I have read a number of Matt Haig’s novels, and enjoyed them very much. This is a memoir, in the main, with elements of self help. In his early twenties Matt had a major episode of depression and anxiety, and they have been with him ever since. This is his story of how he has felt, and what has helped him to stay alive, and find enjoyment in life again. It’s funny, sad, thoughtful and life affirming. The helpfulness of any book depends on the reader, of course, but as someone who doesn’t struggle with depression or anxiety, I appreciate the window into someone’s experiences with them.
Thomas Major is a grumpy, forty something year old man who volunteers for a one way trip to Mars. His life has been unhappy and confusing, and he is keen to turn his back on earth and its people. By strange co-incidence, he is in contact with a family who will challenge his views of the world, and himself. Full of quirky characters, crazy antics, high drama, and heart-warming triumphs, this is a fun and uplifting read. For fans of A Man Called Ove.
This contains the final two books in the Patrick Melrose series – Mother’s Milk and At Last.
Mother’s Milk: After his breakthrough at the end of Never Mind, Patrick, now married with two sons, is struggling again; with inheritance, his marriage, his mother and parenthood. So sharp, delicious, painful, real, and delightful.
At Last: The final Patrick Melrose novel, and how I will miss him. Patrick is as bitingly clever as ever, and still working on gaining some equilibrium. The gathering at his mother’s funeral highlights the foibles of the upper class, the passions and fixations that hold people back, the complexities of living with past trauma, and the sparks of hope that keep us going.
This entire series is deeply insightful, witty, horrific, and brilliant.
In 1799 a Dutch clerk, Jacob de Zoet, arrives on Dejima, an island connected to Nagasaki, when all of Japan is closed to foreigners. Jacob needs to earn some money before he can return to the Netherlands, and the woman he is to marry. Instead, he falls in love while the world is changing. Like all of the David Mitchell novels I have read, this is beautiful, clever, lyrical, and wondrous. There’s also an awful lot of man stuff; sea voyages, men talking rubbish to each other, but it is a tale of love, faithfulness, adventure and learning.
Patrick Melrose is now 22, and on his way to New York to pick up His father’s ashes. We spend two days with him there, as he bombards his body with a frightening amount of drugs, and wrestles with himself, his acquaintances, and the world. It’s black, funny, and so very clever. You will need a strong stomach….
Life lessons from the master Houdini makes for an interestng read. Terry has lost his way and after meeting Hal is introduced to the life of Houdini, focusing on his time spent in Australia. The author’s fasciniation with Houdini is very evident. The premise of the story was good but the emotions of the characters were flat, making it just an OK read.
An older man makes his last move, from a capital city (not named, but Melbourne) to a small town on the border, and ponders. This short book is a report of his thoughts; reflections on light and mental images, with lots of references to coloured glass, being Catholic, and horse racing. There is little emotion, some coherence and no actual plot, so it was just some quality in the writing that kept me going.
There’s a lot to love about this book. In 1922 a Russian aristocrat is sentenced to house arrest in a luxurious hotel, spending the next thirty or so years of his country’s upheaval, confined to the hotel with a cast of quirky, loveable, dastardly, glamourous, powerful, and heart-warming characters. There are some beautiful, funny, and moving scenes as the well-travelled young man finds new worlds opened to him, while he cannot leave the hotel, though I found it surprisingly slow to get through, unlike The Rules of Civility.
It’s always a bit disappointing when you don’t enjoy the latest novel as much as earlier ones. The Sparsholt Affair begins in 1940s’ Oxford, then jumps forward in blocks of time, and changes perspective, until it gets to the current day. I was certainly sorry to leave Oxford behind, a favourite setting of mine, and I don’t think my interest was wholly recaptured. It reminded me a little of The Heart’s Invisible Furies, as it follows the lives of gay men across this period of history, but without the depth of understanding, and attachment, that comes from having one protagonist. It’s about complicated relationships, art, London, and secrets. I didn’t love it, but I did enjoy it.
I was more than half way through, when I realised I really didn’t like Lolita. A grown man’s destructive obsession with a young girl, leading them down a terrible path, makes for a disturbing read. The language is beautiful, but it is so dark and creepy that I couldn’t wait for it to be over.