The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney (novel)
I enjoyed this while I was reading it but it hasn’t stayed with at all. I like that the different story threads gradually come together (all centered around one somewhat accidental murder), I enjoy unreliable/unlikable narrators, and the writing wasn’t bad. But something about it just didn’t do anything for me. Perhaps my expectations were too high because it won the Baileys prize last year and the shortlisted books I’ve read this year have been amazing. Meh.
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (novel)
This is bloody amazing. It’s basically one man, standing alone in his kitchen, reflecting on his life, but the way it’s told elevates it to something so much more. The whole novel is one sentence in stream-of-consciousness that meanders and repeats the way a mind does. There are paragraph breaks, which help, but the whole thing is so well-paced I only really noticed it was one sentence when I was looking for somewhere to stop. Marcus, the main character, is an engineer, and the novel is about how life is constructed and connected. I found the ending a little anticlimactic and an “and it was all a dream…” type ending (though it’s not that at all and it’s not that bad), but perhaps that’s because the way it ends is inevitable. And some of the best writing is in those final few pages. Best thing I read this month and it will undoubtedly end up on my best of the year list.
The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing (novel)
This was described to me as a kind of family-based gothic horror but it’s not what I’d call “gothic horror” at all. Though I do understand it’s written from the parents’ and family’s point of view, and not the “evil” child, and the language is of its setting, it made me feel very uncomfortable a lot of the time, in a bad way. The ideas around societal expectations and mother-child relationships are interesting, but it read a lot like a book where a boy with some kind of disability is treated horribly, compounding his problems, but really it’s that the boy is inherently evil. There are hints about reasons why Ben is the way he is, like others’ reactions to him, the amount of drugs his mother takes in pregnancy, etc, but the way its written and the marketing of the book plays down those aspects. I think there’s a sequel from Ben’s perspective when he’s older, which I would be interested in reading, but this wasn’t a great introduction to Lessing’s work for me.
How You Might Know Me by Sabrina Mahfouz (poetry)
This collection is a series of poems, in different styles, from the perspectives of four women all working in the sex industry. I was lucky enough to see Sabrina Mahfouz read from this collection, so I had the voices of the characters in my head as I read them, but every character has got a distinctive voice and story even without Mahfouz reading them aloud. The women are from different backgrounds, are different ages, and have different feelings towards their work. It’s brilliant.
Tomie by Junji Ito (trans. by Naomi Kokubo) (comics, fiction. Japanese in translation)
More of a series of short stories than one long piece, Tomie is a about a beautiful girl who can seduce any man, and then drive them to murder her. She regenerates, even from just a few cells of her blood. Multiple Tomies compete to be the only Tomie, inciting men to murder the others on her behalf, and she craves beautiful, expensive things. It can get a little repetitive, so definitely one it’s better to dip in and out of rather than read in one sitting. At times it’s just a fun horror story, and at others it feels like a comment on the way some men seek to possess a beautiful woman and lash out violently when they are rejected. I enjoyed it. It’s gross and weird.
Also on the blog this month:
Currently reading: Still dipping in and out of Creating Freedom by Raoul Martinez and The Phantom Atlas by Edward Brooke-Hitching.