Rest And Be Thankful By Emma Glass – A Review

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Publication Date: 19th March 2020

I had a very strange relationship with Emma’s first book Peach. I absolutely adored her writing however I did feel like I wasn’t clever enough to understand what she was saying. That wasn’t a bad reflection of the book I actually felt like it was more a reflection on myself as a reader.

When I heard that Emma had a new book out I knew that I absolutely had to give her a try again. I knew that I had to experience her distinct and innovative voice one more time and see if I got on better with this book.

I am so beyond pleased that I decided to request a copy of this book (and of course ever thankful and grateful to the publisher). Because of course I could fully understand this book and to think that I couldn’t would be to do not only myself a disservice but Emma’s stunning writing aswell.

This book absolutely blew me away and I read it in one sitting (it is only 135 pages long). It was the kind of book that makes your bathwater cold and by that I mean I really didn’t want to get out of the bath and stop reading. To do so felt like to bursting a bubble or rising to the surface of a deep dream.

Rest And Be Thankful tells the story of our protagonist Laura, a paediatric nurse working on a children’s ward in a hospital and dealing with very sick children everyday. She is extremely exhausted and drained, not only from her work but from her failing relationship.

Laura often works the night shift and almost lives in a dreamlike state during her working hours. When she arrives home after her emotionally and physically tough shifts at the hospital she is flung into another depleting situation when she has to deal with her partner’s apparently hostility towards her.

You ask me if I’m okay, you touch my head, trying to be tender but the strokes of your dry fingers drag my hair back. Hair pulls from the root of my scalp, the sharp pain cuts through me like chalk screeching, sketching on a blackboard. My teeth grit. You take your hand away and wipe it on the quilt cover. Your mouth turns down in disgust. You tell me I am soaking wet, I am late for work, you spit the words. You remain disgusted and get out of bed.

She finds it very difficult to sleep but when she does manage to snatch some fleeting rest, she dreams of drowning. Her sleep is very rarely refreshing and she wakes as drained as when she fell asleep.

The lack of sleep coupled with the fact that she rarely nourishes her body with appropriate food and the emotional turmoil she experiences both at work and in her personal life all take their toll on her. So much so that she is convinced she regularly sees a dark figure in the periphery of her vision. Be that waiting for the tube, walking down the street or sitting in the hospital rooms.

Laura is such a complex character who spends her time holding the lives of sick babies and children in her hands. She gets close to the families of the children in her care and cannot help but absorb their emotions in with her own. Her dark dreams and daytime thoughts cast a shadow over her which she finds difficult to shake. But just how much of an effect will the darkness ultimately have on her.

What Emma Glass does here in just 135 short pages is amazing. Her writing is poetic yet sparse and utterly visceral and captivating. Not a word is wasted. The way the story is constructed also packed a huge punch for me. The short snappy chapters are so powerful and propulsive. Some of my most favourite books are constructed in this choppy way which I feel adds a certain blunt yet dynamic quality to a narrative.

I was pulled along with Laura and felt almost trapped inside her troubled mind.  Emma Glass was a nurse herself and you can really tell that she knows what she is writing about.

I am so glad that I opened my mind and read this book.  I know that Emma’s writing style is one that I will continue to enjoy,  and I am excited for any further books she writes.

Thank you very much to the publisher for my review copy.

See you all soon.

 

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

 

Black Car Burning By Helen Mort – A Review (The Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist)

Publisher: Chatto & Windus

Publication Date: 4th April 2020

It’s my stop on the huge blog tour for the Dylan Thomas Prize longlist today and I am pleased to be bringing you my review of Black Car Burning by Helen Mort.

When I saw that this book had been included in the longlist I knew it was the one I wanted to read for the blog tour. I’d heard some great reviews over on Booktube and was really looking forward to reading it.

So what’s it all about?..

SYNOPSIS

Alexa is a young police community support officer whose world feels unstable. Her father is estranged and her girlfriend is increasingly distant. Their polyamorous relationship – which for years felt so natural – is starting to seem strained. As she patrols Sheffield she senses the rising tensions in its disparate communities and doubts her ability to keep the peace, to help, to change anything.

Caron is pushing Alexa away and pushing herself ever harder. A climber, she fixates on a brutal route known as Black Car Burning and throws herself into a cycle of repetition and risk. Leigh, who works at a local gear shop, watches Caron climb and feels complicit.

Meanwhile, an ex-police officer compulsively revisits the April day in 1989 that changed his life forever. Trapped in his memories of the disaster, he tracks the Hillsborough inquests, questioning everything.

As the young women negotiate the streets of the city and its violent inheritance, the rock faces of Stanage and their relationships with each other, the urban and natural landscape watches over them, an ever-present witness. Black Car Burning is a brilliant debut novel of trust and trauma, fear and falling, from one of our best young writers.

My Thoughts:

What we have here in Black Car Burning are very compelling character studies. Each of the characters are battling their own internal demons whilst trying to mitigate external factors.

There are so many subjects tackled in this book, polyamorous lifestyles, post traumatic stress, cultural differences, social unrest and struggling relationships.

We all remember the Hillsborough Disaster and the rippling and devastating effects this had on lives and communities long after it had happened. The far reaching consequences on people’s lives and mental health. This is examined here and deftly handled with emotion and heart. The threads of fallout weaving their way through generations and still affecting lives many many years after the event itself.

I do have to say I was particularly interested in the central relationship between Alexa and Carron. I don’t think I’ve read a book which focuses on polyamourous relationships and the challenges that can be encountered. Alexa is deeply in love with Carron who almost feels like a bit of an enigma. She is a very charismatic woman who seems to draw people to her, not least Leigh.

This book has a huge sense of place as obviously it is set in Sheffield. I think if you have never been to Sheffield or have experience of the north you may not feel such an affiliation with the setting of the book. Sheffield is almost a fully formed character in itself and the main narratives are interspersed with the points of view of various different landmarks around the area. Personification at its best and a very nice touch in my opinion.

There are so many themes and subjects to unravel in this book that I feel like it would be an awesome book club pick. You can really delve deep into the psyche of these characters whilst learning about history and rock climbing and differing social classes and cultures.

I found Black Car Burning a really fascinating read and would recommend it.

Thank you to MidasPr for having me along on this huge blog tour! It’s been an absolute pleasure.

Please check out all the other reviews.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

Coming Up For Air By Sarah Leipciger – A Review

Publisher: Doubleday

Publication Date: 19th March 2020

When I first saw glimpses of this book on Twitter I was immediately drawn to it even though I knew very little about it.  What I did know was that this book was constructed around the fact that resuscitation dolls used in first aid courses everywhere were in fact based on the death mask of an unknown woman who’s body was found in the River Seine in Paris in the late 1800’s.  Very little was known about this woman other than estimates of her age and she was known as L’Inconnue de la Seine (The Unknown Woman Of The Seine) but what was so intriguing about her was the serene look on her face, even in death.  She had no apparent marks on her body and nobody quite knew how she ended up in the Seine.  Was it suicide and who was she?

Now I find this story so fascinating so to have a work of fiction crafted around this premise was hugely exciting to me. I also historically have really enjoyed fiction that has roots based firmly in fact. I am always in awe of an authors skill in taking a fact and weaving it into something amazing, taking a scrap of a story which most people were not aware of and running with it.

In Coming Up For Air, Sarah Leipciger gives us the 3 handed narrative of 3 characters who exist decades apart yet are intrinsically linked.  The book opens with the death of the L’Inconnue in the River Seine in the late 1800’s (not a spoiler obvs!), we then jet forward to Pieter, a toymaker from Norway in the 1950’s.  We then sprint further forward in time to Canada to meet Anouk, a journalist who is battling Cystic Fibrosis and is in need of a lung transplant in order to save her life.

Once we have been initially introduced to these three characters in their separate time periods we then revisit them where they move back and forth through time in their own narrative.  For example in the case of L’Inconnue we journey back a few years to find out how she came to be dead in the river.  We never learn her name, she remains anonymous to the reader but she is so alive in her narrative.  She is employed as a ladies maid to a wealthy old widow and strikes up a relationship with one of the ladies young female aquaintances.

We learn about Pieter and the loss of one of his children and how this tragedy permeated through his life and was the impetus for one of his best inventions.

Via Anouk’s story we learn of the terrible debilitating illness that is CF and how this impacts her as a child, as a teenager and the far reaching effects of the disease on her parents marriage.

In my opinion, all three threads of narrative could be amazing stand alone novels in their own right.  Each character is so fully rounded and compelling and each of their stories needs to be told and heard.  However, the skill Sarah Leipciger has in delicately linking these narratives together through not only the obvious tangible links but the more ethereal themes of wild swimming, breath, air, lungs, life, death, drowning is just a joy to behold.

Each of the narratives is presented to the reader in different forms.  The story of L’Inconnue is told in the first person which allows us into this young girls head without really knowing much about her actual identity.  Pieter’s story is put across to the reader as almost a love letter to his child, recounting various stories from his own childhood and from his life with his child. Anouk’s story is told in the third person which I think works very well given that her parents play a huge part in the narrative and their fractured relationship is almost as absorbing as the struggles Anouk is living through.

This book was such a compelling read in myriad ways. Sarah Leipciger’s writing is captivating and sharp and all historical and medical elements were very well researched and portrayed.

Coming Up For For Air is one of those books which stays with you long after you’ve finished it. I have a feeling it will make my top books of the year.

Thank you so much to the publisher as always for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

 

 

The Animals At Lockwood Manor By Jane Healey – A Review

Publisher: Mantle

Publication Date: 5th March 2020

You lot know that I love me some dark, gothic historical fiction. All the better if there are strange goings on in a large spooky Manor House.

When I read about The Animals At Lockwood Manor by Jane Healey it immediately went on to my Most Anticipated Books Of 2020 list.

When this proof arrived from Mantle it was absolutely beautifully packaged. It came with a specimen tag and a little key (I LOVE a tiny little key!). But perhaps most interestingly of all was the letter from the author describing how she came about the idea for the book when she was researching the history of London’s Natural History Museum and discovered that during the war, museum collections were evacuated to country manor houses to keep them safe.

I found myself absolutely fascinated with this and did a bit of googling to read more. I’ve said this before in previous reviews but I do enjoy fictional works that are rooted in some way in fact.

August 1939 and Hetty Cartwright who works at The Natural History Museum has been given the job of evacuating the museum’s mammal collection. Not an easy task when dealing with large exhibits and small delicate collections. Hetty is eager to prove that she is up to the task since she has made some mistakes during her time at the museum and wants to impress her superiors.

She cares so much about the exhibits and has them painstakingly moved to Lockwood Manor under her inscrutable eye.

Lockwood Manor is the home of Lord Lockwood and his daughter Lucy. His wife and Lucy’s mother had unfortunately died following an accident on the estate. Hetty soon begins to realise that Lord Lockwood is a force to be reckoned with and living in his home will not be plain sailing.

However, Hetty is immediately drawn to Lucy and they quickly form a very strong bond.

When some of the exhibits start to move, become damaged or even disappear completely, Hetty begins to wonder just what kind of a place she has brought her precious collection to.

There is a fabulous ghostly vibe about this book. Lucy is clearly troubled in lots of ways due to her mothers untimely death but also because her mother was not the most stable of women prior to her death.

Lucy has disturbing dreams and it isn’t long before Hetty herself is getting caught up in Lucy’s fears and apprehensions whilst battling Lord Lockwood to keep her animals safe.

There are rumours and whispers abound amongst the Manor’s servants which lend an air of apprehension to the story.

What is so special about this book is Jane Healey’s beautifully descriptive writing style. She brings to life perfectly Lockwood Manor in the readers minds eye which helps to set you firmly in the gothic and insidious atmosphere. Her characters are multifaceted and Hetty is one of my favourite female protagonists of recent years. She is strong and outspoken but also wears her heart firmly on her sleeve. She feels deeply and loves hard.

This book is steeped in atmosphere, expertly researched and is a perfect example of unsettling historical fiction which as you know is right up my street!

With themes of sexuality, grief, mental health, love and loss, The Animals Of Lockwood Manor is a multi-layered story set against the back drop of WW2.

I can not recommend this book highly enough.

Thank you so much to Mantle for my copy for review.

See you soon

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx