Today’s post marks the halfway point in my goal to read all of the books shortlisted for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. I’ve already read and reviewed The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, which I loved, and When I Hit You, which I wasn’t so much a fan of. As you can see from these two reviews, my reading so far has reached quite opposite ends of the spectrum. This meant that I was quite unsure when I picked the next book up what could lie in wait for me. I has heard such great things about When I Hit You that I was concerned another book which has achieved similar praise might also be a disappointment.
Everyone loves a good pie, right? I’m pretty sure that there’s some sort of prerequisite that in order to be deemed a true Brit you have to declare your love of hearty pies at some point in your life. And if, as I suspect, you do love a good pie (with the obligatory side of mash and gravy), then surely a food venue with the rather pun filled name of ‘Pieminister’ is going to appeal to your appetite? It certainly appeals to mine at any rate, and when Pieminister very kindly asked me if I would like to come in and have a pie as well as sample their new soft scoop ice creams, I was more than eager to comply.
I can still remember the first time I read something featuring Sherlock Holmes. It was The Hound of the Baskervilles; a small hardback copy which had actually come free with one of the newspapers courtesy of my dad. At this time I was still fairly young and the majority of Arthur Conan Doyle’s words might have gone over my head. Even so, the increasing mystery of a deadly dog was enough to excite my canine loving self into devouring the book in a flash. Since then I’ve shared the similar literary passion of many other book lovers by being completely immersed in the world of Holmes and Watson. The books offer me a sense of nostalgia, a place of comfort in which I can retreat into the world of crimes and logic amidst the Victorian backdrop I enjoy so much.
Although I love Arthur Conan Doyle’s writing and his iconic detective, I was painfully aware that I still hadn’t actually read many of the vast short stories available to us. Of course the short stories formed an essential part of the contextual fandom first surrounding Holmes. Appearing in magazines, these short stories were always a condensed but thrilling study of a case which Holmes has undertaken. Like the novels they left the audience craving more, and came with the added benefit of being easier and quicker for the author to write. Even if he did eventually tire of his detective and try to kill him off, these stories are written with great care and skill and it’s amazing to be able to return time and time again to some of our favourite characters.
Let’s be honest – most of us crave a holiday at some point. Whether you’re after a siesta on the beach with a questionably named cocktail in hand, or a thrill seeking excursion across mountainous terrain; whatever your particular craving, we all deserve to get away at some point. Of course, saying this is all well and good, but what happens when your holiday of choice means a trip abroad which you really can’t afford? I’m currently facing the dilemma of furiously saving for both a house and a wedding; a double financial nightmare. As many of you will know, it’s bloody hard, and sometimes you just don’t feel that you can justify the added expense of a holiday.
Despite changing attitudes, we still live in a materialistic society which often views travel as a luxury item, even when the opposite couldn’t be further from the truth! It’s no wonder that the thought of spending valuable potential savings on something which you might not class as a necessity can become an extremely guilt ridden thought. But what can you do if you still crave that insatiable holiday feeling? What happens if you can’t get the thought of travel out of your mind? I might not be able to miraculously increase your bank balance, but I have compiled a list of ten different options which I hope might ease your travel ache in some way or another. If you crave a holiday abroad but can’t afford it right now, then please read on!
Lately a lot of my reading has been taken up with the books nominated for the longlist and shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. I’ve read some really great books so far, with my favourite shortlisted book currently being The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar. Determined as ever to read the entire shortlist before the winner is announced in June, I quickly picked up another book in the runnings.
When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy has been getting quite a lot of good reviews online, yet it’s a book I haven’t necessarily gravitated towards. On the surface however the premise sounds interesting and quite hard hitting. It tells the story of a young Indian woman who marries a good looking and promising university professor. Our protagonist moved to a small coastal town to be with him, distancing herself physically from her family and friends. It is here that she quickly realises that appearances can be deceptive and that her husband is far from the perfect man she envisioned. With a torrent of emotional, psychological and physical abuse, as well as pressures from her family and society to maintain her marriage, this young woman must resistance everything which attempts to hold her down.
Back last year I read Ruth Hogan’s debut novel The Keeper of Lost Things. If you’ve read that review you will already now that I fell completely in love with the story and couldn’t praise it enough. The author wrote with such subtle yet extremely poignant emotion, and showed in her writing the true wonders of humanity. Naturally when I heard that her next novel, The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes, was soon to be released I immediately requested a copy to review in the hopes that I would once again have the same wonderful feelings.
First things first, this book is physically a beautiful thing and a real aesthetic celebration of the story within it. Yet despite the name, the book doesn’t follow the titular ‘Sally Red Shoes’. Instead we are first presented with Masha, a woman whose life changed irrevocably twelve years ago. Unable to move on from the guilt and pain of the death of a loved one, Masha finds solace in two places; the town’s lido, and the local Victorian cemetery. At the Lido she punishes herself, forcing her body below the water to experience the terror of nearly drowning. The cemetery brings a less painful relief, allowing Masha to walk among the graves and seek company from the dearly departed. It is here that she first meets Sally Red Shoes; a bag lady with miraculous vocals who most consider crazy. With the help of Sally and Kitty Muriel, a glamorous seventy-something, Masha’s world begins to expand, reminding her that perhaps her life does have meaning after all.