Review: This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

IMG_7575[1]Sometimes books can have such simple designs that they become beyond beautiful in their clarity. This Is How It Always Is, the latest novel from Laurie Frankel, is one such example. With the simple colour scheme and stark illustrations, the subtle magic of the design comes rising to the surface, the twinkling stars and strange fairy wings moving into the forefront. The cover was immediately appealing to my eyes, making me wish that such quiet beauty could be replicated within. I was not disappointed!

This Is How It Always Is tells the story of one family – Rosie, Penn, and their five boys. Their lives are intense, with mum working hectic hours at the hospital and dad determined to finish his book, all the while trying to do the best they can for their boys amidst the drama and chaos of family life. Their youngest boy, Claude, is given the same love that each of his brothers received; the message loud and clear that he can be whatever he wants to be in life. ‘A chef. A vet. A dinosaur. A farmer. A scientist. A girl’. When Claude discovers he wants nothing more than to wear a dress and call himself Poppy, the family support him every step of the way. They adapt quickly to the new struggles they face as parents, trying the best to forge their way into the unknown. But life is never so clear cut, as the entire family will discover.

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Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

DSCF1473I have a confession; despite its fame and ever popular reviews, I had never before read the modern classic that is The Handmaid’s Tale. Whilst I’d read other things by Margaret Atwood and knew that she was an excellent writer, I had never really felt a burning desire to pick up what is arguably her most famous piece of fiction. With the rise in dystopian novels, many of them seemingly influenced by the iconic Atwood, as well as the success which seems to have followed the TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, I decided it was about I ticked this one off my list.

As already mentioned, this book is a dystopian novel set in a time period which is assumed to be in the somewhat near future. We follow Offred, a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead, in a version of America where the government has been overthrown by a totalitarian, Christian theonomy. Essentially, what this means for Offred is that she has one sole purpose in her life, and that is to breed. Stripped of all of the former rights of her gender, Offred must obey the rules or face the same brutal fate of those who have already been punished or hanged in the name of God. Through Offred, we come to understand the true horrors of this world.

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Review: The Power by Naomi Alderman

DSCF1450I always follow the Bailey’s Women’s Prize for fiction. Actually reading the entire longlist/shortlist is somewhat of a pressure on my time and money, but I do the best I can. One of the books shortlisted last year, The Portable Veblan, I was really disappointed with (review here), so I was hoping for something more in line with my reading tastes this year. As soon as the winner was announced, that being Naomi Alderman’s The Power, I immediately bought it to form my own conclusions.

The Power is a dystopian/fantasy novel, in which women all over the world suddenly discover they hold within them a deadly power. Working somewhat like an electrical current/charge coursing through their body, this new discovery results in a massive power shift, with women becoming the dominant, more physically powerful gender. Men all around the world now find themselves losing control, vulnerable to the pain which can be inflicted upon them. As the novel states, the ‘Days of the Girls’ has arrived, but can such a massive power shift ever be held in check?

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Review: Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed

DSCF1442When a book is compared to the likes of The Handmaid’s Tale, Our Endless Numbered Days, The Power and The Girls (yet to actually read this last!), you know it’s highly likely to be something you would want to read. This praise is made all the more impressive by the fact that this is the author’s (Jennie Melamed) debut novel! So, naturally, when I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book before its publication date, I was thrilled.

Gather the Daughters tells the story of a ‘small isolated island’ where the community lives by their own rules. Daughters are born into a world in which they must take their place as wives and mothers, something which must happen as soon as they approach womanhood. Boys, on the other hand, are there to instruct, to grow into strong men who rule the women in their lives. Ever summer this island honours its ritual, one in which the children are turned out of their homes to run wild. They are free; free to run, to climb, to fight. Free to be children. Yet it is during one such summer, that a young girl is witness to something she should not have seen. Terrified by this, and by what it could actually mean about the island, the girls begin to give reign to their curiosity, lead down a path which they never thought existed.

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