Thursday, 26 March 2015

Throwback Thursday: Josephine's Book Edition



I’m sleepy today, so very very sleepy. I’ve woken up at 5.15am every morning for like two weeks and it’s slowly draining me of my very will to live. This is not a lie. I am a person that needs ALL THE SLEEP in order to function and when I don’t get that sleep, well, the results aren’t pretty. Seriously, so very very tired.

Not too tired though that I can’t talk to you about Mrs Armitage: Queen of the Road which I want to talk to you about because I adore Quentin Blake and because I have a whole lot of love for Mrs. Armitage and her kick ass no nonsense attitude and general utter loopiness, and because I don’t talk often about picture books - which I should because I love them. Loooooove them.

Mrs Armitage is a totally bonkers book, wherein Mrs. A and her dog (Breakspear)  get an old car as a present from Mrs A’s Uncle Cosmo and decide to take it for a drive. Problem is, the old car is falling apart. I say ‘problem’ but it’s not a problem, really because nothing gets in Mrs Armitage’s way, ever – an excellent story then about making the best of things. It’s such a fun book – all the Mrs. Armitage books are so much fun, because Mrs Armitage and Breakspear are fabulous and you never know what’s going to happen next, what else can possibly go wrong you wonder – they bump into bollards and other vehicles and lose the bumper and the doors and even the roof and then this little old lady who wears glasses and stripy pyjama’s winds up making friends with a fizzy pop drinking motorcycle gang (who all think she's most excellent, obviously, because she is.) She’s so eccentric and wonderful and the whole book is just a delight.

It’s the kind of book you can’t not love – I am yet to meet a child, or even an adult, that doesn’t love this book and all that it is. And of course it’s got that trademark Quentin Blake touch.  Oh, Quentin Blake. I’d decorate my whole house with his work if I could. He is my favourite and my best, whether he’s illustrating somebody else words or coming up with a world all of his own, I just, I think he’s kind of a genius.  The story here is a good story in it’s own right, but like with everything else he ever puts his mark on, it becomes so much better next to those illustrations. He just has this knack of capturing the very essence of the story being told and bringing it to life. Seriously, find a copy of this book and grab the nearest small friend or relation and read this book.

And now, I am going to go and continue to be working and not napping. I WANT TO TAKE A  NAP.


Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Review: Last Night in Montreal



I love this book. I LOVE THIS BOOK.

Yep, this is going to be one of those reviews. I’ve been intrigued by Station Eleven ever since all the buzz about it began, to the point that I wanted to read it so badly I almost broke that book-buying ban in January. I didn’t, I was very well-behaved and I bought it in February instead. I haven’t read it yet though, because you know, TOO MANY BOOKS and so Station Eleven is sitting pretty on my TBR and whispering to me about how between it’s pages lies a world of apocalypse and Shakespeare and making me want to read it so badly and I am getting waaaaay off the point here, because that’s a thing I do, apparently. What I am trying to say is that my wanting to read Station Eleven means that Emily St. John Mandel has been well and truly on my radar for a while and after reading Last Night in Montreal over the weekend she’s well and truly going to stay there.

Last Night in Montreal was Emily’s debut novel, it was published for the first time in the UK this month and I was lucky enough to receive a copy from the publisher for review. My review, in a nutshell, is that I loved this book.

You know I’ve got more to say than that though: all the words, I like to use them. So, sit down, pour a glass of wine (as long as you’re over 18, encouraging underage drinking is totally not my thing) and let me talk at you about Last Night in Montreal

Last Night in Montreal is a little bit like magic. It’s all about dark secrets and half remembered memories and lost languages and it’s just so fascinating and beautiful. The narrative is kind of broken, and the whole things jumps from here to there, from this to that and it’s all kind of disjointed but at the same time every seemingly lose thread ties cleverly and neatly into another. It’s really really really well-written, it’s that kind of evocative writing that I live for, where a sentence can hit you smack in the chest and make you gasp and the details are so well drawn that you can smell the cigarettes in a smoky bar, that you shiver in the cold Montreal air, that you feel the pain of not-knowing deep in your soul. It’s poetic, that’s what it is, it’s writing that’s like poetry. It’s like crime fiction, a thriller, but not at all in the way you’d expect; it’s not a mystery but it still kind of is and it’s not a love story but fuck it made my heart hurt and it takes the ‘it’s not about you’ cliché and it throws it back in your face. Maybe its not about me, but I’m still affected, I’m still hurting and then on the other side of the coin why does matter how I hurt because it’s not about me. This novel explores all of that, I think. I’m not making much sense; I know what I want to say but  I’m not sufficiently caffeinated today and it’s all getting lost in amongst the whole I LOVED THIS BOOK thing. All I know is that I think that at its core, that’s what this book is about – that the people you love can hurt you, they can and they will, but it’s about what you choose to do after the fact that matters, how you move forward. 
Last Night in Montreal is something different, which I am always going to be all over. I keep reading about how there’s only so many different stories out there and so when I find somebody who tells one of those stories in a new and unique way I kind of want to yell about it. That’s what I’m doing right now okay, I’m yelling at you to read this book, dammit. The writing is so masterful and so clever, and the way it’s structured, the way it unfolds endlessly intriguing. I couldn’t stop reading, I couldn’t stop reading and I couldn’t stop feeling. And then there’s the whole language parallel, all the stuff about lost languages and forgotten languages and dead languages was properly fascinating and so neatly entwined with the story that it makes me want to fist pump. I love that stuff.



And I know, that's totally a gratuitous picture of Roger Federer which I have totally included because of the fist pump but whatever. Does one really need a reason to share a picture of that tennis playing face? I think not. The point is, I just really think you probably ought to read this book. Okay? Okay.

Top Ten Childhood Books I'd Like To Revisit



I am so annoyed that this wouldn’t post yesterday because seriously, what is the point of a Top Ten Tuesday on a Wednesday. Le sigh. Sometimes the internet is my enemy. Anyway, the prompt was awesome: Top Ten Childhood Books You'd Like To Revisit so a day late or not I wanted to share it. (Top Ten Tuesday lives over at The Broke and the Bookish if you want to check them out.)

I think I did some of my best reading when I was small(er) – I’m still small, I got older not bigger – and I have so very many memories of excellent books that are as precious to me as good friends. Like, for example, The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark which I recently bought for Lydia or the Enid Blyton Adventure series that made me want to live a life other than the one I was living. My formative years were full of books: books that I chose for myself and books that my parents chose for me and books that my Granny handed to me with a smile and a ‘I think you’ll like this one’; books I read alone and books I read at school and books like Superfudge that my dad read to me at bedtime; books I read when I was 7 and books I read when I was 12 and books I read when I was 16. 
So many books. 
I was a bit like Matilda when I was a child, with my ‘grown up’ library card that my Mum had to sign a form for me to be allowed to have and the seven books in my backpack every Saturday and the lady in the bookshop in town that knew my name and would let me spend a couple of hours trying to decide how to spend my book tokens – man, I really miss book tokens.


I was a bookworm then. I’m a bookworm now. These are the ten books that I think probably made me the reader I am today. Ten out of about ten million.


  1. Pongwiffy was the book I chose when I won The Book Prize at school in 1990. I was seven, and winning The Book Prize was The Biggest Deal – there was one winner in the infants and one winner in the juniors every year so I was kind of a mixture of proud (yay me) and embarrassed (because even then I hated being in the limelight.) My copy – which still lives on my bookshelf -  is all purple and pretty and has a little certificate stuck to the first pages saying that seven year old me is awesome. I loved that Witch of Dirty Habits so hard.
  2. The Family from One End Street is another of those books that my Granny gave me - one from her chldhood I think; it was published in 1937. I read it over and over and over. And over. I'd love to go back and hang out with the Ruggles.
  3. Pardon Me, You’re Stepping On My Eyeball was a book that made me feel cool. I dunno why, it was a cool story about cool kids that are also misfits and when I read it as a teenager it kind of resonated with me. I have no idea why it’s not more widely spoken about. Unless it’s actually shit. I should read it again to find out.
  4. The Story of the Treasure Seekers GIVE CHILDHOOD-ME ALL THE E.NESBIT OMG. Seriously. I loved them all, but I did always have a soft spot for the Bastables
  5. Nancy Drew which I read because of the Babysitter’s Club books and which I was a teeny bit obsessed with for a while. I read as many of these as I could get my little grabby hands on.
  6. Jessamy. this book people. Again, why are more people not aware of this story? Why? I loved it so much, with it's misunderstood main character and it's time travel element.   I wanted to name my first child Jessamy after the girl in this book, in fact, thinking about it, maybe I still kind of do.
  7. Junk I had such an author crush on Melvin Burgess when I was a teenager you don’t even know and Junk is such a powerful book. This book should be required reading for every teenager everywhere I swear. It's so damn excellent. & I did revisit it a few years ago actually so I have read it as an adult. The verdict? Still excellent.
  8. The Diddakoi is the reason I’ve always harboured a bit of a fantasy about being a traveller, with a beautifully painted caravan and a horse and barefeet. It's also a really powerful story about what it feels like to not quite fit in.  I don’t even know how many times I read this book. It was a class book when I was about 8, my teacher was called Mrs Pile and she read it aloud to the class a chapter a day and I just had to go out and find my own copy. I think it’s lost actually this book, lent out and not returned and I’m really sad about that.
  9. My Family and Other Animals these books are hilarious. SO GOOD.I laughed out loud so many times, so very many times.
  10. Fifteen was my Mum’s favourite book as a teenager and I had to be so careful when I read her copy because it really is hanging on by a thread and it’s one of her most treasured possessions I think – she could probably still quote the first chapter from memory.  It's written by Beverly Cleary who wrote the Ramona books which I also adored I liked it because it made me feel closer to her, even though she’s always been right there, I dunno, there’s something about feeling like you’re getting a snapshot of your parents at your age and that’s what this book was for me.

So that’s me. Come talk to me, leave me a comment and tell me: have you read any of these? What books from your childhood would you like to revisit?


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Review: Hausfrau




The last line to this book has been going round and round and round in my head since I put it down last night. And I devoured the last 60 pages or so like a person who was never going to be allowed to read again.

Wow.

I shan’t tell you what that last line is because unless you are the kind of person (Mum, I’m looking at you) that reads the last page of a book first, that would be the worst kind of spoiler. Just know that it I am still thinking about it.

I almost gave Hausfrau 5 stars you know. The only reason I didn’t is because I had to think about whether I should and by my own logic that means that I shouldn’t. So I didn’t. It looks like I’ve given it 4, but it’s really more like 4.5. Perhaps even 4 and ¾.



Anna was a good wife, mostly.


Anyway, Hausfrau. It’s been likened to Anna Karenina, and Madam Bovary; it’s about the American wife of a Swiss banker, living in Switzerland; it features - quite heavily - a less than happy marriage and a lot of adultery; it’s the debut novel from Jill Alexander Essbaum; and, in a weird way it kind of reminded me of Revolutionary Road ­.

I loved Revolutionary Road. This isn’t the same as that, at all, the main difference being that Revolutionary Road is set in 50’s America, but they’re both beautifully written and there’s the whole disintegration of a marriage thing going on, alongside the struggling with suburban expectations of society and the feeling of being out of place: Anna doesn’t fit in where she is in the same way that Frank and April thought that they were worlds away from the rest of the people living in the Estates. There’s the adultery issue (Frank and April both cheat) and there’s a similar sense of…of dread I guess. Reading Revolutionary Road has you feeling kind of like your watching something roll out of control down a hill, it’s gathering speed and it’s going to crash and make a horrible mess; you know it won’t end well but you can do nothing but stand there and watch it happen. I got the same sort of feeling with Hausfrau. Both books are about that feeling of being alone I think, how even with a picture perfect life you can still feel inexplicably lonely and how you can get so far down the rabbit hole that in trying to make it better you only end up making it so much worse.

However, a comparison post this is not, which is A Good Thing because I’m not quite sure I could do that justice. Basically, I just want to talk at you about how good Hausfrau is and how if you liked Revolutionary Road at all, then this is a thing you should be thinking about reading.

I didn’t know what to expect, really when I decided I wanted to read this book. I wanted to read it partly because it sounded different and I was itching for something new and unlike the books I would perhaps normally reach for and partly because I was intrigued.

So not knowing what to expect, what have I got to say? Oh, so many things. I have so many things to say, starting with this is a novel that gets you right in the chest, it’s raw and harsh and unflinchingly honest. It’s gripping and it’s heartbreaking and it’s so freaking good.

Seriously, though, it is. Hausfrau is so much more than what you might expect it to be upon reading the cover. It’s so much more than the tale of a bored housewife attempting to jazz up her days through extramarital affairs, so much more. It’s also not Fifty Shades-esque ‘erotica.’ Soz.  It’s a book that gets under your skin; it’s an intelligent study of character and relationships; it’s a really fascinating story of a woman on the edge that leaves you desperate somehow to fix her, despite not knowing really whether to want to hold her or slap her. It’s frustrating and it’s full of ideas and themes that sometimes I couldn’t quite get my head around, because Anna’s life is not my life, but that never left me feeling anything other than really totally 100% engaged. 

The story is a seamless weave of Anna’s life, her sessions with her therapist and her German classes – moving rapidly from one place to another, from that time to this but never leaving you wondering where you are or what’s happening. It’s beautifully written and cleverly put together and you know, it’s funny because on the surface Anna doesn’t seem like all that likable a person but I found myself liking her anyway. I did. By the end of the book I just wanted to pour her a glass of wine and put my arm around her and tell her it could all be different. Did I relate to her? No, and yes. She made choices that I like to think I’d never make but at the same time there were things about her, things she said or did that got to me right in the pit of my stomach; I think to a degree most women will see something in Anna that they recognise in themselves, not that that makes all of us adulterers, obvs, but more that sometimes a sense of dissatisfaction can threaten to consume, that sometimes it’s a struggle to know who you are and where you fit and sometimes even the happiest of people have days when everything they thought they wanted doesn’t feel like quite enough.

The language in this book is stunning, like, really mind-blowingly stunning. There’s so much word play and it’s wonderful; language is a theme throughout the book and it has a powerful effect: Anna’s German classes have a direct correlation with the choices she’s making, and some of the conversations she has with her therapist are a direct discussion of words and their meanings (secrecy/privacy, labyrinth/maze, lust/love) It really is SO DAMN CLEVER how these conversations tie in with Anna’s state of mind,  how these fascinating discussions have a bearing on what went before or what comes after. There were times, usually after one of Anna’s therapy sessions, that what I had just read would hit me, and I’d practically have kicky-feet because it felt like utter genius.  It’s the language that makes this book what it is for me. I am such a sucker for pretty words and it’s the way Essbaum uses those words, her turn of phrase, that makes this book such a freaking pleasure to read. It’s a pleasure where really you don’t expect it to be, which is the best kind of pleasure really.

What I’m saying is this book won’t make you laugh and there’s not a whole lot going on, action wise, oh and there’s some fairly explicit sex but please, do not dismiss this book because you don’t want to read a story about a woman who cheats on her husband and feels bad about it; do not dismiss it because somebody somewhere used Fifty Shades when looking for a comparison; do not, actually, dismiss this book at all ever ever. Find a copy, and read it: let yourself be drawn into Anna’s story as well crafted as it is, let Essbaum’s writing make you think and question and try to figure out at every turn whether Anna is trying to conceal or reveal and why and what that means, let yourself be seduced by the pretty words because why would you not– it’s so insightful and so worth your time. 


This is a good thing I am doing, Anna said inside herself, though ‘good’ was hardly the right word. Anna knew this. What she meant was expedient. What she meant was convenient. What she meant was wrong in nearly every way but justifiable as it makes me feel better, and for so very long I have felt so very, very bad.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Things That I Have Seen and Liked



So, this is a post I am going to title ‘things that I have seen and liked’ (and who knows, I might make it a semi-regular feature, because I could do with some of those) and in it I’m going to talk to you about, well, about things that I have seen and liked. It’s pretty self-explanatory really: over-complicating things is not something I am fond of. 

Basically ,this is totally just an excuse for me to get stupid excited about books and albums and TV shows and pretty shoes and other such things that have caught my eye. It’s a small glimpse I guess into what makes me tick.IT'S ALL ABOUT THINGS I LIKE.


So, where else would I start than with books?

I treated myself last week to Sarah Pinborough’s Poison.

I read Sarah’s The Death House earlier in the year and I loved it and you know when that happens, when you find a new author and just want to devour every word they’ve ever written, shopping lists and all? Yep, that happened here, so I checked out Sarah’s book list and then did some kind of crazy flappy dance because GUESS WHAT: REIMAGINED FAIRYTALES. I LOVE a fairytale, I especially love a twist on a fairytale and that’s exactly what this book – Poison – is. It’s Snow White’s story, but it’s told from a different angle and it sounds like all kinds of excellent and it’s also really freaking pretty. Hurrah.

I’m dreaming of Book 2 in Cathrynne Valente’s Fairyland series. I’ll come back at some point and talk about The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making soon but til then you need to know only that Jen made me read it, and not since Harry Potter, or His Dark Materials have I fallen like this for a series of books. So, I need the second one. Stat. (I amuse myself when I get to use phrases like that. Ha) I tried to buy it in Watersones at the Trafford Centre last night but alas, they only had books 3 and 4. Instead I bought these pretties for my 2015 book challenge. 


I’m not going to buy another book now til April, which is a shame for Fairyland but very good for my bank balance.


However, and this may come as a total shock, but, I don’t only read books. sometimes I watch things on Netflix, oftentimes on my iPad in bed because I love my bed, I love it a lot. Right now I’m watching The Vampire Diaries because we lost track of it a while back due to a Sky+ fail and it’s all there being shiny and pretty on Netflix and I have like, a series and a half of Damon Salvatore to catch up on so WOOP WOOP for that. Oh, Ian Somerhalder you are an attractive being.



I’m also crazy excited because Netflix has just added Once Upon a Time to it’s catalogue (see above re my love for fairytales) which Channel 5 cancelled and I feared I would never see again until this weekend when I opened the app for said Salvatore fix and THERE IT WAS!! All the episodes I missed plus the latest season updated weekend. I did a happy dance, from the comfort of my bed. More of a head bob than a dance really, but the feeling was there. Once is so good and it has the added bonus of Robert Carlyle. I have had a crush on Robert Carlyle for 20 years omg.



 
On the commute to work I’ve been listening to Taylor Swift’s 1989, which holy excellent album batman. I kind of love Taylor unashamedly. I do. Gimme all the catchy pop songs on my drive please.

So yep, I’m listening to that and also to The Overtones and also to an old Bon Jovi album I found whilst tidying up. If you’re new here then here’s a thing about me: I have pretty much loved Jon Bon Jovi my whole entire life. All of it. Forever. I have always loved him and I will always love him because THAT ASS. And also because of other reasons that do not involve my objectification of his being such as I’ll…I’ll come back to you.


And, just to tie this post up nicely, other random things that I have seen and liked:

I am in desperate need of these two t-shirts, this one, which tell me about it, stud. Why would I not need that in my life?


and also this one because The BFG is right up there with Matilda and Danny as my fave Roald Dahl book of all time. 

I feel I would be much happier, generally, if these were nicely folded in my t-shirt drawer. I really want a t-shirt with ONJ’s face on it ok? I just really do.

Also, cowboy boots. I spend so much of my life lusting after pretty cowboy boots. There’s a pair of tan ankle ones that I am totally going to get a pair of for the spring, but what I really want is some of of the amazing Corral or Durango ones (that I should have bought when I saw them in NYC 7 years ago dammit. Regrets, I have them.) I’m clearly not getting any because wow the price tag on those babies but still, SO MUCH PRETTY.


I want (need, want, who knows the difference) a new bag. I also know exactly what it looks like. The closes I have seen to the bag that lives in my head was in Debenham’s last night. It was £115.

River Island has this though, which is cute:



And lastly, I'm on a storage box hunt because people (me) need storage and I’ve seen all these ‘shabby chic’ trunks that are just so old and beautiful and perfect so I’m all about those right now too. How many books I wonder, could one get in a trunk..and I wonder if my Dad still has one in the cubby hole at their house? Oooh, there’s a thought…..

So, talk to me: what are you reading/watching/listening to right now? What pretty things are you spending your pennies on? What things have you seen and liked?

Friday, 13 March 2015

Review: The A to Z of You and Me



At first I thought I’d made a huge mistake, not in reading the book – not that at all – but in choosing to read it this week. A book about a terminally ill chap in a hospice is perhaps not the best choice of reading matter when someone you’re close to is in a very similar situation. ‘Oh Josephine,’ I heard my twenty-years-in-the-future self saying with a shake of her(my?) head ‘I really do question your 32 year old choices.’

It’s alright, future self, I was kind of questioning those very same choices in the here and now.

The lesson learnt though, is that my instincts are freaking excellent thank-you very much; it turns out that this book was exactly what I needed to read this week, and it’s also really really good.

I won’t lie: I went into it thinking it was a book about cancer (it’s not a book about cancer) and that it was a book about a terminally ill man (it’s not a book about a terminally ill man. Or rather it is if all you want to do is look at the surface) and that it was going to break my already fragile heart in the way that Queenie or TFiOS did. It didn’t do that. What it did instead, was open my eyes to a thoughtful, careful and intelligent book, by a guy who I am absolutely going to be keeping an eye on in the future (and I mean that in a ‘let’s keep our eyes peeled for any future works’ and not ‘crazy ass stalker type,’ just to be clear.)

This book is a good book. It’s sad and funny and sometimes frustrating, it’s got a clear concise narrative and you know another thing: it’s really damn clever. It’s nice isn’t it, to read something that’s different, a fresh take on a popular ‘trope’ and in the same way that Rachel Joyce did it with Harold Fry and then again with Queenie, James Hannah has taken the ‘person dying in a hospice’ theme and turned it on his head.

Ivo’s telling his story through a game invented by his nurse Sheila (who I totes love) who, being excellent at her job, is trying to keep him distracted from the fact that he’s well, probably going to die fairly soon – he has to think of a memory for each part of his body, from A to Z -  and the way he does that, moves from Adam’s Apple onwards allows for the story to unfold at a pace that feels real and raw and honest; it’s disjointed and muddled, it moves from Ivo’s childhood, to his teenage years, to a decade ago with the love of his life and back again and at the same time you have these snippets of what his life has become, life in the hospice where he can hear the rattling breathing of the lady in the room next door and has pushed away everyone who ever cared about him and struck up a curious friendship with a girl who is losing her Mother. It’s poignant, sure, but it’s absolutely not overly sentimental. I think that’s kind of what I liked: Ivo isn’t perfect. He’s made bad choices and poor decisions and a fair old mess of his life to a certain degree; it wouldn’t be unfair to say that had he taken a different road he might have found himself in a different place. His family and his friends, they’re not great either, in fact the whole cast of characters is pretty flawed. I loved that. I loved that this book was brave enough to tell Ivo’s story and that whilst the setting for Ivo’s narration is a hospice bed, at it’s heart this is a real life story about a guy who got stuck on the wrong path: it’s about regret and redemption, about anger and loss and love and about how easy it is to find yourself in a place you never thought you’d be with little idea how to make your way back.  It’s a book that makes you think about the choices you make every single day, because when you reach the end of your life, what do you want to be looking back on, and who do you want to be surrounded by? Life is short, and fleeting and precious and every day, every fucking minute, it counts and James Hannah makes that point exceptionally well, even though he might not sugarcoat it, and his characters might not be folk that you sympathise with easily. I loved this book, I loved the way the story unfolded and I love the way it made me think and feel. I am so glad I read it, even this week.

The A to Z of You and Me is out now (it was published yesterday in fact) which is great news because it means you don’t have to wait before you can buy a copy. WOOP WOOP.

Also, look at that cover. So much pretty, right? I love it. 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Throwback Thursday: Josephine's Book Edition



Today finds me mostly crazy excited. Crazy excited. CRAZY EXCITED. So excited it seems, that I am totally incapable of any kind of coherent bloggage which…is a problem. (Is bloggage even a word? Nope, it is not.) There’s a reason though, and the reason is Margaret Atwood. I love Margaret Atwood, I mean love. I think she’s my favourite. And, she has a new book coming out in September. It sounds marvellous too; a dystopia where lawful people are imprisoned and the lawless roam free. Nobody does dystopia, or indeed words like Margaret Atwood does and just the news of this book has sent me spiraling. I just, I cannot even. I am SO EXCITED FOR THIS.

It kind of makes choosing a book for Throwback Thursday this week incredibly easy; naturally I’m going to go all Margaret Atwood. 

I could talk about The Blind Assassin because it’s my fave, or I could talk about Handmaid’s or Oryx or The Year of the Flood, but they get talked about a lot a lot; I could even talk about Alias Grace which is the first of hers I ever read so very long ago, but I don’t wanna, basically. 
I feel like spreading just a little bit of love for another of Margaret Atwood’s books that I think is pretty freaking astounding: The Edible Woman. It kind of feels appropriate given news of a new novel to talk about the first one. So, that's what I'm going to do, oh, and if you wondered, my copy looks like this:



Margaret Atwood is an amazing writer – I always find her dystopian works eerily relevant even though they’re set in a future we haven’t reached yet and in the same way The Edible Woman whilst written in the 60’s is still just as relevant today as it ever was then. 
Feminism is a buzz word right now, which is awesome, obviously, and yet at times kind of puzzling. I see a lot of ‘if you think this or do this or don’t do this then you’re really not a feminist, or at least not the right kind’ and an awful lot of instances where feminism has become synonymous with out and out man-hating (although don't get me started on #notallmen) and it all makes my head hurt, because well because of reasons but that is another post for another day, depending on if I decide that feminism and its meaning to me and its many interpretations is a soap box I want to get on. Basically though, when people ask me if I’m a feminist I tend to just think about the definition:






And I say yes, yes I am. Why? Because I am human.
Like I said though, we’ll talk about that another day, for now all you need to know is that I think feminism is incredibly important and I think that this book does an incredible job in addressing it: it’s such a good exploration of society and gender roles, you don’t even know. LET'S TALK ABOUT IT.


Ever since her engagement, the strangest thing has been happening to Marian McAlpin: she can’t eat. First meat. Then eggs, vegeatables, cake, pumpkin seeds – everything! Worse yet she has the crazy feeling that she’s being eaten. Marian ought to feel consumed with passion, but really she just feels…consumed.


So Marian’s just a girl, she’s recently left college has a job and is dating The Perfect Man. Once they get engaged Marian begins to lost sight of herself and starts to have difficulty eating; her relationship with food is tied in directly with her feelings about her impending marriage, and how the sort of forced dependence on Peter makes her feel. It’s pretty clever and so accurate it’s kind of scary. It resonated with me actually, because my relationship with food has a direct correlation with my relationships with the people close to me, and my state of mind.  It’s true isn’t it: people do that, they deal with situations they deem out of their control by controlling what they eat – eating too much, or like Marian starving themselves even though Marian very obviously takes this to it’s extremes. Does that make this an interesting study in eating disorders too, then? Quite possibly, although I kind of feel like Atwood was using Marian’s inability to eat as a metaphor more than a direct ‘she was unhappy so she stopped eating’ but either way, it’s powerful writing.

Relationships can be transforming and that’s the story being told here, one of them at least, and sure, some of it is a little dated – women for example are less likely to be expected to become homemakers now than they were in the 60’s; tell most women now that their place is in the home and holy hell will rein down on you (as it should) but back then, it was just The Way Things Were. People – Marian being the perfect example – caved into societal expectations then much more than they do now and I think it’s interesting how I was frustrated with Marian, how I wanted her to exert some sense of self, some control over her own life, how I wanted her to stop being a doormat and refuse to be moulded by Peter; because for me, the person I am now wouldn’t make the choices Marian made; the society I live in now, whilst so far from perfect is a hell of a lot different to how it was then, when my Granny was my age (and my Granny if you wondered, kicks ass. She’s the most feminist person I know and she rocks it. Probably because she grew up in a world like The Edible Woman and knew it was all kinds of messed up.) Marian did live in that world though, and I guess that makes a lot of things make sense. I wonder, actually, how the book was received when it was released…I suspect it had a bit of an impact.


For an instant she felt them, their identities, almost their substance, pass over her head like a wave. At some time she would be — or no, already she was like that too; she was one of them, her body the same, identical, merged with that other flesh that choked the air in the flowered room with its sweet organic scent; she felt suffocated by this thick sargasso-sea of femininity


This is a short book, but it’s a slow one: it takes a while to get going, which, well the loss of Marian’s identity wasn’t something that happened the second Peter put the ring on her finger so it makes sense for the story to take a while to get going, to make itself known and that right there is another example of Atwood being the best at what she does; the way she tells this story mirrors the story itself. Marian’s loss of identity is slow and not immediately obvious, both to her and to the reader. There’s a lot of other stuff going on, namely in the form of Marian’s two friends both telling totally different tales which keep you just the right amount of distracted as they pull Marian in opposing directions and you finish it, feeling both thrilled at the resolution which is stunning (it’s just a cake…’) and kind of like you just want to sit down and chat about the whole thing because this book, it raises a lot of questions and gives you a lot to mull over and you kind of want to just grab hold of the first person you meet that’s read it and say I thought these things HOW ABOUT YOU? It’s a book that begs for discussion. It should be read in book clubs everywhere (and maybe it is, I don’t even know.)

In addition to all of that stuff, this book is also super duper great because Margaret Atwood knows how to do words. She just does. She does things with words that I don’t understand and don’t know how to explain but that I really really love and even here, in her first novel - that she wrote in her early freaking twenties - that’s still so apparent. I’d hate her for it probably, if I didn’t love her so damn much. & I could keep going, I could keep talking about this book and why I liked it and what it said to me and how nobody does description like Margaret Atwood and how also nobody forces you to really look at the world like Margaret Atwood but my lunch break is over and I have to get back to work.

Read it though, if you haven’t already. I promise it’s excellent.