The Shock of the Fall – by Nathan Filer

8 06 2018

Matthew is about 19 when he tells us this story, at least, I think he is, but it jumps around a lot it gets quite hard to follow.
When he was younger, his brother Simon died on a family holiday – we don’t get many details until later in the book, but it’s done real damage to Matthew. He’s gone between living on his own, being in psychiatric wards, other care places, to be honest it’s quite hard to follow. He also still sees Simon around… and avoids taking his medication to keep seeing him.

There’s a computer available to him in one of the places and he’s writing his story, which in places is what we read – I think that’s what the bits in typewriter font are meant to be, but I’m not sure, it’s quite hard to follow. You’ll notice I’m repeating myself, he does that a lot too, so I quite liked the idea of adding it in here!

The book flashes back to his childhood with his brother, to that holiday, to the time after, all through to the present day, but not always in any given order, and he can jump somewhere for a paragraph then jump back to where he was just before. It’s quite hard to follow.

It’s not a bad book, but I don’t know that I’d rave about it. I’d probably put it at the good end of average, or the average end of good.

That said, there was a line I really liked: “Reading is a bit like hallucinating”. I’d never thought of it that was before!

He also talked about the worst thing about his illness was that it made him selfish. I think that’s something true of a lot of people with mental health issues (me included) – I think sometimes you have to be selfish, in order to look after yourself, but actually that can be one of the hardest adjustments!

A decent book, but probably not one I’ll reread….!

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The Handmaid’s Tale – by Margaret Atwood

22 05 2018

I haven’t seen any of the TV show, but the premise sounded interesting enough to give it a go, and I’m *mostly* glad I did.

The book focuses on a society where due to some war or radiation poisoning or something, most women are infertile, and so couples often take a woman into their home to conceive a child for them. These women dress head to toe in red other than their white caps to hide their hair, they are not known by their real names, and live a minimal existence – they’re seen as above the servants, but definitely below the wives. Society is such that all reading is illegal, any beautifying is not permitted, and the Handmaids are not allowed to chat, talk or communicate with each other beyond greetings and goodbyes really. It’s not just the handmaids who are uniformed though – wives dress all in blue, servants in green (I think!)

I found the introduction by the author fascinating. She said that when writing the book (in the 1980s) she decided that she didn’t want anything happening in the book which had not already happened somewhere in history. This is bizarre when the novel sounds completely dystopian, but she gives the examples of Jacob and Rachel in the Bible: “When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.”” – Genesis 30 vv 1-3.

Through the whole book we never learn our lead characters name. She talks us through life in the household of the Commander and his wife, whilst giving flashbacks to “normal” life several years before, before everything changed, and everything in between.

The author had a really odd way of only using quotation marks for dialogue when it was “present day”, so all the memories shared, which is a good proportion of the book, take a while to get used to – working out what’s narration and what’s dialogue!

The only bit I didn’t like about the book was the ending, I won’t give things away other than to say it was wholly unsatisfying – a real shame when the rest of the book was so strong!


**UPDATE**
I was talking to a friend of mine after posting this and saying how I didn’t like the ending. She asked if I’d read the epilogue. I asked what epilogue?
It turns out that the “Historical notes” at the back of the book which I chose to skip is actually an epilogue and part of the story…! A bit more satisfied now.





The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett (UNFINISHED)

6 05 2018

I picked up this book in a charity shop because Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books are raved about, and this is the first in the series. I got about 100 pages in before I gave up. I’m told later books are better and this one is more scene setting, but in 100 pages barely anything happened, and I just didn’t care about the things that did.

The book is split into four sections, and so when I reached the end of the first one, I admitted defeat, I just didn’t care enough to carry on. If you enjoyed this book, I do apologise – maybe one day I’ll try a different one in the series from recommendations I’ve been given…

For now I’m looking forward to trying something different.





Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – by Gail Honeyman

19 04 2018

The main reason I bought this book is that it appeared EVERYWHERE. Every time I was in a shop I saw it, or at least that’s what it felt like! I read the back and thought it sounded like it was worth giving a go.

Eleanor is a woman of routine. She wears the same clothes, eats the same food, drinks the same vodka. You would be justified for thinking she’s a bit autistic, she certainly struggles with interaction with people, but before long you see that there’s clearly something dramatic in her past which has affected her greatly, but it’s only revealed little by little as you go.

Very funny in places, heartbreaking in others, very engaging overall!

The only thing I will say, I don’t want to put spoilers so I’ll try to keep this vague, but if you find you struggle with triggers regarding suicide attempts, it’d be best to maybe give this a miss.

There was a line, just a throwaway comment that I found fascinating!
“Eyelids are really just flesh curtains. Your eyes are always ‘on’, always looking; when you close them you’re watching the thin, veined skin of your inner eyelid rather than staring out at the world.”





How not to be wrong, the hidden maths of everyday life – by Jordan Ellenberg

30 03 2018

Over 2 months on a book isn’t going to help at all with my 30 books in a year, but I promise it was a good book!

It’s full of interesting thoughts on lotteries, perspective, statistics, music, correlation, voting systems, sports, all sorts! Complicated in places, but he always starts a section at a level we can all understand, and at some points I just had to just read the words to get to the point I understood the next bit, but it’s all written in a way that makes it fairly easy to read!

That all said, it was lovely to delve back into the world of maths, stretching my brain, seeing what I could remember, and enjoying some of the common sense that is shared.

As with any book of this sort it is of course full of gems, so here are some I particularly enjoyed:

  • “Dividing one number by another is mere computation; figuring out what you should divide by what is mathematics.”
  • “Improbable things happen a lot.”
  • “The natural logarithm is the one you always use if you’re a mathematician or if you have e fingers.”
  • “Mathematics as currently practised is a delicate interplay between monastic contemplation and blowing stuff up with dynamite.”
  • “In real life, mathematicians are a pretty ordinary bunch, no madder than the average.”
  • “I’ve found that in moments of emotional extremity there is nothing like a math[sic] problem to quiet the complaints the rest of the psyche serves up.”
  • “I encourage you to write directly in the book, if it’s not borrowed from the library or displayed on a screen.”
  • “An inelegant axiom is like a stain in the corner of the floor; it doesn’t get in your way, per se, but it’s maddening, and one spends an inordinate amount of time scrubbing and scouring and trying to make the surface nice and clean.”
  • “Genius is a thing that happens, not a kind of person.”
  • “[The stereotype is that mathematicians are] determined to compute everything to as many decimal places as possible. It isn’t so. We want to compute everything to as many decimal places as necessary.”
  • “Mathematics, the extension of common sense by other means.”





The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year – by Sue Townsend

21 01 2018

The title is incredibly appealing… Shortly after Christmas I watched a documentary on Sue Townsend and remembered this had been on my shelf waiting to be read for ages 🙂

Eva Beaver (yup, that’s her married name) has just sent her twins Brian Jr and Brianne (yup, their Dad/her husband is called Brian) off to Uni and as soon as they’re gone, before her husband gets back, she goes to bed. It’s the first time she’s not had to be responsible for looking after her children and she’s going to make the most of it!

Of course, there are a few initial problems to resolve – bathroom, food, etc, and some marriage issues! Her mum and mother in law along with a handyman who she befriends all help with delivering food and keeping an eye on her, but gradually word spreads about the woman who doesn’t leave her bed, and people start wanting to know why. Is it spiritual? Does she have powers? Is she protesting something? People start coming to her for advice and camping out on the street. It feels a bit like that scene in Forrest Gump when he runs for no reason but people can’t cope with the idea there’s not *some* reason for it!

There’s some really weird stuff that goes on with various relationships and thought processes, but it wouldn’t be Sue Townsend if that wasn’t the case!





Some kind of wonderful – by Giovanna Fletcher

7 01 2018

My friend bought me this for Christmas, so it was a good book to start the year with.

Lizzy has been dating Ian for 10 years she was 18 and is desperately waiting for a proposal, so when that comes crashing down, she has to rediscover how to function on her own and see how much she’s changed in that time.

There’s no point trying to claim this is sophisticated literature, but it’s a comfortable, easy read (evidenced by the fact I read nearly 400 words in 6 days!), and it’s fairly warm and fuzzy. Definitely enjoyed it 🙂