Thursday, 4 September 2014

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

This is masterly and moving. Again, listening to this on audio seemed to somehow add to the effect. Here is one confessional voice, delivering something between a family memoir and a scientific report. I won’t spoiler what makes the family at the heart of this novel unique, but I will say that the book is a heartbreaker. It makes you rethink what it means to be someone’s child or sibling, and what it means to be somebody’s responsibility, and how and why people might fail in that role.

The book moves so beautifully through various time frames, giving us the middle first and the beginning of the end, and the end of the beginning. It is restless, intelligent and told in a jaded tone riven with pain. All the way through it has you hoping against hope that things will work out okay.

Straight to the top of the Magrs Top Ten Novels of 2014, I think.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Ok – I’m back! Back reviewing for the start of autumn 2014… and I’m not sure how regularly, or that I’ll review everything that I read. But I promise to be concise and honest and pithy and HERE on!


It’s been a funny summer of reading. Lots of new, lots of Beach House books that have been waiting for my attention. Lots of actual books, lots of ebooks and – most recently – I’ve been rediscovering the joy of unabridged audio. Which is how I experienced this novel…


I have read almost everything I’ve read by Adriana Trigiani, after discovering her first book in 2002. I think I’ve read almost everything up to and including this one, from a couple of years ago. Her Italian-American family sagas are bustling with lively characters and sub-plots, and then lavish with descriptive passages about food, clothes, sex and shoes. The characters get more numerous and noisome and the description gets more lavish and lengthy as the books go on.

I listened to this one – about a lovelorn shoemaker in Greenwich village – on unabridged audio and I think Trigiani’s writing is even funnier and warmer when listened to. The sumptuous details vie amusingly for air time with the more earthy wit of her secondary characters (especially the marvelous mother and father.) As ever, the trip to Italy at the heart of the book is a highpoint. Was it just me, though, or is our heroine Valentine just a little bit too spoiled and selfish to gain our complete readerly affection..?