The Night Ship By Jess Kidd – A Review

Publisher: Canongate

Publication Date: 16th August 2022

You all know how much I adored Things In Jars by Jess Kidd. I wanged on about it endlessly! And rightly so!

I was both excited and nervous when I heard that Jess had a new book coming out in August this year, The Night Ship. Nervous because I wanted to love it so much. I even put off reading it for longer than I normally would for this very reason.

Fear not dear reader for Jess kidd has done it again! Written a spectacularly imaginative story that everyone must read.

The book has a dual timeline narrative which you know I love. We have little Mayken in 1628 who has just boarded a ship called the Batavia with her nursemaid Imke, headed to see a father she doesn’t know after losing her mother to the ‘bloody flux’.

The ship is grand and Mayken in her high social standing is afforded a cabin on the upper decks or the ‘upper world’ as it’s known. However, curious and bold Mayken yearns to know what is going on below deck in the ‘below-world’ and sets about discovering the comings and goings down in the cramped, dark and stuffy, rat infested lower decks.

Mayken’s much beloved nursemaid Imke has a touch of the foresight about her and passengers come to her for predictions and prophesies. But when Imke becomes gravely ill, Mayken has reason to believe that something more sinister is aboard the ship…..slithering around in the darkness.

In 1989 young Gil, having also just lost his mother in terrible circumstances is arriving on a remote island in Australia to stay with his fisherman grandfather, Joss. Joss is a quiet, surly and introspective man who has little time for his new charge. The other fishing families on the island are not keen on Joss to say the least but there is one particular family, The Zanetti’s, who have a deeply held grudge against Gil’s grandfather. Gil doesn’t want to be a fisherman and finds it hard to settle on the island but he’s drawn to stories of a Dutch ghost girl who wanders the island…..

The two timelines merge together in various ways and there are echoes of themes across the two. Power, cruelty and control. The individual characters of Mayken and Gil are written so beautifully and authentically that you can’t help but root for them both! Mayken is a strong and brave little girl and Gil is strong and brave too but in different ways and for different reasons. Both children have lost their mother and find themselves alone and trying desperately to find themselves but not quite fitting in.

The historical detail regarding the ship Batavia was immense. I was so immersed in life at sea and could imagine all the finer details. Jess is so good at crafting wonderfully immersive stories that just sweep you away to other places and times.

Jess is also a master at writing fully formed characters bursting with personality even if they are a somewhat peripheral character. There are quite a few different characters in this story, both aboard the ship and on the island but they are all very distinct. There is a fearsome man called Stonecutter onboard the Batavia who only appears briefly but wreaks havoc and spreads fear. Mayken and Gil both make some really gorgeous connections with others. Mayken with a British soldier and various crew members and Gil with a couple of islanders Sylvia and Dutch but mostly with a tortoise pal called Enkidu who you’ll never forget!

I’m always left a bit stunned at the end of Jess’s books wishing I could go back and read it again immediately just to be back in that world and The Night Ship is no exception. It goes without saying that the book led me on a googling mission as it’s based on the real life story of the Batavia. Absolutely fascinating!

Another totally magical tale with storytelling at its heart. I loved it!

Thank you Jess for my proof copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xx

Ginger And Me By Elissa Soave – A Review

Publisher: HQ

Publication Date: 21st July 2022

I took a chance on this book and boy am I glad I did! You all know I don’t really tend to enjoy books with contemporary teenage girl friendships but with Ginger And Me it was one of those times when I was so pleased that I went against my usual ‘type’ of book.

Set in present day Glasgow the book opens with Wendy our main narrator being arrested for something, at this point we have no idea what.

From here we then go back in time through Wendy’s eyes and find out the turn of events which led up to her being arrested. Wendy is 19 and lives alone after the fairly recent death of her mother from cancer. Her father is also dead after separating from her mother and ending up homeless. Wendy struggled hugely after the death of her mother and had to spend some time in psychiatric care. We join her at the point that she has been released and is seeing her care worker and has returned to her job as a much loved bus driver.

Wendy is lonely and has no friends, she has let herself go and cares very little for her surroundings and her own self-care. Her care worker Saanvi suggests that Wendy join a club to meet friends so Wendy, a keen writer, joins a local writing group. It’s here that she learns about a local author named Diane Weston and starts to become interested in not only Diane’s work but Diane herself and her personal life.

Wendy trawls Twitter waiting for Diane to tweet and is overjoyed if Diane ever replies. This interest soon turns into an obsession with the author which Wendy sees only as an inevitable friendship.

Meanwhile Wendy also meets Ginger, a 15 year old girl who gets on her bus one day after supposedly stealing from a shop. The girls become close and form a friendship based on their loneliness and lack of mother figures. Ginger lives with her Uncle Tam who is a local ‘businessman’. Her home is quite often filled with people drinking into the night and Uncle Tam’s business partner’ Roddy is getting more and more hands on with Ginger.

The girls start to spend more and more time together. Ginger helping Wendy decorate her house and smarten herself up and Wendy giving Ginger a safe place of refuge.

But the lives of Wendy, Ginger and Diane start to converge and we begin to piece together the events leading up to the arrest.

Believe me when I tell you that Wendy is a character who will stay with you forever. She is quirky and lovely but fails to pick up on social cues and etiquette. She is naive and vulnerable doesn’t quite appreciate some of the tight spots she gets herself into. Some of the one liners of Wendy’s thoughts had me chuckling to myself. There’s one conversation she has with Saanvi about self-love that’s just brilliant! She’s intelligent and super smart when it comes to words and writing and being in her own head. She’s just not very socially adept!

I really did love this book and the characters inside. Wendy is one of those people who will just stay with you! Ps the ending was just so perfect, right down to the last sentence which is a corker!

Thank you to Elissa and HQ for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda x

Mother’s Don’t By Katixa Agirre (translated by Kristin Addis) – A Review

Publisher: 3TimesRebel

Publication Date: 14th July 2022

Oh my goodness! This book! I’m writing this review having just closed the book after tearing through it in about 4 hours flat.

I came to get my hands on a copy due to the keen eye of my bookish Two Fond Of Books partner in crime Clare @yearsofreading. Mothers Don’t by Katixa Agirre (translated from the Basque by Kristin Addis) is one of the lead titles of new indie publisher 3TimesRebel who are dedicated to publishing books by women in minority languages.

Mothers Don’t tells the stories of two women who are new mothers. The unnamed narrator (first person perspective) is a writer of a very successful true crime novel and is pregnant with her first child when she hears that a woman has murdered her twin babies, drowning them in the bathtub. This is a huge news story for a while, filled with public outrage but the narrator turns her attentions away from it until she is in labour herself and suddenly remembers in a moment of revelation that she knew the woman concerned, Jade (now Alice) briefly many years ago.

The narrator then decides to take a sabbatical from her job to write another novel, this time about the murders. She becomes slightly obsessed with Alice and the motivation behind the murder, using her savings to fund her writing project and putting her own baby into nursery care to get the job done. She also attends the trial of the Alice and begins to piece together what actually happened and weigh up her own feelings with the feelings of the public and the jury.

This book opened in such a way that it had me gripped from the first few pages! The opening scene is one where the nanny of the twins is returning home to find the dead bodies and Alice nonchalantly sitting in a chair. It is a roasting hot day and the atmosphere is dripping with tension. It’s a short chapter but is so powerful. It gave me real Leila Slimani, Lullaby vibes.

You know I’m a complete sucker for books about motherhood and this one digs deep into what it means to be a mother and how much of yourself as an individual you have to relinquish to become a ‘good mother’. It deals with post natal depression, post partum psychosis and infanticide so is understandably hard hitting and a difficult read in some places.

Aside from the main narrative I was equally impressed with the nuggets of information about subjects relating to motherhood which were expertly weaved in. I felt like I was learning something as I read. There were quotes about motherhood at the start of each chapter which had me going off on a Google mission! There were quotes about being a mother and information about the experience of being a mother by Doris Lessing, Muriel Spark and Sylvia Plath. Lessing said ‘there is nothing more boring for an intelligent woman than to spend endless amounts of time with small children’.

The section about the history of infanticide in various cultures over many many centuries was fascinating and not an info dump in anyway, it was seamlessly woven into the complete story and gave a solid background to the overall narrative. I do love background information when it’s well thought out, fully researched and well placed.

The obvious emotion of the topics discussed are upsetting and unsettling and you find yourself wondering what actually motivated Alice to do what she did. We as the reader are seeing things through the narrators eyes and are kept at arms length from the perpetrator so we can’t really make a fully rounded judgement. It’s not all neatly tied up in a bow either. It leaves you with thoughts to mull over and conclusions to draw for yourself.

I was completely blown away and this book will definitely be on my books of the year list. It will stay in my head for a long time yet.

Thank you to Anna Zanetti and 3TimesRebel for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda x @bookishchat

Blue Hour By Sarah Schmidt – A Review

Publisher: Tinder Press

Publication Date: 7th July 2022

I’m almost too apprehensive to write a review for Blue Hour by Sarah Schmidt purely because it’s one of those books that having read it you desperately just want people to read it. Full stop. End of review.

I read Sarah’s debut novel See What I Have Done a few years ago and loved it. I had high hopes going into Blue Hour and let me tell you that all my expectations of this book were met and then some!

Set in Australia, Blue Hour tells the stories of two women, mother and daughter Kitty and Eleanor. Both women are suffering due to the effects of war on their husbands. We have Kitty, a nurse in the 1940’s who meets George and starts a relationship with him. George is then a casualty of WW2 and on his return Kitty helps nurse him. Whilst he’s not exactly the love of her life after returning from war, they make a connection and Kitty falls pregnant. But whilst dealing with pregnancy and a young child, Kitty has to contend with George’s terrible night terrors, changes in personality and odd behaviour which often sends him off to the hospital for long periods of time.

The book opens with Kitty’s daughter, Eleanor in the present day (which happens to be the 1970’s) escaping in the night from her abusive husband Leon, who has returned from the war in Vietnam. She takes their baby, Amy and flees in the car, heading towards the Blue Mountain, a place of solace from her childhood.

The narratives flit between present day Eleanor, Kitty in the 1940’s onwards interspersed with brief chapters from when Eleanor was a child and the perceptions she has of her parents and their strained relationship.

This book deals with so many issues, the ramifications of war and how they can reverberate down through generations. The taught and fraught anxiety of motherhood and what makes a good mother, loss and love and grieving for the things you didn’t realise you would miss. It also deals with trauma and how this can be passed on through the generations, particularly from mother to daughter.

There is a creeping horror in the everyday details. A sense of being unnerved and unsettled by certain moods and behaviours. There are times you want to look away and take a brief respite from the tension but you absolutely can’t.

You are in effect witnessing the very personal and very intimate ways in which these two women come unravelled over the decades.

I cried in places and I don’t cry easily! There is one event that was like a sucker punch to the heart. It made me question what I had already read up to that point and made me return to certain chapters to see if what I thought had happened had actually happened!

The way Sarah Schmidt writes is so beautifully crafted, and it really is just that, a craft. She uses words and sentence construction in such a powerful way. She repeats certain words and phrases to really hit them home and her short, partially formed staccato sentences give way to beautifully detailed prose when the tension and emotion ratchets up.

This book is multilayered in terms of themes and of construction and the building of characters. Characters, especially Kitty who provoke lots of unanswered questions.

Blue Hour just completely blew me away and I will be thinking about it (and desperate to talk about it with other readers!) for a long while.

Thank you so much to Emily Patience and Tinder Press for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda x

Children Of Paradise By Camilla Grudova – A Review

Publisher: Atlantic Books

Publication Date: 7th July 2022

I read Camilla Grudova’s short story collection The Dolls Alphabet and absolutely loved it. Infact it has pride of place on my Forever Shelf and I don’t hang on to many short story collections usually.

Her stories are perfectly ‘on the wonk’ for me, off kilter and unusual, and that was the same for Children Of Paradise in absolute spades!

Holly takes a job as an usher at a once popular, grand and glamorous cinema known as The Paradise. Now however, it has lost its appeal, it’s funding and it’s glamorous opulence. Now it is run down, grubby, tatty and coming loose at it’s frayed edges.

Holly is initially ignored by her work colleagues, an unlikely band of twenty-something misfits and she feels terribly lonely. However, after a few weeks of being iced out she infiltrates their gang and gains trust enough to join in their nightly clandestine screenings of films once the cinema is closed and falls silent.

This group seem to only survive through their work at The Paradise and their love of film. They exist within the dark rich red walls of The Paradise as if the world outside isn’t real. They cruise the aisles of the cinema screen collecting discarded alcohol and drugs (prescription or otherwise) and pocketing lost jewellery or clothing.

They put up with the ever present irritation of the owner of The Paradise, an eccentric old woman who comes in to eat the food and watch the films. However when she dies the current employees are faced with a corporate take over and it’s from here that their lives both together in their misfit group and as individuals start to unravel in catastrophic and dark ways.

I tweeted about this book whilst halfway through it that it was grubby and gross and that is exactly what it is. And I mean that in a very positive way! The depictions and detailed descriptions of the now delapidated cinema made it so easy to imagine. The descriptions of cleaning up bodily fluids left behind after screenings, the blocked toilets and the rat infested popcorn were just stomach churning. Even though the cinema’s finery was fading fast the descriptions were vivid and visceral and unpleasant. Everything I love!

The characters are an unusual bunch, you get to see glimpses of each personality individually and how that fits with the coalescence of the group as a whole. Holly’s transformation from a quiet and unassuming usher from when she first was employed at The Paradise to when she has been absorbed fully into the group and is stealing and drug taking and having sex during screenings is interesting. You are taken on a slowly unfolding journey with her.

It’s also a quite sad depiction of capitalism and the pursuit of profit.

Overall it was a grimy, filthy, unsettling, grubby little novel and I absolutely loved it.

Thank you so much to Harry at Atlantic Books for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda x @bookishchat

Still Born By Guadalupe Nettel (translated by Rosalind Harvey).

Publisher: Fitzcarraldo Editions

Publication Date: 22nd June 2022

I feel like a stuck record when I continually say that I love books surrounding the subject of struggling mothers. This book however looks at the flip side of that I suppose whilst still dealing with the many and varied complexities of motherhood and what that means in its various forms. The flip side in this case being choosing not to have children.

Set in Mexico (translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey) Still Born by Guadalupe Nettel tells the two contrasting stories of friends Laura and Alina, both in their mid-thirties. From their early life together both women have always stated that they didn’t want to have children and Laura in particular looked down on women who did. However, Alina then changes her mind and decides she wants to try for a child whilst this decision cements Laura’s feelings that she wants to remain childless and so takes the decision to be sterilised.

Laura then develops an interest in her neighbours child, an 8 year old boy who regularly throws tantrums and can be heard through the walls verbally abusing his single mother. As Laura watches the pigeon nest in her garden bear eggs then fledgling birds, she contemplates the meaning of motherhood and what makes a mother, whilst getting closer to the boy next door.

Alina’s pregnancy journey is not an easy one, far from it, and she has to make some difficult decisions which in turn lead to a difficult start to motherhood.

Both women have to come to terms with their feelings around motherhood and caring for children in vastly different ways.

I enjoyed the fact that the main narrator is Laura throughout. We learn of Alina’s struggles through Laura’s eyes but still with a close attention to detail which allows us as the reader to become invested in Alina’s journey.

It is not only the two main characters and their views on motherhood we see, there is also Laura’s relationship with her own mother, and the relationship between the single mother next door and the young boy. This book makes you think about the decisions women have to make with regards to having children and the way they are treated based on those decisions.

As I mentioned, I quite regularly read around the subject of motherhood but I rarely read from the perspective of someone so assured in their decision not to have children. This was an interesting angle for me. The writing is sharp and the chapters are short which makes for a propulsive read.

I am now keen to read any other translated Guadalupe Nettel books so I’ll be on the look out!

Thank you to Clare Bogen and Fitzcarraldo Editions for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda x

The Cherry Robbers By Sarai Walker – A Review

Publisher: Serpents Tail

Publication Date: 2nd June 2022

I went into this book knowing very little. I latched onto certain words and phrases in the blurb such as ‘palatial Victorian wedding cake house’ and ‘troubled haunted mother’ and I was in!

Let me start by saying that this book totally consumed me for days. If you follow me on social media you will see that I was waxing lyrical about it and probably getting on peoples nerves (ok ok Mand we get it, you LOVE the book!).

So what’s it all about?

The book opens with Sylvia Wren one of the most important American artists of the past century receiving a letter which alludes to the fact that she is not who she says she is and has a secretive past. We then go on to learn that Sylvia was infact born Iris Chapel, the second youngest of 6 sisters who grew up in a Victorian wedding cake house in New England, as part of the Chapel firearms dynasty.

Iris’s father is a workaholic and very detached from his family, often only eating meals with them and then disappearing to his study. Their mother Belinda is a haunted woman, often visited in the night by what she deems to be the spirits of all the people who have died as a direct result of one of the Chapel firearms. Not only this, she is haunted by the idea that she and the women in the family are cursed, particularly as her mother died in childbirth and her mother before her and her mother before her. It is said that Belinda was born hearing her mothers death screams and continues to hear them still.

The six sisters are all named after flowers. There’s Aster, Rosalind, Calla, Daphne, Iris then the youngest Hazel who is know as ‘Zelie’. When Aster meets a young man on holiday she quickly falls in love and plans to marry. Belinda is horrified and is convinced that something dreadful is going to happen to Aster if she marries. Everybody else in the family dismisses this as one of Belinda’s ‘moments’ and they take very little notice of her. However, when Iris starts to see and hear some strange things she slowly comes to learn that her mother may be right.

It isn’t a spoiler for me to say that Aster does indeed die the morning after her wedding of mysterious causes that are written off as flu by their father and the family doctor. Not long after this Rosalind the second sister dies after her wedding, again from mysterious causes…..what follows after this is the rest of the sisters trying to navigate their grief and trying desperately to make their escape from a house which holds nothing but fear and upset.

We follow the story from Iris’s perspective as she tries to figure out the curse that has befallen her family whilst trying to avoid the mental asylum that her mother has so often been incarcerated in for stating her beliefs. Iris is desperate to make her escape from the house and the family name without losing her life along the way.

This book hooked me in from the outset, with its depiction of a gothic Victorian building housing this set of six siblings who are somewhat sequestered away and have only each other for company. It is assumed that they will learn homemaking and etiquette skills at the local ladies college and then be married off one by one. They live a life under the shadow of their strange mother who they mostly ignore the ramblings of and a father who is cold and almost fearful of them and their moods.

The atmosphere in the house is oppressive and you can feel why the girls each want so desperately to escape. I love a good family mystery particularly when a so called ‘curse’ is involved and I was utterly invested in the search for answers. There is a ghostly atmosphere in certain places but also an insidious feeling of something not being quite right all the way through. You just know that the Chapel family are gossiped about in the village and rightly so. All eyes are on them and their continuing grief.

This books gave me huge Shirley Jackson vibes and I loved the 1950’s setting. A time when there were still certain expectations of women even if some young women were beginning to rail against them.

This has been described as a gothic ghost story with a fiery feminist zeal and I couldn’t agree more!

I was completely hooked and didn’t want to put it down! I’m still thinking about it now, some weeks after finishing it. It is the best book I’ve read so far this year and it will take something very special indeed to knock it off the top spot.

Thank you so much to Lisa Shakespeare and Serpents Tail for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda x

The Dance Tree By Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Publisher: Picador

Publication Date: 12th May 2022

This book is my first Kiran Millwood Hargrave, god knows why I haven’t read The Mercies up to this point! I haven’t picked up much historical fiction for a while but can truly say that if you only pick up one historical fiction book this year make it The Dance Tree.

It’s 1518 and a blisteringly oppressive summer heat in Strasbourg. Crops are failing and animals are sweltering and people are starving. One day, a woman named Frau Troffea starts dancing in the heat of the dry and dusty city square and keeps up the dancing for days on end. Being forced home briefly by her husband to sleep for an hour before heading back out to dance. Amongst her audience are members of the council know as The Twenty One. This lone woman has caught their attention and her dancing is considered a religious mania.

But soon there are more feet added to dance as more and more women join in until there are hundreds of women seemingly taken over by this dancing hysteria.

On the outskirts of the city Lisbet a bee-keeper lives with her brusque mother-in-law, her husband and his sister who has recently returned from a 7 year penance deep in the mountains, for an untold crime. Lisbet is pregnant with her 13th child, having lost all of her previous babies at various points in her pregnancies. When the families farm is threatened so is their livelihood and Lisbet’s precious bees who have long since been a source of salvation for her are potentially going to be removed from her life.

As the heat continues to beat down on the city and more and more women are added to the dance Lisbet finds herself desperate to uncover secrets but also protect the things she holds dear.

I love a novel that centres around an actual point or event in history and uses that as a springboard for some amazing fiction. I found the authors note from Kiran Millwood Hargrave fascinating as she talks about the real life Frau Troffea who did indeed start dancing one day in Strasbourg and didn’t stop. Indeed there are apparently various points in history where choreomania (yes that’s what it’s called!) have occurred, each time religious mania is cited as the reason.

This book doesn’t just deal with the dancing event it is essentially a close look at the lives of three women and the bonds they have with each other and how they have been repressed at the hands of men in a patriarchal society. I loved the rich tapestry of historical detail and felt fully immersed in the narrative, building up a clear picture of each scene as it played out.

We are not only given the protagonists main narrative we are also treated to short interspersing chapters introducing us to selected women who have joined the dance and the painful reasons why. I really found this to be such an emotional touch.

Kiran’s writing is just stunning and her scene setting and character development are some of the best I’ve ever read. This is a book of love, superstition, folklore and power and I cannot recommend it enough. In fact I think I’ll be bold and say it will be one of my books of the year. Now If you’ll excuse me I’m off to pick up a copy of The Mercies immediately!

Thank you to Kate Green and Picador for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda. Xx @bookishchat

Hush By Kate Maxwell – A Review

Publisher: Virago Press

Publication Date: 12th May 2022

I feel like a bit of stuck record, but if there is book that deals with the subject of a struggling mother I will be there in a flash with bells on!

When I read the synopsis for Hush by Kate Maxwell I knew it would be a book for me and let me tell you, it very much was!

We meet Stevie who is quite a driven, successful and hard working woman who has moved back from New York where she went to help set up a new business. She’s back home in London having made the decision to embark on having a baby on her own terms via artificial insemination using a sperm donor.

The book opens at the point that Stevie has not long since had her new baby son, Ash. She is deep in throws of post natal depression and is struggling to bond with her baby despite wanting him in her life so desperately.

Stevie has two older sisters, Rebecca at home in London and Jess working in New York. Both sisters look out for her in their own ways, however she finds it difficult to open up to them about how she’s feeling. We travel back and forth in time from watching Stevie building her career and relationships in New York, her success in her role and her attachment to her sister, to her current life with the baby.

In the present day Stevie struggles with not having a tight and controlled hold on her life, and she feels lost and wonders where she now fits and what her purpose is other than to keep this small human alive. She makes some questionable choices whilst in the exhausting fugue of sleep deprivation.

We also find out details of Steve’s family dynamic, not only her two much older sisters but her detached and unemotional father and her coddling mother. I really enjoyed the exploration of family and the various strains and tensions.

I suppose for me, (the woman who loves to read about a struggling mother!) the chapters in the present day dealing with Stevies day to day inertia surrounding her new baby were the most pertinent to me. This is a woman who was so adamant that she wanted to forge ahead with her plan to have a baby under her own rules and raise it alone, only to find that it’s not as easy as that!

The writing is fresh and the scene setting in New York is vibrant and bustling. There’s a clean contemporary sharpness which I loved. The two timelines really compliment each other and I enjoyed the building of an important backstory which inevitably shapes the story in the present day.

If you want to read about motherhood, family, ambition, identity and love then this book really is for you.

I can’t recommend it enough.

Thank you to Kate Maxwell and Virago Press for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda xx @bookishchat

Sedating Elaine By Dawn Winter – A Review

Publisher: Fleet

Publication Date: 5th May 2022

When I was very kindly offered a proof copy of Sedating Elaine by Dawn Winter I knew I had to jump at the chance as it sounded so wild! On the surface it’s a book about a young woman who goes about sedating her girlfriend so that she can pay off her drug dealer and finally get a bit of peace and quiet, BUT underneath it is so much more!

So we meet Frances, a young woman who at the start of the book has completely had enough of her girlfriend Elaine, a larger than life character who is constantly on the go, making noise, bothering Frances for sex and generally being ‘too much’ for Frances to deal with. Frances is very tempted to call it quits with Elaine but she’s fallen into almost an inertia with the relationship. She does however have a regular relationship with her drug dealer, a little too regular some might say, and she’s run up quite the debt with him. He’s now making threatening noises if he doesn’t get what he’s owed soon.

Frances in her desperation asks Elaine to move in with her and pay an extortionate amount towards the ‘rent’ (or Frances’ drug dealer!) knowing her family is not short of money. However the plan backfires when Elaine blasts into Frances’ flat, a previous haven of quiet for Frances. Just when she is wondering what the hell she’s done, Frances has a bright idea, she will sedate Elaine to get some peace and quiet…..just until the first ‘rent’ payment comes in…..what could possibly go wrong?…..

Frances is a fascinating character. She has suffered a broken relationship with a woman she deeply loved, this has broken her heart and led in part to her falling into the relationship with exuberant Elaine and being swept along almost against her will with very little strength in her to fight it. She just goes along with the life that she’s been dealt, using drugs and alcohol as a crutch and a means to get through day by day.

Over the course of the story we also learn about snapshots of Frances’s childhood, a very lonely childhood with no mother in her life and a father who tried his best but was very distant. Frances also alludes throughout the narrative to the fact that she killed a little boy when she was young, something which is later unravelled for us.

This is most definitely unlike any book I’ve read. In a good way. It’s crazy and perhaps on paper shouldn’t be 100% believable yet it absolutely is! It has a dark humour running all the way through it but moments of such tenderness and emotion too.

It was an absolute blast and I really enjoyed it! I think this is Dawn Winter’s debut novel which makes me very excited about what she will think of next.

Thank you to Emily Moran and Little Brown for my review copy.

See you all soon.

Amanda xx @bookishchat