishes’ shelf in my mind. If an honest account of an unsure psyche is your thing, grab a copy and let me know what you think!

Women by Chloe Caldwell £10.00 (4th Estate)

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Thanks for stopping by and until next time,

Happy Reading!

Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon

Red, Red Rose

There are so many holes in my knowledge of history which are women shaped, women who changed the world around them and who I would have been taught about in school if they’d been born male. I am trying to fill in some of these blank spots myself by following up on even the smallest of lead I find and then burrowing further until I can fill my view of the past with glorious women, not only rows and rows of white men.

I watch a lot of booktube and one of my favourite bookworms is Jean from ‘Jean Bookishthoughts‘. She recently had a post where she talked about some books she’d had delivered from Verso and one book out of her bundle caught my eye immediately.

Before I talk about the book, first a little word on the publishers Verso. They describe themselves as being:

…the largest independent, radical publishing house in the English-speaking world, publishing one hundred books a year.

They began with works in translation, focusing on politics, economics and social theory and have gone from strength to strength as the years have passed by. You can read more about them by clicking here and also view their full range of books, including the one I’m going to introduce you to…now!

‘Red Rosa’ is a graphic biography. Lately I’ve been increasing my intake of graphic novels as I’ve been enjoying them so much and my appreciation for this form of literature is really growing. This was my first time dipping my toe into a graphic biography however and it’s been a great success. Sometimes historical biographies in a more traditional text form can be a little dry, as dates and places I’ve never heard of are reeled off, I can notice my attention may have drifted away a little. This problem is completely negated for me with the graphics, my involvement is held tight by the scenes playing out before my eyes and I really loved the artwork by Kate Evans, who also wrote the text.

Rosa Luxembourg was a Polish Jew, born in 1871, when Russia still controlled the country. With her father showing her his liberal beliefs she soon forged her own path as a socialist thinker, despite huge difficulties that stood in her way, she was truly a revolutionary. Her intellect, passion and commitment to her cause never wavered, despite the persecution she endured. She was never afraid to fight against those who she disagreed with, Stalin and Lenin being two adversaries she would not back down to. Her incredible writing and philosophy being as innovative and radical as it was, she was a target from day one.

This biography not only takes us through her political journey, but also that of her own personal life, her personality so vibrant and powerful the two never going to be the most easy of bed fellows.

Rosa lived a life that burned bright, and her death at the hands of the far right in Germany is an upsetting one, but from reading about how deeply held her convictions were and what a brave woman she was, I remain convinced she would have met the end with her head held high.

Learning about Rosa has ignited a flame to know more about this wonderful woman, and luckily for me, and all you readers out there who I’m sure will be equally fascinated, Verso also stock Rosa’s writings, so we can hear directly from her. I guess my ‘TBR’ pile is going to be even bigger!

Red Rosa by Kate Evans £9.99 (Verso)

Here comes the science bit…

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Until next time though,

Happy Reading!

Red, Red Rose

Fire, Brimstone and…Coffee?!

I’ve been getting through books at a rate of knots recently, and pretty much every one (with the exception of one poetry collection) has been top notch. I find it really hard to decide which to write about when I’m enjoying so many titles, so today we’re going to sneak two in. Both are new publications coming out within the next week or so, but one is fiction and the other memoir-ish (I’ll explain the ‘ish’ later). Also, I’ve added a new little function to my blog but I’ll save that until the end admin type business!

Let’s have a gander at the fiction first, a novel called ‘Fire Sermon’ by author Jamie Quatro. I have never read Quatro before, who has so far published short stories, but this first novel of hers hooked me in with the blurb.

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro is a daring debut novel of obsession, desire and salvation that shows the radical light and dark of love itself. This is a visceral, rich and devastating portrait of life and loves lived and lost that cannot fail to echo in your own experience

We meet Maggie as a young woman not long out of education, getting married to her first love. It seems a blissful day with the coming together of families to celebrate the union of this perfectly presented pair. Thomas, her new husband, is good looking and devoted to his partner, and as as we jump forward in time we see he is equally committed to the two young children they have.

Jamie Quatro

Maggie is not finding life quite so comfortable. She struggles as Thomas constantly pushes for sex each night, her mind battling over what she wants to do, or very much doesn’t want to do, compared to what she thinks a wife should be doing. I found Thomas suffocating in his demands and often wanted to haul Maggie away.

Maggie soon finds her own escape however, after writing to the author of a book she much admires, she soon becomes dedicated pen pals with James. The pair are both Christians and find they can talk about this and other life experiences easily with one another after finding an alarming number of similarities between their lives. Crucially, these are things they find they can’t talk to their partners about and soon make an agreement that the one topic they won’t broach is their respective spouses.

The novel jumps back and forwards in time, we read about Maggie and James three years into their liaison, long before we read about their actual first letters and meeting. We are absorbed in Maggie’s world, the turmoil in her thoughts racing off the page, watching as she picks over her every thought and feeling. Her relationship with God is central and she constantly questions how he will judge the path she has chosen. It often feels like she is self flagellating but as she cannot see or hear God right now (at one point physically being locked out of church) she does so in front of her therapist.

I enjoyed this exploration of a marriage, the meeting of two minds and the entanglement of guilt and belief. The book never presented me with answers, just as it doesn’t with Maggie, and as life can’t for all situations, but it did display how claustrophobic guilt can be. I will definitely keep an eye out for Quatro’s short story collection now as I’m intrigued to see if and how she explores such big themes in a more constrained framework. If you enjoy character driven novels that don’t follow a conventional, linear narrative and want to dig deep into the moral quandaries a person can live through, this is definitely a book for you.

Fire Sermon by Jamie Quatro £14.99 (Picador)

The second book I’ve been reading is ‘The Wife’s Tale’ by Aida Edemariam (only right to sit in Bath and read this, being in the city of Chaucer’s fictional fellow Wife). Although a memoir, it is not actually the immediate story of Edemariam herself, but that of her grandmothers, a woman who at 95 years of age lived a life with plenty to put on the page.

Aida Edemariam

Edemariam’s grandmother lived her whole life in Ethiopia, and what a time she lived through, experiencing war, fascism, being exiled from her home. I confess to knowing next to nothing about Ethiopia and I found this a fascinating account of the changes the country has gone through, the customs held by the people who live there and the way these have changed over the century of this amazing woman’s life.

Gondar, Ethiopia

I may have been absorbed by the account of Ethiopia but what really made me lose my heart to this book is the story of Edemariam’s grandmother herself. I felt like I was sitting at her feet hearing the stories of her marriage at the unbelievably young age of 8, the struggles she went through in this union, and the births, and deaths, of many children. She inspired me with her strength, which despite being sorely tested so many times in so many ways, seemed to me limitless. Not only the strength of will, love and determination but that of her body and all it endures, I often paused my reading to sit and reflect in awe.

When sitting down to write these two reviews I realised these reads are linked by the religion that is so focal in the life of the two woman, and it was interesting to see how they played a part in their lives despite them being a world apart (albeit one being fictional and the other not but I still think an interesting comparison). Aida’s grandmother leads a life that is deeply woven into the church, from the profession her husband chooses to her own pleas to spirits she believes can help when there seems to be little light in her life. Hers is not always an easy relationship with the church itself and she questions those who work within its walls at many points.

Although the trials this Wife’s Tale were many and it certainly is not easy reading about them in the book, this is not a maudlin tale, but one that made me glory at the power of one woman. I believe Edemariam has produced a beautiful monument to her grandmother.

The Wife’s Tale by Aida Edemariam £16.99 (4th Estate)

Last week we had a competition for a copy of the wonderful ‘Goodbye, Perfect’ by Sara Barnard and we’re happy to announce Beth Gunn will have the book winging its way to her after being pulled out in the draw. Sorry if you missed out this time but keep a look out for more great competitions appearing on these pages!

Bear with me, this next bit hurts!

The next thing to mention makes me a tad uncomfortable but after chatting with other reviewers/bloggers who use this system happily I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve decided to set up a ko-fi account for Dog Eared. For those that haven’t heard of ‘ko-fi’ it is a website that aims to help out those who make creative content in their own time for others to enjoy, but basically without a payroll to back them up! The idea is if you read something you like and you’d like to support the creator of the content, you can ‘buy them a ko-fi/coffee’ by clicking on the link and popping £1 or £2 across to them. This is IN NO WAY something I would ever expect readers to do, nor would I ever limit content to those who may choose to donate, it is there as an aside for anybody who wants to support the site and future opticians appointments I need to have from all the reading! I stress again nobody will ever be obliged to do this and it does make me feel a bit icky, but I’ve seen some of our great authors out there using this system and it seems the ‘friendliest’ option possible. I hope you understand and if not feel free to leave a strongly worded post below! If you do enjoy the content and feel you would like to contribute, simply click here.

Thank you so much for your support either way dear reader, it is always lovely to have you visiting our pages, and until next time…

Happy Reading!

Fire, Brimstone and…Coffee?!