I have a question:
Where does time go? It feels like only last week that I uploaded my Sunday Unwind blog post, but here we are, three weeks later, and once again I’m kicking myself for not getting back into the swing of writing sooner. It’s not like it doesn’t cross my mind - every morning I’ll think ‘right, writing must take priority today’ - but juggling another job and social campaigns and boring crap like admin means there’s always something else which aches with urgency. The only deadlines for posts are those that I set for myself, and when I have a bundle of crap to get through, guess which task slips under the radar soonest?
You betcha - the writing.
In lieu of replying to my friend’s text messages and the swathes of flagged emails in my inbox, however, I’ve spent a lot more time reading. I have to be strict with myself and force myself into the first few pages, but once I’m in, I love it. And there’s a real satisfaction that comes with finishing a book, isn’t there? A keen medley of despair that it’s over and completeness that the start, middle and end are neatly tucked away in the appropriate drawer in your mind.
I got through three titles in June, helped considerably along by our week in Italy where I spent every morning arched over a tea, book splayed in hand (you can take the girl out of England and all that). For quick updates on what I’m reading you can find the ‘books’ highlight in my Instagram bio, but for a little more info, shuffle those retinas downwards.
An atmospheric dystopian tale about three sisters living in an abandoned hotel, schooled by their father King to desperately fear toxins, men, and their own emotions. To leave their island would be certain death; men are out there and they can’t be trusted, and anyway, the girls’ bodies couldn’t cope with the foreign chemicals. King and their mother commit the sisters to ‘therapies’ and ‘rituals’ to invoke painful associations, keeping them contained, quelled, and safe. Then one day King disappears, and three men wash ashore, and the dynamic of their home is plunged into turmoil. Their mother vanishes soon after and the sisters must reshape their world, for the first time claiming ownership over their own persons. The Water Cure is eery and suspicious, tense like a string pulled tight. Sophie Mackintosh quietly teases out pertinent questions about rape culture, ideologies and abuse, doing so whilst situating us in an environment which feels real enough to touch.
Did I enjoy it? I found it a little slow to get into to begin with, but once I’d sunk into the almost languid rhythm of it and got used to the narrative being delivered by each of the three sisters - sometimes alone, sometimes in combination - I really enjoyed it. In fact towards the end I was gripped by the story and desperate to see how it unfolded (it didn’t disappoint). Sophie delivers the atmosphere the women live in with such a tangible precision, too; you can feel the heat, the prolonged and present fear, the sweat on your upper lip. I love that. Give it a try, even if you aren’t always immediately drawn to dystopian or feminist fiction. 4 stars.
Continuing my long-standing fascination with anything apocalyptic or dystopian, My Name Is Monster tells the story of planet earth’s one sole survivor after all other ebbs of human life have been snuffed out - or so she thinks. Addressed with the moniker long before civilisations’ collapse, Monster always struggled to fit in with her surrounding people, and emotional connection was something she distanced herself from - was even nauseated by - and physical connection even more so.
As the world crumbles around her she does anything she must to survive, even to the extent of indifference at the deaths of those closest to her. She is isolated, in pain, and always on the move, and we follow her as she journeys, intermittently evoking memories from the past and all that has lead to this point. And then she finds someone: a girl: a young girl - and everything changes. What starts as story about survival and the perishing foundations of society turns into an uncomfortable and desperate insight into motherhood, love and instinct.
Did I enjoy it? I did, but maybe not as much as I expected to. The narrative is delivered via the two characters and as such, certain chunks of information are omitted which would further shape the story. This is how the story should play out - the mystery in what we’re not told reflects the unknowing of the characters themselves, and this vast, endless landscape that surrounds them - but I felt there were moments which maybe relied upon this too much, and which could have been elaborated on without losing the value of the unsaid. Still very much enjoyable though and certainly musters a hum of fear in your belly. 3 stars.
Supper Club is a visceral unpicking of the fraught passage of time between post-education and early thirties, within which a group of young women seek to reclaim their appetites by starting a Supper Club. A smörgåsbord of women join, all with their own hunger they’re seeking to satiate and all with their own bodies they’re seeking to swell. Their goal is take up more space and be bigger in every way with. As much as this is a story about the joint rebellion of young women who are tired of being told to minimise, dull, tame and compromise themselves, it’s also a story about isolation, ownership, and toxic relationships. About the give and take of love which is so rarely balanced. Illustrating the consume vs. be consumed pendulum throughout via a myriad of thick and delicious food references, I would encourage any 20/30-something with growing pains to read this.
Did I enjoy it? I LOVED IT. This was one of my favourite reads for a while, less so for the story itself (which is a personal preference thing - I always prefer narratives which are set in the past or in the future) and more for Lara’s beautiful use of language. I’m jealous. So many times I found myself stopping to re-read a passage, delighted by the unexpected linguistic pirouettes and her way of teasing out those internal battles in a way which isn't forced or too deliberate. She’s just a very beautiful and talented writer and that artistry always gets me. Don’t get me wrong: the story has depth too. And the food references? Gluttonous. But I think it’s her way of writing which allows you to open up your own vulnerabilities and connect. 5 stars.