I actually read 7 books in May and June but have only felt that 5 were worth writing longer reviews about.
1. WHAT A TIME TO BE ALONE – CHIDERA EGGERUE (2018)
I was intrigued by this book following the big online clash between Chidera and Florence Given – I wouldn’t say that they’re similar enough to have warranted a lawsuit. Chidera mostly focuses on female friendships, while Florence’s book focuses more on romantic relationships. I’m sure that there’s advice in there that some may find useful, but I didn’t personally learn anything new from it
2. INSATIABLE – DAISY BUCHANAN (2021)
I’d been so excited to read this as I’d enjoyed Daisy’s book ‘How to be a Grown-Up’ but this book just didn’t really make sense, especially the ending. Also, I didn’t particularly like any of the characters, which made it difficult for me to properly enjoy it.
3. THE SWITCH – BETH O’LEARY (2020)
Leena and her grandmother, Eileen, decide to switch houses for a couple of months when over-worked, twenty-something, Leena, is ordered by her work to take a two-month sabbatical. Eileen is also in need of a change of surroundings as she’s newly single, about to turn eighty and her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible bachelors. She hopes that a move to Leena’s flat in London will give her more options to find love while Leena will take over Eileen’s commitments in Yorkshire. It seems like a simple idea at first but switching lives proves more difficult than they expected, with some laughs and mishaps along the way.
It’s official: Beth O’Leary has rightfully earned her place as one of my favourite authors. I loved her debut, The Flatshare, so I’m glad that The Switch was equally delightful. While mostly being a fun and uplifting read, it is worth noting that the story deals with grief which had me choked up at times. O’Leary also did a brilliant job of discussing toxic, abusive relationships and the fact that it’s never too late to leave a relationship that you’re unhappy in. I loved reading about Eileen having fun on dating apps for the first time in London after being in a loveless marriage for 20 years – age is just a number after all and I’m here for it! I guarantee that you’ll adore the characters and the wonderful impact that both Leena and Eileen had on their new communities, as well as the ways in which their identities were able to evolve through fresh perspectives.
“Never been one for worst-case scenarios,” Jackson says. “When they happen, you cope. And it’s usually one you’ve not thought of that gets you, so why worry?”
4. THE CHILDREN ACT – IAN MCEWAN (2014)
Fiona Maye, a leading High Court judge, renowned for her fierce intelligence and sensitivity, is called on to try an urgent case. For religious reasons, a seventeen-year-old boy is refusing the medical treatment that could save his life and time is running out. While her marriage crumbles, she visits the boy in hospital; an encounter which stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. But it is Fiona who must ultimately decide whether he lives or dies, and her judgement will have momentous consequences for them both.
At just over 200 pages, McEwan has done an incredible job of creating a gripping story that fits so much in, without feeling rushed or like anything has been missed out. I’d definitely recommend this if you’re looking for something short and absorbing that’s beautifully written with a strong focus on getting to know the characters.
“Blind luck, to arrive in the world with your properly formed parts in the right place, to be born to parents who were loving, not cruel, or to escape, by geographical or social accident, war or poverty. And therefore to find it so much easier to be virtuous.”
5. EXPECTATION – ANNA HOPE (2019)
Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.
Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?
This book had been quite high up on my to-read list, so I was ecstatic to find a copy in Oxfam! I absolutely loved this book. Everything felt so real and relatable; the character development is superb and I liked the way that the story went back and forth through time without ever feeling confusing – information about the three women was revealed at just the right time.
On the back cover, Grazia wrote, ‘If you wished Normal People had tackled female friendship, try Expectation.’ Although I enjoyed Normal People, I found the story quite frustrating at times, but Expectation flowed so smoothly despite the difficulties that the characters faced. I actually preferred it to Normal People by quite a lot; it’s getting 5-stars from me!
“Life is still malleable and full of potential. The openings to the roads not taken have not yet sealed up. They still have time to become who they are going to be.”
6. I FEEL BAD ABOUT MY NECK (AND OTHER THOUGHTS ON BEING A WOMAN) – NORA EPHRON (2006)
Nora Ephron takes a candid look at women who are getting older and dealing with the tribulations of maintenance, menopause, empty nests, and life itself. Ephron chronicles her life as an obsessed cook, passionate city dweller, and hapless parent. She discusses everything – from how much she hates her purse to how much time she spends attempting to stop the clock: the hair dye, the treadmill, the lotions and creams that promise to slow the aging process but never do.
Although I’d read Nora’s ‘Heartburn’, I hadn’t actually heard about this book until Dolly Alderton shared that she’d written a foreword for it last year. I actually enjoyed it more than ‘Heartburn’ and enjoyed finding out more about Nora’s background and her thoughts on the topic of aging – she’s full of dry humour and the book is easy to read.
However, as to be expected, the book is written from the point of view of a rich, privileged, white woman so I did find certain aspects of the book a little tone-deaf. For example, when New York passed a law on changing rent-control regulations and Nora complained that her salary, which exceeded the new $250,000 threshold set by the new law, meant that her rent would increase on her 7-room Manhattan apartment.
“Reading is one of the main things I do. Reading is everything. Reading makes me feel I’ve accomplished something, learned something, become a better person. Reading makes me smarter. Reading gives me something to talk about later on. Reading is the unbelievably healthy way my attention deficit disorder medicates itself. It’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real. Reading is grist. Reading is bliss.”
7. NATURALLY TAN – TAN FRANCE (2019)
In his memoir, Tan France, star of Netflix’s Queer eye, reveals what it was like to grow up gay in a traditional Muslim family, as one of the few people of colour in Doncaster, England. He shares his winding journey of coming of age and finding his voice and style. From meeting his husband, Rob, (a Mormon cowboy from Salt Lake City) to juggling three demanding businesses, Tan charts the highs and lows on his path to Queer Eye.
I’d heard mixed reviews about Tan’s book before I’d read it but decided to give it a go anyway as I’m a sucker for an autobiography! I actually enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to – I loved that Tan shared his experience of the racism that he encountered growing up in England, as well as the struggles that he’s faced in America and how important representation is in the media. The short chapters felt like opinion pieces on specific topics, such as Bollywood, First Date Do’s and Don’ts and Supermarkets – I admired how sure Tan is of himself and his opinions on a wide variety of topics. It’s an easy read and I’d definitely recommend it to any fans of Queer Eye!
“The book is meant to spread joy, personal acceptance, and most of all understanding. Each of us is living our own private journey, and the more we know about each other, the healthier and happier the world will be.”