Mrs Everything tells the story of Jo and Bethie Kauffman, two very different sisters growing up in Detroit in the 1950s. The novel tracks their lives over the decades and examines how both girls and their life choices were shaped by the culture and circumstances of the time. Over the course of the decades, the reader sees how wild, tomboyish Jo ended up becoming a stay at home mother while docile, well-behaved Bethie ends up diving head first into the countercultural movements of the sixties and seventies. Ultimately this novel is about the relationship between the two sisters and the ways in which people find different versions of happiness.
Such a Fun Age is a witty, sharp and compelling debut that centres around themes of privilege, power and self-perception, particularly the lies that we tell ourselves and others in order to make ourselves the hero of our own story. The novel begins with a confrontation between Emira, a young black babysitter, and a security guard who believes she is kidnapping her young, white charge. In the aftermath of this incident Alix, Emira’s well-meaning but utterly clueless boss, vows to befriend her. However, an unexpected connection between Alix and Kelley, Emira’s new, white boyfriend, sets off a chain of events that wreaks havoc on the lives of all concerned. This book was incredibly insightful and clever while still being a real page turner – definitely my top pick of February.
Everyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with Meg Wolitzer and so it’s no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed The Wife. The novel opens on Joan Castleman, the wife of famous novelist John Castleman, as they are flying to Finland so that he can accept a prestigious literary award. While on the plane, Joan resolves to leave her husband and the rest of the novel flashes back over their relationship and the sacrifices Joan has had to make to support her husband and keep their family together. The Wife is full of Wolitzer’s classic eye for detail and incredible ability to make the mundane details of a character’s life come alive.
In February my book club was feeling a bit depressed about the state of the world and so opted for Factfulness, a non-fiction book that shows how the world is actually much better than we perceive it to be and offers a tool-kit for seeing the world more ‘factfully’ in our day to day lives. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone who’s looking to give their critical thinking skills a bit of a tune up. I would also caution you to not skip the epilogue, it was incredibly moving and honestly my favourite part of the book.
Sticking to my resolution to read at least one classic a month that I hadn’t read before, in February I picked up One Hundred Years of Solitude. Unsurprisingly I loved this book and found myself totally immersed in the Buendia family and the weird, wonderful, magical realist world of Macondo. If you haven’t picked this one up yet because you’re worried you’ll be unable to distinguish between the dozens of Aureliano Buendias, fear not and press on!
If you’ve ever wondered what happened to Lolita when she grew up, this is the book for you. Putney tells the story of Daphne Greenslay, a young woman who was groomed by a family friend when she was nine years old and remained in a relationship with him into her late teens. Daphne has always viewed this relationship as a romantic one that could not be constrained by the conventions of age, but when motherhood and a conversation with a childhood friend leads her to start seeing this relationship in a very different light Daphne must confront her past and reckon with the impact that sexual abuse has had on her life, whether she realised it or not. Told from the split perspectives of Daphne, her abuser, Ralph, and her childhood friend, Jane, this book compellingly addresses the messy grey areas of consent, abuse and memory itself.
One Day is an unconventional love story that follows the lives of Emma and Dexter on one day a year, the anniversary of the day they met. This novel is heartwarming, hilarious, devastating and deals touchingly with themes of coming of age, addiction, friendship, parenthood, grief and the uncertainties and difficulties that come with getting older. It’s utterly heartwarming and wonderful and if you’re looking to feel all warm and fuzzy while crying your eyes out, this is the book for you.