My month started with reads from three female writers. Not by design, it just turned out that way. I tackled three TBRs: Convenience Store Woman had been beckoning to me for months and finally I turned on the Kindle and read it. What a strange story! From childhood Keiko has been different. Not normal, by anybody’s standards and in rigidly classified Japanese society there’s plenty of social pressure to conform. Having a lifelong career as a convenience store worker is socially unacceptable so Keiko succumbs to the pressure and forms a curious liaison with a man (and he’s horrendous; her judgement is not good!) but in the end, she’s happy to just be a Convenience Store Worker. The novel ended abruptly. But Japanese novels present many challenges as I have learnt over the years. Did I enjoy it? Yes, in a weird way. If you’re looking for something different, give it a try.
A friend gave me an unexpected gift, Name all the Animals by Alison Smith .
She enjoyed the notion that the book was apparently written by me! Pure coincidence, because the American memoir certainly could not have been more different to my Central African youth. The memoir turned out to be an intense account of the writer’s early life, the strong Catholic influences, her dilemma concerning her sexual identity and the seminal moment of her brother Roy’s early death, interspersed with passages detailing an ordinary life unfolding in Boston during the mid 1980s. I enjoyed the writing, which in places was superb. I don’t think I would have chosen to read the book, but it turned out to be an unusual read. Thanks for the prezzie, Sam . You introduced me to a memoir written in what is now called the “ Creative non-fiction” style.
I bought Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection at our recent 2019 Open Book Festival, having read many enthusiastic reviews of her work. What a writer! Fearless and intelligent; strong lesbian themes. Wikipedia told me: short story author, essayist, and critic frequently published in The New Yorker, Granta, Lightspeed Magazine, and other publications. Her story collection Her Body and Other Parties was published in 2017. I was quite disappointed to discover she’s American born – I thought all that fiery passion had to be of Latin origin, say Brazil, but no. I can’t wait to read more.
I followed up the female writers with a blazing dose (literally: the description of an Australian bushfire is red hot) of down-under crime, written by a seasoned male journo. I seldom read crime, but this novel had me turning the pages at breakneck speed.
Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata. The loneliness and social pressures of being a non-conformist in modern Japanese society . Seriously weird and very intriguing.
Her Body and other Parties – Carmen Maria Machado. Debut Short Story collection. Unique, breathtaking prose; avoid this if you are not comfortable with lesbian themes .
Scrublands – Chris Hammer. Crackerjack Australian crime set during the terrible drought, where heat, greed and secrets explode. A page turner. Recommended.
An Obvious Fact – Craig Johnson. Another TBR – worth the wait! A great story, colourful characters, plenty of action, flashes of humour – you can’t beat a Walt Longmire story for a satisfying, enjoyable read.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton . A wildly complicated plot that was super confusing. 114 pages in, I’d had enough.
84K – Claire North. Although I’m a CN fan, this one just didn’t do it for me. Too bleak, too dystopian and 59 pages was enough for me.
Name all the Animals – Alison Smith; memoir. Vividly written American memoir, exploring grief, Catholic upbringing, and pubescent sexuality en route. An unusual read.