Night Walking by Sarah Moss

Favourite authors, I think, are a rarity. Whenever I’m who my favourite author is, I find it so often depends on my mood as to what my answer will be. If I’m feeling intense it may be Donna Tartt or Joan Didion. If I’m feeling disenchanted, Richard Yates. Inquisitive and hopeful, J.K. Rowling. And yet, with the exception of Tartt, I do not like all the books each of these authors have written, which I feel ought to be part of the equation.

I’ve not read everything Sarah Moss has written, not yet, but I have a feeling she may combine the two. Night Walking, as with her other books, is beautifully written, questioning elements of society in such a real way I almost forget her characters aren’t real.

Night Walking by Sarah Moss“Historian Anna Bennett has a book to write. She also has an insomniac toddler, a precocious, death-obsessed seven-year-old, and a frequently absent ecologist husband who has brought them all to Colsay, a desolate island in the Hebrides, so he can count the puffins. Ferociously sleep-deprived, torn between mothering and her desire for the pleasures of work and solitude, Anna becomes haunted by the discovery of a baby’s skeleton in the garden of their house. Her narrative is punctuated by letters home, written 200 years before, by May, a young, middle-class midwife desperately trying to introduce modern medicine to the suspicious, insular islanders. The lives of these two characters intersect unexpectedly in this deeply moving but also at times blackly funny story about maternal ambivalence, the way we try to control children, and about women’s vexed and passionate relationship with work. Moss’s second novel displays an exciting expansion of her range – showing her to be both an excellent comic writer and a novelist of great emotional depth.” GoodReads.

As per usual with my experience of literature, I failed to notice the funny hiding in this novel. Which I put down to being neither married or a mother. I think many of Anna, Ralph or Moth’s actions may have amused someone more understanding of how frustrating being a mother, wife and human with a career can be.

I loved the depiction of motherhood, and struggling to balance a career when you – and not your husband – is the one expected to make the sacrifices. Moss is so honest, motherhood is hard, no woman is perfect. Women, as well as men, put a lot of pressure and expectation on how they think you should be caring for your children.

Why can’t women have their career and interests outside of caring for their children? This is partly what Moss addresses in the protagonist Anna, struggling to care for, and sometimes even love, her family. She wants to be there for her children, but she also wants her autonomy.

Alongside Anna’s story, is May’s. A nurse on the Island some 100 years before. Moss readers will recognise her from Bodies of Light. She is trying to counter the trends and culture of the time, where superstition prevents her from being able to perform the task she was brought to the island to do. However, this is nicely balanced with the idea of a colonialism of sorts, where the rich rule the island with little thought to the locals and their ways.

For a while, Anna and May’s stories seem rather far apart. Yet they gel together nicely in ways you may not expect, questioning traditions old and new.

I never expected to enjoy a novel about motherhood, but this Night Walking has claimed me. I love Moss’s writing, the beauty and intelligence of it.

I’m going to read everything she has written.

 

Have you read any Sarah Moss novels?

 

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

“I wish more people could tell the different between the ‘leave me alone’ vibe I give off all the time by accident and my actual ‘leave me alone’ vibe.”

Anna Kendrick is my second patronus, the other person I want to be (along with Kate McKinnon). So, I’m sure it will come as no surprise that I pre-ordered Scrappy Little Nobody the second I knew it was coming out.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick“With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”” GoodReads.

 

 

“I happen to love rules. I love having a plan. I love a film set that’s run like a well-oiled machine. I thrive in structure; I drown in chaos. I love rules and I love following them. Unless that rule is stupid. And yes, I have felt qualified, no matter my age, to make that determination. Scrupulous people don’t enjoy causing trouble, but they can be defiant as hell.”

I hate it when people compare themselves to someone ‘cool’ and then proclaim they are so alike because it’s usually utter rubbish and they couldn’t be more dissimilar, but I’m also a hypocrite. Anna is basically me (if I were shorter, prettier, and in some way talented).

You can tell Anna is a rather anxious person, she likes to tell the reader all ‘difficult’ traits. As if after telling us, the only way is up, you’ve got the ‘bad’ bits out the way. However, she’s obviously a very hard-working, grateful and humble person. Never sounding as though she deserves what she is getting and constantly afraid it’s going to end – she works her butt off.

She’s also managed to write an entertaining memoir without really mentioning any moment of her personal life that involved any other celebrities, so if you’re hoping for celebrity gossip you won’t get it here. Unless you want to know that Colin Firth can change a tire, you’ll find that out.

The only downside was that I expected a little more than I got from Anna’s memoir. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great. It’s funny, entertaining and managed to keep me involved throughout. However, if you’re after something more like Mara Wilson’s or Patti Smith’s memoir, this isn’t the book for you.

It’s like a long tweet.

And that works!

Scrappy Little Nobody (along with Sarah Moss, who never fails me) ended my reading slump (for now), so I really can’t thank Anna Kendrick enough.

Have you read Scrappy Little Nobody?

 

groot

Literary Life: October in Review

October was the worst reading month I’ve had in a long while, it’s been a mix of a lack of a desire to read, and being too busy or tired. I’m really looking forward to Christmas when I have some time off, I’m going to read everything.

The bookish highlight of my month was Bookshop Day, where I bought The Bloody Project and White Teeth, two brilliant novels.

#bookshopday

I also had a rather fun BYOC evening, but the following hangover was the most horrific thing I have ever experienced. The shame was strong. It did result in a baby Groot though, so not all was lost.

Currently Reading:

Parade’s End – Ford Madox Ford

Unfinished:

None!

I’ve Read:

  1. About My Mother – Tahar Ben Jelloun
  2. His Bloody Project – Graeme Macrae Burnet
  3. White Teeth – Zadie Smith

Hard to pick a highlight from these, because each was excellent in its own way.

How was your literary October?

The Eleventh Letter by Tom Tomaszewski

The Eleventh Letter by Tom Tomaszewski

Ghost, psychotherapy, snow storms, Italy, what more could entice me to read? The Eleventh Letter by Tom Tomaszewski is an inception like dive from 2010 to 1986, when the protagonist Chris revisits an old case that appears to have never stopped haunting him.

The Eleventh Letter by Tom TomaszewskiChris Katiwa, a Harley Street psychotherapist, finds himself trapped in his office by heavy snow. When a beautiful, enigmatic woman asks to take shelter with him, he finds himself drawn to her charisma. Discovering tapes concerning a murder trial from the 1980s, Chris and his mysterious guest listen to voices from the past as the night draws in and darkness falls.

Chris begins to wonder if the woman he once tried to defend is as innocent as he had thought. Was she involved in the Pisa killings, or were they work of the savage serial killer that became known as the Wolfman? The Eleventh Letter is a ghostly, Lynchian tale that explores love and lies, murder and madness. GoodReads.

My first impression on reading this book was that it would make a brilliant film, especially in the way the novel first sets out the interviews with Louise. It’s mostly dialogue, and I had trouble remembering to read the rest of the text that indicated the tone or intonation of what the characters were saying.

However, the further the novel dives into the mystery or Louise, Kate and John. The more Chris’s retelling becomes mixed with the past, and you’re not entirely sure who is who and what memories is whom’s, or even what version of Chris (old or young) is in what element of the story.

The Eleventh Letter is a very clever book, well thought out and intricate, making memories into ghosts and ghosts into memories. It reminded me of Dickens, Poe, Kafka, Meredith Kercher’s murder, and poetry all at once. And that trauma has a way of finding it’s way out, no matter how hard you try and forget it.

The quality of writing didn’t always match the brilliance of what the author was saying. However, once you get into the swing of the novel you should find this irritation falls aside in favour of working out the ending, who is real and who is a ghost – and it’s well worth it for that.

Thank you to Dodo Ink who sent me this book in exchange for an honest review.