‘Fun Home’ by Alison Bechdel
I hadn’t read a graphic novel before and was amazed what graphics can bring to text. There were no superheroes though in this comic. It is an autobiographical account of the author’s life as she examines her homosexuality, mulling over every childhood memory. She wonders why her father died – whether it was suicide or not. She also examines whether her ‘coming out’ had anything to do with his death. And whether his death had anything to do with the possibility that he was bisexual. An honest and insightful story, with a smattering of interesting literary references. A book I’ll definitely read again.
‘A Visit from the Goon Squad’ by Jennifer Egan
This is described as ‘a new classic of American fiction’ by Time. Made up of interrelated stories that form a whole. Some characters appear in one chapter, then reappear older and more decrepit in another. I loved this book, yet felt frustrated, as I often do in these type of novels. I can’t relax, wondering whether a minor character is just that, or whether they’ll take over the story later. I find myself flicking back and forth trying to remember where a character appeared before. I need to read this again.
‘The Luminaries’ by Eleanor Catton
I was planning on reading all the books on the Man Booker shortlist but only managed to read ‘Translantic’ by Colum McCann and ‘Almost English’ by Charlotte Mendelson before the award (both fantastic and highly-recommended). So now I’m listening to the winning book on Audible. It is set during the gold rush in New Zealand in the 1860s and the cast of characters is vast. There is a Chinese opium dealer, a Scottish prospector, a whoremonger, a politician, a French legal clerk and a ship captain… among others. This book reads like a classic, with somewhat old-fashioned language and narrative techniques. I’m about two-thirds of the way through and highly recommend it.
‘The Spinning Heart’ by Donal Ryan
A debut novel from Donal Ryan, dealing with the property boom and bust in Ireland and how it touched the lives of various people (21 narrators). The writing is honest and beautiful, with distinctive voices, which makes it a very easy book to read. I read the first half in one sitting and looking forward to reading the second half tonight. The first paragraph really draws you in. The narrator, talking about his father, says: ‘I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn’t yet missed a day of letting me down.’ I’ll certainly order Donal Ryan’s new novel ‘The Thing About December’ as well.
‘Young Skins’ by Colin Barrett
This is short story collection published by The Stinging Fly. I’ve read just a couple of the stories so far and love the settings and characters. These midlands-Irish males are so familiar yet under-represented in literature. Brings out the culchie in me!
In the to-read pile:
‘After the Fire, A still small voice’ by Evie Wyld
I bought this after I read Evie Wyld’s story in the Granta 123 magazine. Looking forward to reading it, especially as it’s set on Australia’s East coast (of which I have many fond memories as a backpacker).