Review: Death In Her Hands – Ottessa Moshfegh

Death In Her Hands

Ottessa Moshfegh

Jonathan Cape:

Penguin Random House Australia

ISBN: 9781787332201

 

Description:

From author of Eileen and My Year of Rest and Relaxation, a novel of haunting metaphysical suspense.

 

While on her daily walk with her dog in the nearby woods, our protagonist comes across a note,

handwritten and carefully pinned to the ground with stones. Her name was Magda. Nobody will ever

know who killed her. It wasn’t me. Here is her dead body.

Shaky even on her best days, she is also alone, and new to this area, having moved here from her

long-time home after the death of her husband, and now deeply alarmed. Her brooding about the

note grows quickly into a full-blown obsession, as she explores multiple theories about who Magda

was and how she met her fate. Her suppositions begin to find echoes in the real world, and the fog of

mystery starts to form into a concrete and menacing shape. But is there either a more innocent

explanation for all this, or a much more sinister one – one that strikes closer to home?

In this triumphant blend of horror, suspense, and pitch-black comedy, we must decide whether the

stories we tell ourselves guide us closer to the truth or keep us further from it.

 

Praise for Ottessa Moshfegh:

‘Her stories are depraved, profound, and bleakly, wickedly funny. To read her is to be unsettled.’

Daily Telegraph

‘Viciously funny… Moshfegh’s writing is as lethally efficient as a flick-knife.’

The Times

‘A writer of rare talent and assurance.’

Financial Times

‘Super abundantly talented…Moshfegh’s sentences are piercing and vixenish …

she is always a deep pleasure to read.’

New York Times

Ottessa Moshfegh is the author of McGlue (2014); Eileen, which was awarded the 2016

PEN/Hemingway Award and shortlisted for the Booker Prize; Homesick for Another World (2017);

and My Year of Rest and Relaxation (2018), which was shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize.

 

 

My View:

Curious, disturbing and uncomfortable. Perhaps all I can do is share my feelings about this book rather than try to give any sort of cohesive review – as I found this book…strange.

 

To begin, I really enjoyed the first part of the book – I enjoyed meeting the protagonist Hesta, hearing Hesta’s perspective of her life and what is happening around her in a stream of consciousness style of ramblings. But after while I felt like I could skip whole pages and not miss anything… it is a short read, I did continue on, waiting for the “gothic” tones or comedy to make themselves known. If they were there, I missed them (maybe in those pages I skipped) 😊

 

I read on, the drama and the tension build as Vesta spiralled between revealing moments of clarity as she reflected on her marriage and life, to ever increasing moments of paranoia. I finished the book.

 

The ending was unsettling ( no spoilers here) but a strange thing occurred to me as I sat an contemplated what this book meant and how I would attempt to review it (badly), this really was a pretty powerful reflection of life; on expectations of living a good life and what compromises that means, on sanity/insanity,  on aging and loneliness, regrets, anger and of the slow decent into paranoia and or dementia.

 

So… it was powerful, made me feel uncomfortable and did make me think. Did I enjoy reading this? First instinct is to answer no, but upon deeper reflection, perhaps I enjoyed a little of it, its is obvious this author can write well but it did lose my attention part way through; I rarely flick through or by pass entire pages… but in this novel I did. Would I recommend this read…probably not in these times of pandemic where something lighter is more palatable. But if you are looking for a challenge, for depth, for deep, meaningful conversations with the author, perhaps you could give this book a try.

 

 

 

 

 

#FridayFreebie : Better Luck Next Time – Kate Hilton

Better Luck Next Time

Kate Hilton

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760878085

RRP $29.99

Description:

A generational family comedy for fans of EligibleThis Is Where I Leave YouHeartburn and television’s This Is Us

It isn’t easy being related to a feminist icon, especially when she’s celebrating the greatest moment of her storied career.

Just ask the daughters of Lydia Hennessey, who could have it all if only they’d stop self-destructing. Mariana, the eldest, is on the verge of throwing away a distinguished reputation in journalism, along with her marriage. Nina, the middle daughter, has returned from a medical mission overseas as a changed woman but won’t discuss it with anyone. And Beata, the youngest, has a hostile teenaged son who just discovered the existence of a father who didn’t know about him either. Meanwhile, their cousin Zoe is making divorce look like a death match, while her brother, Zack, is grappling with the fallout from his popular television dramedy, which is based far too closely on Lydia herself.

It might be easier to find their paths if they could step out of Lydia’s shadow—but the biggest women’s march in history is underway, and Lydia and her family are at the centre of it.

Over the course of an eventful year, the Hennessey children contend with the big struggles of midlife: aging parents, raging teens, crumbling marriages and bodies, new loves and the choice between playing it safe or taking life-altering risks. And as they inch toward a new definition of happiness, they might even persuade their parents—and themselves—that they’re all grown up.

 

**Giveaway ** I have 2 copies of this engaging, sometimes hilarious, honest and entertaining read to give away.  Its easy – in the comments tell me the name of the eldest daughter. I will randomly select and then email 2 winners – entries close 26th June 2020   **This giveaway is for Australian residents only**

 

 

 

Review: Little Disasters – Sarah Vaughan

Little Disasters

Sarah Vaughan

Simon & Schuster Australia

RRP $29.99

ISBN: 9781471194900

 

Description:

A new thought-provoking novel exploring the complexity of motherhood and all that connects and disconnects us.

 

You think you know her…but look a little closer.

 

She is a stay-at-home mother-of-three with boundless reserves of patience, energy, and love. After being friends for a decade, this is how Liz sees Jess.

 

Then one moment changes everything.

 

Dark thoughts and carefully guarded secrets surface—and Liz is left questioning everything she thought she knew about her friend, and about herself. The truth can’t come soon enough.

 

 

My View:

This is a very a very relatable read – it will make your skin prickle with recognition; uncomfortable, yes – maybe you have been (in various degrees) on one or the other “side” of the issues raised in this provocative read.  There is something here for all to think about, take away and learn from.

 

This is a great read; complex, engaging and thought provoking, intelligent.

 

Review: The Cake Maker’s Wish – Josephine Moon

The Cake Maker’s Wish

Josephine Moon

Penguin

Michael Joseph

ISBN:  9780143792017

 

Description:

Life in the village isn’t always sweet and simple . . .

 

When single mum Olivia uproots her young son Darcy from their life in Tasmania for a new start in the English Cotswolds, she isn’t exactly expecting a bed of roses – but nor is she prepared for the challenges that life in the picturesque village throws her way.

 

The Renaissance Project hopes to bring the dwindling community back to life – to welcome migrants from around the world and to boost the failing economy – but not everyone is so pleased about the initiative.

 

For cake maker Olivia, it’s a chance for Darcy to finally meet his Norwegian father, and for her to trace the last blurry lines on what remains of her family tree. It’s also an opportunity to move on from the traumatic event that tore her loved ones apart.

 

After seven years on her own, she has all but given up on romance, until life dishes up some delicious new options, she didn’t even know she was craving.

 

An uplifting and heart-warming story about the moments that change your life forever, human kindness and being true to yourself.

 

 

My View:

If you are anything like me at the moment you appreciate a piece of heart-warming escapism in your reading choice and this book based on cake making is the perfect, temporary antidote to the ills of the time.

 

I love the ideas of the “Renaissance Project”  and the narrative successfully transports us to modern day English village lifestyle and times, the trials and tribulations of being an “outsider” and demonstrates how to mend bridges by simply showing an interest and caring about those around us.

 

This book is packed with “themes” for you to unlock and consider, and a love story or two and a bit of history/mystery for you to ponder.

 

 

 

 

Review The Museum of Forgotten Memories- Anstey Harris

The Museum of Forgotten Memories

Anstey Harris

Simon & Schuster Australia

ISBN: 9781471194610

RRP $29.99

Description:

*** The wonderful new novel from the acclaimed author of The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton ***

 

One summer.

One house.

One family learning to love again.

Cate Morris and her son, Leo, are homeless, adrift. They’ve packed up the boxes from their London home, said goodbye to friends and colleagues, and now they are on their way to ‘Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – to stay just for the summer. Cate doesn’t want to be there, in Richard’s family home without Richard to guide her any more. And she knows for sure that Araminta, the retainer of the collection of dusty objects and stuffed animals, has taken against them. But they have nowhere else to go. They have to make the best of it.

But Richard hasn’t told Cate the truth about his family’s history. And something about the house starts to work its way under her skin.

Can she really walk away, once she knows the truth?

 

Praise for Anstey Harris

‘Glorious on so many levels’ A J Pearce, author of Dear Mrs Bird

‘Full of hope and charm’ Libby Page, author of The Lido

‘A hymn to friendship, to getting back up and finding happiness where none seemed possible’ Katie Fforde

‘An indulgently emotional and beautifully written story about new starts’ Daily Mail

‘Brilliantly and movingly written’ Dorothy Koomson

‘A beautifully tender portrait of the complexity of love, the depths of loneliness and the healing power of friendship’ heat

‘A gorgeously written, heartfelt tale about love and loss’ Good Housekeeping

‘Impressively powerful’ Claire Frost, Fabulous Magazine

‘As elegant and uplifting as a classical sonata, with added kick from its unforgettably quirky characters. I was both engrossed in and moved by this fabulous debut’ Catherine Isaac, author of R&J Book Club pick You Me Everything

‘A moving, beautifully written, uplifting debut about mending broken hearts through friendship. The twists and turns make it impossible to put down’ Sarah J. Harris

 ‘What a total joy!’ Fanny Blake

‘This book was so different from anything I’ve read before… it was beautiful, uplifting and really taught me a thing or two … The characters are diverse, the setting beautiful and the subject matter unique’ Fabulous Book Fiend

‘An absolutely beautiful read’ Heidi Swain

‘I adored this book! Exquisitely crafted, it’s a compassionate, heart-wrenching and ultimately uplifting tale. An absolute triumph’ Fionnuala Kearney

 

My View:

Delightful!

 

I don’t know which element of this book I enjoyed the most; the characters are written with charm, eloquence and humanity, the settings are superb –  I could see the crockery shining on the table, the silverware polished, gleaming, the stately home in all its run down glory, the gardens, the statues, the exhibits, the clothes Leo wears…the towns people, the village….what an incredible story teller Anstey Harris is.

 

Then there is the narrative- complex yet simple to digest, heart-warming yet not saccharine, love stories, enduring and new and wrong and so right   – I inhaled this read in one sitting.

Brilliant.

Review: Elly – Maike Wetzel

Elly

Maike Wetzel

Scribe

ISBN: 9781925849165

RRP $24.99

 

Description:

A missing child is a nightmare for any family. But what happens when they come back?

 

Eleven-year-old Elly is missing. After an extensive police search she is presumed dead, and her family must learn to live with a gaping hole in their lives. Then, four years later, she reappears. But soon her parents and sister are plagued by doubts. Is this stranger really the same little girl who went missing? And if not, who is she?

 

Elly is a gripping tale of grief, longing, and doubt, which takes every parent’s greatest fear and lets it play out to an emotionally powerful, memorable climax. It is a literary novel with all the best qualities of a thriller.

 

 

My View:

Sparsely written, staccato in style – a story of loss, grief, desperation and the longing for completeness, of family.

This is a quick yet powerful read; there is a darkness buried deep in our soul that is slowly pared back, revealed by the knife of grief and longing.  The sister and her desire to “claim”, reinvent a new sister, the family unit in its desperate need to believe that the “returned” child is their own, that child’s need for the comfort and completeness of “family”.

 

An extraordinary and unsettling read.

 

PS – the cover is perfect – subtle yet evocative.

Review: Fauna – Donna Mazza

Fauna

Donna Mazza

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760876302

RRP $29.99

 

Description:

A compelling near-future literary novel, psychological thriller and family drama

 

‘Fauna lays bare an electrifying genetically re-coded future so real, so terrifying, so close, I can feel its baby breath soft against my cheek.’ Robyn Mundy, author of Wild Light

 

‘Mazza’s novel asks hard questions, yet brims with compassion. A thrilling, unsettling read.’ Paddy O’Reilly, author of The Wonders

 

Set 17 years into a very recognisable future, Fauna is an astonishing psychological drama with an incredible twist: What if the child you are carrying is not entirely human?

 

Using DNA technology, scientists have started to reverse the extinction of creatures like the mammoth and the Tasmanian Tiger. The benefits of this radical approach could be far-reaching. But how far will they go?

 

Longing for another child, Stacey is recruited by a company who offer massive incentives for her to join an experimental programme called LifeBLOOD. As part of the agreement, she and her husband’s embryo will be blended with ‘edited cells’. Just how edited, Stacey doesn’t really know. Nor does she have any idea how much her longed-for new daughter will change her life and that of her family. Or how hard she will have to fight to protect her.

 

Fauna is a transformative, lyrical and moving novel about love and motherhood, home and family – and what it means to be human.

 

 

My View:

This is faultless writing; engaging, provocative, realistic and emotive.

 

There is little more I can add except to urge you to read this poignant “what if” narrative.

 

Review: The Gilded Cage – Camilla Läckberg

The Gilded Cage

Camilla Läckberg

Harper Collins Publishers

ISBN: 9780008283735

 

Description:

All that glitters…

 

People would kill to have Faye von Essen’s life. She lives in an ultra-swanky apartment in the most exclusive area of Stockholm, she has a gorgeous husband who gives her everything she’s ever wanted, and she has an adorable daughter who lights up her world. Faye’s life is perfect.

 

So how is it, then, that she now finds herself in a police station?

 

The truth is that Faye’s life is far from what it seems. The truth is that Faye isn’t even her real name. And now she’s been caught out. There’s no way she’s going to go down without a fight. The only question is – who will escape with their life?

 

 

My View:

I found it took me a little while to get “into” this novel. I think the translation was part of that reason – the style a little formal, a little clunky in places.

 

This is a narrative that illuminates the issues many women still face in life today – as being seen a possession, as having a “use by date”, of being “invisible” in the workplace, of not being given credit for ideas/work done. For highlighting and discussing those issues I applaud this read.

 

It is also a very cleverly constructed story of survival and revenge. At times you will find yourself silently applauding the protagonist, its that kind of read. The downfall for me however was that I generally did not like the main characters. I did not like their seeming obsessions with meaningless sex – although I thought just occurred to me – was this the authors deliberate intention – to demonstrate how a set of behaviours – sexual conquests – is mostly accepted in male characters but frowned on in women’s behaviour?  Interesting…clever.

 

An interesting read.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Seven Lies – Elizabeth Kay

Seven Lies

Elizabeth Kay

Hachette Australia

Sphere

ISBN:9780751578126

RRP $32.99

 

Description:

Jane and Marnie have been inseparable since they were eleven years old. They have a lot in common. In their early twenties they fell in love with and married handsome young men. But Jane never liked Marnie’s husband. He was always so loud and obnoxious, so much larger than life. Which is rather ironic now, of course.

 

Because if Jane had been honest – if she hadn’t told those lies – then perhaps her best friend’s husband might still be alive . . .

 

This is Jane’s opportunity to tell the truth and, as she narrates their shared history and unpicks each of her seven lies, she reveals the pockets of darkness that have infiltrated their friendship and the toxic secrets still bubbling beneath. It’s a novel about obsession, grief, the dark corners of even the closest friendships and what it means to tell your version of the truth.

 

 

My View:

This is a very disconcerting yet mesmerising read.  The friendships and various relationships depicted in this narrative feel real and everyday yet the behaviour of the protagonist, who slowly morphs into the antihero, (an unusual development in itself) starts out as benign (who wouldn’t tell a little white lie to protect a friend/friendship?) and ends up scarily obsessive and destructive.   The author takes us on a strangely unique journey – from best friend to toxic friend…from the point to f view of the toxic partner.

 

This is a very engaging read and one where a simply depicted act of revenge is disconcerting and horrifying. Snap – a life is over.  This is a very unsettling read.

 

 

Review: Small Mercies – Richard Anderson

Small Mercies
Richard Anderson
Scribe
ISBN: 9781925849707

Description:
A husband and wife living on a severely drought-afflicted property take a brief break, only to find that their relationship is parched, too.

After enduring months of extreme drought on their modest freehold, farming couple Dimple and Ruthie face uncertain times on more than one front. Ruthie receives the news every woman dreads. Meanwhile, a wealthy landowner, Wally Oliver, appears on the local radio station, warning small farmers like Dimple and Ruthie that they are doomed, that the sooner they leave the land to large operators like him, the better. Bracing for a fight on all fronts, the couple decide to take a road trip to confront Oliver. Along the way, not only is their resolve tested, but their relationship as well.

Desperate not to dwell on the past but to face up to the future, Dimple and Ruthie make a crucial decision they soon regret. And when the storm clouds finally roll in across the land they love, there’s more than the rain to contend with.

Told with enormous heart, Small Mercies is a tender love story. It is a story of a couple who feel they must change to endure, and of the land that is as important as their presence on it.

My View:
Richard Anderson does not disappoint! What a versatile writer able to easily cross the divide of mystery /suspense (Retribution, Boxed) to evocative small-town drama set in realistic physical, economical, moral and political landscapes. This was an engaging and thought provoking read, storytelling at its best, nuanced and credible.

Anderson writes Australian outback with a clarity that comes from personal experience. “Richard Anderson is a second-generation farmer from northern New South Wales. He has been running a beef-cattle farm for twenty-five years, but has also worked as a miner and had a stint on the local council.” (GoodReads author page). The narrative feels biographical, I am sure there are elements of Richard’s own experience of life events, big and small, of farming and local politics that inform his writing. It is in the subtleties of these details of everyday life that Anderson’s writing soars. You can easily place yourself in the setting, in the emotions, in the relationships.

Against this backdrop of hardship and drought a finely drawn story of enduing love is exposed. We are privy to the self-talk and the situations, good and difficult, that all relationships face in varying degrees and we hang in there with them as they struggle to move forward in very difficult circumstances. I really like that this narrative is about mature age, long term married, likable characters, complete with wrinkles and a good dose of humanness. Anderson has taken such care in his portrayal of this couple that we feel privileged to know them and want them to thrive.

This is a timely written narrative with many contemporary social, economic, and personal issues that could be playing out live in a country or regional town near you. This is great reading. I loved it.