All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told You 
Celeste Ng
Blackfriars (Hachette UK)
2014, 305p
Purchased personal copy via iBooks

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet.

Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue – in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest in the family – Hannah – who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened.

Everything I Never Told You is a gripping page-turner, about secrets, love, longing, lies and race.

Almost two years ago, I read Little Fires Everywhere, and absolutely loved it, like pretty much everyone else. I ended up buying this book, her previous, in either one of those cheap or freebie deals iBooks have, as a promo. I can’t remember now if it was free or if it was discounted down to a couple of dollars but I snapped it up as soon as I saw it, probably not long after I read Little Fires Everywhere. And I’ve only just gotten around to reading it, even though I’ve been meaning to ever since I bought it.

It starts with the best line – “Lydia is dead. But they don’t know that yet.” And the Lee family are going about their early morning routine: Dad James is driving to his office where he’s a professor at a local college, mother Marilyn is preparing breakfast for her children Nath, Lydia and Hannah. Only Lydia doesn’t come downstairs and when Marilyn heads up to her bedroom to look for her, her room looks untouched, her bed not slept in. It’s several days later when Lydia’s body is found after they drag the local lake and from then on, it’s about finding out what happened to her. As the police investigate, what they turn up about her daughter doesn’t match the image her parents have of her. And her disappearance and death reveals cracks in her parent’s marriage that have been there for years.

The story then delves into Marilyn and James – how they met, became involved, married and had children. They’re a mixed race couple – Marilyn is white from Virginia or somewhere equally conservative and James is ethnic Chinese but born in America. His parents travelled to the midwest when he was small in order to take up jobs at a boarding school and James received an education at the same school and was accepted to Harvard. He was the only person of Asian ethnicity at his school and when he meets Marilyn at college, mixed marriages are not at all common. In fact when they get married, their marriage could be illegal in several different states. Their children have James’ colouring apart from Lydia, who has his hair but in a genetic lottery, her mother’s blue eyes. They are also the only children of Asian heritage at their school as well in 1970s Ohio and they experience the standard questions and childish bullying in regards to their Asian features.

Lydia’s disappearance highlights the way in which her parents interacted with her and her siblings. James is desperate for his children not to have the same isolated childhood that he did. He wants them to fit in, have friends, be normal teenagers. He’s happiest when he believes that Lydia is giggling on the phone to one of her friends or picking a dress to wear to a dance, or when Nath is playing a game at the local pool with some neighbourhood kids. Like James, Nath has been accepted to Harvard and is only weeks or a few months away from leaving the home when Lydia disappears. Their own relationship is explored in this novel as well, how they both cope with their parents frustrated ambitions for them. While James wants them to fit in, Marilyn has much more ambitious plans for Lydia. She wants Lydia to be her, to complete what Marilyn was not able to. Marilyn wanted to be a doctor and she bonds with Lydia when Lydia is a young child by tutoring her in maths and science, honing and shaping her knowledge so that one day, Lydia might be pre-med. Lydia is so keen to actually spend time with her mother, be the focus of her attention that she says yes to anything, because of a pact she made when Marilyn vanished briefly from their lives when Lydia was eight. And Hannah, she was the reason Marilyn’s dream was thwarted a second time and she’s largely ignored by everyone. They had to turn their attic into a bedroom for her when she was born and so she lives mainly up in the roof or in the background, almost forgotten, raising herself. She’s much younger than her siblings and although they are kind to her, she doesn’t share the closeness they had with each other, the bond of getting each other through the expectations. With Nath soon off to college, she feels abandoned by him, like he cannot wait to escape and leave everything behind, including her.

Although the book begins with Lydia’s disappearance and the discovery of her body and there’s a running question of what happened to her – was it accidental/misadventure, did someone harm her or was it self inflicted, the book is about the complex relationships between the family members and the way that James and Marilyn’s own childhoods have affected the way they parent their children and what they want for them out of life. It’s about racism and small town ostracisation and not fitting in. I really liked this and I can’t wait to read more from Celeste Ng in the future.

8/10

Book #201 of 2019

I’m counting this one towards my participation in the Reading Women Challenge, hosted by the Reading Women Podcast. I’m using it to check off the first prompt, mystery or thriller by a WOC. Although a domestic drama, there’s definitely a mystery running through this book of what happened to Lydia and how/why she came to be in the lake. This is the 21st novel completed for the challenge…..can I actually manage to finish this?!

 

3 Comments »

Review: H Is For Hawk by Helen MacDonald

H Is For Hawk
Helen MacDonald
Grove Press
2015, 300p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

When Helen Macdonald’s father died suddenly on a London street, she was devastated. An experienced falconer—Helen had been captivated by hawks since childhood—she’d never before been tempted to train one of the most vicious predators, the goshawk. But in her grief, she saw that the goshawk’s fierce and feral temperament mirrored her own. Resolving to purchase and raise the deadly creature as a means to cope with her loss, she adopted Mabel, and turned to the guidance of The Once and Future King author T.H. White’s chronicle The Goshawk to begin her challenging endeavor. Projecting herself “in the hawk’s wild mind to tame her” tested the limits of Macdonald’s humanity and changed her life.

Heart-wrenching and humorous, this book is an unflinching account of bereavement and a unique look at the magnetism of an extraordinary beast, with a parallel examination of a legendary writer’s eccentric falconry. Obsession, madness, memory, myth, and history combine to achieve a distinctive blend of nature writing and memoir from an outstanding literary innovator.

This book was a huge struggle for me.

The premise interested me. I don’t know anything about falconry and the closest I’ve gotten is seeing the Australian Birds of Prey show at the wildlife sanctuary. But I thought learning about training a hawk would be quite interesting, even if I do consider it a bit of an antiquated past-time. This was one of the suggestions in the Goodreads group for the Reading Women Podcast Challenge for the prompt of “A woman in science” and it sounded the most interesting to me from all the books listed. And it was easily accessible as my library had a copy on the shelf and available.

Frankly for me, far too much of this book is about T.H. White, an English author who wrote Arthurian novels and also, apparently, a book about training a goshawk which reads more like a “how not to”. Helen Macdonald read this novel as a child and for some reason, it’s revisited constantly, despite the fact that White appeared to have no actual clue what he was doing and his actions were negligent at best and downright animal cruelty at worst. A lot of made of White’s background, which seems admittedly difficult and his latent or buried homosexuality. The thing is, if I’d wanted to read about T.H. White, I’d have gone and read about T.H. White. If I’d wanted to read The Goshawk, I’d have borrowed it from the library. In all honesty I didn’t care about T.H. White and his ineptitude and I got sick of long passages devoted to him. It was incredibly tedious.

Although…..sometimes Helen’s passages about herself were no easier to read. It was very difficult to be in her head. She completely immerses herself in training Mabel, the goshawk she acquires, which seems to go quite well. Goshawks are apparently, notoriously difficult to tame and from an outsider’s perspective, Helen doesn’t seem to have too much difficulty with Mabel at all. There are some settling in issues as Mabel gets used to her but she feeds and sleeps and seems quite well in herself. Helen however, is constantly crippled with anxiety about her, thinking that Mabel hates her and that she’s ruining her. She completely retreats from her life (and I understand this is grief as well as her devotion to Mabel, both are one and the same it seems) but to the point where she seems to resent any interaction with humans. She doesn’t want to talk to people, she doesn’t want to come to the door. She basically ends up as feral as Mabel and at times, it was definitely quite a struggle getting through some of those sections. I was happy to see Helen actually went to get some help late in the novel, I can’t help feeling like she had needed some help dealing with her mental health for quite a while. It didn’t seem like she spent enough time with anyone for them to notice that she seemed to be struggling quite a lot. I have not lost a parent and I don’t know that level of grief, but Helen seems to withdraw so much from life after her father dies. She mentions her job (the house she was living in was provided by her work) but during her early time with Mabel, she seems to do so little except be with the hawk. When her contract finishes, she seems to seek no other work, just focusing on Mabel.

There were several instances in this novel where Helen takes Mabel hawking places she doesn’t have permission to be and then of course, Mabel causes carnage with people’s commercial pheasants, because she’s a hawk, she’s bred to hunt prey. But Helen just kind of stuffs the evidence in her pockets and hightails it out of there, which made me feel like that was a bit of a terrible thing to do. She could’ve sought these people out and apologised and offered to compensate them for their losses. If she did that, it wasn’t included in the book, it just made it seem like she got the heck out as soon as Mabel was finished, which felt quite rude and inconsiderate. There are places where Helen does have permission to hunt with Mabel, so her blithe ‘I’m not allowed to be here, oh well’ didn’t really sit very well with me.

This book won two very prestigious awards – The Samuel Johnson Prize (now Baillie Gifford Prize) awarded to a book of non-fiction in the English language, and the Costa Book Award in the Biography category. But unfortunately, I cannot say I enjoyed the experience of reading H Is For Hawk. To be honest, if this wasn’t to complete a prompt in my Reading Women Challenge, I probably would’ve DNF’d this. The only thing I really enjoyed was Mabel. I thought she sounded quite wonderful.

4/10

Book #148 of 2019

H Is For Hawk counts towards my Reading Women Challenge 2019, hosted by the Reading Women Podcast. It ticks off prompt #7 – Featuring a woman in science. It’s the 20th book I’ve completed for the challenge.

3 Comments »

Review: Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Unmarriageable
Soniah Kamal
Allison & Busby
2019, 354p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a girl can go from pauper to princess or princess to pauper in the mere seconds it takes for her to accept a proposal. But Alys Binat is resolute she will not marry.

This warm and witty tug-of-love between mothers, daughters and rich, eligible bachelors is a fresh take on Jane Austen’s original.

This was so much fun! One of the best adaptations of Pride & Prejudice that I’ve read. It’s faithful to the book but with a fresh, modern spin that really encompasses Pakistan and I thought it was amazing.

Alys Binat comes from a wealthy, well regarded family and for a good portion of her life, they wanted for nothing. But then her father was betrayed by his own brother and now they are practically penniless. Alys and her sister Jena work as teachers at a prestigious girls finishing school. They also have three younger sisters Mari, Qitty and Lady. Mrs Binat longs for her daughters to be married but both Alys and Jena are of an age now where it seems unlikely that they will make excellent matches, especially given there’s no money left for a dowry. Alys is also incredibly adamant that she will not marry as a social contract to better her situation, nor will she stoop to trying to catch a man. She’s a successful independent woman who can earn a wage and pay her way and as she tries to tell her own students, there’s more to life than immediately falling into marriage and babies when you’re still only a teenager.

Despite their misfortune, the Binats are still lucky enough to warrant invitations to important social events and it’s here that lovely Jena catches the eye of a wealthy bachelor, who is amiable and lovely – shame about his snobby friend Valentine Darsee who insults Alys within her hearing and also his two sisters (hilariously named Hammy and Sammy, short for Humeria and Sumeria) who look down their noses at everything. Mrs Binat is so hopeful that her Jena might not only marry finally but marry well.

The book tracks very closely to the original, with all the major players included although some take on a bit of a twist, especially Sherry Looclus, the Charlotte Lucas of this version. She’s in her 40s, willing to sacrifice for any marriage, especially one that will make her financially secure. I felt quite interested in Sherry’s story, because it does appear to be one of the few places where the author does go in a new direction and adjust the story a little to suit a more modern timeframe. The other is what happens to Darsee’s young sister, which remains the same but with more modern consequences.

The social whirl of Pakistan is a huge portion of this book, with extravagant wedding celebrations that last for days and have multiple ceremonies and the food and entertainment portion that go with it. The food is quite lovingly described as are the outfits and jewellery. The struggle of being a family who has had it all and now has little takes its toll on the often overwrought Mrs Binat, who is every bit as frivolous and overbearing as the original. I quite enjoyed the role of Mr Binat and his shameful realisation of how his own inadequacies and inaction has an impact on everything that happens, including allowing the young and silly Lady to go away on holiday against Alys’ wishes and the ruin she almost brings down upon them all. Lady herself is a thoroughly modern day selfish and self-absorbed teenager who cares little how she gets something as long as she ends up getting it. I found myself wanting to slap her more than once. Mari is an overzealous Muslim determined to bring back propriety and burqas and Qitty is beautiful but often maligned about her weight by Lady and even her mother. The way in which Qitty turns this into a positive and embraces her own true self is rather delightful.

For me, there’s a strength in the relationship between Alys and Darsee, which starts off very badly when she overhears him class her as neither attractive not intelligent enough for him. Darsee and Alys butt heads quite often and her reaction when he proposes the first time is so much fun to read. And so are the small moments, such as when he takes his leave abruptly after Alys learns of Lady’s disappearance and you know why he’s doing it, because he blames himself and is sure she will blame him too after all, he knew about Wickhaam and kept it quiet. And Alys thinks he’s departing abruptly because of the scandal that will engulf their family, how it will prove everything he ever said correct. I enjoyed the way they found common ground in literature too. It made me feel as if the two of them would have an actual meaningful relationship with things in common that they could discuss and enjoy, because relationships in 2019 are much different to how they were when Pride & Prejudice was being written and set. Couples were tied together by other things.

I found this to be clever and funny. It sticks to the core storyline quite admirably but isn’t afraid to deviate a bit either where it needs to for the sake of its modern setting or the culture of Pakistan. I loved Alys and her independence, her questioning of her students, her push for them to seek more for themselves and to step outside a box, even though it often meant she was called in and reprimanded. This was familiar but yet different and I thought it was fabulous.

9/10

Book #121 of 2019

I’m also counting this read towards my Reading Women Podcast Challenge for 2019. I’m using it to tick off prompt #18 – Romance or love story. It’s the 13th book read for the challenge. Halfway there!

 

2 Comments »

Review: The Signature Of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature Of All Things
Elizabeth Gilbert
Bloomsbury ANZ
2013, 501p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

5th January 1800. Alma Whittaker is born into a perfect Philadelphia winter. Her father, Henry Whittaker, is a bold and charismatic botanical explorer whose vast fortune belies his lowly beginnings as a vagrant in Sir Joseph Banks’ Kew Gardens and as a deck hand on Captain Cook’s HMS Resolution. Alma’s mother, a strict woman from an esteemed Dutch family, is conversant in five living languages (and two dead ones). An independent girl with a thirst for knowledge, it is not long before Alma comes into her own within the world of botany. But as Alma’s careful studies of moss take her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, the man she comes to love draws her in the opposite direction.

The Signature of All Things is a big novel, about a big century. It soars across the globe from London to Tasmania, to Philadelphia, to Tahiti, to Amsterdam. Peopled with extraordinary characters – missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses and the quite mad – most of all it has an unforgettable heroine in Alma Whittaker, a woman of the Enlightened Age who stands defiantly on the cusp of the modern.

This is another book that has been on my TBR shelf for years now. I received a copy in the mail from the publisher waaayyyy back in 2013 and I never got around to reading it. I haven’t read Elizabeth Gilbert before although she is well known for things like Eat Pray Love and other self-help style memoirs which are just not really my thing. This had some good reviews from people I trust but I just didn’t get around to it. However it seemed perfect for a number of prompts for the Reading Women Podcast Challenge and it was something that was easily accessible as it was on my shelf.

This was a great introduction to Gilbert for me, because this is such an engaging book from the very first page. It details the life of Alma Whittaker, daughter of a very wealthy man and his pragmatic and intelligent Dutch wife. It details how her father made his fortune and then how he and his wife raised their daughter, in a most unusual way. Alma was incredibly well educated and encouraged from a very early age to display her intelligence in fact, she was expected to. She was allowed sit at the dinner table when her parents entertained and was expected to be able to make scientific opinions and also argue them with conviction and accuracy. Alma’s thirst for knowledge is almost insatiable and she’s intrigued by the world of botany, which is how her father made his fortune and how it continues to flourish. Despite her intelligence and her father’s wealth and perhaps because of her unusual upbringing, she receives no interest from men and seems destined to live out her days in the family home, conducting her research and aiding her father as he grows more dependent in his older years. It details her strange and troubled relationship with her adopted sister and how that complicates as they grow older, rather than simplifying. And when she falls in love and believes that happiness might finally be within her grasp, she’ll go to the other side of the world to find the answers she needs for peace.

This was such a great book. It’s pretty hefty, about 500p and but it’s the sort of book where you don’t notice its length because the story it’s telling is so rich and engaging and Alma becomes such a strong and wonderful character that her life is a source of fascination, especially for the time. The Whittaker family have money when they establish themselves in Philadelphia, but their eccentricities mean that they are never quite accepted by the elite of society, which probably suits them anyway as they prefer their social occasions full of intelligent and engaging debate, scientific breakthroughs and theories. Alma’s mother is rigorous in her criticism and faint with her praise and Alma and her adopted sister seem to be always looking to avoid her critical eye.

The book is rich with biological detail, from Alma’s father Henry’s early days exploring to his development of his new home, to her own travels and scientific research. It comes at a time where exploration of the world was very popular, as was recording scientific and biological finds and for the most part, taking samples back to places like Britain in order to cultivate them. Or to make money from them. A bit of the book is devoted to Henry’s perceived rivalry with Sir Joseph Banks a noted explorer and in latter parts, Alma’s own scientific observations and study of mosses lead her to theories on evolution and change. She has the opportunity to travel to a place completely the opposite of where she has been brought up, a place that’s under attempt from missionaries to convert the indigenous population to Christianity. The book doesn’t address the moral implications of these actions or look at them as right or wrong, given the time of the book but it does give the reader a chance to reflect on the commonality of this sort of thing at the time, in all parts of the world, the zeal with which some people sought to undertake this task.

This book spans about a century of really interesting exploration and story telling. There’s such a lot of research that must’ve gone into writing it, the sorts of plants and flowers in different parts of the world that were being noticed and harvested and transported around the world, the ways in which this must be done. I felt really connected to Alma as a character even though we have little in common. There’s something about the way in which her upbringing gave her all the opportunities in the world to excel academically and to satisfy that part of her that wanted to know things but didn’t provide particularly much in the way of personal growth – and what it did provide, Alma wasn’t really in the position to recognise it and embrace it. Her journey is such an interesting one and even though she was born wealthy and privileged with a family that valued education more than anything, she still suffers disappointments. It’s what she does with these I think, that made me so fond of her.

I really loved this, it was just such a wonderful read. And if Elizabeth Gilbert were to write some more fiction, especially historical, I will definitely read it.

8/10

Book #120 of 2019

I’m counting this towards my Reading Women Podcast Challenge for 2019 ticking off prompt #19 – About nature. I think this book definitely qualifies. It’s the 12th book I’ve completed for the challenge and I feel like I’m starting to pick up some momentum now.

6 Comments »

Mini Review: The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

The Penelopiad 
Margaret Atwood
Canongate Books
2018 (originally 2005), 199p
Read from my local libary

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Now that all the others have run out of air, it’s my turn to do a little story-making.

In Homer’s account in The Odyssey, Penelope—wife of Odysseus and cousin of the beautiful Helen of Troy—is portrayed as the quintessential faithful wife, her story a salutary lesson through the ages. Left alone for twenty years when Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War after the abduction of Helen, Penelope manages, in the face of scandalous rumors, to maintain the kingdom of Ithaca, bring up her wayward son, and keep over a hundred suitors at bay, simultaneously. When Odysseus finally comes home after enduring hardships, overcoming monsters, and sleeping with goddesses, he kills her suitors and—curiously—twelve of her maids.

In a splendid contemporary twist to the ancient story, Margaret Atwood has chosen to give the telling of it to Penelope and to her twelve hanged maids, asking: “What led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to?” In Atwood’s dazzling, playful retelling, the story becomes as wise and compassionate as it is haunting, and as wildly entertaining as it is disturbing. With wit and verve, drawing on the story-telling and poetic talent for which she herself is renowned, she gives Penelope new life and reality—and sets out to provide an answer to an ancient mystery.

What feels like a lifetime ago now, in my year 12 advanced English course, we did a little bit of The Iliad by Homer. I found it quite hard going, probably because we were also studying The Canterbury Tales, a comedy of Shakespeare and also, W.B. Yeats. This is also almost 20 years ago now and I haven’t revisited Homer since. The Iliad more tells the tale of the siege of Troy, which I think most people have vague knowledge of, whether you’ve read any Homer or not. And The Odyssey is what happened after, Odysseus’ journey home to his faithful wife Penelope, who waited over 20 years for him to come back, holding off suitors in great numbers.

When I was looking for a novella for my Reading Women Podcast, a lot of the suggestions in the Goodreads group threw up this one by Margaret Atwood, which is kind of The Odyssey but told from the view of Penelope, his wife. Penelope is depicted as a plain cousin to the famed Helen of Troy, who was the entire reason for the battle of Troy. Ironically, it was Odysseus as a failed suitor for Helen that bound the rejected together with the premise that if ever Helen or her husband was threatened, the rest would answer a call to arms to defend them. So when Helen disappeared (either abducted or as a willing party with the handsome Paris), her husband Menelaus enacted that treaty, summoning the failed suitors and their armies to aid him in battle. This I’ve read about before from a different perspective in Madeleine Miller’s Song Of Achilles.

But this isn’t about that battle. Penelope is depicted as plain, definitely not beautiful like Helen but quietly very intelligent and Odysseus won a tournament for her hand by cheating. She is somewhat isolated in her new home, an unfriendly rocky terrain with disinterested in-laws and only her maids and Odysseus’ overbearing childhood nurse for company, who strips Penelope of most of her agency by doing everything for Odysseus and also the son Penelope bears him. When Odysseus has to leave, Penelope is left mostly to rule alone, her in-laws losing hope after a while that their son will ever return. Her father-in-law retreats to another property. Her mother-in-law dies before Odysseus returns. Soon Penelope is overrun with men vying for her hand (and the Kingdom). Most are much younger than her and have no interest in her other than what they will gain by marrying her. Penelope is forced to employ her maids in a game of trickery, weaving a shroud for her father-in-law, telling the suitors she cannot possibly consider any offers until she completes her pious task. Unbeknownst to them, Penelope painstakingly unpicks her work at night to reweave the next day so that her task may never be complete.

I think the thing that worked so much for me is that Atwood reworked this in modern language although kept a lot of the traditional aspects of the story. Penelope is given a very strong voice and it’s also interspersed with a chorus in the form of the maids, who meet a gruesome end upon Odysseus’ return. Part of Atwood’s working of this story is to examine the why of the downfall of the maids, the possible reasoning for it and whether or not Penelope was privy to the reasoning and what her thoughts on it might’ve been. It’s an exploration of the life of people who weren’t Kings and Queens, or descendants of Gods etc of this time. Simple maids who relied upon others for protection and what they often had to endure in these positions. Often they were raped (sometimes even with their ‘owners’ permission) and used as entertainment by guests. The chorus of the maids provides a voice to previously unheard minor characters in these sorts of stories, with something that is still relevant and easy to connect to in these modern times – the treatment of women, especially women who are without power of their own and subject to someone else’s. It might not be so easy to sympathise with Helen, daughter of Zeus and Leda (allegedly) who was so beautiful thousands were slaughtered in the quest for her but it’s much easier to see the plight of the maids, who are given a chance to shine here.

At 199p, this is a brief read but Atwood packs a surprising amount into it. It’s kind of like……a comfortable way to be pushed outside of my comfort zone, if that makes sense. I enjoyed the style of writing and the storytelling but then again, it’s Margaret Atwood, so that’s no real surprise.

8/10

Book #119 of 2019

This is yet another book counting towards my Reading Women Podcast Challenge! I’m really trying hard to lift my game here. So this checks off prompt #9 – A novella. And it’s the 11th book read for the challenge. Progress!

1 Comment »

Review: Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko

Too Much Lip
Melissa Lucashenko
UQP
2018, 318p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Too much lip, her old problem from way back. And the older she got, the harder it seemed to get to swallow her opinions. The avalanche of bullshit in the world would drown her if she let it; the least she could do was raise her voice in anger.

Wise-cracking Kerry Salter has spent a lifetime avoiding two things – her hometown and prison. But now her Pop is dying and she’s an inch away from the lockup, so she heads south on a stolen Harley.

Kerry plans to spend twenty-four hours, tops, over the border. She quickly discovers, though, that Bundjalung country has a funny way of grabbing on to people. Old family wounds open as the Salters fight to stop the development of their beloved river. And the unexpected arrival on the scene of a good-looking dugai fella intent on loving her up only adds more trouble – but then trouble is Kerry’s middle name.

Gritty and darkly hilarious, Too Much Lip offers redemption and forgiveness where none seems possible.

I always have more books a month than I can read and there are some I just don’t get to, even when I really want to. They go on a bookcase in my bedroom for those times when I feel like dipping back into the pile. This book was in that pile…..I decided it would be perfect for my Reading Women Challenge, for the book by an indigenous woman prompt. Melissa Lucashenko is a Goorie author from the Bundjalung people. And the day I finished this, it was later announced as the winner of the 2019 Miles Franklin Literary Award. I had read only one of the longlist, during my attempts to read the Stella Prize Longlist. Quite often I’ll read as much of a longlist or shortlist as I can, only for the winner to be one of the few texts (or the only) I’ve yet to read. So I was pretty thrilled with my timing reading this!

Kerry Salter has avoided her childhood home for a while now. Deep in the bush in northern NSW, she’s returning because the family patriarch, her Pop, is dying. And it’s probably a good time for Kerry to get away from QLD anyway. With her girlfriend just banged up for a bank robbery gone wrong, Kerry has avoided jail but there’s warrants out. It’s a good time to lie low. But when she gets home, it’s a reminder of all the reasons why she spends so much time away. There’s Ken, her older brother. Bitter and with anger management issues, Kerry judges the distance to keep from Ken and what remarks she can get away with by what he’s had to drink and how many. There’s Pretty Mary, her mother who supplements a government income telling fortunes at local markets and reading tarot cards. There’s Ken’s teenage son, a shadow of his former self hiding out in his room playing video games and avoiding his father’s rage. Black Superman is Kerry’s younger brother, who escaped as well but made good with his public sector job and city apartment he’s paying a mortgage on. And then there’s various other family members including Richard, Pretty Mary’s brother and the local family elder who arrives in and out to dispense advice and keep the struggling crew together. Everything is overshadowed by the disappearance of Kerry’s sister Donna as a teenager a couple of decades ago.

This is a raw story of a family in all its dysfunction. It’s dark and quite brutal in parts, balanced out by humour and astute observations in other parts. Kerry is a snappy narrator, told from the time she was young that she’s always had ‘too much lip – that’s her problem’. Even now as a woman in her 30s she finds it hard to keep quiet, even when she should avoid provoking Ken, her brother who is liable to break her face in retaliation. Kerry and her family have different struggles and problems but they all share a strong connection to their local area. And when they discover that the local mayor and property developer extraordinaire wants to hock a piece of land along their beloved river, the siblings and extended family are swung into action. The river belongs to them, it’s connected to their family and has been for generations, a powerful part of their history and way of life.

It’s easy to want them to succeed in their quest. They’re a family that’s had their troubles and those troubles continue throughout the book as there are several surprising and very painful reveals that rock the family on its foundations. But their pride in the culture is strong, their knowledge of their history and their connection to each other and the land. Kerry has some unusual methods in the fight….but once again, it’s hard not to cheer her on! They’re up against someone who doesn’t play by the rules either and there’s been generations of injustices done to their family and this is almost like revenge on everything and everyone all at once. Although fictional, Lucashenko does state in an acknowledgement at the back of the book that almost all of the incidents or violence she included happened to people in real life within her extended family. The others she drew from Aboriginal history or oral record. It’s confronting and very traumatic in places, the reader is exposed to the grief and horror of the characters as they are, struggling to reshape a narrative and fit new pieces together of a story that changes everything about their family.

Lucashenko weaves a troubled family history, land rights and Indigenous connection to their ancestral homes and strength of family, forgiveness and acceptance of past wrongs in this highly engaging story rich with detail and Indigenous language. I enjoyed the family coming together in times of need and that even though there was great pain, they were able to still get through it and connect in new ways. I haven’t read any of the other books listed as I mentioned earlier but this one does feel a worthy winner of a literary award.

8/10

Book #117 of 2019

Too Much Lip is book #54 of The Australian Women Writers Challenge for 2019

Too Much Lip was read as part of my participation in the Reading Women Podcast Challenge for 2019. It counts towards prompt #16 – by an Indigenous woman. It’s the 10th book read for the challenge out of (hopefully) 26.

1 Comment »

Review: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Lowland
Jhumpa Lahiri
Bloomsbury ANZ
2013, 340p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

From Subhash’s earliest memories, at every point, his brother was there. In the suburban streets of Calcutta where they wandered before dusk and in the hyacinth-strewn ponds where they played for hours on end, Udayan was always in his older brother’s sight. So close in age, they were inseparable in childhood and yet, as the years pass – as U.S tanks roll into Vietnam and riots sweep across India – their brotherly bond can do nothing to forestall the tragedy that will upend their lives. Udayan – charismatic and impulsive – finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty. He will give everything, risk all, for what he believes, and in doing so will transform the futures of those dearest to him.

Epic in its canvas and intimate in its portrayal of lives undone and forged anew, The Lowland is a deeply felt novel of family ties that inelucably define who we are.

Jhumpa Lahiri is one of those authors I’ve always meant to read. I actually received this for review when I was wanting to read books from the 2013 Man Booker longlist (I think) but the best laid plans often go astray and I’m only just reading it now. I picked it up specifically because I’ve slacked off a lot on my Reading Women challenge in the past couple months and I decided I needed to pick it up a bit. I don’t think I’m going to finish all 26 of the prompts because there are 2-3 of them that I just feel that I am stumped on or am unlikely to find something to work for it. But I’m trying to complete as many as I can and to also read a separate book for each prompt, instead of counting several for the same prompt.

I know almost nothing about India. I’ve never studied their history, nor have I read much set there. What I have read seems to be pretty limited to Victorian-era British colonisation with mostly rich Birtish expats in positions of power enjoying a bit of warm weather. For example, I wasn’t at all aware of the Naxalites until I read this book, a political organisation of far-left radicals inspired by Chairman Mao of China. This book is set in and around the time of the rise of Naxalites, which main character Subhash’s brother Udayan becomes involved in.

The book begins in Subhash and Udayan’s childhood, their striving for good marks, university degrees, things that will please their parents. Subhas and Udayan were inseparable as children, studying, playing, schooling together, being less than 2yrs apart in age. As they reach adulthood though and attend different universities and study different things, there seems to be a growing divide between the two of them. Subhash also decides to move to America to further his studies and it’s while he’s overseas, he realises just how deeply Udayan has become entrenched in the Naxalite movement. When tragedy strikes, Subhas makes the ultimate sacrifice, which changes his life forever.

This was a really interesting book. It’s my first Lahiri so I really have no benchmark but she’s a very admired voice – enough to have a whole category dedicated to her in the Reading Women challenge! This book covers a lot, from Subhash and Udayan’s childhood to his journey studying overseas at the time of the Vietnam war as one of very few Indians in that part of America, the relationship he has with various members of his family and how that changes with Udayan’s involvement in the Naxalite movement. There are several narrators (others I don’t want to mention, because it will spoil the direction that the novel takes) but it deals with a few generations over a lot of years.

I always find books that tackle motherhood in different ways quite interesting to read. Motherhood is a very complex thing and so many books portray it as this moment of instant wonder and if that happens, that’s great. But a lot of people don’t really find it to be that way and for some, that moment of connection can never come. It can be a burden, the wrong choice, something that they just don’t connect with. And the emotions revolving around just reading that can be complex too because children are innocent and they didn’t ask to be born. They exist because two people created them. The way that people behave can be so damaging to children psychologically and it doesn’t even have to be physical or emotional abuse to be traumatising. A child can grow up in a safe and comfortable environment and yet still be isolated, rejected and feel like they don’t belong or aren’t wanted. There is a child in this book that is deeply scarred by their mother’s actions, her distance during childhood and then the fact that she vanishes completely (by choice) in their pre-adolescence. Those years are so formative and these deep scars manifest in so many ways much later on in that child’s life.

There’s a lot of sacrifice in this book. Different types of sacrifice too. Political, familial, love, happiness, ones sense of self, etc. There’s also a lot about duty. Subhash desires very much to be a good son and yet it seems that in some ways, he can never quite measure up, despite everything he’s worked hard to achieve. He also makes decisions that cost him personally in order to do the right thing, to protect people and perhaps there’s a tiny bit of selfishness in there too. He gets rewarded in one way but his decision costs him dearly in another.

I really enjoyed this. I felt that for someone like me, it gave a lot of Indian cultural background about families and customs and expectations as well as some political history. The relationships were intricate and the plot went in some unexpected directions. I enjoyed Subhash’s experience as an Indian student in America in a time and place where there were few as well as Gauri’s desire for further education and how it conflicted with the cards life had dealt her. Even though I didn’t agree with a lot of her choices, I actually found that I understood some of them.

Definitely going to read more Jhumpa Lahiri.

8/10

Book #115 of 2019

This covers bonus prompt 2 of the Reading Women Challenge – Book by Jhumpa Lahiri. It’s the 9th prompt I’ve completed for the challenge. Still need to lift my game a bit so I’ve been going back to the prompts and looking at books I have and what I can make work. I’ve requested a couple from my local library for a few prompts where I don’t have anything that fits. Some of the categories like series, romance/love story etc I have a lot of options. I’m pretty confident I can get most completed by the end of the year. The ones that are really going to trouble me is prompt 14 and prompt 8.

2 Comments »

Review: Gingerbread by Helen Oyeyemi

Gingerbread
Helen Oyeyemi
Picador
2019, 291p
Copy courtesy Pan Macmillan AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Influenced by the mysterious place gingerbread holds in classic children’s stories–equal parts wholesome and uncanny, from the tantalizing witch’s house in “Hansel and Gretel” to the man-shaped confection who one day decides to run as fast as he can–beloved novelist Helen Oyeyemi invites readers into a delightful tale of a surprising family legacy, in which the inheritance is a recipe.

Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there’s the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it’s very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (and, according to Wikipedia, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee’s early youth. In fact, the world’s truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread is Harriet’s charismatic childhood friend, Gretel Kercheval–a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met.

Decades later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother’s long-lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet’s story. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value. Endlessly surprising and satisfying, written with Helen Oyeyemi’s inimitable style and imagination, it is a true feast for the reader.

Haha, what even is this book about?

I don’t know. I like a dash of magical realism – I’m a big fan of Sarah Addison Allen. But I have to admit, this I think, was perhaps a bridge too far for my personal tastes? I hadn’t heard of Helen Oyeyemi before receiving this but I was really quite intrigued by the premise and the cover. The cover of this book is stunning. The gold is foil and it contrasts so nicely with the more subdued background.

Perdita is a 17yo girl living in England with her mother, an apparent expat from the country of Druhástrana, a country that no one really knows where it is and only three countries every acknowledge its existence and now two of those countries have revoked that. Apparently it’s maybe somewhere near Czechia or maybe Hungary or whatever but it has entirely closed borders and you can’t get in or out without some truly drastic measures being taken. Perdita’s grandmother escaped with her daughter (Perdita’s mother) Harriet. Now Perdita has taken the chance to visit her mother’s homeland.

I think I quite enjoyed the set up for this, the story of Harriet and Perdita in London and what Perdita does in order to visit her mother’s homeland……then it delved into Harriet’s past as a child/teen in this mysterious place of Druhástrana and somewhere in that section I think, is when I felt that this book and I kind of started to part ways. Things just started to get a bit too strange and I couldn’t really figure out where it was going…..or why. My knowledge of Hansel and Gretel, which people are saying this is retelling of, is a bit vague but there is a lot that just simply doesn’t seem to fit. I try not to read reviews of books I’ve read until after I’ve written my own review but I did glance at reviews on Goodreads and it seems a 50/50 split of people praising its brilliance and amazing writing and people who like me, were a bit confused what was going on and felt the story was a bit over their heads.

Reading is always your milage may vary and I think for me this was a good indication of how much magical realism I enjoy – more a pinch than the whole dumped in amount. There were too many things here that I felt weren’t particularly adequately explained and just ignored away because it was magical realism and didn’t require an explanation. Which okay, fine for some probably but it made it too difficult for me to really sink into the story because I was always wondering about things. And the story kind of petered out about halfway through and went from heading somewhere to just…..not. I didn’t understand why Perdita did what she did and what it achieved, or didn’t achieve. The writing was good, excellent even but the story was just lacking for me. It was super quick, which was in its favour (especially as I read this during a break from slogging through an 830p book) and it was difficult…..but I did find that I spent a lot of time wondering what the heck was going on and why something was either happening or not happening.

Safe to say, this isn’t my sort of story. But it seems that Helen Oyeyemi has a lot of fans and her books are widely praised so I might be tempted to try something again and see if perhaps I enjoy her style more on further exploration. And if not, well then I’ve given something a go.

5/10

Book #44 of 2019

I discovered upon finishing this that I can use it towards my Reading Women Challenge. Helen Oyeyemi was born in Nigeria so I’m ticking off category #3. It’s the 7th book completed for the challenge out of 26.

Leave a comment »

Review: The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber

The Glovemaker 
Ann Weisgarber
Mantle
2019, 287p
Copy courtesy Pan Macmillan AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

In the inhospitable lands of the Utah Territory, during the winter of 1888, thirty-seven-year-old Deborah Tyler waits for her husband, Samuel, to return home from his travels as a wheelwright. It is now the depths of winter, Samuel is weeks overdue, and Deborah is getting worried.

Deborah lives in Junction, a tiny town of seven Mormon families scattered along the floor of a canyon, and she earns her living by tending orchards and making work gloves. Isolated by the red-rock cliffs that surround the town, she and her neighbors live apart from the outside world, even regarded with suspicion by the Mormon faithful who question the depth of their belief.

When a desperate stranger who is pursued by a Federal Marshal shows up on her doorstep seeking refuge, it sets in motion a chain of events that will turn her life upside down. The man, a devout Mormon, is on the run from the US government, which has ruled the practice of polygamy to be a felony. Although Deborah is not devout and doesn’t subscribe to polygamy, she is distrustful of non-Mormons with their long tradition of persecuting believers of her wider faith.

But all is not what it seems, and when the Marshal is critically injured, Deborah and her husband’s best friend, Nels Anderson, are faced with life and death decisions that question their faith, humanity, and both of their futures.

I knew nothing about this book before I received a copy but the cover intrigued me from the first glance and as I’ve mentioned quite a few times before, I’m really fascinated with the polygamist lifestyle so this was always going to be up high on my list.

Deborah was raised in a polygamist family, with her father having two wives. However she and her husband Samuel are not practicing themselves, having moved to a remote location occupied by only a handful of other families, who are all Mormons. Apart from one family (who are questioning their decision) the town families do not practice polygamy. In fact they’re not particularly devout in the ways of the church at all, which has resulted in the church sending Deborah’s sister and her husband to the town with the intent of bringing them all back into the flock.

Junction is a very remote town and they often get travellers through in the kinder months, generally men who are fleeing the law and seeking an even more remote location which is a safe haven for those practicing polygamy. Deborah is surprised when she receives a traveller to her door in January, one of the harshest months. With Samuel still not home, Deborah is nervous but not enough to turn the man away. She gives him shelter for the night and then puts him the way of her brother-in-law, Samuel’s brother who will help him reach the place he seeks. The man lets slip that he’s being pursued, which means he brings trouble to their small town from those who won’t understand that although they’re Mormon, they’re a different type of Mormon.

Deborah and Samuel have been married a long time but they’ve never been blessed with children (something that I think a lot of the more devout people of their faith find a little suspicious). Samuel’s job often takes him far from home in the warmer months so Deborah does seem to spend a lot of time on her own. She has her brother-in-law and the more recent arrival of her sister and her family in the town has given Deborah some more company – and also responsibility, as her sister is expecting her third child in five years and Deborah provides a lot of practical assistance. When Samuel is late, Deborah doesn’t worry at first, but as the days tick on, she cannot help but be concerned. Samuel is knowledgeable and can take care of himself but she also hasn’t heard from him at all and as the weather worsens, the dangers increase.

So Samuel is no where to be found when the stranger knocks on Deborah’s door and brings trouble. Even though she knows he is more than likely being pursued, Deborah doesn’t turn him away. But even she could not have predicted just how much trouble this stranger would bring to their tiny town, when the Marshall arrives along behind him. They are a tiny town, only a handful of families, all of whom have seemingly moved there to find peace and a more temperate version of their religion (apart from Deborah’s sister and her husband, tasked with bringing them back into the more devout fold). I really liked the idea of the small, mostly self sufficient community, who rely on Samuel’s trips to places far and wide to bring back supplies for them a lot of the time. It was obviously a very inhospitable place in winter – my knowledge of Utah isn’t great, but I know there’s mountains that have snow on them probably year round and it looks like it has the potential to be seriously cold. As an Aussie, my idea of cold is probably pretty lame. But the author does a good job of making me feel like I was there with Deborah, trying to erase any signs of the stranger from the snow in her yard and trudging to her sister’s place, or to her brother-in-law’s place.

Deborah and her brother-in-law Nels have to make some very difficult decisions in order to protect themselves, the stranger and their way of life. Deborah is then burdened with an extremely difficult task and this is something else that Ann Weisgarber really showcases well – the story of the stranger, why he is running and from who, the threat the Marshall brings to the town and their way of life and the prejudice he holds about them, as well as how the decisions they make affect them and what they must do in order to live with the choices they’ve made and be comfortable with them.

The narrative is mostly Deborah’s, with a few chapters from Nels’ perspective and also some letters that Samuel has written Deborah from the road. The book goes back and explains how Deborah and Samuel met and came to be married and I really liked the little glimpses of their relationship. I found myself hoping that Samuel had just been inexplicably delayed and would stroll into town at the end to much fanfare and full of stories.

I am really interested in polygamy and all the opinions about it and reasons for it. It has a lot of darkness in its past, relating to abuse and oppression of women and children and marrying pretty young teens off to old blokes to be their 15th wife or whatever, which is pretty terrible. But I find it really interesting in a modern setting – mention the word and I’ll read any book, watch any tv show. I honestly don’t get the hate for it that some people have today, and the way they regard the people who practice it as second class citizens. As long as there is no abuse and all the adults are consenting, I’m more of a live and let live type of person. It’s not my choice, but that’s not to say it can’t work for some. I find the mental and social aspects of it really interesting, particularly the relationships between sister wives, rather than the relationship between the husband and all his wives. I think in this book, I would’ve liked a bit more about Samuel and Deborah’s decisions to move away, not practice polygamy, to lessen the grip the church has on them. But overall, I really enjoyed this – I liked the characters and the way they interacted, I liked the low-key threat to their lifestyle and what they’d chosen and eked out for themselves and I liked the setting. It was a very interesting novel and it’s definitely put Ann Wesigarber (who has previously been Orange Prize Longlisted) on my radar.

8/10

Book #38 of 2019

Going to count this one towards my Reading Women Challenge 2019 for the 20th category, a historical fiction book. It’s set in 1888. It’s the 6th book completed for the challenge.

4 Comments »

Review: Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin

Ayesha At Last 
Uzma Jalaluddin
Corvus Books
2019, 339p
Copy courtesy of Allen & Unwin

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

A big-hearted, captivating, modern-day Muslim Pride and Prejudice, with hijabs instead of top hats and kurtas instead of corsets.

AYESHA SHAMSI has a lot going on. Her dreams of being a poet have been overtaken by a demanding teaching job. Her boisterous Muslim family, and numerous (interfering) aunties, are professional naggers. And her flighty young cousin, about to reject her one hundredth marriage proposal, is a constant reminder that Ayesha is still single.

Ayesha might be a little lonely, but the one thing she doesn’t want is an arranged marriage. And then she meets Khalid… How could a man so conservative and judgmental (and, yes, smart and annoyingly handsome) have wormed his way into her thoughts so quickly?

As for Khalid, he’s happy the way he is; his mother will find him a suitable bride. But why can’t he get the captivating, outspoken Ayesha out of his mind? They’re far too different to be a good match, surely…

So the second I heard about this, I knew I would have to read it. A modern day Pride & Prejudice but featuring Muslim characters and set in Toronto. And I’m happy to say that it lived up to all of my expectations and was an entertaining but also thought provoking read.

Ayesha is approaching 30 and has recently taken her first job as a substitute teacher at a local high school. Teaching is not her passion but it’s a good, solid career and it will help her support her family. Ayesha has the soul of a poet and often performs at poetry nights but she’s not sure she can make that a career. She’s part of a large family that have all moved to Toronto but Ayesha’s mother and grandparents do not really see the need to arrange her marriage or pressure her in any way. Her younger, flighty cousin has just entered the marriage market and is determined to cultivate 100 proposals.

In contrast, Khalid is a much more conservative Muslim, devoting large portions of his day to prayer and visiting the local mosque often. He’s strict in his dress as well, which causes a problem with his new boss who has a very stereotypical view of Muslims. His friends think he should lighten up a bit, relax the dress sense and live a little but Khalid finds comfort in his routines and after what happened with his sister, he’s happy for his mother to choose his bride.

Things get so complicated when Khalid and Ayesha meet and both of them experience that spark of chemistry. They are not at all compatible – Ayesha enjoys freedom as someone who is basically a spinster in her community and she’s not the sort to give up her career or anything like that if she were to marry. Khalid knows his mother would never approve of Ayesha either and it should not work.

I really, really enjoyed this. Khalid is a character that is unflinchingly Muslim. He’s very devout, he dresses in a very traditional manner and he is very rigid in his ways as well. Definitely a very Muslim Mr Darcy. He’s also of course, prone to judgement as well. His mother is a very domineering sort of woman, who sees choosing Khalid’s bride as a way of maintaining control over him. Khalid doesn’t care how his actions look to anyone, he is who he is. He’s also a bit socially awkward so when his new boss comes in with assumptions and begins a campaign to try and basically force him out, he doesn’t really know how to negotiate the situation. I think that part of the story was very interesting – Khalid’s boss is representative of how a lot of uninformed white people feel about seeing Muslims who continue to practice their religion openly and frequently, who choose not to shake hands or touch women, who grow beards and who don’t conform to the social norm in terms of dress. Khalid is a South Asian Muslim but his boss assumes he’s Middle Eastern (because that’s where all Muslims come from of course), saying he can go back there to where he belongs if he doesn’t like the tasks she’s setting for him (which are not in his job description) completely ignoring the fact that he’s Canadian of South Asian origin.

Few people get the chance to know Khalid well but he’s hard working and very reliable and capable of humour. Definitely a bit straight-laced but he’s helpful with a good heart and a few little hidden depths. He takes some getting used to, to allow his character to really show. I really enjoyed his devotion to cooking and how it makes him feel – and the fact that he feels as though this is a piece of himself he has to hide away. Ayesha isn’t a good cook and doesn’t enjoy it and has no real time for the traditional meetings of families in arranging marriages. She doesn’t care to fulfil a quiet role being seen and not heard. I really loved her relationship with her grandparents, particularly her grandfather who is a very interesting man. Her cousin is extraordinarily tedious (a modern day Lydia), indulged and spoiled, beautiful and lazy. She is happy to put her hand up for something and then leave Ayesha to do all the work. She’s also happy to deliberately hurt her cousin’s feelings as well. The stuff about Ayesha’s own parent’s marriage was really interesting too and I think her perceptions of that had definitely influenced the way she herself felt about marriage and the role it played.

This was highly entertaining but also didn’t shy away from highlighting discrimination and ostracisation in the workplace. I enjoyed the humour and the differing family relationships – Khalid’s family was much different to Ayesha’s and her immediate family was different to that of her uncle, etc. This all blended together really well.

8/10

Book #18 of 2019

 

I’m counting this towards my 2019 Reading Women Challenge, hosted by the Reading Women Podcast. I’m ticking off prompt #11: A book featuring a religion other than your own.

1 Comment »