Books

Book Reviews: Four Novels

This month I’m focusing on making final edits to the novel I’ve been writing for the past year, before I submit it to some agents and wait to see what happens.

One advantage of this is that I get to read shitloads of novels in the name of research. As opposed to my usual method of just reading them for the hell of it.

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew QuickMatthew Quick writes beautiful, easy-to-read novels that describe the human condition in a quirky, well-presented way. The Good Luck of Right Now is no exception. I guessed the twist at the end long before it came, but this book isn’t really about the story. It’s about what it means to be human, what it feels like to be the odd one out, and how the power of friendship is one of the more underrated forms of love.

The book centres around Bartholomew Neil, a 39-year-old man who’s lived with his mother all his life. When she dies, Bartholomew is cut adrift, unsure what to do with his days now that she’s gone. Expanding on his mother’s dying fantasy that she was being looked after by Richard Gere, Bartholomew writes a series of letters to the actor in which he describes his various dilemmas and his journey towards building a new life for himself.

Tender, compassionate and beautiful, this is the kind of book you can revisit again and again.

Kimberly’s Capital Punishment by Richard Milward

Kimberly's Capital Punishment by Richard MilwardKimberly Clark is named after a hand dryer. Both her parents are dead, and she lives with her boyfriend Stevie, a puppylike boy-man who’s driving her gradually insane. But she doesn’t want to leave him, because that’d feel like dumping… well, a puppy. Instead she vows to become as obnoxious as she can, in a bid to get him to leave her. Unfortunately this plan ends in Stevie’s suicide, and Kimberly is so struck by this that she decides to put herself through the hell of total altruism to make up for it.

I had such high hopes for this book. It’s an excellent premise. But it’s just… boring. And badly written. And at times, really quite disgusting. Kimberly is the kind of irritating character for whom it’s difficult to feel any empathy. Her life is ridiculous and the book doesn’t do anything to redeem her. I got about 200 pages in and gave up; and it takes a lot for me to give up on a book.

Definitely not recommended.

My Real Children by Jo Walton

My Real Children by Jo WaltonPatricia is a nursing home. She’s old, losing her short-term memory, and spends her days looking back on her life. But what was her life?

Decades ago, the man Patricia loved asked her to marry him. It was one of those decisions that can truly change your life completely. And for Patricia, it did. But which way?

The book follows the dual lives of Pat and Trish, the two women Patricia might have been. It’s the kind of plotline that can easily go wrong, but Walton writes convincingly and clearly enough for it to work really well.

My Real Children is the kind of book that’ll make you think twice about your life decisions. Definitely one to read.

In Between Days by Andrew Porter

In Between Days by Andrew PorterA family is falling apart. The parents are divorcing, the grown-up kids are leading their own lives, one struggling with his choices and the other at college. And then tragedy strikes. Will it drive a wedge further between them, or will it bring them closer?

It’s the kind of trope that’s been done to death, but Porter does it well, and that makes the book worth reading. It’s also nice to have a gay character not being treated like some kind of extra-special anomaly. I think we need more of that in literature: diversity just being there, like it is in society generally.

It’s a novel about the power of love, and about those times when a person just needs to hide. In some ways it feels quite run-of-the-mill, but in others it’s a quite astonishing work of fiction. The number of intertwining storylines alone make for a solid and complex plot, which is the sort of thing that can be difficult to pull off.

Worth a read if you come across it, certainly.

What have you read this week? What do you think I should read next? 

Do you have a book you’d like me to review? Drop me a line through the Contact form.

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