I can't believe how quickly I managed to read this. I was hooked from the early pages. An extraordinary story about ordinary folk, none of whom are alI can't believe how quickly I managed to read this. I was hooked from the early pages. An extraordinary story about ordinary folk, none of whom are all that likeable but they're all the more engaging by dint of their human failings. An extremely impressive debut and an epic tale of one family's struggle to live, love and be loved. ...more
An interesting debut novel which packs a lot into its 217 pages, Look At Me is narrated by 29 year old Lizzy, an out of work actress who lives with he An interesting debut novel which packs a lot into its 217 pages, Look At Me is narrated by 29 year old Lizzy, an out of work actress who lives with her father Julian and brother Ig in their very nice middle class home in North London. Two years have passed since the death of Julian's wife, Margaret and Lizzy is at a loose end, struggling to fill her days with anything meaningful when along comes an excellent distraction in the shape of Eunice, Julian's 23 year old love child whose existence he chose to keep from Ig and Lizzy. Unfortunately, Eunice is more tsunami than breath of fresh air.
This is a quirky little book, quite theatrical both in tone and structure with echoes of Abigail's Party and its middle class woes. If you're looking for an in-depth analysis of grief, bereavement and family dynamics, you may look elsewhere but as an entertaining, thought provoking comedy of manners with a hint of Single White Female, it works very well....more
“There are decent people and then there are the weird ones, the ones who don't belong. The ones who cause the rest of us problems.”
In other words, “go“There are decent people and then there are the weird ones, the ones who don't belong. The ones who cause the rest of us problems.”
In other words, “goats and sheep”. The goats are just that little bit different, they have something to hide, they don't quite belong. During the long hot summer of 1976, the residents of “The Avenue” consider themselves “alpha-sheep” but they all have something to hide. How better to deflect attention from their own failings then than to focus on a scapegoat, the one resident who stands out as being different.
Part mystery, part coming of age story, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep completely enthralled me over the past few days. The trouble with this remarkable debut is that you're torn between gobbling up the pages in a book binge or eking it out, chapter by chapter, to prolong the pleasure of the prose. The author, Joanna Cannon, has had an eventful life, leaving school at 15 with one “O” Level working in a wide range of jobs to eventually return to education in her 30s, becoming a doctor specialising in psychiatry. This breadth of experience is reflected in the vivid panoply of characters inhabiting “The Avenue”. It really is a tour de force.
Everything kicks off whenever Margaret Creasy disappears on a Monday, bin day. Our 10 year old narrator, Grace and her friend Tilly are at a loose end so they decide to fill up the long summer days with a quest to find God and perhaps discover Mrs Creasy in the process. Their mission takes them on a long trek, in and out of most of the houses on “The Avenue” with most of the residents spilling their secrets en route. Grace and Tilly are such an engaging duo, getting straight to the point, the way children do with a searing honesty which is lacking in most of their neighbours.
The writing is superb, deceptively simple and natural but always beautiful. You feel like you're transported back to the 70s with the Angel Delight, Kays Catalogue and my personal favourite and cause of multiple fillings, Sherbet Fountain. However, the themes are timeless, we all want to fit in but maybe it's more important to look out for those struggling on the periphery. Indeed there's quite possibly a bit of goat in all of us.
This is a fabulous debut novel and one which I will be recommending to anyone who enjoys a well written story with heart and warmth in every word. ...more
Janet Ellis' debut novel is a bawdy coming of age tale set in Georgian London. Our protagonist, Anne Jaccob, is the eldest daughter of a middle-classJanet Ellis' debut novel is a bawdy coming of age tale set in Georgian London. Our protagonist, Anne Jaccob, is the eldest daughter of a middle-class family, whose boorish father seems intent on marrying her off to the wealthiest suitor. Far removed from Jane Austen's world of rural gentility, Anne hopes to flee her father's tyranny by seeking romance with Fub, the butcher's boy. Thus she enters the dark and violent underbelly of Georgian London with all its sights and smells being vividly presented to the reader.
Anne is a compelling character with both attractive and repellent qualities. You feel sympathy for her situation and admiration for her determination to control her own destiny but she could do with a modicum of self-restraint at times! The male characters are mere satellites in her orbit, ruled by their desire for sex and money.
I thoroughly enjoyed this bawdy romp through Georgian London, especially the last third of the novel where the pace really picked up. It reminded me of Sarah Waters' Fingersmith and Emma Donoghue's Slammerkin, no mean feat for a debut novel. I believe that the novel was originally submitted to potential publishers under a pseudonym, an encouraging fact as Ms Ellis' celebrity status was irrelevant. Two Roads have signed her for a two-book deal and this debut has whet my appetite for seconds....more
I know Flavia isn't everyone's cup of tea but I am a dedicated fan so this was like sinking into your favourite armchair or hugging a long lost chum.I know Flavia isn't everyone's cup of tea but I am a dedicated fan so this was like sinking into your favourite armchair or hugging a long lost chum. Tally ho, off to acquire the next in the series. Great comfort reading to light up the dark days before Christmas. ...more
"If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism". The same applies to books about autism.
I've read lots of books related to a"If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism". The same applies to books about autism.
I've read lots of books related to autism, from fiction with quirky protagonists with autistic traits to handbooks written by specialists and memoirs and guides from those on the autistic spectrum. All of them have helped in different ways with how I deal with the challenges autism presents me with on a daily basis.
This is the first, "definitive" story of autism I have encountered and initially, its very size was daunting. However, it turned out to be an immensely readable and interesting tome. Focused on the history of autism in the US, it's not a guide to autism, it doesn't provide any answers, it wouldn't be a recommended read for those starting on the autism "journey" but, for me, 10 years down the line, it was a very thought-provoking read.
Just as there are many different facets to autism and its wide and varied spectrum likewise there are so many views on possible causes of autism, suitable treatments or indeed if we should take the view that treatment is desirable in an age of neurodiversity. Autism is an emotive subject and the authors have done well to tread a balanced path through its history including discredited theories, opposing support groups and charities at loggerheads with each other.
There is also hope and optimism here by recording the progress made in securing meaningful education for autistic children who were once abandoned in mental institutions. There are interesting anecdotes about autistic individuals including the story of Donald Triplett, the first person to be diagnosed with autism back in 1943. Some people are focussed on finding the causes of autism, others searching for a cure but perhaps the most important thing is to raise awareness of autism and even though the primary focus of this book is the US experience of autism, it provides a great deal of insight into a lifelong disorder which affects many families worldwide....more
Another gripping story about our intrepid young detective Flavia and her escapades in Bishop's Lacey, that hotbed of crime. It's been a while since I'Another gripping story about our intrepid young detective Flavia and her escapades in Bishop's Lacey, that hotbed of crime. It's been a while since I've visited this series but the cliffhanger ending necessitates an urgent visit to the library tomorrow to collect the next volume. ...more
Quite a "light" read despite the hard-hitting themes but it really hit the right tone for raising awareness of transgender issues, showing the effectsQuite a "light" read despite the hard-hitting themes but it really hit the right tone for raising awareness of transgender issues, showing the effects on all concerned and showing that glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel ...more