Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Reviews of some 'domestic' fiction

During the past two weeks I've been reading some 'domestic' fiction in preparation for writing the theoretical part of my MA. Here are some of the books I've read and what I thought of them on goodreads:

Have the Men Had Enough? Have the Men Had Enough? by Margaret Forster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A wonderfully angry look at what happens in a family when an elderly relative has dementia and needs extensive care and support. Hilarious, furious and gut-wrenching at times, this book is Margaret Forster at her best.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A beautifully observed, quiet novel about recovering after the loss of a child. Forster references Carol Shields's 'Unless' during the course of the novel and there are some similarities between the two books. This novel is not as compelling as 'Private Papers' or 'Have the men had enough?' but definitely worth a read. 
A very negative review in the Guardian can be found here
Positive responses are cataloged in the Daily Mail here.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Another beautifully observed novel which examines the lives of several women associated with a breast cancer clinic at a hospital in a northern town of England. Forster's characterization is meticulous and each of the women is sympathetically presented despite the fact that Mrs Hibbert and Ida in particular are not especially likeable. Some excellent writing but lacking the pull of 'Have the men had enough?'
A review of this novel can be found in The Independent here.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another good collection of short stories from Helen Simpson. Sumptuous prose and fresh imagery as one would expect. The climate change references seem a little contrived at times, although in places they were thought-provoking and positively chilling. 
My favourite of Simpson's collections remain 'Dear George' and 'Hey yeh right get a life.'
Here is a Guardian review of Simpson's new collection.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A good, solid short story collection with moments of brilliance - her take on childbirth in 'Labour' is inspired and hilarious.
I read Simpson's later work before I read this collection - her later work is superb. It's been interesting to observe the progress of her writing.

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