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The Woman Who Thought Too Much: A Memoir
The Woman Who Thought Too Much: A Memoir
by Joanne Limburg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.22

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Brave Book, 31 Oct 2010
I found this a fantastic and utterly compelling read, but rather than explore what the book is about etc in this review, I just wnat to pay Joanne Limburg massive respect for achieving it. For someone with Joanne Limburg's illness, writing this book must have been fraught with difficulty. For someone for whom obsessive rumination is a debilitating disorder, writing any piece of work is a battleground, fraught with tension and anxiety. I have a fair idea of the kind of demons she would have had to overcome to put pen to paper to write something so clear, honest and passionate and I think she has been extremely brave and triumphant. Rumination and the inevitably accompanying (or co-morbid) depression and anxiety, are more common in writers than perhaps anyone knows - because basically, you have to live in your head a lot to be a writer. There are many medics who would suggest stopping writing and doing something else would be helpful and many writers who have had to do just that in order to lead a happier and peaceful life. But Joanne Limburg has battled on. In theway book itself, you can see evidence of the illness - the need to reassure herself, justify herself etc by insistent references to, for example, texts and papers that support her case that she is not in fact mad (OCD sufferers are not mad, they are ill. They are fully aware their thoughts are not rational) and to justify taking v small amounts of medication (the maintenance dose for Prozac on this kind of illness is 20g). But the book is a very clear, very thorough, passionate, honest and fascinating read. I was shocked how long it took her to realise she had OCD and that OCD was separate from her and something she had not something she is. It is a very common illness and there are good treatments for it, including, as she says, CBT. (Freudian and analytical type therapies often make it worse as they encourage more living in the head, more questions with out answers, more loops of thought going nowhere, create the idea there is a reason for for having OCD, which there may or not be, but knowing the reason is nowhere near bringing about an end to it - these kind of therapies are naval gazing and not solution based ). It's good to see a book about OCD that shows that it's not all about hand washing and checking you turned off the gas. It's very common and there must be a lot of undiagnosed cases, so I hope this helps people - esp people with generalised patterns of worrying and the ruminators and reassurance seekers. Well done to her.


A Funny Thing About Love
A Funny Thing About Love
by Rebecca Farnworth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.37

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful warm-hearted and witty read, 19 Oct 2010
Having loved Rebecca Farnworth's first book, Valentine, I was more than eager to read her second. From page one, I was immediately drawn in to this London and Brighton based story which shines with truth, humour and the kind of dramas that connect us all in this 21st century life. A Funny Things About Love is the compelling story of Carmen, who ejected from her job as a comedy agent and mourning her previous relationship which ended due to her infertility and longing for a child, finds herself in Brighton, torn between two men and trying to make sense of her life. What makes Farnworth's books such a pleasure to read is the way she draws her characters with such honesty that you feel deeply involved with them. In Carmen, she has created such a sympathetic and believable character that I really felt I had got inside her head and I cared enormously about what happened to her. Though the story deals with serious painful issues, it is full of quick wit and humour that had me laughing out loud throughout. I read this book over 3 days and wished I had nothing else to do with my life as I just couldn't wait to get back to it -the kind of book that sits on your bed-side table like a huge chunk of cake you just can't wait to dive into and enjoy as soon as you get away from distractions. I felt so involved in the plot and its settings, I didn't want it to finish and when I did I felt bereft, and found I was continuing Carmen's story in my head. This is Rebecca Farnworth's true gift - creating unforgettable characters in real life dramas which you truly care about. I loved this book and I can't wait for the next one.


The Hand That First Held Mine
The Hand That First Held Mine
by Maggie O'Farrell
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not her best but still wonderful, 4 Aug 2010
Cards on table, Maggie O Farrell is my all time favourite author. She has a breath-taking gift with words. From her first novel "After You'd Gone", (still my favourite among all her novels) I was hooked. She is the one author I have found who never disappoints, who keeps creating brilliant novels. My only complaint is she doesn't bring them out fast enough. After finishing one of her books, I always feel slightly bereft. As far as I'm concerned, she could write about paint drying on a wet weekend in Coventry and make it sound compelling. When knew she had another coming out - "The Hand That First Held Mine" - and just in time for my holiday, I was over the moon. It sat deliciously and tantalisingly on my shelf, perfectly untouched, until it was time to pack. I would always say to anyone: "Buy everything she has written." BUT...I had a few problems getting into this book. And that shocked me - because everything she has ever written previously has hooked me in and held me there till the last line.If it were any other author, I may not even mention these criticisms, but I just did not expect to find an O farrell anything other than deeply engaging. I stuck with it and it came through in the end, but - in contrast to my experience of her other works - I found the first half of the novel slow, sometimes ponderous and over-written, and the characters quite difficult to engage with. O Farrell's novels traditionally centre on two time frames which eventually have some confluence and I must admit as I read the first part of this novel, part of the reason I found it hard to get completely absorbed, was that the style was all too familiar and unsurprising...because that's what she does. And I found myself guessing quite a lot of how it was all going to converge and come together - which I didn't want to do. I wanted more "show not tell" and I felt her foregrounding was at times too blatant. I had a slight issue with empathising with all the characters. My main problem was not with the Innes/Lexie plot but the characters of Ted and Elina who seemed just so tediously middle class, self absorbed, in many passages quite banal and unrealistically (in my view) overwhelmed by the birth of their first child. I have since read interviews MF has given which indicate she had a particular personal experience of motherhood being such a shock etc and she fed this into her novel, I guess. I have to disagree with something she says in the interview on this page, ie. that it is something written about in non fiction but not fiction - the intensity of the experience of having a first child, the sleep deprivation etc etc - I think the negatives of having a child are written about far too much! No one seems to write about how such a transformation actually makes the lives of smug middle class people in their little words bigger, bolder, more raw, more surprising (in, ie. v positive ways)...What I got from the constant whingeing (as it seemed) of Elina and Ted was it was all about them, they weren't getting enough sleep,the effect of which was over played and "their lives had shrunk" - but their lives seemed pretty small in the first place with their very typical middle class concerns. That irritated me and alienated me so that for the first time I almost gave up on finishing the book...that and the rather irritating idiosyncratic use of punctuation and alienating "voice over" type narrative that I just have never seen in her previous books which seemed so honest and true I felt immersed in their reality - and made me feel a bit toyed with as a reader, if I am honest. Not what I expect from MF! But after putting it down for a few weeks, I picked it up again, thank God - in the last quarter of the book the old genius fell back into place and I was hooked and amazed at how she pulled all the threads together and in such a moving, poignant way. I don't think this is her best novel as a whole, I think it could have been more tightly edited in the early sections, but I do think parts of it are sheer genius and the best she has ever done. The last quarter of the book I found absolutely un-put-downable. She remains in my mind the best contemporary writer out there. I truly value and appreciate her gifts, of insight and language, and as always, look forward to what she produces in the future.


This Perfect World
This Perfect World
by Suzanne Bugler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.15

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Five Star Read, 5 April 2010
This review is from: This Perfect World (Hardcover)
When I read the opening chapter to Suzanne Bulger's "A Perfect World" I wasn't sure I could get into it as the narrator and her friends seemed so unsympathetic - snobby, judgmental, middle class mothers leading very superficial lives and the narrator quite openly condemning the mother of the (now grown up) child she relentlessly bullied at school and her mother who is now calling on her for help...but a few chapters in and I was absolutely hooked. It is very rare that I cannot put a book down but this one became utterly compelling - especially as the writer seemed to gain her confidence as the book went on and the nuances beneath the otherwise quite straight-forward plot became more complex and ambiguous. Reflecting now on my initial querying of how the author was going to reel me into the book when her narrator's thoughts and worlds were so alien and repellant to me is interesting...because in fact as the book develops I found myself seeing things from her point of view remarkably easily and identifying sympathetically....which is exactly what I thought, at the start, Bulger would attempt to do but thought unlikely she could carry off. How wrong I was. She truly does carry it off and so subtly you hardly realize you being reeled in, which is a real sign of her mastery of her craft. I was very impressed with the subtleties of this novel. It is written with lovely economical but evocative language and is very direct, real and honest. I do have to add that I did find some of the characters a bit stereotypical and not fully dimensional (the detached husband with chauvenist tendencies, the gossiping and bitchy school mums) - but the truth is they are being portrayed through the eyes of someone who eventually recognises her judgments of others have always been flawed and whose understanding of what it is to be human only really dawns on her through the pivotal experiences of the novel. I also sussed the "twist" at the end (about why her parents wanted so badly for her to be friendly with the girl she bullies) quite early on as it was a bit over sign-posted but to be honest none of that stopped me enjoying this fantastic read. For me, a novel really needs to pull me in and keep me reading - by creating compelling atmosphere, characters and storyline - I am very impatient with both superficial chic lit and over-written literature....this book gave me a FANTASTIC reading experience and it is an absolute five star read in my view - I read it in two days. I only finished it yesterday and I am already passing it onto a friend. I just can't wait to see what Suzanne Bulger writes next as I really think - judging by the way she hit her stride as this one went on - that she can only get better and better. I just hope the next one comes soon.


Valentine
Valentine
by Rebecca Farnworth
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Book I've Read This Year, 20 Jun 2009
This review is from: Valentine (Mass Market Paperback)
I have just finished reading Valentine's adventures in Rebecca Farnworth's novel and I wish it wasn't over. Over the last few days I have been so absorbed in the character of Valentine and her friends and the agnony of her affairs and her attempts to progress her career as an actress and the life changing skeletons jumping out at her from closets she knew nothing about...that now I miss her, miss her, miss her! And if it wasn't for life's interventions I'd have read it in one sitting.Everything you really want from a novel is in this one - laugh-out-loud wit and humour, characters who are so real they could be you or your friends, real emotion because you really care what happens and fast paced adventure and intrigue that keep you absolutely hooked. I hope the author writes many many more books - and quickly - since putting this one down I've felt bereft and no other reading material will do. This is the perfect book for a holiday...but actually just a perfect book.


Inglorious
Inglorious
by Joanna Kavenna
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.28

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Homage To Thomas Pynchon?, 3 Aug 2008
This review is from: Inglorious (Paperback)
This is a pretty special book - it is not without its flaws - I agree with other reviewers that the narrative can become repetitive and slightly depressing - it returns again and again to the same themes. However,this refelcts the heroine's inner state which is almost complusively procrastinatory. (and compulisive procrastination is a recognised form of OCD, for all the reasons Rosa gives reference to for her own malaise...a problem with accepting temporality and mortality being at the heart).. Rosa is stalled in her life.(so occasionbally the book also seems stalled on the same page) She is attempting to throw off what she perceives as insincere and inauthentic in life, but she is unable to find replacement meaning, nor to summon the motivation to transform her own state. As a commentary on some aspects of modern life and a way of using the classic "quest" theme, refering constantly to the history of the philosophy of ideas/literary movements etc....it is really very beautifully and intelligently done. The dark humour is actually very witty and prevents it from otherwise being a rather relentlessly dark read. I think many people would recognise their own thoughts and feelings in Rosa's inner narrative. What struck me from the start is its simularities to the great Thoams Pynchon's extraordinary short novel, The Crying Of Lot 49 - especially Rosa's obsession with discovering the meaning of "The Temp" - so very Pynchonesque, that I wondered if it was a bit cheeky claiming it as Kavanna's own but for all I know she has never read the book....still, as I love Pychon's masterpiece more than almost any other book, it must mean something that I also count Inglorious as one of the most original, refreshing and compulsively readable novels I have read in a long time.


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