The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend » Not everyone agrees with me but this book is highly enjoyable, hilarious and it never fails to entertain. The first page had me hooked, mostly due to Sue Townsend's delightful sense of humor. The story is about a middle-aged mother, Eva Beaver, who decides to climb into bed and stay there for a year. That's right, a year! The question is why. Eva's family, friends and neighbours witness her self-exile and her emotional response to everyone's reaction. Funny, bittersweet, thought-provoking, sarcastic, comical... More than 400 pages of pure wit! I found myself understanding Eva's frustrations - an unfaithful husband and two selfish twin teenage kids who see her as a burden. The end was a bit disappointing though, I was expecting something more surprising... Townsend's illustration of today's society felt incredibly realistic: Eva becoming an Internet celebrity, different concepts of happiness, emotional detachment, women reduced to the role of housewives, prejudice, etc. For those who miss Adrian Mole, here's Eva Beaver to fill the gap.
The Herbalist by Niamh Boyce » I loved this book! Niamh Boyce's first novel won the 2012 Hennesssy XO Award for New Irish Writing - I'm not surprised. The author captures the mood of 1930s rural Ireland (where respectability and reputation meant a big deal for everybody), feeding our imagination with exquisite storytelling. Everything changes in a small town loaded with gossip, judgemental narrow minds and scandal, when an exotic man appears out of nowhere and starts selling lotions and potions - the so-called herbalist, a very questionable healer. The land of banned books, abortions, broken hearts and catholic morals turns into an intriguing revelation of secrets, crime and misfortune. This beautifully written and engaging novel is mysterious and sometimes revoltingly shocking, with layers of romance and tragedy embroided in its lyrical prose. The story is narrated by four women: dreamer Emily (I love her obsession over Hollywood glamour and dresses), unhappy Carmel, charming Sarah and the good-hearted charismatic prostitute who lives in a barge, Aggie - all of them connected by the arrival of The Herbalist. I stayed until 5am reading this book because it's such a vivid page turner! Slow-paced, evocative and absolutely memorable. There are some Irish words too every now and then, it was nice to know their meaning.
Crime by Irvine Welsh » I warn you: this is not a book for the faint of heart. Every page will bring you disgust and unease. It might even give you nightmares. This is the third Irvine Welsh's novel I read and once again, the author does a great job in this story infused with sickening details, exploring the darker corners of human psyche in this thrilling journey into instinct, protection, redemption, guilt, conscience and duty. The reader is introduced to Detective Inspector Ray Lennox of the Edinburgh PD, a tormented man recovering from a mental breakdown, on holiday in Miami with his fiancée. Haunted by demons he's trying to escape, Lennox eventually ends up facing them, after a coke binge in a stranger's apartment, when he finds himself alone with Tianna, a 10-year-old sexually abused child. The way Welsh describes the landscape, environment and weather in Florida contrasts with Lennox's uncomfortably grim flashbacks of his last case and his own childhood back in Scotland. Disturbing and shocking, yes... but brilliantly written. Despite the horrifyingly enraging subject matter, give this book a chance.