September 23, 2020

You should never judge a book by it’s cover, but your expectations going into this one might be very different depending on whether you’ve seen the UK or US one. 

The British version features a woman’s face, and this novel is ostensibly about a woman. Two late-middle-aged men pub crawl around Dublin as one tells the other the story of how he’s left his wife for a girl they both loved-at-first-sight in their youths. In reality, the love that actually comes through is a love for Irish speech, and pubs, and the men for each other. 

The American cover is a picture of a pint, and is styled to look like a continuation of Roddy Doyle’s Two Pints series, which is probably a better angle to come from. Love is also written almost entirely in  — simply brilliant — dialogue. 

It’s astute, and sensitive and funny, but in all honestly also frustrating and a little boring. As one character constantly...

April 23, 2018

I went through quite a journey with this book. To start with, I was tempted to just stop reading it. I found the characters unbearably irritating and the situations they were in banal. It follows three women, Tara — a single mum, TV producer, Cam — a feminist lifestyle blogger, and Stella — processing the death of her mum and twin sister to cancer. Some people might love this, but I personally enjoy characters a bit further from everyday life.

Just as I was about to concede this wasn’t for me, I hit the incident that gets the plot rolling, and I was reluctantly hooked. I was swept up, but a little resentful about it. By the time I got to the end, however, I had to admit I was impressed. You have to wade through a lot of seemingly nice characters judging others for how judgemental they are, before their character arcs finally deliver them a bit of self-awareness; but in the end it's a clev...

February 14, 2018

There is much to admire in this book. I loved the Britishness of it: situations, places and character archetypes that are so familiar from real life, but so unfamiliar on the page. The characters are beautifully done; subtle and believable. I was thoroughly rooted in the Dad, Rob’s, blinkered viewpoint. I particularly appreciated the moral complexity of the character Nev. It’s actually a wonderful love story, and there is one especially moving conversation towards the end.

But this is a hard subject. Most people may find it sweeps them up, but personally I could never quite relax into it. The story follows Rob and Anna, who have an idyllic life with their son Jack, until Jack faints and their perfect bubble is popped. As the story went on, I generally felt more uncomfortable, than involved. Awkward, than emotional. This may be an irrational response, but I didn’t want my heartstrings tugg...

April 7, 2016

This book may feature run-ins with tigers and chases through the streets of London, but it feels more like a quiet sit down with a cup of tea and the loving company of old friends.

It’s a sweet, sentimental and a delicate exploration of grief, memory and identity, shown through the eyes of 69 year-old Arthur Pepper.

A year on from the death of his beloved wife, Miriam, Arthur finds an old charm bracelet he had never seen in their 40 years of marriage. He sets out to find the meaning of the charms, and discovers a host of fascinating and surprising stories from her life before they met.

But it’s the subtle, emotional quest which accompanies Arthur’s actual one that is the warm, glowing heart of the story. He questions the simpleness of their life together, shown in the new context of her youthful adventures; and he questions his own nature and choices as he steps outside of his comfort zone...

January 1, 2016

Physically unattractive (self-professed,) and depressed to the point of suicide; only faced with these three main characters did it strike me how uncommon that is in literature. Sure, we’re used to the predictably good-looking leads in movies, but in books - the least visual of all mediums - most protagonists seem either explicitly nice-looking or can at least be interpreted so. I’m sure, too, that leads very rarely seem to start out beyond hope.

I was a little shocked and disappointed in myself to actually find it a bit of a barrier in A Reunion Of Ghosts.

It didn’t help that I came accross the book following a “If you like Nicole Krauss, you’ll love…” type recommendation. But while I find Nicole Krauss lilting and lyrical, this, in contrast, was brazen and brash; in fact the only similarity seemed to be its focus on Jewish history, making the comparison even more superficial and annoying...

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