God I am stubborn.
Because despite a summer holiday (and now Autumn) sized hole in the middle of my book group blog posts, I am ploughing on. So perhaps less group, more personal challenge, I am going to get 11 books read and reviewed in 2011. Which means, I’ll be going through them without the originally intended monthly gap, and instead letting my reading, reviewing, then reading again flow with a bit more ease.
So if you love to be immersed in the printed worlds of other imaginations, keep your eyes open for the book group blog posts. They may come along erratically, but they will be along.
Here’s one review, long overdue, but recently featured in the gorgeous online dashing magazine. It’s here to get the ball rolling and blow away the book group tumbleweed.
We live in a digital age, but I read in a physical one. So there are some books, written by storytellers I already adore, that I open with great expectation – I treat them well, hold them gently and read them with tender, slightly obsessive, loving care.
And then there are some books that creep up on you, unknown, unassuming but full of promise. My rules of engagement with a book go out the window then, because I just can’t help myself. They come everywhere with me, get tucked into bags, bashed slightly, suffering creased spines and dog-eared pages.
One of those love it, lose yourself in it books is Little Gods by Anna Richards. Her first novel, it is spiked with colour, character and charm. Enthused with wit, dark humour and an unexpected warmth that swaddles the painful plotlines, making them just barbed enough to affect us, without overwhelming the reader with sadness. I love a book that swallows me whole and spits me out at the end having experienced something visceral. It starts with an explosion that rips through the street “like a birth,” and we carry that unsettled sensation throughout. From the very beginning you feel this book, as well as reading it. Aren’t all the best stories a felt experience?
Anna Richards’ debut is a literary world that I loved to live in, populated by rich, interesting characters and darkly comic lives. Little Gods tells the tall tale of Jean, described as freakishly large and cumbersome, a girl who does not fit the life she is born into. Her mother, Wisteria, conceives her not out of love, or even youthful foolishness, but a cruel desire to condemn a wounded soldier to an unhappy marriage. It’s a start in life that signals a childhood of abuse lived in a vacuum of kindness and love – so when she flourishes into a person of great tenderness, the truth of her beginning is even more remarkable.
Jean, together with her effortlessly beautiful friend Gloria, stride across the ocean to follow or find love. Stumbling, our heroine hopes to create a Jean-shaped space to exist and love in, but with mixed success. You see, moving across borders changes nothing but the view. We watch the how the dips and swells in her relationship with Gloria depict the politics of friendship, revealing how we often define ourselves by the people we surround ourselves with. So much of what Jean expects from her own life is in contrast to the easy attraction that the world feels for Gloria. Even though “everyone should be adored, in some small way, some time” when Jean’s heart is shattered it’s easy to question this sentiment. For the second time in her life, she suffers a devastating explosion – this rips through her emotional core, rather than reducing the world around her to rubble. But we continue to cheer for Jean – she becomes our champion, a fighter for the dispossessed, the displaced and the unloved.
Do yourself a favour, pay yourself a little kindness and read, love, and live in Little Gods for a little while.
Way back when the 5th book was announced, it had been something I was holding onto, waiting for the perfect moment to be able to sit down and devour. But there is never a perfect moment and time slips by without you realising, or even looking up to catch the seasons change and the leaves fall.
Here is my book group model, now nearly 3, and well on her way to being a prima ballerina. She has the good toes perfected. And a very healthy giggle. I forget now what she was laughing at – but it doesn’t matter. What does, is that I was there to capture it.
A review of Toni Morrison’s A Mercy coming soon. And it will have to be very soon. There are 6 books to follow it before I turn the page on 2011.