A Year in Books

Happy New Year!

I have massively enjoyed my reading this year and honestly feel that at times it has completely stopped my from falling into a black hole of depression. I’m sure a lot of people love a good book to enjoy the escapism. For me, it is more the sense of achievement I have on finishing a book. Since having children my feelings of achievement come from my children attempting to eat a vegetable or them wiping their own bums. Reading is honestly probably the only thing I do on my own now….yes I do wee with my kids present and at least 6 nights a week I have a little person sharing my bed who is not my husband.  Reading however is my quiet time.  Conversely,  I do love the sociable aspect of having a good chat about a book. I have started 2 book clubs in 2017 and I am really chuffed to have made new friends who also enjoy reading. 2017 was also the year of the book multi tasked. I now generally have 3 books on the go. I have to pick these books carefully….if I’m reading a book of poetry, I like interspersing it with fiction. This does depend on how complicated the fiction is however. Some books require complete fidelity and if I sleep (read) around  whilst reading a complicated book, I always seem to be at odds with the plot, characters etc.

So, without further ado, here are my reads of 2017.

5*

  1. Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
  2. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
  4. All Change by Elizabeth Jane Howard
  5. Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
  6. The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
  7. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
  8. The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
  9. The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club by Helen McGinn

4*

  1. The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker
  2. My Life in France by Julia Child
  3. Two Brothers by Ben Elton
  4. Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal
  5. The House on Cold Hill by Peter James
  6. The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis
  7. His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
  8. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  9. Something Dangerous by Penny Vincenzi
  10. The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin
  11. Release by Patrick Ness
  12. When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
  13. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
  14. Four Stories by Alan Bennett
  15. Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym
  16. Conclave by Robert Harris
  17. Bone by Yrsa Daley-Ward
  18. On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder
  19. A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman
  20. Feminine Gospels by Carol Ann Duffy
  21. Motherhood Reimagined by Sarah Kowalski
  22. The Map and the Clock edited by Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke
  23. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
  24. The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall
  25. Depression and Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim
  26. I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

3*

  1. What We Didn’t Say by Rory Dunlop
  2. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  3. Capital by John Lanchester
  4. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  5. Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris
  6. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  7. Invincible Summer by Alice Adams
  8. Cousins by Salley Vickers
  9. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  10. Six Poets: Hardy to Larkin by Alan Bennett
  11. Raising Girls by Steve Biddulph
  12. The Angry Chef by Anthony Warner
  13. The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti
  14. Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
  15. An Equal Music by Vikram Seth
  16. The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth by William Boyd
  17. The Rotter’s Club by Jonathan Coe
  18. Confessions of a Learner Parent by Sam Avery

2*

  1. Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk
  2. Friends Like These by Danny Wallace
  3. Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
  4. We the Animals by Justin Torres
  5. 30-Second Mythology by Robert A Segal

1*

  1. The Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks

GAVE UP!!!!

  1. The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes
  2. Ruby by Cynthia Bond
  3. A Secret Sisterhood by Emily Midorikawa, Emma Claire Sweeney
  4. Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy by Neil Astley

4 Very varied book reviews.

It has been yonks since I put up some book reviews and the irony/impropriety of reviewing a children’s book, a parenting guide, a wine guide and a book of poetry based on depression is not lost on me. If this grouping of books offends you, please stop reading now. Interestingly, I did not plan to read these books around the same time but for me, they are beautifully linked. I am a parent to two girls under five, I have depression and I really like a glass of wine. There, all linked and packaged up with a nice bow.

A LION IS A LION by POLLY DUNBAR

Is a lion still a lion if…he wears a hat? And carries an umbrella, too?

And is a lion still a lion if he says, “Oh yes, lunch would be lovely, thank you.”

And he asks you for…a BITE?

Firstly, I would like to say how much my daughters and I loved Polly Dunbar’s illustrations. My 4 year old told me ‘they were easy to understand.’ I think by this she means that the pages weren’t so busy that her 4 year old brain suffered with sensory overload. I often find books for children are so full of bright colours, big words, all singing and all dancing that children are so distracted that they lose the thread of the story. Not so with the book. The pictures are simple and beautifully drawn. My children and I particularly likes the ‘danger moments.’ This is when the lion decides he would quite like to eat the children in the story. Cleverly, Dunbar uses the colour red as a page background which prompted a lot of discussion with my 4 year old about red meaning danger. She is apparently steering clear of red food for a while. The message behind this book is also really empowering to children, particularly before bedtime. If something scares you/tries to eat you….chuck it out of your house and tell it ‘No! No! No! NO!’ This is a lovely book, really enjoyed by my 2 and 4 year old.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC of this book.

I initially requested this ARC because I want to read more poetry. I am sorry to admit that I am a bit of a novice when it comes to reading poetry and my vision of it is fuelled by memories of plodding through A Level poetry which I often found tedious. So far, in my tasting menu of poetry, I am really enjoying modern poetry and I thought the subject matter of Benhaim’s new book of poems would definitely be something I could relate to.

Benhaim, is not a poet I am familiar with so before embarking on her collection I sat down with a cuppa and got onto Google. I was hoping to find a Wikipedia post giving me some background. This was unfortunately not to be. Instead, I became immersed into the world of Slam Poetry. To Slam Poetry virgins like myself, Slam is a competition which originated in 1984 in Chicago. It was intended as a way to move poetry away from stuffy libraries and bring it out to audiences. Poets take to the microphone and compete against other poets. Slam poetry is Benhaim’s background. It is worth watching her perform her poem ‘Explaining my depression to my mother, a conversation.’ This video has been viewed 6 million times on Youtube.

Having watched everything of Benhaim’s I could find, I embarked on her book. I loved these poems. So many of them spoke to me and even though the main subject matter is depression, a had a wry smile on my face as so much of what she said made sense to me:

In some stories,

the protagonist has to kill the bad thing to

release its light.

in my story,

I am the protagonist & the bad thing,

I have to learn how to bend the light out of myself.

I can do that magic.

So many beautiful thoughts and ways of expressing them. I think my favourite poems were ‘How to fold a memory’ – her words created such wonderful and fragile imagery. ‘Another plain truth,”poem for the moment after you left,”so my friend tells me she identifies as a mermaid,”feed a fever, starve a cold,’ ‘what I told the doctor, the second time,’

These poems, short stories really came alive to me after having watched how she performs. I completely have her voice in my head and it really helped my to get used to her conversational style.

A really wonderful book of poetry and I will definitely recommend it to others.

Oh Helen McGinn where have you been all my life??? Thank god I have found you now. I feel as I am now in my late 30s (argh) it is time for me to get into the club. The club I talk is the Club of Wise Ones What Know About Wine. I had friends who joined this club in their early 20s and I thought it was all a bit pretentious. I just wanted to get pissed on whatever was cheapest in sainos. If something was on offer, I would buy it….as long as it was in the £6 and under price bracket. In the year before we jumped on the baby train my husband and I went on our last big holiday. We went to America and spent a lot of time in Napa. We hired bikes and I have slightly soft focused memories of us cycling around various vineyards, trying to pretend we weren’t pissed and that we knew vaguely what we were on about. We didn’t, and it made me realise I wanted to be part of this club who did know.

I live in South West London which is an area often referred to as Nappy Valley. Everywhere you look, there are pregnant people, Range-Rover priced buggies, sleep consultants, breast-feeding consultants, mothers who are wearing jumpers with slogans describing how they are just blagging motherhood (they aren’t. Their idea of blagging motherhood is to feed their kids chicken nuggets one night a week instead of organic bolognese). Controversially, i have found since living here, I am slightly allergic to this group of women ( by all means, it is not the women round here) who quaff prosecco whilst holding baby Zara (who is dressed in Bonpoint) wanking on about how knackered they are. As a result, i tend to veer away from blogs and books with the title ‘The knackered/yummy/ confused/baffled/hysterical mummy.’ Helen McGinn has without a doubt proved me wrong and made me realise that my prejudice is ridiculous.

This book is so readable without being too easy. It is definitely a book which I shall keep and often refer back to. This does not read like an idiots guide to wine, but its simplicity in content makes you feel that you are getting to grips with how wine works without being bamboozled by the complicated stuff.  For a wine beginner, this is definitely the book for you. Its humour, lack or pretension and brilliantly structured chapters make it a really fun read. The chapter about book clubs and wine has inspired me to start my own wine tasting/book reading club. Thanks Helen. Top work.

 

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC of this book.

In my review above I have already given my opinions on the trend that is self-deprecting parents writing books and blogs on how they bare winging parenthood. This phenomenon has really taken off in the last few years and I feel we are inundated with similar parenting manuals. Having said that, I requested this ARC because I hadn’t read anything from the father’s point of view.

Sam Avery is a funny guy. He should be…he is a stand up comedian. He also has twin sons which will provide him with enough funny material for the next 15 years. His first chapter, entitled Diary of a Two-Year-Old made my openly guffaw on the train. I made my husband read it whilst we were trying to stay awake over a glass of wine last saturday. We did that knowing laugh, that parents do when we discover that we all go through the same thing. Also, his chapter on soft-play was brilliant.

My only issue with this book, is that for me, I think I would have enjoyed it more had I read it a little more sporadically. Avery is hilarious but if you read it in one sitting you get slightly bored of the humour. Pretty much every paragraph has a simile or analogy which eventually become totally frustrating. I felt I was drowning in Avery’s need to make me laugh every 5 seconds and as a result, as the book continued, to became less funny.

Having said that, it was really refreshing to read a man’s take on parenthood and it would be a great book to give to any soon to be dad’s.

 

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas people.

Rants Week 4.

Hello ranters. How is everyone? I am currently sat in my sitting room, blogging and watching Home Alone. Life is good.

So here are the FB Rants from yesterday.

Here are the stats:

  1. 124 comments
  2. 29 likes
  3. 26 Ranters
  4. 2 new Rant Virgins.

MY RANTS

  1. People who don’t know the rules. STAND ON THE RIGHT YOU NIPPLES!
  2. British people who use American spellings. Its ‘mum’ not ‘mom.’
  3. I say it again and I’m afraid this is a long one………….. People who talk on speaker phone on public transport. I am sad to have to bring this up again as the message of Rants is clearly not ridding the world of these annoying plonkers fast enough. So, to those who blatantly continue to flaunt the rules….STOP IT! I have no urge to listen to you shouting into your phone and to some idiot replying to you. The function of speaker phone is to allow us to multi task. It allows us to change nappies, wash floors, watch TV when on hold to mobile phone companies, SKY TV or the bank. So we can continue our lives to the glorious Muzak soundtrack (Flower Duet sung by the fat/blind/deaf sob story who won X Factor) and still not miss our place in the queue. It is not to have discussions about your dinner options on the bus. No one else wants to hear your conversation.
  4. When you buy jeans off the internet that are meant to make you look thin. But they don’t. And you can’t be arsed to take them back. So you wear them. And feel fat. And hate yourself.
  5. Glitter and sequins….they are all over my house at the moment.

 

THE RANTS. Rants in BOLD are reappearances of previous rants.

  1. When you order something from Amazon which you think is the size it looks in the photograph, but when it arrives, it is actually in miniature.
  2. Public transport being late.
  3. Hat hair.
  4. When you put your hair in a bun and then you can’t wear a hat.
  5. Meals for one that couldn’t sustain a guinea pig.
  6. Massive, mainly empty, misleading packaging.
  7. People who try to sell you something but stubbornly avoid telling you the price.
  8. People who ask what you are doing at a certain time, without telling you why they are asking. Most applicable to people trying to book you for gigs on the cheap.
  9. When people accuse you of being chauvinistic or a feminist when your difference of opinion has nothing to do with gender.
  10. Companies that change something and claim it is to improve your user experience. It is not about my experience it is about your insurance.
  11. When people ask what you did at the weekend….not because they care but so they can tell you what they did.
  12. When a company phones you up and asks you security questions. I don’t know who you are. YOU phoned ME. Maybe I should be asking YOU some security questions.
  13. When you fancy someone and they hate you.
  14. Trying clothes on in changing rooms.
  15. Changing rooms that are badly lit and make you look dreadful.
  16. Pitta bread. has anyone managed to cut one open and fill it without it tearing and contents splurging out.
  17. Balding men who won’t accept their hair is thinning so have ugly haircuts.
  18. When you visit your parents and revert to being a horrid, teenage brat even though you are 35.
  19. Iphone batteries.
  20. People who write ‘loosing’ when they mean ‘losing’ need to get loost.
  21. Adults on scooters.
  22. Adults on skateboards.
  23. Airy fairy singing on adverts. This is particularly rife at Xmas.
  24. The annual family interrogation at Xmas. “no husband, hose, kids??’ etc.
  25. Made up trendy food intolerances.
  26. People who name drop.
  27. Passive agression.
  28. People who put sweet wrappers back in the tim.
  29. Ed Sheeran.
  30. News alerts on your phone that disappear as soon as you touch them.
  31. People who use lifts when they don’t need to.
  32. Getting electric shocks in public.
  33. People who wander around department stores getting in everyone’s way with their slowness and lack of direction.
  34. Covers of Joni Mitchell….she can’t be beaten.
  35. Prosecco….and the prosecco life style…..’I don’t get drunk on prosecco, I get fabulous.’ It just sweet, fizzy wine. GET OVER IT!
  36. When your contact lenses refuse to go in.
  37. Sam Smith’s face.
  38. ‘This train is being held at the is stop to regulate the service.’
  39. It’s and its.
  40. In the opening scene of Love Actually, a man is carrying a xmas tree from Waterloo to Westminster 5 weeks before Xmas. WHERE IS HE TAKING THAT TREE?
  41. Perfume and aftershave adverts.
  42. People who refer to their youngest child as ‘the baby’ even when said child is 6.
  43. Cars with eyelashes on the headlights.
  44. Ring pulls that break on cans of beans.
  45. Mobile phone reception.
  46. People who sit next to you on public transport with no sense of personal space.
  47. Vaping in public spaces.

 

WOW WOW WOW! 47 rants. 22 more than last week. Are we all getting rantier because it is the season of goodwill????

 

 

 

Beauty Bants

It has been yonks since I updated you on my recent beauty hauls. I think 2018 May be the year I cancel my Look Fantastic box. Someone once told me that you should only subscribe for 6 months as products will start repeating. My issue with Look Fantastic is I often find it quite make up heavy and I think that’s quite risky. I am a bit past experimenting with contouring and nude lips. I know what I like and more often than not, the make up I receive in a beauty box ends up in the fancy dress box.

I stand by the fact the Latest in Beauty box is completely Mega as you choose what you want to receive so no nasty make up surprises.

Anyway here are a few of the products I have tried in the last few weeks.

1. Rosie Glow Deep Cleansing Face Mask

Really good name for this mask. Colour is a warm, rosy terracotta colour and the smell is definitely rosy.  Didn’t sting as it was drying. By the end of the recommended 15-20 minutes, I resembled an Oompa Loompa. Mask came off easily. I didn’t have to scrub it off. Skin felt very soft. Not dry. Also massive bonus in that I managed to get 3 uses out of this one packet.

2. Look Fantastic Wonderland Bath Fizzer

I don’t need any excuse to have a long relaxing soak with a good book. Was really pleased to see a bath bomb in this month’s Look Fantastic box. It’s a limited edition in a fragrance called blueberry tea. Can’t smell much tea in it…just a lot of blueberry and that slightly artificial grape flavour you find in American drinks and sweets. The blurb in the book said to ‘relax amongst the bubbles.’ There were no bubbles but I am pleased to see bath products making their way into beauty boxes so it’s a thumbs up from me! Also loved the colour of the bath!!!

3. SUKI exfoliate foaming cleanser

Sometimes, increasingly rarely you get a total gem in a beauty box. This came from Look Fantastic. Initially, I smirked at the teeny tiny tester pot but then I opened it and I am crazy excited. First of all, it smells AMAZING. It contains lemongrass and colloidal oat which means it is suitable for sensitive skin. It has the consistency of granulated sugar and foams really nicely. My skin felt, soft and smooth. A 120ml pot would set you back about £33, but this is definitely money well spent. Planning on buying a ton for Xmas pressies. Thank you Look Fantastic for introducing me to this total winner.

I don’t want to get in the habit of slagging off products as like books I feel it’s often very subjective. This scent however, was not for me and I think I have pretty low standards nowadays. I tend to wear perfume that I know my 4 year old won’t steal but even she was unimpressed with this. I want to say if you love smelling like negroni or Campari then this is totally the scent for you. Unfortunately both those drinks make me want to vom so I will not be investing.

Anyway thanks for reading.

Rants

Good evening ranters and MERRY CHRISTMAS.

God today has been a total mix of ranting and feeling very grateful.

It started well, I woke up to find myself in bed with only my husband. This is unusual. More often than not there is a 4 year old in bed with us and this week has been a bit of a mare as 2 year old has also tried to get in on the act too. My back is constantly in bits as a result of this and I always do that dream like falling thing because more often than not, I actually fall out of bed as I constantly sleep on a razor of space. Anyway, last night I slept without children. Whoop! WIN.

I then was granted a 2 hr free pass to do some xmas shopping. It was all going well until I returned home to discover I had left a bag in the shopping centre. I drove like a mad woman back to the shopping centre. Cursing my life, the general population and with tears streaming down my face. And do you know what????? Some wondrous person handed it in to security!!!! I love everyone. I then scraped my wing mirror as I was reversing out the car park but you can’t have it all.

Anyway, FB Rants from yesterday.

Here are the stats.

  1. 118 comments
  2. 34 likes
  3. 26 Ranters
  4. 15 comments from people new to Rants

MY RANTS

  1. When your 4 year old learns to write and then thinks it is acceptable to scrawl all over your furniture, sheets etc. Every day I find the name Edith in a new place it shouldn’t be.
  2. Hair Rants. I am blessed to have 2 very healthy daughters and I am completely happy to be in Team Girl. I do often wonder however what it must be like to have a son and not have to have the constant arguments about hairstyles. These arguments always happen at exactly 7:47 in the morning, whilst I am trying to do brekkie, hiding dummies from my 2 year old and trying to make myself look presentable enough to take my daughter to school. Needless to say, it is an argument I always lose. Edie has at least 4 hairbands on and I turn up to school looking like the Wild Woman from Borneo.
  3. Contouring. Who honestly has the time for this. WTAF?!? Utter lunacy.
  4. Ridiculous newborn photoshoots. Naked babies lying in pretend eggs???? Whaaaaaat!!!
  5. Awful signs that people buy for their houses. Things like ‘Home is where the heart is.’ ‘You don’t have to be drunk to live here, but it helps.’
  6. Marzipan.

THE RANTS. Rants in BOLD are reappearances of previous rants.

  1. Avocados where they don’t belong….like cups for coffee!?!
  2. Millenial journalists being offended by EVERYTHING.
  3. Women in gigantic cars who cannot park, drive or manoeuvre.
  4. People who say ‘years of age’ instead of ‘years old.’
  5. Upside down Xmas trees.
  6. Trains being cancelled.
  7. People who put their bags on the chairs on public transport.
  8. Perfume adverts.
  9. Mince Pies.
  10. Candid peel.
  11. Sprouts.
  12. People who eat with their mouths open.
  13. Fly tipping.
  14. Desiccated coconut.
  15. Chewing gum.
  16. Cheesy engagement photo shoots.
  17. Glitter ?!?!?
  18. Sleeping Selfies.
  19. Pouting selfies.
  20. Dick pics and general dick heads on dating websites.
  21. Food served on paper in pie dishes.
  22. Snow.
  23. The Sainsburys Xmas ad.
  24. The Debenhams Xmas ad.
  25. The Vodafone Xmas ad.

That’s all for another week folks.

Thanks for reading.

Another week, another moan.

Yesterday was Friday Rants and in honour of the Royal nuptials I decided to use a picture of our Sovereign looking pissed off. This was a brilliant week for rants. Here are the stats…

  1. 27 likes.
  2. 156 comments.
  3. 31 ranters taking part.
  4. 17 ranters new to the party.

 

My Rants

  1. People who hand wash their bras….who actually has time for this???
  2. Men who wear their jeans under their arses. It does not look ghetto…it makes you look like you have an abnormally long body and teeny tiny legs.
  3. People who post deliberately ambiguous status updates on Facebook e.g. ‘hmmmmmmmm.’ ‘Sad.’ ‘Happy.’

I feel the need to apologise for previous Rant posts. I have now decided on my format which hopefully won’t change during the coming weeks.

So, drumroll please…..here are the Rants. Rants in BOLD are reappearances of previous rants.

  1. People who pick themselves of public transport. Spots, split ends, noses.
  2. People who say ‘bless.’
  3. People who get really excited about the Royal family and what new outfit Kate Middleton is currently wearing.
  4. People who stop right in the entrance of the train once they have got on, thereby blocking the way for people behind them.
  5. People who ask conductors questions in rehearsals knowing that they are actually giving their colleagues a note.
  6. Virgin Trains.
  7. Singers who bring gallons of water to rehearsals.
  8. Gym selfies.
  9. Men who pick their noses at traffic lights.
  10. The music world.
  11. Men who pick their noses at the urinal and stick their bogies on the wall.
  12. Drivers who don’t thank you when you let them through.
  13. People on the tube who manage to make the act of turning pages of their newspaper into an expression of their repressed anger and resentment.
  14. Chewing gum.
  15. People who invent a hierarchy to give themselves status.
  16. People who ask questions that have just been asked.
  17. People who run their lives through a lazy stereotype.
  18. People who give you their opinion on everything when you have never asked what they think about ANYTHING.
  19. People who start a conversation by telling you what they think, then when you respond just say ‘no’ repeatedly over what you are trying to say.
  20. Hypocrites who are only interested in the good of the group when it works to their benefit.
  21. Hypocrites.
  22. People who have 2 very different ways of speaking to others depending on whether they consider them above or below themselves or for professional gain.
  23. Networking.
  24. People who congratulate performers publicly on social media in order to ‘get in on the act.’
  25. Girls who only wear a sports bra as a top at the gym.
  26. The fact that Hollywood and the gaming industry now mainly focuses on the formula of sequels and prequels of the same genre, thus stifling the creativity at the top end of the market.
  27. Lazy use of CGI.
  28. The fact that box-set-bingeing exacerbates minor-completion-addiction.
  29. Washing your recycling.
  30. People who don’t wash their recycling.
  31. overly complicated recycling rules.
  32. When their are no paper towels to wipe your hands at the petrol station.
  33. People who describe themselves as ‘blessed’ when they mean smug.
  34. Shops who hire beautiful but very thick people.
  35. Clare Balding on radio 2.
  36. Elaine Paige on radio 2.
  37. Easy peelers which are not.
  38. Easy Jet.
  39. Low lying sun which makes driving impossible.
  40. Having to clean up before the cleaner comes.
  41. People at work making comments that your food smells.
  42. People who don’t stop properly at lights and just ride the clutch.
  43. Having toast for brekkie and then leaving the butter out all day.
  44. People who sit on the outside seat of the train and then huff when you ask them to move their bags so you can sit down.
  45. People who don’t know the difference between their, there and they’re. And effect and affect.
  46. People who stop and chat just outside the shop door.
  47. Rubbish on the tubes.
  48. People (mainly men) who take up tons of room on the tube….spreading legs, using both arm rests.
  49. People who wear winter hats inside pubs.

 

Phew. Epic rants. As ever, numerous rants about public transport and people who get in the way of us busy people trying to get to wherever we need to go. I also wonder if social media has helped to turn us into grumpy arses. I am definitely becoming less tolerant and I am sure FB has a lot to do with it. Gone are the days when you would leave school/work, go home and not speak to anyone bar the people you live with until the next morning. FB, Twitter, Instagram are only ever a click away.

Anyway, happy grumping until next week.

The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall

My thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this novel.

There was no way that Whittall could have foreseen the timely publication of her third novel with the press about Harvey Weinstein. There is no denying that the idea of abuse by people in power is very relevant and at the forefront of people’s minds. With the birth of snap chat, Facebook etc I think as parents we have to be hyper vigilant with our children’s safety. It is said that children grow up too fast and as a parent this is definitely something I am aware of. Even at 4, my daughter is aware of make-up and handsome princes. 4 going on 34 and it is scary. God only knows what life will be like when she is 14 and has secrets. Terrifying.

The Best Kind of People is a novel about what happens when a loved, respected, even hero worshipped member of a small community, is accused of sexual impropriety. The novel doesn’t really dwell at all on the feelings of George Woodbury, the accused. Woodbury is the ‘best kind of People.’ He is a teacher from a wealthy family. Adored by his children and students and married to Joan, a hard working nurse.

I have to admit that I thought I had read books like this before but Whittall had a really fresh take on a well publicised topic. George is not a character that is developed and his trial is not dwelt on. The novel centres around the reactions and relationships of his family.

Avalon is a small town in Connecticut. The community are rocked by the accusations. To some, the Woodbury’s become social pariahs. To others, George is a victim, accused by overtly sexual and knowing girls to cover up their mistakes and poor judgement.

Sadie, his daughter is torn between the realisation that the father she loved is not the man she thought he was. One of the girls accusing George is the little sister of her best friend. She can’t bring herself to see her father and so moves in with her boyfriend Jimmy’s family. Here begins another uncomfortable relationship with the boyfriend of Jimmy’s mother. Sadie’s provocative behaviour, and smoking of marijuana to impress and seduce a much older man is both sinister and scary. Scary because it happens.

George’s son Andrew chooses to support his father. Coming out as gay in his small home town was traumatising for him and he was badly bullied. As a lonely teenager, he begins a clandestine relationship with his school coach. A man who is afraid of coming out as he knows what the reaction will be in his small town. Depressing, but it happens.

Joan, George’s wife is a great character. Herself a well loved and respected member of the community she has to come to terms with the fact that her husband had a separate life. Could she have done anything? Did she have her eyes closed the whole time? Only seeing what she wanted to see?

In a world where lines of proprietary are often blurred, how far do you have to go before it’s too far? Obviously George’s actions cannot be justified but how about a 17 year old boy and a teacher in his 20s? Yes without doubt an abuse of trust but is it as bad as a teacher in his 40s with a 12 year old? In the eyes of the law yes but is it the same? I think what Whittall is saying is that ‘even the best kind of people’ are capable of doing terrible things. The world is not black and white and particularly in this age of social media we have to be more aware of lines being crossed. This book really tackles the idea of power and sex and how easily it can be abused. The topic isn’t easy but I respect the fact that Whittall hasn’t shied away from the big issues we all should be aware of.