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(AnPost)

‘This is a female text’

As Anne Enright herself has tried and failed to define this book’s genre, I don’t feel too bad about not being quite able to sum it up myself. Here, however, is my attempt;

It reads like a history or a memoir, sounds like a poem and a personal essay in its lyricism, fascinates like a historical fiction, and obsesses and nitpicks like a research paper. It croons like poetic analysis and haunts like a tale of obsession and possesses you like a summoning, a seance.

It is all of these things. And none of them, all at once.

It is also a female text.

Confused yet?

This book, published by the inimitable Tramp Press, follows Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s journey to uncover the life of Eibhlín Dubh, the composer of an extraordinary poem keening her husband’s untimely death. But it is more than that. Ní Ghríofa’s text is haunted by the presence of the widow poet, following Ní Ghríofa through her journey of motherhood. And while at first glance, this may come across as a high-brow literary endeavour, what struck me most was its accessibility.

Every word she pens is loaded and immersive and almost scholarly in its poetic depth. But it is executed in such a deeply personal way that the book quickly becomes hard, fast and addictive. This is a book for the woman who was the girl who was ‘terrible at sums and at sports, a girl given to staring out windows, a girl whose only real gift lies in daydreaming’. This is a book for the Irish and poetry lovers, the social historians, the widows, the neighbour who lives alone, the new mother, the new mother’s mother, the person who feels like the present holds none of the passion of the past.

But what does a female text mean?

In one way, it means that the female body is held up to the light. There is no fading out from painful hospital scenes, to convey the birth is occurring and suddenly a perfect baby is swaddled in the arms of a perfectly made-up mother. This text shows the breathless, heart in your mouth, dread in your belly live action birth. It is insistently female, inherently, bodily, filthily female.  Female in its throat swollen with tears, female in the strange animalistic tendencies that dog the body after birth, female in the deletion of our own presence as mothers.

The clothes put away, the table wiped down, the clearing of space – motherhood, as Ní Ghríofa sees it is the obliteration of presence, of becoming the quiet answer to someone’s need;

‘I am one of The Many whose working day does not have a clocking-out time. Anyone whose days revolve around domestic work knows the satisfaction that can be found in such labour, … There is a peculiar contentment to be found in absenting oneself like this, subsumed in the needs of others; in such erasure for me lies joy…in this my work is a deletion of presence.’

The female body is a gift overflowing, depleted to be filled again, with milk, with children, with service, domestic and otherwise. It desires, it breaks, it creates and rewrites the history of a landscape. The ripples and reverberations it can create across time and history are written in the lines and curves, scars and breakages, the charged and mystical power of Ní Ghríofa’s body by the text’s end, in a triumphant joy – she is creation.

This is a female text.

It's so astounding that a woman can disappear to that extent':  Rediscovering the author of Ireland's greatest love poem

(TheJournal.ie)

But the curious second part of being a female text is at odds with the quiet joy she finds in this self-erasure; the uncovering of a female presence. In these busy domestic hours she spends in deleting herself, her mind wanders to Eibhlín Dubh, a woman mostly lost in history.

Wandering thoughts quickly turn to obsession, as an act of translation becomes an act of recovery as if she wants to crawl inside Eibhlín’s skin and live there. Ní Ghríofa hoards her knowledge of Eibhlín like a dragon hoarding hoarding treasure. Nuggets of new information comes to light as she pores over male texts to uncover the female absences within, hoping they may lead to a deep, undiscovered domestic history. A history lovingly constructed, this is not a life found in political or historical textbooks, but an interior female life found in the gaps of information, from reading between the lines.

Ghostly and electric, Eibhlin hums by her side, the ghost growing more corporeal throughout the book until she mourns and laughs at her side. In constructing a female history, one is not concerned with knowing people through their relation to war or politics, but through their family and beliefs and household running. In the atmosphere of a home, of daily life and relationships and the small vitally important social and domestic pieces of life that made up people’s day to day; that is where Ní Ghríofa finds Eibhlín, and the women in the lives of these documented men.

Ní Ghríofa’s research is fascinating and weaves a dark and holy sense of lives disturbed by this probing two centuries later. A necromancer, she summons the dead, and in their voices echo the memories that were once held in long abandoned places, the domestically charged spaces of women written out of history. Ni Ghríofa raises them all and conducts her dance of the dead as if she wishes to be with them or they with her.

An Post Irish Book Awards » Doireann Ni Ghriofa

(Irish Book Awards)

She mourns the silences that punctuate these women’s lives, the gaps in the text unfilled, like Sappho’s fragmented poems, like missing jigsaw pieces, locks without keys. We will never know what Eibhlín Dubh felt or thought upon returning to her family home, a widow at fifteen and again in her twenties. A woman’s history is one of absence. But Ní Ghríofa, with a tenderness that is heart wrenching, resurrects every passing female figure, the lady gardener, the wives of Eibhlín's sons, the servant girls terrified by the mad men, the mare, no one is a passive character to her. Under her care they all become main characters, with their own stories and voices.

This is a female text.

‘How I wish that someone had thought more women’s words worthy of a place in that in that old secretaire. All the diaries and letters and ledgers I imagine in female handwriting, they must have existed once, until someone tidied them into a waste bin, tipping them neatly into oblivion.’

My notes for this review were a mess. My awe at this text was so wordless at times, all I could manage was a ‘page 91 so damn compelling’ or ’74-75 just…ugh’. Sometimes the prose literally just split my face in a grin, and I sat there smiling like a fool. That is the effect of this text. I was rendered momentarily illiterate, momentarily silent. Those who know Ní Ghríofa’s poetry will spot scenes that inspired some of her poetic work and will perhaps recoil a little at the goriness of the prose in these parts in comparison with the lyrical wandering of her poetry – I’m thinking specifically of ‘A Jaw Ajar’, one of my favourites. But nonetheless, fans will recognise the same brutal, interconnected, domesticity that hallmarks her poetry, the strange, feminine slant on seemingly everyday situations. Every word is laden with meaning, each sentence a thread pulled in a rich and unravelling tapestry.

The passion of Eibhlín lives within her, a safe vessel through which express her own constant longing and desire, insatiable, insurmountable, too old fashioned, too dramatic, too intense for this modern world. She gives us the shards of her soul, her story, herself and asks us not to fix it. To look at it in its parts, to construct our own whole, of how she had once been, of what she is now. It is through Eibhlín that we come to know Ní Ghríofa.

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(https://dublinbookfestival.com/beyond-the-tape-questions-with-dr-marie-cassidy/)

When you open Dr. Marie Cassidy’s new book, ‘Beyond the Tape’, you can feel her look you up and down, assessing whether or not you can handle what she is about to tell you. With a discerning, frank and removed gaze, she sizes you up – and decides to tell you anyway.

‘Forensic pathology is a problem-solving speciality, and this is the greatest problem to be solved; murder or not. No prizes for a correct answer. The possibility of being struck off the medical register for a wrong one. No pressure, then!’

With over thirty years as a forensic pathologist under her belt, Dr. Cassidy has more than a few stories to tell. The book starts with a bang, landing us in her early years of training as a doctor, and finding herself unsuited to the wards of the living, preferring the far less reputable (at the time) forensic pathologist mortuary. We leap from story to story, while she barely pauses for breath to contextualise us, setting the fast-paced tone that is laced with a dark and dry wit. She occasionally glances back at us, to check if we’re still there (we are, we’re just clutching our stomachs and hanging on to every word) before plunging back in.

Her voice doesn’t revel in the scenes she reveals to us, gory as they are. It is not a murder mystery documentary, nor a true crime show, glorying in the horrifying details. She strives to keep the tone matter of fact throughout, remaining removed, while lifting the curtain on a part of life that we’re morbidly curious about, but can hardly stand to look at. The cast of the dead rise through the years of her memories, reanimated in their final dark moments through her analysis.

‘The post-mortem is a snapshot of the last moments of life. It tells you the state of the organs at the time of death. Like looking at a photograph taken on a night out showing happy faces, but not the events leading up to it, or what happened next.’

She takes us to the dark underside of life and shines a light on the intricate processes involved in a suspicious and complex death. This is no courtroom drama – this is the part of the show that you don’t see; The delicacy required in the removal of the body, the dissections that discover or rule out the cause of death. We can almost smell the sharp sterility of her instruments as she lifts the veil on death and somberly beckons you forward to view.

This colourful and at times, suffocating account (fair warning), walks through the different kinds of death Cassidy has encountered over the years. The burned and battered bodies, the sadistic sexual assaults, the suspicious and strange strangulations – this is not a book for the faint of heart.

And yet, at its core, is Cassidy, approaching every death with an almost holistic approach. Her job is monstrous, and she recalls even prostitutes telling her they would hate to do it. And with the nightmarish mounds of bodies that builds up as her career unfolds, we have to agree. And yet, with each death, Cassidy gives each person their due dignity and is compassionate in her approach. There is an incredible science, creativity and tenacity that goes into the process of identification alone, never mind actual identification of the cause of death.

To her, the job is about bringing dignity to a horrific death, closure to the family, and seeing justice done for the deceased. While she is matter of fact about death itself, she is softer, and empathetic when discussing the people behind the deaths. One would have to appear removed, would have to develop coping mechanisms when surrounded with the evidence of how awful humans can be every day. She gives the victims the dignity of being known, not just as a murdered body, but as a person who had their life unfairly and unexpectedly ended. To her, the least she can give someone is the ‘how’ of their death. It’s the police that uncover the ‘why’.

‘There is never a happy ending in these circumstances, but at least a name had been restored to its rightful owner and the deceased returned to her family.’

A study of pathology and indeed, of death, Cassidy performs technical examinations before our eyes. He subject shifts every few pages, a new way to die, to be harmed, to look like an innocent death, but really have a suspicious underlying cause. These examinations begin broadly and slowly focus in more and more narrowly, like a microscope, until we get to the minute detail in her ‘body reading’ that pinpoints how this victim came to be.

Though Cassidy deals in death she holds people's lives in her hands. Both the living and dead. Their future identities, their future plans, whether they're guilty or not, all hinge upon her verdict. Will someone become a murderer upon her verdict? Or rather, a confirmed, and known murderer? Will the victim's widow grieve the rest of their days, thinking there might have been something they could have done, come home earlier, called to check in? The lives affected by her examinations of death are numerous.

‘The marks and injuries on a body speak as loudly to me as a voice. Like translating French, or sign language, I have been trained to interpret it. And I may have to think carefully about what I have seen and recorded before I can be sure that I’ve ‘listened’ to the deceased and understood exactly what happened to them.’

There are hopeful notes in this dark account. Cassidy herself, is one of them, as she overhauls the system, improving and reforming as she goes, to ensure justice is being carried out to the highest degree. That dignity and closure is given to the victims and their families. She details some of the experiments she is carrying out to bring forward the process of pathology, modernising it, making it more efficient, and more accurate all the time. And while this is not a book for those with a squeamish stomach (read: me), it is an utterly fascinating and eye-opening report on a world that is thankfully foreign to many of us. Cassidy opens the door to death and allows us to peek inside, if only for a few pages.

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Olive Stone is thirty-something, a top journalist, has amazing friends and is ‘child-free’. And right now, that one lack in her life is all she can think about.

 Her best friends since secondary school, Cecily, Beatrice and Isla, all seem to be moving on to a new stage in their lives. They’re all married, all expecting or trying for children and Olive can’t help but feel a little…behind. She has never wanted children, but as the friendships she considered rock-solid begin to crumble and she is asked to write an article as to why millennial women don’t want children, she begins to question all the choices she has made. And time is running out – isn’t it?

You would be right in thinking that this is a Dolly Alderton-esque kind of book. Brutally honest, deeply personal and thoroughly relatable, Emma Gannon’s columnist experience shines through in the snappy writing. Flashing back and forth between her present and her past, we see how Olive’s friendships with Isla, Cecily and Bea has developed from a constant thing in her life to something less solid as children and fertility struggles take over. Olive envisions herself as a bit of an outsider to all of this, having recently just broken up with a boyfriend of nine years due to the fact that she doesn’t want children. A the tight-knit security of friendship begins to unravel too, she finds herself increasingly frustrated by the all-consuming lifestyle of motherhood, when she needs her friends around her.

Olive, while witty, entertaining and relatable, is not the world’s most likeable protagonist. Her deep dive into the world of women who are ’Child-Free by Choice’ leads to many uncomfortable and painful moments, particularly for her friend struggling with fertility issues. She can be abrasive, her break up has her drinking too much at odd hours in the day and frustratingly wallowing her way through the post-break up period. But she is fiercely independent, a dedicated journalist, and an assertive person who generally tries to do the right things. But Olive isn’t supposed to be perfect. Women who don’t want to have children don’t have to be perfect in order for their choice to be valid. There doesn’t have to be one perfect reason or type of person who is the right type to deem that decision valid. It simply is, because it is their choice.

‘The more I try to hide it, the heavier it becomes. Each woman I know carries it – the shame – but it’s a different shape for us all. There is always a hidden shame related to motherhood; whether you want a baby, or you don’t, or whether you hate being a mother or whether you love it more than anything else in your life.’

The interrogation of this social issue is fully dissected and examined form every angle in this book. It is easy to see how Gannon’s own journalistic experience has fed this piece, with the investigative cultural journalism taking form in a very personal and people-centric, rather than simply political way. This is not just a book about women who don’t want children, though the exploration of this is refreshingly real. It is also a book that pushes back against ‘perfect mummy’ culture, explores how personal fertility issues seem to be open to public debate and de-romanticizing the frightening aspects of becoming a new mother.

And what is most important about this book’s approach to its subject is the fact that Olive’s decision is in no way made in connection to her friend’s choices. There is no moment when she looks at a friend’s baby and thinks ‘No, not for me.’ There is a deep love and understanding for mothers, a core appreciation of all that they accomplish and sympathy for all they go through. Gannon holds modern parenting up to the light and examines who takes on the loads of responsibility and emotional and physical care, what work can be like to go back to in a modern, intense work place, and how returning to work can be a frightening and panicking time after such a life change.

But at the fascinating heart of this book is the paranoia that Olive feels in admitting that motherhood just isn’t for her. Judgement surrounds this assertion like a flock of furious vultures, with close friends and family calling it phase, a selfish decision, that she’ll change her mind, that it’s because her dad left her, rather than an autonomous, conscious decision made by a woman who knows what shape she wants her life to take. People take an extremely personal affront to her choice, although it’s nothing to do with them, and no judgement on their personal choices. She grapples with the incorrect social idea that infertility is a refute to not having a child, and that child-free people should be ashamed about not using their bodies to reproduce. Gannon’s interrogation of these ideas as well as the rhetoric behind why society wants women to have children so badly is frightening and worryingly familiar in this modern world.h

'I’m sorry to say it Olive, but it is insensitive of you when so many women are struggling hugely with conceiving. Women whose eggs have not frozen properly. Bodies and wombs that are not working. You have a healthy womb…You have nothing to complain about. You’re pursuing needless drama’.

Societal dismissal of child-free women and the mental health struggles that come along with that decision, shines a light on a major gap in our collective social empathy. Instead of accepting this decision, there is a sense of the need to change or ‘fix’ them, to criticise their choices. There is almost an undertone of jealousy to it, the freedom that comes with that choice. But that attitude disregards that it is a difficult and lonely decision to make in these modern times, when friends and society are obsessed with your social progress as a mother and not your personal or career progress.

‘I know what it’s like to want something, to pine and long and cry for something. I have longed for boys who didn’t love me; I have longed for a new version of myself; longed for a dream job…But this lack of longing for a baby feels so lonely.’

Olive’s anguish could come across as melodramatic, but at the point she has hit in her life – her thirties – and having just broken up with a long-term boyfriend, the situation is tenuous. Her erratic behaviour becomes understandable the more people that crowd into her life to tell her that ‘you that you will change your mind’ and that ‘it’s just a phase’. And she does start to doubt herself, even though deep down in her gut she knows that this is not for her. But it is different for women. We have a very limited window in which to make this decision, especially when a serious relationship ends in our thirties. It puts pressure on an early and uncertain part of our lives, leaving no room for mistakes or taking back decisions.

‘Let go of your guilt, Ol. Women are made to feel guilty for everything. The food we eat, the bodies we have, the relationships that don’t work out. We must accept the challenge and refuse to take on this guilt.’

By navigating the awkward, honest conversations that real people are avoiding having with their friends, Gannon highlights the micro-aggressions, the passive-aggressive comments, the comparisons the jealousy and the insecurity that surround reproductive decisions. It isn’t bitchiness – it’s life, just a particularly charged aspect of it for a group of women in their thirties. These women, their children and their reproductive decisions are our vehicle to explore these huge questions and Gannon masterfully weaves them together to create a beautiful, varied and realistic tapestry of modern womanhood.

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‘I’ve always been inclined to live mostly inside my head. My own thoughts tend to consume me, ravish me, delight me or torment me. There is a lot to be said in favour of this approach to life. It is insulating.’

Dark, eccentric and unholy in its religious extremism. This is just a tasting palette of words that could describe Rachel Mann’s first novel ‘The Gospel of Eve’. An Anglican priest, poet and writer, Mann pens this piece in a style that is becoming increasingly popular; Dark Academia. A trend that started out on Tik Tok, it is inspired by books like Donna Tartt’s ‘Secret History’ and films such as ‘The Dead Poet’s Society’. Inherently gothic, it draws on the architecture and atmosphere of academia of Ivy League colleges and Oxford in the 1930s. Mann’s book indulges in this theme to the extreme, delivering a jaw-clenching, intellectual read.

 

‘The Gospel of Eve’ is an unsettling and atmospheric read and from the start. It is instantly clear that all is not quite right in the seminary of Littlemore, where Kitty Bolton is training to be a priest. We follow her through her first year in training in the surprisingly loosely moral-ed seminary that dwells in the looming shadow of the disused Victorian mental asylum next door. As Kitty navigates her first year there, she falls in with an academically intense and wonderfully dark crowd, who’s intelligence, extremism and upper class behaviour seem to separate them from the rest of the trainees.  Things begin to take a glorious and terrifying turn for her as she, in her awkward self-consciousness is accepted into their elusive and effortless folds.

A character obsessed with medievalism and the mediaeval church, Mann’s Kitty masterfully weaves her story in and around powerful and potent academic theory. The history and literature and liturgy that permeates this text is certainly accessible for anyone with an interest, but this is an extremely cerebral read, for anyone looking for something lighter. Voracious readers will appreciate the almost lust-like thirst for knowledge, the quest for it seductive and haunting throughout the book, causing people to go to dangerous and unthinkable lengths for it. As mediaeval practices become a focal point, not just in their studies but their daily lives, a persistent sense of dread hangs over the reader. Things begin to get stranger and stranger around the campus, the combination of sin, feverish scholars and the claustrophobic atmosphere of the seminary making a pressure bomb that explodes with implications not only for Kitty, but the wider Church as a whole.

Our eyes and ears into a world that we do not understand, Kitty is just as puzzled as we are by the games afoot and calculated insinuations that all is not as it seems. We follow along with her as she discovers the strange trails of blood mar the corridors and uncovers the strange rituals and symbols drawn into the backs of pages and palms. This author presents a new style of mystery novel, that is made all the more enigmatic by the fact that Kitty is an unreliable narrator. Constantly out of the loop, she is telling this story retrospectively and seems keen to redeem herself in this dark narrative. She is determined to come across as innocent in all the ploys playing out around her and yet she never seems gives us whole story or fully reveal herself. Keen to down-play certain aspects and hype up other ones, she points her finger in almost every direction but herself.

Keeping you guessing until the end, this mysterious and unusual text kept reminding me of a twisted version of Hogwarts; secret hideaways and strange symbols, books older than than time itself and a strange dormitory-like feeling. But this place is less warm and welcoming than the Harry Potter universe. Here, the students are grown up, tortured and bitter, the magic is replaced with self-mortification and the camaraderie shrivels when their worst fears begin to come true.

‘God sends us the people and the books and the art we need, if we are only wise enough to spot them’.

But what happens when dangerous knowledge falls into the wrong hands? When the interpretation of a text takes over lives, when knowledge is the most dangerous weapon one can wield? If the seven deadly sins could all be written into one book, this would be it. An examination of the monstrosities humans commit in the name of God, the place of feminism in the modern church and eccentric and alternative forms of Christianity, this hardcore theological mystery will keep nay dark academia lover hooked to the end.

An occasionally violent, often fanatical and always gothic read, the sense of creeping paranoia will stay with you after finishing this novel. Being drawn into a world so alien from our own, where theology is king and ancient tomes are worth your life – or even someone else’s – leaves the reader stumbling from its last page, disoriented, intrigued, and terrified by their hunger for more.

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I adore reading. I am happiest when I have a book in my hand, but I must admit I’ve been struggling to read during lockdown. My focus is wavering and I’ve struggled to find a book that has truly gripped me.

Until I picked up The Switch by Beth O’ Leary.

The charming story of a grandmother and granddaughter who trade lives is the feel-good story my heart needed during lockdown.

The Switch follows 79-year-old Eileen and her granddaughter Leena who are in dire need of a change. Leena has completely run herself into the ground in work and Eileen is uninspired by her quiet life at home.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The pair decide to trade places. Eileen heads to London to embrace the hectic city life Leena wants to escape from. Her granddaughter returns to a tiny Yorkshire village which is full of painful memories for her, but her time there will offer her a fresh outlook on life.

Eileen is eager to find a new love and Leena needs to switch off after she is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical, but stepping into one another's shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The Switch was one of the most touching stories I read this year. It was heartwarming, but emotional, witty and sentimental. It helped me see just how valuable our families are, especially our grandmothers. It left me yearning for a cup of tea at my Nanny’s house, something I’ve been missing since lockdown was introduced nearly ten weeks ago. It helped me treasure moments we’ve shared and will continue to share when this strange chapter of our lives comes to a close.

I resonated a lot with Leena and found myself daydreaming about living in a little cottage in West Cork, away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Leena’s experience will undoubtedly remind women of just how important it is to take a break. Us millennials can get whisked away in the career world and we don’t realise just how intense it can be until it has had a damaging impact on us.

The Switch is the perfect book to read on a sunny day so curl up in the garden and get ready to fall in love with this sweet tale. 

The Switch is published by Quercus Books.

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We have long been a fan of Shari Lapena so were thrilled to learn that she had a new book coming out this year. Someone We Know is her latest psychological thriller and as you might expect, it does not disappoint.  

The story is set in the affluent neighbourhood outside of Manhattan.  

In a tranquil, leafy suburb, the story unfolds – the focus is on four main families. The book opens on one family (the Sharpes’) whose eldest son has broken into their neighbours house for no other reason than he can. 

This initially seems like an act of a bored and rather foolish teenager, but it swiftly unravels into a key moment of a story that will enrapture your attention from the get-go.  

Image result for someone we know book

Meanwhile, their neighbour, Amanda Pierce has gone missing. Her husband Robert is an unlikeable piece of work, but seems distressed by her absence and after all, no-one really knows what goes on behind closed doors.  Very quickly the book turns into a murder investigation as Amanda Pierce is found by chance in the boot of her submerged car.

This is a story which reminds us that you never really know what goes on behind closed doors or what our neighbours are really like despite seeing them walking their dog in the morning and returning home from work in the evenings. 

From the outset there are many suspects who could have killed Amanda and the tension builds with each turn of the page. Despite the original friendships the book opens with, they quickly disintegrate as neighbour turns on neighbour to distance themselves from what the police are uncovering. 

This is a fast-moving psychological thriller that filled me full of intrigue and excitement. All in all, it’s a finely crafted read that held my attention nicely throughout and left me satisfied at the end.

Someone We Know is fast and twisty; full of intrigue, secrets, lies and murderous intent which you will race through.  

We highly recommend.

Published by Penguin Random House 2019.
 

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Summer is the perfect time to drag yourself out of a reading slump. I know how easy it is to give up on the book you’re reading and waste hours away watching Netflix. There have been many times when I’m curled up on my bed, with an episode of Queer Eye playing on my laptop, when all of a sudden I spot the abandoned book at the end of my bed.

I am the biggest bookworm, but I have to admit there have been days where I toss my book aside so I can binge watch a new medical drama or re-watch Gossip Girl for the thousandth time. However, my latest read has dragged me out of that lazy reading slump.

I picked up a copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society from my local charity shop for a mere €1. I’ve heard wonderful things about the historical novel, and once I discovered that it was an epistolary novel I knew it was going to be such an enjoyable read.

An epistolary novel is written as a series of documents, most commonly letters, which makes the reading experience that little bit easier as it feels more personal.

The story is set during 1946 where we meet Juliet Ashton, an accomplished writer. In the past, the writer has penned a book full of comedic columns that she wrote during the second world war under the pseudonym, Izzy Bickerstaff.

Juliet realises that it’s time to write a story under her own name and her creativity sparks when she receives a random letter from Dawsey Adams, a member of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which began as a cover for residents who broke curfew during the German occupation of Guernsey.

Juliet realises that this is a story the world needs to know and starts writing to the rest of the society.

After exchanging letters with the society for some time, Juliet decides to head to Guernsey to conduct research for her book, but her life will change drastically when she steps foot on Guernsey.

What you’ll love the most about this book is how the characters feel like old friends. The authors reveal so much about everyone in the novel in a subtle but powerful way.

Plus, the book is packed with information about World War II so history buffs will love it. There are times when details about the occupation of Guernsey can be a tad overwhelming, but they only add to the story.

The characters, the plot and the style of the book are a joy, but what really gets you is the lesson it teaches you.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society teaches us about the importance of standing up for others no matter what.

One character, in particular, Elizabeth McKenna, will show you that loyalty means everything, especially in times of distress. She showed me that you should never let anything or anyone strip you of your character, even in the darkest and most dangerous circumstances.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society published by Dial Press is available here.

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Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the one book you have to add to your reading list. This unusual heroine’s story will teach you the most valuable life lesson.

The best-selling novel by Gail Honeyman has captured the hearts of people around the world. Eleanor’s strange sense of humour, her dark past and blossoming friendship with Raymond the computer guy will make this book an addictive read.

Eleanor is a hopeless and lonely soul, who you can’t help but feel sorry for. The quirky protagonist is a welcome change from the stereotypical female characters.

She’s no girl boss or hopeless romantic, and that’s what we love about her. Eleanor lives a mundane and quiet life but you can’t help but want to find out more about this odd character.

The story follows the 30-year-old as she grapples with her troubled past, an obsessive crush and her hope for a brighter and ‘normal’ life

What keeps you reading is the mystery surrounding Eleanor’s past. From the get-go, Eleanor is portrayed as an odd individual, who is clearly dealing with the ghosts of her past. Gail Honeyman trickles hints about Eleanor’s history and her relationship with her mother in the early pages of this book, and as time goes by we learn more and more about her disturbing family life.

Despite the drama, what keeps you turning the pages is the main theme of the book, and that is the importance of being kind to others.

 

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Eleanor is often singled out by her office co-workers, who like to mock her and point out her flaws, but along the way, this glorious character meets people who only want the best for her like Sammy, Raymond and Laura.

The book shows us that no matter how many battles life throws at you, you will get your happy ending one day, even if it does take longer than you hoped.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine published by Harper Collins is available to buy now. 

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