book blog · Book Review

Book Review | This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub …time travel with heart

June 10th, 2022

Hi Readers

I never know how to feel about time travel. I always feel it’s too quirky and complicated. I’m not sure what made me pick up an entire book about it, but I’m glad I did.

| Published: June 2022 by Michael Joseph |
| Genre: Science Fiction / Contemporary |
| Themes: Time Travel, Father/Daughter relationship |
| Length: 320 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Alice Stern isn’t ready to turn forty. She thought she’d have more time to figure it all out. Above all, she thought she’d have more time with her father, Leonard – but he’s lying in a hospital bed and Alice isn’t sure if she’ll hear his voice again.

When she falls asleep outside their old apartment on the night before her birthday, she’s surprised to be greeted the next morning by a much younger Leonard, with a sixteenth birthday card for a teenage Alice who, far from clinging to her youth, is hurtling towards adulthood . . .

Alice soon discovers how she got back here, to 1996 and her sixteenth birthday, and realises she can keep on coming, whenever she chooses.

But faced each time with different versions of her life, and the consequences of her decisions, it’s on her not to lose sight of what she wants most . . .

This reminded me of a few things. About Time, The Midnight Library. It’s a time travel novel with heart, focusing on relationships and life rather than the time travel aspect itself. The balance between science-fiction and contemporary may not work for everyone.

Some will think the time travel element is flawed and unbelievable. But I like how Straub was able to explore Alice’s life choices through. What happens to Alice is a lot of peoples fantasy. To go back with the knowledge of hindsight.

I loved that Straub decided to focus on a father/daughter relationship rather than a romantic one. It makes this book heartbreakingly touching and emotional, and I really felt attatched to these characters. The hospital scenes at the beginning were especially well written.

‘Alice saw it now: all her life, she’d thought of death as the single moment, the heart stopping, the final breathe, but now she knew that it could be much more like giving birth, with nine months of preperation. Her father was heavily pregnant with death, and there was little to do but wait.’

It went down routes I wasn’t expecting, and Alice made choices that didn’t feel wholly in character. But it’s beginning and ending was beautiful. This book was funny and moving, and this was my first Emma Straub book, but it won’t be my last.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

June 3rd, 2022

Hi Readers!

I’ve given this book a few reads now, and it’s still my least favourite Jane Austen and the only one that ever feels like a struggle to read.

| Published: 1814 |
| Genre: Classic |
| Themes: Romance, Class |
| Length: 488 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally.

During her uncle’s absence in Antigua, the Crawford’s arrive in the neighbourhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation.

Mansfield Park is considered Jane Austen’s first mature work and, with its quiet heroine and subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, one of her most profound. 

Mansfield Park is the third novel Austen published after Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, and it just doesn’t have the same intrigue or excitement as it’s predecesor’s. The main flaw for me lies in it’s two main characters.

Mansfield Park becomes the home of Fanny Price after she is taken in by her Aunt and Uncle to relieve her mother of the burden of having too many children to care for. Fanny as a child feels out of place, careful not to make the wrong move for fear of annoying or disrupting her relatives. She doesn’t feel she quite belongs. Perhaps that’s why she’s such a meek, dull character.

Her cousin Edmund, who is just as unexciting, tries his best to help her settle which eventually leads to Fanny falling in love with him. Now, I know Austen knows how to write a romance. But this one was bland and icky and I was not rooting for them. Even after finishing it, I wasn’t convinced.

In terms of social themes, this is the most interesting of Austen’s books however. Fanny comes from a poor family with parents who have too many children they can care for. Fanny’s mother married ‘beneath her,’ and paid the price by being cast aside by her family and finding herself married to a drunk sailor. I think this book shows us what Austen’s view of the lower classes were and it isn’t favourable.

But it still some of her wit and humour comes through, and there were certainly some entertaining moments. I’ve seen some people have said Fanny’s character is actually a satire of the ‘perfect, angelistic romantic heroine’ and I do think it would be quite interesting to read the book in that light. I should have learnt by now never to take Austen seriously.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Grown Ups by Marian Keyes

May 18th, 2022

Hi Readers!

This was my first Marian Keyes and I thought it would be a good place to start as it’s the one I’ve seen the most people read. But unfortunately it’s left me doubting whether I’ll ever pick anything of hers up again.

| Published: February 2020, Michael Joseph |
| Genre: Contemporary |
| Themes: Eating Disorder, Family Saga, |
| Length: 560 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ |

They’re a glamorous family, the Caseys. Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together–birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they’re a happy family. Johnny’s wife, Jessie–who has the most money–insists on it. Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier.

While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . . Still, everything manages to stay under control–that is, until Ed’s wife, Cara, gets a concussion and can’t keep her thoughts or opinions to herself. One careless remark at Johnny’s birthday party, with the entire family present, and Cara starts spilling all their secrets.

As everything unravels, each of the adults finds themselves wondering if it’s–finally–the time to grow up.

But I really wasn’t expecting this to end up as a two star read after the first chapter, where we’re introduced to the stars of this family saga at a dinner party, and get a glimpse of everyones personalities, relationships and possible tensions. It started so strong, but I couldn’t bring myself to care for any of the characters, and it became a struggle to complete.

I just found this quite boring. It dragged, I wasn’t fully engaged, and I know it’s a long book but it felt long. It was a task to finish and I was quite glad when it was over.

You know how you read a fantasy book and can sometimes criticise it for too much world building. This book had the contemporary equivilant to too much world building. But I suppose I would call it character building. I love feeling like I know my characters but Keyes wanted to show us every meeting of every couple, there’s quite a few of them and it was a bit much.

Even with their flaws, none felt whole or real because there was just too much of it. And maybe that was my problem. There’s too much. Too many characters, plots, side plots, tensions, issues, secrets. Honestly it was hard to keep up with the characters and all that was going on with them, and was so confusing as moments.

A bit of a disappointing read because I know so many love Marian Keyes. I’m not opposed to reading her again though because I want to feel the love too.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Virginia Woolf by Hermione Lee

May 16th, 2022

Hi Readers!

So I’ve been really enjoying my non-fiction this year, and I think I’ve discovered a new love for literary non-fiction.

| Published: 1996 by Vintage |
| Genre: Non-Fiction |
| Themes: Literature, 20th Century, Virginia Woolf |
| Length: 893 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

While Virginia Woolf–one of our century’s most brilliant and mercurial writers–has had no shortage of biographers, none has seemed as naturally suited to the task as Hermione Lee. Subscribing to Virginia Woolf’s own belief in the fluidity and elusiveness of identity, Lee comes at her subject from a multitude of perspectives, producing a richly layered portrait of the writer and the woman that leaves all of her complexities and contradictions intact.  

Such issues as sexual abuse, mental illness, and suicide are brought into balance with the immensity of her literary achievement, her heroic commitment to her work, her generosity and wit,  and her sanity and strength.

This was an incredibly detailed, well-researched biography. It’s admiring, but also a balanced and fair telling of one of the literary greats of the 20th century. Lee doesn’t put Woolf up on a pedistal and forget that she was a flawed human being, and she treats Woolf’s mental health factually and sensitively.

Learning about her life has left me with so much more understanding of her novels. How her relationships and surroundings influenced them, why she wrote them, and the impact they had on her. This book is filled with insights into her books and what is clear is Woolf put so much of herself into her writing. Her pain, grief, joy and hopes are all immortalised.

“Thoby haunted her: she perpetually remembered and reimagine him. She wrote three versions of him in over twenty years, as ‘Jacob’ in Jacob’s Room, as ‘Percival’ in The Waves, and as himself in her Sketch of the Past.”

There’s a reason so many of her books are set around the sea, during the Summer, on the hottest days of London. All of these things had a significence to her and would eventually work their way into her novels.

“Her diary, like her essays and stories and novels, blurs the lines between history, biography and fiction.”

She lived during one of the most exciting times in British literature, and I loved learning about her famous literary friends, the Hogarth press she ran with her husband (I had no idea she owned the house that published all of her books!), her romances and her (slightly half-hearted) political endeavors.

“Virginia Woolf and her contemporaries were poised on the edge of revolution.”

You don’t have to have read Woolf to enjoy this book (although there are a lot of references to Three Guiness, The Waves, The Lighthouse, Orlando, Mrs Dalloway and, of course, A Room of One’s Own). It’s also just an interesting look into a writer born a Victorian and growing into a modernist, living through two world wars, going through immense amounts of loss and battling with her mental illness all her adult life.

“Books are a school for character, she (Woolf) argues, because they change (like people) as we read them, and change us as we read. Books read us.”

What got me, was her unawareness of just how incredible her writing was. Multiple times Lee shared quotes from diary entries and letters where Woolf said her writing was ‘nothing’, “she couldn’t do anything right or anything useful”, she felt she was wasting her time. Despite her successes, she still had moments of self-doubt. Well, if only she could see how her works have stood the test of time.

And of course, her self-doubt could have been part of her mental health problems. It’s a known fact she died by suicide, but from the very beginning of adulthood depression and suicidal thoughts plagued her mind, and writing was an especially strong trigger for it. There’s a lot of references to suicide and depression, but I thought Lee handled it carefully “Virginia was a sane woman who had an illness”and it was very interesting to see how these were delt with by doctors in the early 20th century. Very interesting…

“Everything suddenly became unreal; I was suspended; I could not step across the puddle; I tried to touch something… the whole world became unreal.”

Another theme Lee follows is Woolf’s sexuality and what I loved to see was, despite censorship and laws, almost all of Woolf’s friends were gay or in gay relationships. They were also so open about it in conversations and letter corrispondants as well which I think is brilliant.

“She could not bear to catergorise herself as belonging to a group defined by its sexual behaviour (just as she didn’t want to think of herself as an ordinary ‘wife’ or as a writer of ‘novels’). She wanted to avoid all categories.

I now have the uncontrollable urge to reread all of her novels, starting at the beginning. There’s also a whole lot of non-fiction work by Woolf I had no idea was out there, so I’ll be looking to get my hands on them soon as well.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens…worth the hype

April 28th, 2022

Hi Readers

I really struggled with my rating for this. I kept going back and forth between three and four stars, and I would definitely give it 3.5 if goodreads allowed. I decided to give it a bit of time and all of the good points have stuck in my mind more than the bad, so I’m going with four.

| Published: 2018 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons |
| Genre: Historical Fiction |
| Themes: Loneliness, Mystery |
| Length: 384 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

For years, rumours of the ‘Marsh Girl’ have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl.

But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life – until the unthinkable happens.

This really wasn’t what I was expecting. Where The Crawdads Sing is insanely popular now, and from the way I’d heard people talking about it, I was expecting a Ruth Ware type book. Something like The Girl On The Train or The Woman In The Window. In the end we get a hint of that, but it’s more comparable to something like To Kill A Mockingbird.

This book follows a ‘marsh girl’ growing up from a violent childhood to a lonely adulthood in 1960’s North Carolina. One thing that will always stick with me from this book is how much I fell in love with its main character. Kya is abandoned very early in the book by everyone she loves and is forced to survive on her own, but she does more than survive. She thrives. She’s incredibly strong and I was rooting for her the entire time.

I loved how this book explored loneliness and violence against women. I most of all loved it’s message about the importance of education and how words, literature, can make a person flourish.

“I wasn’t aware that words could hold so much. I didn’t know a sentence could be so full.”

The only thing that kept this book from becoming a new favourite was the atmosphere and build up of events. This book constantly toed the line between historical fiction and thriller, and whilst the ending definitely took it over the line, there was no build up of tension for me, no uncontrollable need to read on.

But in the end this was a pleasant surprise. I loved the setting, Kya, and the ending blew my little brain. I can’t wait to see what song this inspired Taylor Swift to write.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | The Bride Test by Helen Hoang…i love romance!

April 25th, 2022

Hi Readers!

I am absolutely loving romance at the moment, and it feels like every time I read a new one, it becomes a new favourite.

| Published: 2019 by Berkley |
| Genre: Contemporary Romance |
| Themes: Forced Proximity, Autism, Vietnamese Culture |
| Length: 296 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

This is a sequel/companion novel to The Kiss Quotient, which I loved reading earlier this year. It follows Khai, a character we meet briefly in The Kiss Quotient, and Esme, a Vietnamese woman Khai’s mother wants him to marry.

I thought this was brilliant. Funny, addictive, fast-paced, slightly melodramatic, but I was here for all of it!

What I love about these books is that they’re romances with substance. They could be enjoyed for the cute scenes, the steamy scenes, the ‘finally!’ scenes. But there’s also the story of immigration, starting over, grabbing opportunities to better yourself and your life. Through Khai we also get autism representation and how it effects and impacts relationships. I love learning about Vietnamese culture, from food to language. It’s a romance with depth.

There’s a lot I could criticise if I wasn’t completely enthralled by it. But honestly, the things I’m sure some would see as faults; the pacing, the tropes, the miscommunication, I loved it all. I also loved how rushed the ending was, because it made it feel so comical. I couldn’t keep up with what was happening and it had me bursting with laughter revelation after revelation.

In fact this book had me grinning and laughing out loud so much! It was also emotionally impactful and completely unputdownable.

I loved this just as much as it’s predecesor. I love the way Hoang builds a story and I can not wait to read more by her!

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | The Island Of Missing Trees by Elif Shafak… a new favourite

April 21st, 2022

Hi Readers

80 pages in I thought this would be a book I would want to push into everyones hands urging them to read it. Now I’m done and I’m not urging you, I’m begging you!

| Published: August 2021, Viking |
| Genre: Contemporary/Historical Fiction |
| Themes: Grief, War, Mental Illness |
| Length: 368 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Two teenagers, a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot, meet at a taverna on the island they both call home. In the taverna, hidden beneath garlands of garlic, chili peppers and creeping honeysuckle, Kostas and Defne grow in their forbidden love for each other. A fig tree stretches through a cavity in the roof, and this tree bears witness to their hushed, happy meetings and eventually, to their silent, surreptitious departures. The tree is there when war breaks out, when the capital is reduced to ashes and rubble, and when the teenagers vanish. Decades later, Kostas returns. He is a botanist looking for native species, but really, he’s searching for lost love.

Years later, a Ficus carica grows in the back garden of a house in London where Ada Kazantzakis lives. This tree is her only connection to an island she has never visited – her only connection to her family’s troubled history and her complex identity as she seeks to untangle years of secrets to find her place in the world.

The Island of Missing Trees was more than I had ever hoped it would be. Throughout the whole book I found myself choking up at the slightest of things and it had me sobbing through the last page. But this book didn’t need a shock factor to pull that out of me. There was no devastating reveal, no climax you didn’t see coming. All this needed was language and nature and healing to make this one of the most tug on the heartstrings books I have ever read.

grief has settled on the house like a vulture that would not leave until it had gorged itself on every last trace of lightness and joy

This book follows two timelines, and three POVs. First we meet Ada, a teenage girl living in London ‘now’ who’s grieving the loss of her mother and struggling to connect with her father. Then we follow her parents and their history in Cyprus. The third is a Fig Tree, who acts as a witness to all these events.

I’ve decided two things after reading this book. One is I love books written for adults, but have teenage POVs (when done well like this one is anyway). The other is I love books where trees are personified. Tree’s just make the most wonderful characters as they feel and sound so wise and ancient.

Shafak uses the tree as a symbol for many things, and one is the beautiful, almost comforting way she describes mental health. The fig tree is used to explain how mental health can physically affect a person. How it’s like when roots of a tree entangle the trunk and can cut off vital water and nutrients. It happens underground, it’s an invisible thing but, ‘can put pressure on the tree and it just becomes too much to bear’.

This book has many messages. Messages about war, history, memory, mental health, loss and grief, culture and family. But one that I found very significant was it’s message about compassion for something other than humans. The importance of trees, animals, nature to us and our ecosystem brought so much heart to the book and was written with so much emotion, and is very topical for current times.

The theme of war also made this book feel extremely poignant because unfortunately history really does repeat itself, and war has never been a subject of the past. Whether it’s Ukraine or the Middle East, there always seems to be a country that’s suffering, and I actually didn’t know that Cyprus had so recently seen conflict as this, and still bears the scars.

“Wherever there is a war and painful partition, there will be no winners, human or otherwise.”

There was also this beautiful scene where the tree is used as a symbol for migration:

Despite all this it would take me seven years to be able to yield fruit again. Because that is what migrations and relocations do to us; when you leave your home to unknown shores, you don’t simply carry on as before; a part of you dies so that another part of you can start all over again.

I haven’t given a book five stars in a while. But this one is more than deserving of every single one of them. I’m not sure a book has ever made me feel as much as this one did, and still left me with a sense of hope and lightness rather than just leaving me devastated and crying on the floor.

It’s an important book for our times. And frankly, I will riot if it does not win this years Women’s Prize.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | The Book Of Form And Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki

April 14th, 2022

Hi Readers!

I’m really struggling to determine my feelings about this book. Overall it wasn’t what I was expecting, and a lot of it I loved, but there were some things I didn’t love so much, which I’m disappointed about as this was one of my more anticipated reads from the Women’s Prize longlist.

| Published: 2021 by Viking |
| Genre: Magical Realism |
| Themes: Grief, Mental Health, Coming-Of-Age |
| Length: 548 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

When a book and a reader are meant for each other, both of them know it …

After the tragic death of his father, fourteen-year-old Benny Oh begins to hear voices. The voices belong to the things in his house and sound variously pleasant, angry or sad. Then his mother develops a hoarding problem, and the voices grow more clamorous. So Benny seeks refuge in the silence of a large public library. There he meets a mesmerising street artist with a smug pet ferret; a homeless philosopher-poet; and his very own Book, who narrates Benny’s life and teaches him to listen to the things that truly matter.

Blending unforgettable characters with jazz, climate change and our attachment to material possessions, this is classic Ruth Ozeki – bold, humane and heartbreaking.

This book started so strong for me. It begins with the death of Benny’s father, and over the grief sticken period Benny begins to hear the voices of objects. It goes on to explore the mental health of both Benny and his mother, their relationship which becomes more and more strained, and the relationship we have with objects and the material world.

Stories never start at the beginning, Benny. They differ from life in that regard. Life is lived from birth to death, from the beginning into an unknowable future. But stories are told in hindsight. Stories are life lived backward.

I realise now I really didn’t know what this book was before I started it. All I needed to know was that it was narrated by a book that the main character could hear and I thought that sounded amazing. That’s not really the focus of the book though, especially as you get further into it. I think I was expecting something that felt more like The Starless Sea, which I didn’t get. But of course that’s not the books fault.

So what did we get? A lot. And that’s perhaps one of the issues I had with it. It’s very ambitious in the amount of themes and topics it discusses and I could go on and on about them, but it made for a very long 500 page book that for me could have done with being cut down.

One theme Ozeki wrote in an impactful way was children’s mental health, how it’s handled, and the effect it has on parents. Benny’s story felt quite YA, coming-of-age, and gave me Perks Of Being the Wallflower vibes. I just didn’t connect with Benny the way I did Charlie because Benny is a much more flawed character who I at times struggled to sympathise with, especially later on in the book.

His mother however I found incredible. I really felt for her as she struggled to deal with the death of her husband and becoming a single parent. It was heartbreaking to see her trying to do the right thing for Benny, and his increasing distance from her. She also has her own mental health issues including hoarding of material objects which is how Ozeki explores out relationship with consumerism.

But the moments that I loved all came from the book talking about being a book. I could read a whole book of just that. There was one moment when the book was talking about how books are used to waiting for someone to pick them up, they know we live busy lives and have learnt to be patient, and they bide they’re time until we are ready for them. That moment spoke to my soul.

There’s a lot to love about this. I think my rating comes from my weird lack of connection to the story. For a book filled with so much emotion and turmoil, it never drew out any emotion from me.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | In The Margins by Elena Ferrante

March 24th, 2022

Hi Readers!

The more I read from Ferrante, the more I love her. This is the first of her non-fiction I’ve read and it’s given me a better understanding of both her novels and her writing process. Ferrante is a favourite author of mine, so to have these four lectures all about the literature she’s read and the process behind her writing was a real treat, and I gobbled it up in two sittings.

| Published: March 2022 Europa Editions |
| Translated By: Ann Goldstein |
| Genre: Non-Fiction |
| Themes: Literature, Writing |
| Length: 160 Pages |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

In these four essays, Ferrante offers a rare look at the origins of her literary powers. She writes about her influences, her struggles, and her formation as both a reader and a writer; she describes the perils of “bad language” and suggests ways in which it has long excluded women’s truth; she proposes a choral fusion of feminine talent as she brilliantly discourses on the work of Emily Dickinson, Gertrude Stein, Ingeborg Bachmann, and many others.

Pain And Pen
She begins at the beginning of her writing life. Probably in the same way most of us learn our letters, no matter the language we speak; with a little girl who she calls Cecelia practicing writing down her name.
This struck a cord with me, because I don’t have many memories of my early school years. But one distinct memory I have from my first year of Primary School was the day I decided I’d had enough of asking my teacher to write my name on my worksheet for me.

So, I went home and did what Cecelia did. Practiced my name over and over until I’d memorised how the letters should go. I did it for a sense of accomplishment, but I also got my first taste of independence. No longer was I reliant on someone else. This was something I could do myself. That’s the power language has.

She goes on to say we’re taught to write in a way that is both liberating and restrictive. We’re taught to write between the magins of a page, we’re taught there are rules to follow, a right way to write a narrative.

More generally, I believe that the sense I have of writing-and all the struggles it involves-has to do with the satisfaction of staying beautifully within the margins, and, at the same time, with the impression of loss, of waste, because of that success

She also uses this lecture to talk about the importance of role models, of seeing yourself in writing and writers. When she was younger she mainly read male authors, and this led her to think, because she was female, she would never achieve that greatness. Until she found Gaspara Sampa, a female Italian poet who taught Elena just what women are capable of.

This made me quite emotional as I remembered how, in Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels, Lenu and Lila buy together Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I think Ferrante must have chosen a book by a female author, with a female character who would become a writer, for this purpose. Because she knows from experience how important it is for young women to have these writers to look up to.

This lecture is all about her wish to write her reality, and the difficulties and doubts that come with that. But something she once read ‘it’s arduous to speak truthfully, but you do your best’ made her persevere. Thank goodness she did!

I couldn’t contain myself, I was going to spill out into the world, into the other, into others, and write about them.

She also starts to generously talk about her published works and some of the process that went into writing them. My favourite part was when she detailed the beginnings of My Brilliant Friend, how she was inspired by another book she read to write a book about a female friendship. It began with two girls called Emilia and Amalia, who would become the inspiration for Lenu and Lila.

Histories, I
She delves even more into the books she’s written and how they came to be. I found it so interesting to see what she almost did with these books, and there’s so much I’m going to look out for when I next reread them.

With greater or less ability we fabricate fictions not so that the false will seem true but to tell the most unspeakable truth with absolute faithfulness through the fiction.

Dante’s Rib
Throughout a lot of these lectures she explores how writing is inspired by other writing. and in Dante’s Rib, she concludes that all writing is an accumulation of everything the author has read. How all writers are inspired and influenced by stories, and that in some way inevitably reflects in their own words.

And yes it was never a matter of a pure transcription or a deferential homage or a faithful work of translation. Dante, even when he was reading pagan verses or the Bible or philosophical, scientific, or mystical works, entered into others words so intimately that he was able to capture their secrets of meaning and beauty, and achieve through them a writing of his own

Dante’s Rib was basically Ferrante fangirling over Dante’s works. I’ve never read anything of his myself, but the way she spoke about him, especially how he wrote his female character Beatrice, has got me very intrigued.

In fact, Ferrante makes a lot of literary references, and I noted all of them down as I went along. I’m thinking this will become my Summer reading list (along with a reread of the Neapolitan Novels, of course).

Books And Author’s Mentioned In In The Margins
Gaspata Sampa – Rime
Italo Svevo – Zeno’s Conscience
Virginia Woolf – A Writer’s Diary
Samuel Beckett – The Unnamables
Shakespeare – Macbeth
Denis Diberot – Jaques The Fatalist
Laurence Sterne – The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy
Adriana Cavarero – Relating Narratives: Storytelling And Selfhood
Sexual Difference – A Theory Of Social Symbolic Practice
Gertrude Stein – The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
Emily Dickinson
Ernest Hemingway
Mark Twain – Huckleberry Finn
Dostoevsky – Notes From Underground
Daniel Defoe – Robinson Crusoe
Ingeborg Bachmann – The I Who Writes
Elsa Morante
Natalia Ginzberg
Anna Maria Ortese
Jane Austen
The Bronte Sisters
Maria Guerra
Maria Corti
Luisa Muraro

Overall this is a very rewarding read for both writers, and readers of Ferrante’s works.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

book blog · Book Review

Book Review | A Storm of Sisters by Michelle Harrison

March 16th, 2022

Hi Readers!

I’m more convinced than ever now that Michelle Harrison never disappoints. This latest addition to the Pinch of Magic series was another fun adventure full of magic, mystery, and twists I never saw coming.

| Published: 2022 by Simon & Schuster |
| Genre: Fantasy |
| Age: Middle Grade |
| Length: 368 Pages |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

When the Widdershins sisters and Granny are called away in deepest winter to look after cousin Clarissa, it doesn’t take long for adventure – or trouble – to find them. The town of Wilderness has plenty to explore with its frozen lake and winter market, as well as being haunted by a doomed highwayman and his secret love.
But the legends are true and seeing a ghostly figure one night, the girls realise that Granny is in terrible danger.  As an icy storm rages, the race to save her begins – can the sisters lay Wilderness’s ghosts to rest before another soul is claimed?

These books have become quite special to me as they’re something me and my Nan both enjoy. She’s the person I got the reading gene from, but we don’t have a lot in common reading wise (she reads more cosy mysteries than anyone I know). The fact we’ve found a series of books we both share a love for makes these books very dear to me.

A Storm of Sisters continues the adventures of the Widdershin sisters, each of whom have a magical item gifted to them by their Nan in the first book. Their own pinch of magic. These items have come in handy over this series of adventures. It’s seen them through prison breaks, kidnappings, pirate fights and haunted houses.

This newest adventure gives us a taste of Winter, and if you live in the South/East of England like I do, you’ve probably missed a real Winter of your own. So the Wintery scenes of frozen lakes, snow falling, and cosy Winter markets were very much appreciated and I soaked up that atmosphere Harrison so beautifully described.

With any good Winter atmosphere comes a chilling ghost story. When the Widdershins’s cousin breaks her leg, they travel to her isolated village to take care of her, and soon discover that the idyllic Winter getaway is haunted by a dark past including highwaymen, grieving lovers, and ghosts who have come back to haunt them.

I’m more sure than ever that Harrison never disappoints. This book was just as fun and delightful as it’s predecesors, with twists to it’s tale I didn’t (and some I did) see coming. I’m very glad it seems she will be writing more in this series. I can’t wait for more.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X