The collected works of Liane Moriarty, Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl;it seems as though the past few years the genre of domestic thrillers was born thanks to some truly epic female authors. I don’t quite know what it is about these types of books, […]
I was insanely excited to read this book; as soon as I learned of its existence, I was intrigued. Non-fiction, autobiographies and memoirs are not something that I read often, nor are they what I enjoy reading (which sometimes I think is a bit strange seeing as I only write non-fiction, autobiographical, memoir-y kind of posts), but there was definitely something about My Thoughts Exactly that made me purchase it, even when doubt started to creep in.
Before I started reading it, I will admit that I was scared that I was going to be as underwhelmed and uninterested as I have been with previous forays into the non-fiction literary world. I was tentative.
As soon as I began reading it, I knew that I was going to be pleasantly surprised (that’s an understatement really). I absolutely loved the voice of Lily Allen. I loved the simplicity of her words and that never, not once, did she give any more information than absolutely necessary. Her stories were her stories and nothing more – she didn’t ever need to beef them out with random details or filler fluff. And that is what I have never liked about biographical works; I don’t like being treated as a simple reader that can’t follow emotional syntax and experiences. More often than not, when I have tried to read biographies they are either too detail-orientated or too self-centred. Now I realise that as a autobiography it will be about someone and yes, will be centred around them, but there is a certain amount of story-telling needed rather than just “I did this, I felt that,” etc. etc. Ya feel me?
Anyway, I digress.
My Thoughts Exactly provides an honest, raw and uninhibited foray into the world of Lily Allen. Even though her experiences, lifestyle and childhood are so far removed from anything that I have ever known it didn’t stop me being able to connect with them at all. In fact, I was able to really empathise with her because instead of talking about the experience itself (private jets, drugs, a pretty full on stalker, famous parents, a deeply upsetting stillbirth etc.), Allen looked inward and spoke mainly of how she interacted with the world around her. The entire book felt like a really big, powerful and very emotional letting go for Lily Allen – and it made me really envious that she was able to write and publish so freely everything that has made her the woman she is today – scars, mistakes, flaws and all.
I also loved that she remained incredible humble whilst also acknowledging her success. She spoke frankly about her achievements, many of which I was unaware of, but didn’t rattle on about them. She spoke of them matter-of-factly which I respect immensely. It allowed me to continue to connect with her words throughout the book, no matter the grand nature of her dalliances. Another thing that really surprised me was the understanding I felt around her drug use. I am not comfortable with drug use, at all. I don’t like hearing about it, knowing about it or thinking about it. For me, there is just something about drugs that triggers fear in me, and that has always been the case. For a majority of her adult life, Allen struggled with substance abuse – both alcohol and drugs. But once again, the stories were told with such delicacy and instead of focusing on the event itself, Allen instead used this book to explain the ‘why’. I love her introspection and her knowledge of self and the fact that every one of her decisions, behaviour and actions has reason behind it – not an excuse, but a reason.
I have, for a very long time, longed to write something autobiographical detailing my own experiences, mistakes and flaws (again, I realise how weird it is that I want to write non-fiction but don’t like reading it) and My Thoughts Exactly has only fed that want and desire. What I really gained from Allen’s book is that there is such confidence and strength in vulnerability. Imagine how light and free you would feel if all of your deepest, darkest secrets, thoughts and feelings were out there in the world. To me, that would be everything. To embrace that fear, to lay everything out there and to completely surrender to whatever comes next would just be so utterly liberating. Lily Allen admits to sleeping with female escorts, to cheating on her husband, to being the person someone cheated with, to the mistakes she has made as a mother – she has written about things that are so deeply intimate and personal and most of the time that are kept to oneself. What she has done though, is started a conversation. Through her vulnerability and her willingness to be judged and ridiculed and mocked, she has also allowed for her mistakes to be held by the masses – I am certain that she is not the only one who has made one or all of these mistakes.
Overall, My Thoughts Exactly utterly entranced me. I felt like I was listening to a friend tell me a story for the entire time I was reading it. Dealing with some pretty heavy issues including a traumatic miscarriage and stillbirth, Lily Allen has been able to bring these experiences to a whole new audience in a way that is accessible, sensitive and intelligent. I loved this book and would highly recommend. Highly.
It’s December! It’s Summer! It’s the festive season! Our Christmas tree is up! Our cat has discovered a love of tearing baubles off the tree and waking us up at 5am by chasing them down the hallway! Seriously though, I am so freaking excited that […]
Swedish authors are incredible. If you haven’t read a book by a Swedish author, do yourself a favour – buy one and read it immediately. I was first introduced to Swedish authors when I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. It took me three attempts before I managed to get through (and past) the first chapter. The names were unfamiliar and hard to pronounce and even though I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, there was just something different about the way that he wrote as opposed to an American, English or Australian writer. It was as if he was saying things without writing the words.. as if I was reading between the lines without even meaning to. Once I got through the first book of that trilogy, I devoured the other two. And then more recently, I read The Girl in the Spider’s Web and The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz who continued the Millennium series after Larsson’s death.
A couple of years ago I read I Am Behind You by John Ajvide Lindqvist and absolutely loved it. It confused me and challenged everything I thought I knew about story-telling in the most brilliant way. Once again, it were as if Lindqvist was saying far more than the words he provided on the page. I really want to read his 2015 release I Always Find You and only JUST realised that the horror movie Let the Right One In is based on one of his novels with the same name. I had no idea but want to read immediately.
Anyway, I went into one of my favourite bookshops on my lunch break, Better Read Than Dead, and came across The Cult on Fog Island. A few things drew me to this book:
- The cover? LOVE.
- The size of the book? Huge and perfect.
- Swedish author? Check!
- Did the title remind you of Shutter Island? Yep.
- Do I find cults incredibly eerie and creepy? You ‘betcha.
As soon as I started reading The Cult on Fog Island by Mariette Lindstein, I was hooked. It was the kind of book that I found myself thinking about while I was working, while I was cooking or while I was watching a movie with Pete. All I wanted was to be reading. The book’s protagonist, Sofia, attends a seminar hosted by the infamous ‘wellness’ and life coach Franz Oswald who then invites her to visit the island and see what his program and course is all about. Once there, Franz offers Sofia an incredible job and in that moment she can’t think of any reason why she shouldn’t take him up on the offer. Once she is there though, and after signing on for a two year contract, things aren’t what they seem on the island. And Franz? Well, he is not at all what he seemed.
What follows is a truly addictive and thrilling read. I loved how gradually the circumstances on the island got worse and worse, and how closely we were able to follow alongside Sofia. Sofia, as a character, I found really easy to be interested in. She was really well written even though we aren’t given a whole lot of background information about her or where she came from before the island. I actually didn’t mind not knowing much about her as it meant I went into the story with her completely unbiased and unaware of what state of mind she was in when she decided to go to the island (besides the crazy ex). I did have moments where I thought to myself, “SURELY you aren’t going to go along with this, SURELY?!” but then, when we were let in on her inner monologue and her thought processes, everything made sense and had reason.
I do love a good, atmospheric read and Lindstein absolutely nails that in The Cult on Fog Island. To go with the ominous nature of the cult and the mental decline of their leader, the description of the weather and the surrounding conditions sets the scene perfectly. As I was reading it, I could envisage the cliff face that was so often referred to and the sound of the violent swells of the sea. I could feel the change of the seasons as they came and went in the book, the chill in the air as Christmas approached the island. I have to admit that I do rate a book based on the way it handles the sensory elements of the story and this one scored big time. BIG time.
I also learned that the author, Mariette Lindstein, is a former Scientologist! I only found that out after I read the book and it made me think back to all the details and experiences that our protagonist Sofia lived through on the island, and how removed the the cult’s leader Franz was from reality – what real life events took place to inspire these fictional ones? The knowledge that Lindstein was a part of what has come to be known as a modern day cult made me reassess the book as a whole – was it more of an exposé than a work of fiction?! That thought alone excites the hell out of me!!
When I found out that this book was the first in a trilogy (again, I found this out after I finished the book), it made me SO KEEN to read the next one and left me even more excited to find out where the second book would go. The Cult on Fog Island could very easily be a stand alone novel, though you are left with questions at the end it still feels like the story was wrapped up nicely. Props to Lindstein for the ending as it is one that does leave you wondering where what how but in a way that doesn’t take away from the conclusion. I am so intrigued to see what she does with the second instalment of this trilogy and it just can’t be published soon enough!
(I also passed this one onto my boss after I finished and she loved it as well. Rave reviews all round!)
Where do I even begin?! Seriously. This year may have been hard, and challenging, and completely gut-wrenching at times, but it has also been rewarding and the most life-changing, transformative period of my life. And, I do feel that Summer 2018-19 is going to be […]
I first came across The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society when I was working in Angus & Robertson in Chatswood. It was a new release and I remember reading the back of it and feeling immediately drawn to the main character, Juliet Ashton. She is a witty writer stumped by a sever case of writer’s block. Out of the blue, she receives a letter from one Dawsey Adams of Guernsey – by chance he’s acquired a book Juliet once owned – and, emboldened by their mutual love of books, they begin a correspondence and she is introduced to the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and its members (a colourful bunch). Juliet, emboldened and inspired by their letters opts to visit the island of Guernsey, a trip that completely turns her life upside-down.
I don’t know how I didn’t realise it before, as I flicked through the book many times during my shifts at Angus & Robertson, but the book’s story is told in its entirety through letters. Normally, I steer extremely clear of books that aren’t comprised of simple chapters – the odd letter here and there I don’t mind, but I have never been able to stick with a novel that isn’t just plain ol’ storytelling. Until now.
Not only am I madly in love with the edition that I have of Mary Ann Shaffer’s The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society which I picked up second-hand from Gertrude & Alice in Bondi, but I really enjoyed this story and the way it was told – at least for the first 60-70% of the book..
Overall, I think that the book was intriguing, interesting and really beautifully compiled. Readers are actually able to derive a lot of detail from the letters which I wasn’t expecting, and the story flows really well. For me though, I need all the other text around the letters and the dialogue to really grasp a story. I have always been told that I am a very descriptive writer, and maybe that is what I subconsciously look for in a book as well. I love reading about the intricacies of an English garden, or the sound of waves crashing against a cliff face or in-depth descriptions of the way someone looks. I felt that that was missing in this book. The voice of a narrator allows for unbiased descriptions, allowing for the reader to completely control the imagery the words evoke for them whereas I found that I couldn’t picture things as they were described when it was with the voice of one of the characters. Towards the end of the book I also found that I was skipping letters from the characters whose storylines I found boring.. which isn’t a great sign.
I won’t end on a negative note though. I really loved the character of Juliet and how sassy she was. I found that I could relate to her whilst also wanting some of her traits to be my own. I also found myself very invested in her relationships with the men around her, and loved that I didn’t know who she was going to end up with. I also really want to acknowledge how different this book is, it is unlike anything I have ever read before and that deserves mentioning. For a book that had a lot of things working against it for me personally (letter form, historical setting, references to war – none of which I enjoy reading about), The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society was a beautifully written book, and I want to comment on the ending, but I won’t for fear of ruining it for those of you want to read it.