What I've Been Reading Recently

The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah
c/o Curtis Brown
Oh no, I thought, not another book about somebody dying in a hospice. I mean, I love getting review copies of books but what are the publishers trying to do to me?! At first, I was determinedly resistant to this one's charms but it successfully sucked me in. It's not really about the dying but it is about loss - loss of love; loss of family; loss of friendship; sometimes loss of common sense. The young, aimless characters and their occasionally hurtful actions were very familiar to me and the slowly revealed resentment felt very real - along with the uncertainty about how that should be handled.

In Real Life by Chris Killen
c/o Canongate Books (via Netgalley)
Ten years after university, life hasn't really panned out as planned for Lauren, Paul and Ian. From dead end jobs to dysfunctional relationships, their early thirties are just as chaotic and confusing as their early twenties were. Written with understated style, this will make a lot former slackers wince with recognition whilst rooting for at least one happy ending.

The First Bad Man by Miranda July
I was really looking forward to this book and quite prepared for it to baffle me at first. And it did. To be honest, I wasn't too sure about it for a while - I liked the writing style but the narrator, Cheryl, seemed a bit pointedly odd and there's a weird domestic violence situation about which she is unsettlingly glib. But, as the story moves on and becomes ever more unlikely and explicit, I found myself drawn in. There's a lot in this about the desire for connection and the strange power games adults play to link themselves together - it never shies away from the surreal or the uncomfortable - and I wanted to know what on earth would happen next.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey
Twenty years after a zombie plague decimated the world, Melanie is one of a group of children living on a military base. She has a crush on her teacher and a deep dislike of the soldiers who manage her life. If you've seen The Walking Dead or 28 Days Later or, basically, any decent zombie film/series you know what to expect from this but it delivers it well. Despite being such a well established genre, this manages to be both unsettling and intriguing.

All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews
Elf is an internationally acclaimed pianist with a loving family, good friends and a supportive husband. She wants to die. Her sister, Yoli, wants to keep her alive. This is an incredibly moving novel which brings into question a lot of gut responses to suicide, whilst also examining family bonds and the nature of grief. It sounds like hard work, I know, but it's surprisingly easy to read and filled with much more love than sorrow. I recommend it.

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  1. I really liked The Girl With All The Gifts, and especially the ending - that final scene is so brilliant.

  2. I have to admit, I've been a fan of zombie stories for ages (since before they were cool, if I want to get all pretentious about it, lol). I love the ones that do something different. I'll have to check out The Girl with all the Gifts. If you're looking for a brilliant zombie book, check out Zone One by Colson Whitehead. I usually describe it as a more literary zombie book; the writing is superb.

  3. Intrigued by a couple of these, thanks! :-)

  4. I've heard good things about the Girl with all the Gifts so might need to check it out (though zombies properly terrify me)

  5. It was surprisingly unsettling... Just to warn you...


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