Chuck Palahniuk has a saying: “Be clever on someone else’s dime. Being clever will never make your reader cry, laugh and probably won’t break their heart.” And this was what I was thinking throughout this novella - really, there was just no heart.
Alright, alright - so I’m a huge fan of Chuck Palahniuk and I’ve never read Fight Club. This book was only written 5 years after I was born (brace yourself - these book reviews might become even LESS timely because I read what I want, damnit.) What in the Tyler-Durden-lickin-Marla-repenting-spitting-in-rich-peoples-food-Sam-hell-is-this?
At just 14 years old, Turtle has already experienced trauma beyond most of us. Martin, her father, is a survivalist misogynist who loves her crookedly and dangerously. This novel is a dedication to seeing the world accurately, without veneer. The level of meticulous and beautiful detail Tallent weaves into his plot means that we miss little. We see it all.
The closest description I can give to the feeling that this novel gave me was the joyful uncertainty of IBS (and I'm sure that Reid will be psyched to know that I've made that comparison). But hear me out. You know something's wrong. You don't know what's causing it, you don't know how it's going to manifest itself - only that it will, and soon. You ain't gonna have any control, and you can't stop it. You feel a bit sick. This novel feels like a slow descent into that same feeling as it begins to spin uncontrollably away from you.
Jim Sams is our protagonist, a prime minister-cum-cockroach who has lived the world as a hated-being, a tiny spot on the pavement of Britain and has now woken up wearing the skin suit of the most powerful man in the country. The premise is ridiculous, but then again, so is the politics and it mirrors this quite perfectly.
On the first page, we learn that ‘Tequila Leila’ (as she’s known to her friends) is not at home, cuddled up in bed and warm, but instead she lies dead in a metal rubbish bin on the outskirts of Istanbul - a city which lives and breathes its own personality as loudly as the characters that live within it. We feel immediate devastation that this woman, a person who Elif describes with intimate detail, has met her end here. As Leila herself says: “She could not believe that her mortal existence was over and done with [...] Last night she had left her fingerprints on a whisky glass …”
This book is a beautifully crafted, bright and deep novel which addresses some really heavy subjects: toxic masculinity, fear, abuse, protection and growing up. And yet, it manages to deliver its lessons on the sly, distracting the reader with perilous plot and beautiful imagery until you hit the sucker-punch ending.
The Whitby Witches is a book about courage, history and magic. Two orphans are suddenly re-routed to Whitby to stay with Miss Boston - a spritely 90-something year old who walks up the famous 199 steps every day to keep her mind and body active. She needs this sharpness in spades as her friends start to die mysteriously, and the town that she knows and loves starts to crumble under a dark force.
Ghost Wall is a highly acclaimed, multiple prize-winning novel that’s been described as a ‘short, sharp shock that closes around you like a vice as you read it’. It’s a story about a modern family reliving the Iron Age; about family, about abusive situations, about friendship. But for me, it fell far short of the dazzling, ‘burnished gem’ of a book that I’d been promised.
In ‘Convenience Store Woman’, we follow this unusual protagonist as she battles through what society expects from her, and fights to secure her place at her beloved store when faced with someone who could rip it all apart.