Book Review: Little Bandaged Days by Kyra Wilder

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Little Bandaged Days is Kyra Wilder’s debut novel. It’s a difficult book to categorise into a genre.

Erika moves to Geneva with her two young children and husband for his career. A fantastic opportunity, but one which means Erika’s husband is never around. They rent a beautiful apartment, but Erika soon finds it small, claustrophobic, and isolating. Erika has nothing to do but care for her children, which soon becomes an unbearably heavy burden for her. Erika feels truly alone, and begins to question her sanity.

The writing style of Little Bandaged Days intrigued me and reminded me of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar; Wilder draws attention to a depressed, female protagonist and writes with short, blunt sentences all the time which emphasise the simplicity and mundanity of her life. It quickly becomes apparent Erika cares little for anything and is deeply unhappy.

The book is character-focused rather than plot-focused. This is an important point to bear in mind before reading. If you aren’t interested in exploring the mind of one person over time, watching them struggle more and more, and seeing them descend into “insanity”, this will not be the book for you. In terms of plot, nothing much happens. Every day is the same – that’s the point. I think this writing style excellently captures the reality of experiencing deep depression or anxiety.

However, whilst I found these things interesting, Wilder’s choice of writing style and decision to focus on character rather than plot can risk being perceived as boring by others. To use only short and simple sentences makes the book feel… well, short and simple and, arguably, lacking in complexity. In addition, as already mentioned, not much happens, meaning a lot of readers may find it difficult to keep reading and simply give up. I’ll admit, I struggled to persevere at points – I felt confused, desperate for clarity, and eager for a resolution.

On the one hand, these could be reasons to snub Little Bandaged Days as “poorly written” or “boring”.

On the other hand, the confusion and lack of clarity I felt whilst reading Erika’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences mirrors the Erika herself, and this led me to genuinely sympathise with her.

I don’t think Little Bandaged Days is a book for everyone. However, if you are interested in character-focused books or books that deal with mental health, I would suggest you give this a go.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

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I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and Pan Macmillan.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett is fantastic.

It’s a novel consisting of a collection of fictional first-person perspectives about black domestic servants working in white households, in 1960s Mississippi.

However, The Help is not written like a textbook or documentary. Whilst a work of fiction, The Help was undoubtedly inspired by real events and real people. It’s personal, raw, emotional and shocking.

Stockett’s writing perfectly reflects the different characters’ personalities. There are three main narrative perspectives; Aibileen Clark and Minny Jackson are both maids in white households, subject to constant racial prejudice. Eugenia Phelan is a white woman who realises the shocking racism in her town and seeks to expose it.

My favourite character was Aibileen, who works for Elizabeth Leefolt . She’s incredibly loving towards the child in her care, humble, respectful. The strength she demonstrates in working dutifully in the face of the many racist comments made about her by her employer – is remarkable.

Given the subject matter, The Help is obviously quite dark and serious in places. Yet, there are some light and funny moments as friendships grow between different characters.

I also found it interesting to read about Minny’s perspective, who works for Celia Foote.

Miss Celia, as Minny calls her, lacks the ‘Stepford Wife’ personality to fit in to society. She doesn’t even know how to cook and is scorned by the other women; she’s never invited for afternoon tea or card games and seems to be truly alone. and she feels truly alone. However, Minny and Miss Celia seem to bond somewhat, in their shared experiences of feeling like an outcast.

Whilst The Help is clearly designed to highlight and condemn racial discrimination, it also draws attention to the varying social prejudices that existed (and still do exist) in communities as well.

I strongly recommend this book; The Help is a gripping read and I didn’t realise quite how much I’d enjoy it.

Star Rating: 5/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: The Girls by Emma Cline

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The Girls by Emma Cline is a novel about a cult “inspired” – an odd word in this context – by the Manson Family and a girl, Evie, who becomes drawn into cult activity.

The Manson Family was an American cult, consisting mostly of women, led by Charles Manson in the late 1960s. The Manson Family responsible for a series of heinous murders in Los Angeles.

The Girls was written with a framed narrative from Evie’s adult perspective, as she tries to rebuild her life and an embedded narrative from Evie’s child perspective as she gradually becomes induced into the cult.

I think the novel may have worked equally as well without an adult perspective to frame the narrative; this would have left Evie’s future more open-ended. However, I liked that the adult perspective revealed what became of certain cult members once they were discovered.

The Girls was written in an incredibly effective first-person narrative voice. It spotlighted the deepest thoughts and desires of a young, vulnerable girl who wanted to be seen as beautiful, or clever – or simply be seen. It was clear, and saddening to read, how the cult provided her with that affirmation and drew her in.

The climax of The Girls was quite sudden; I was left wanting a little more – I could happily have had more of Cline’s writing, more of the story.

Evie’s manipulation and acceptance of the cult was shocking. It was also horrid to read how Russell, the older and manipulative cult leader based on Manson, coerced young girls into sexual activity by describing it as “sharing love” with one another.

Of course, unless you’re in that scenario, it’s incredibly difficult to believe people accepted the cult ideology. I couldn’t understand why Evie didn’t question what she was told. I couldn’t understand why her parents didn’t question Evie’s absences, her new appearance, her new behaviour.

The Girls highlighted how some parents are so barely interested or involved in their children’s lives that their child could join a cult and they would still have no idea. That shouldn’t happen.

In terms of writing style, The Girls was an easy read. In terms of content, it was not. You should read it anyway.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

A Visit from the Goon Squad is a Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction by Jennifer Egan. It’s a collection of thirteen, interconnected stories with a huge set of characters. All the characters are, in some way, connected to Bennie Salazar, a record company executive, and his assistant, Sasha.

Most of the characters are self-destructive. For example, Sasha in ‘Found Objects’ struggles with compulsive stealing, Jules Jones in ‘A to B’ has been in prison for attempted rape, and Rob in ‘Out of Body’ is a survivor of suicide and takes drugs recreationally.

A Visit from the Goon Squad isn’t really a novel, but nor is it a short story collection – though each chapter does read like its own, individual story.

It’s difficult to get my head around Goon Squad. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the different stories, the different people, the different lives – following how they were each impacted by a variety of circumstances, and how they continue to influence others’ lives without even realising.

However, there isn’t a chronological narrative as such, because Egan flits between the past, the present, and the future – not necessarily in that order, which might not appeal to some readers, and took me a while to adjust to. Yet this style highlights the motif of time, and how time affects us, and impacts our lives.

Egan uses a variety of writing techniques – from first-person to third-person to using PowerPoint diagrams to tell stories – something I can safely say I have never seen before in a work of fiction!

To help me understand Goon Squad a little better, I spoke to my friend and fellow blogger, Florence Bell.

Florence explained, “It’s so evocative of the most banal actions and places and feelings; I read it and was in awe. On a sentence to sentence level, it’s just so well written. Structurally, it’s very exciting – almost like a modern Canterbury Tales because each of the chapters has a different form.”

“I think an interesting way to read the book is as a collection of memories; even when it’s written in the present tense, it’s a recollection of weirdly transient yet banal moments in people’s lives that they don’t remember for any particular reason.”

I asked Florence what she thought Goon Squad was about, because this is what I struggle with most. It’s a fascinating read, providing insight to a wide array of people’s lives, but I struggled (and still struggle) to see the point, because it’s so vastly different to books I normally read.

She joked, “What is anything ‘about’?”

Ha.

Florence then said, “I think it’s about the fleetingness of modern life and how, over time and by getting to know different people, our lives are all connected and the sensation of that, and what that feels like.”  A good answer.

I can’t claim to have the same passion for the book as Florence, but I didn’t dislike Goon Squad either. It intrigued me. Read it for yourself and see.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: Room by Emma Donoghue

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

Jack is five. He lives in a single, locked room with his Ma.

Room is a fascinating book by Emma Donoghue.

It is told from the perspective of Jack, a young boy who has had no experience of the outside world. All Jack has ever known is Room; it is the place he was born and the place he has grown up. To Ma however, Room is captivity.

As the book is told from Jack’s perspective, the childlike narration is instantly apparent. For example, everything is personified and viewed through the lens of a five-year-old’s imagination such as Room, Bed and Wardrobe. Some of the sentences purposefully lack complete grammatical sense, as Jack struggles to understand certain words, figures of speech, and abstract concepts. This brilliantly reflects not only children’s use of language, but how specifically a child with stunted development uses language.

I was at first worried this style would make it difficult to follow the plot, but I was quickly proved wrong – I struggled to put Room down and read it in just a few days

Reading from Jack’s perspective was authentic and enriching. The switch between Jack’s reported speech and his private thoughts implicitly revealed information about how Jack and Ma came to be in Room. For example, Jack believes that while Ma was in Room, he was sent to her from Heaven, while the reader can quickly work out the truth of what happened. This implicit way of reporting certain events mirrors how parents at times avoid telling their children upsetting news, or the whole truth, to try and protect them.

Jack is such a creative individual; he loves reading, hearing, and telling stories that teach him not only about Room, but a semblance of what the outside world is like. Ma has told him about real people, make-believe people, real things and make-believe things in an attempt to help Jack understand. However, this creativity is underlined with sadness; working out what’s real and what isn’t becomes overwhelming and confusing when Jack learns the truth. He is forced to relearn things, as well as learn brand new things because it is apparent the reality of the world clashes with the reality of Room.

Jack’s emotions and thoughts are always so clear and raw, and so watching the deterioration and sadness of his mother’s mental health through his eyes – who has been holding herself together in Room for so long for the sake of him – was incredibly sad.

Room was a tense, gripping and emotional read. Despite having seen the film, and knowing the outline of the plot, I was constantly kept on edge by Donoghue’s writing and couldn’t wait to read what happened next.

I strongly recommend Room; I’ve never read a book like it before, and I doubt anything else I ever read will come close.

Star Rating: 5/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Book Review: Being Simon Haines by Tom Vaughan MacAulay

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

This is part of a blog tour with Red Door Publishing.

Being Simon Haines, by Tom MacAulay, is a difficult book to categorise. It tells the tale of Simon Haines, an ambitious lawyer chasing his dream: partnership at the legendary, family-run law firm of Fiennes & Plunkett. Simon is awaiting the results of a potential partnership with Fiennes & Plunkett, and decides to travel to Cuba to pass the time in an attempt to rediscover youthful enthusiasm and gather a clear mind before news that might change his life forever.

My Photo [Being Simon Haines]

Although not being able to pinpoint the genre of the book, I quite enjoyed Being Simon Haines.

It was well written, which made it incredibly easy to follow the two storylines presented – Simon’s current life in London, and his past life as a young adult.

I liked the flashback sequences most because, as a student myself, the first-person narrative perspective of a young adult was easier to understand than the first-person perspective of a city lawyer.

I struggled with the occasional legalistic jargon, but I don’t think this particularly hindered the book. They say to write about what you know; MacAulay is a solicitor from North London, so it is unsurprising that these things should feature in Being Simon Haines.

I liked MacAulay’s development of characters too – Plunkett is a ridiculous boss with meticulous standards who only communicates in whispers, Giles is a bumbling assistant who only ever seems to make mistakes, and Dan is a laddish best friend with many attractive qualities. The only puzzle seems to be: who is Simon Haines?

I noticed my perception of Simon change throughout the book, as more information was drip-fed – at certain points I felt supportive of him, and at others I felt downright aversion towards him. Whether this was intended or not, I thought it cleverly challenged the notion that comes with a lot of books which is “they’re the main character therefore I have to like them”.

Overall, I don’t think Being Simon Haines is a book I’d have normally have chosen. However, what it is is an interesting exploration of a man with a dream, and the consequences that come with pursuing ambitions – no matter what the cost.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more book reviews like this.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.

Themes in: Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview. Instead of a book review, this will be thematic book discussion.

Crossing The River by Caryl Phillips is an odd book to describe. It is a piece of historical fiction, with a trans-historical mode. This means that, whilst focusing on issues of colonialism and slavery, it collectively tells the stories of multiple characters, both black and white.  However, despite being a collection of different stories, they are all thematically linked.

Slavery

Phillips wanted to write about slavery involvement in the UK, so naturally, this theme is clear throughout Crossing the River.  At the start of the book, The Ancestor sells his children into slavery. The pairing of money and slaves is continued significantly in the characters of Captain Hamilton and Edward Williams. Captain Hamilton is the owner of a slave-ship who, ironically, believes slave-trading is wrong. However, the financial gains he makes from the slave industry is the motivation behind his continued involvement. Edward Williams is the owner of a slave plantation, who also believes slavery is wrong, and yet participates in the industry regardless. The monetary value placed on a human life, and the commodification of slavery is absolutely vile; apparently it is not enough to benefit from having someone fulfil each and every of your desires, a profit must be made too. Crucially though, the author is unbiased in their depiction of these characters. Their involvement in the slave trade industry is neither praised nor condemned, leaving it to the reader to decide.

Melancholy

Each story seems to have an undercurrent of sadness. The Ancestor sells his children, which breaks his heart. Edward and Nash are separated*, Nash’s letters to Edward are never responded to and Nash is given no reason as to why this is the case.

*It’s hinted Edward’s wife forced communication between the pair to end after she discovered the homoerotic nature of their relationship.

Martha travels across America searching for her daughter, and Joyce sadly gives up her baby. This melancholia is often paired with feelings of loss, abandonment, displacement and/or severed relationships – perhaps to reflect the feelings of slaves across history.  They have been taken from their homes, removed from their families, and forced to suffer at the hands of a slave master.

Journeys

Many of the characters undertake journeys in Crossing the River. There are two types of journeys however: physical and metaphorical.

Physically, Martha travels across America to find her daughter, Edward travels to Africa to find Nash, Travis travels from America to Britain because of World War II, and Captain Hamilton goes on sea voyages as a slave-ship owner.

Metaphorically, some of the characters make the “journey” from life into death. Furthermore, journeys may also represent the trans-historical mode of the novel. Taking a “journey across time” is a popular phrase to describe tracking certain events of themes through history.  By presenting multiple characters’ physical journeys and metaphorical journeys of self-discovery and freedom, Phillips provides the reader with a historical journey, presenting how the issues of slavery and race relations are still as relevant today as they were during the time of the British slave trade involvement.


Thank you for reading my blog post! Please click ‘Like’ to support my blog, and ‘Follow’ this blog if you would like to read more content like this, as well as plenty of book reviews.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith


This post was last updated in January 2020.