Books of the Week: Voodoo, Violence, and a Bunch of Novels

It was a stressful week last week, but happily I was able to escape into some books. Reviews below.

The First Slap by Tara K.

The First Slap is an important book. I can see why it’s had such good reviews.

It’s a memoir of surviving domestic abuse, but it’s also more than that. Written in conjunction with two psychologists, it gives a professional, as well as a personal, view of each thing that happens in Tara’s life.

It moves through chapter by chapter, as things gradually get worse in Tara’s home life. It shows the steady creep of domestic abuse, how it can sneak up on you without you realising what’s happening until it’s too late.

At the end of each chapter two professionals weigh in to give their views on what is happening to Tara, and how to help people in similar situations.

Tara is also a social worker, and there is an interesting section on how her home life affected, and was affected by, her work.

It’s aimed at people who have lived through domestic abuse and the people who want to help them, with particular reference to South Asian communities like the one Tara is from.

However, I would recommend it for anyone who ever gets into a relationship. The first couple of chapters in particular are hauntingly cautionary: that stage of the relationship where you would insist to yourself that “He’s not abusive, he’s just… enthusiastic / jealous / having a hard time adjusting.”

It highlights how suddenly life can move from vague unease, some of the time, to worrying if you’re going to survive the night.

I enjoyed it and I made a lot of notes. Bohemiacademia is helping with the book’s promotion, so we’ll be sharing select quotes from it over on The First Slap – follow along there for more.

In the interest of being fair and unbiased, which I try to do even when we’re working on something, the book would benefit from seeing an editor. Like many self-published books, there are several typos and bits where the text doesn’t read as fluidly as it might.

Nonetheless I’d still recommend it, particularly if you have a personal or professional interest in domestic abuse, but also just if you’re a person in a relationship with another person, or if you have friends. So, everyone. I’d recommend it to everyone.

You can find out more and pick up a copy at

Culture and Religion: New Age Special Edition

Some time ago I adopted the contents of a philosophy library that was closing down, and I am gradually making my way through the journals.

I enjoyed this, particularly Adam Possamai’s paper on ‘Alternative Spiritualities and the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,’ which ties in nicely with some research I’ve been doing recently.

He also coins the phrase “intellectual bricolage à la carte,” to describe how people come up with their own spiritualities drawn from many different sources. (My fellow researchers at the University of South Wales are sick of the word ‘bricolage’ by now, since it forms part of the title of our current project, but I thought this was a nice turn of phrase.)

Douglas Ezzy on spell books as a ‘re-enchantment of everyday life’ is also worth a mention: an interesting look at the different ways in which witchcrafts are presented and interpreted, both by their practitioners and the world at large.

Wilde About the Girl by Louise Pentland

On Wednesday I was exhausted and stressed and several other superlatives, so instead of staying late in the office I came home, and instead of finishing the psychology of religion journal I had been reading I ran a bath and got in it with this novel, because sometimes you just have to.

The book was exactly what I wanted it to be: a frivolous distraction from the real world. It has it all: gossipy mums at the school gate, a will-they-won’t-they romance, friends falling out, some sad bits, and some happy bits.

It’s the reading equivalent of drinking a hot chocolate and eating a bowl of mac & cheese, which incidentally I did while I read it. If you need to not think about anything for a bit, this book does the trick.

Voodoo in Haiti by Alfred Métraux

This was pretty good, particularly considering that the author was an outsider anthropologist visiting Haiti in the mid-20th century. There were bits that made me cringe, but not as many as I’d have expected, and it didn’t make me hurl it across the room.

“Although neither Church nor State has succeeded in breaking the hold of Voodooism, tourism, on the other hand, in its most commercial forms is having a rapidly destructive effect.” – Interesting because I’m currently studying the effects of tourism on rituals at sacred sites.

It was, in summary, an interesting book. I learned some stuff from it. There are better books on Voodoo out there, but it’s not bad.

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter was beautiful, and got extra points because it matched my notebook. It was the kind of book I didn’t know existed: an intensely lovely story about the apocalypse happening, and London being swallowed underwater.

“It is bad, the news [on TV]. Bad news as it always was, forever, but worse. More relevant. This is what you don’t want, we realize. What no one ever wanted: for the news to be relevant.”

Tape by Steven Camden

Tape by Steven Camden was a cute YA novel about a romance that was meant to be, and for that reason it wasn’t really my cup of tea. But if you like sweet romances, you will adore this book.

Bed by David Whitehouse

Bed by David Whitehouse gave me the creeping suspicion that I might have read it before, but I wasn’t sure so I kept going. It’s about a man who weighs 100 stone and refuses to get out of bed for 20 years. (“I was what we all become, a by-product of the torture of ourselves.”)

To be honest, I was kind of bored throughout, but if you want to read something by Whitehouse, I would recommend his singularly excellent novel Mobile Library.

How to Be Famous by Caitlin Moran

How To Be Famous by Caitlin Moran was transcendent, but had so many errors that it was hard to concentrate on the storyline. Which was a shame, because it was excellent and hard-hitting and brutal and sweet.

Errors aside, however, this is a brilliant book, and despite the grating grammar, it nearly made me cry.

Say You’re Sorry by Karen Rose

Then I read Say You’re Sorry by Karen Rose, and I really, really, *really* hate to say this because she’s been one of my favourite authors since I was a teenager, but I think I might have outgrown her. 😭

What used to read like inspiration to me, now reads like gratuitous torture porn. Sad woman meets man who will Save Her, but she is also Strong and so can Save Herself, but it’s nice to have a little help along the way. There’s nothing wrong with that, I guess, but for me it’s beginning to tire. And that makes me sad, because it takes something away from a series I’ve treasured for almost 20 years.

Tell me about the books you love, or the books you’ve read recently. 


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