Before the flight I was invited for lunch at a London club with a billionaire I’d been promised had liberal credentials.
From this, the first sentence of Rachel Cusk’s Outline, I was hooked. It is an engrossing, mesmerising and transcendent read. Trippy, in the best way. Outline made me want to go to Greece to drink inky coffee in hot, dark cafés, being talked to by self-absorbed but interesting artistic types with strong views and good stories.
The plot is a thin, straight line: the narrator – an author and divorced mother of two – goes to Athens to teach a creative-writing course for a week. Each person she meets (a Greek businessman, an Irish writer, an old friend, a publisher, a poet) and each of her ten students tells a story about their life. Continue reading
This is only the second graphic novel I have ever read. The first was Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, a memoir about Satrapi’s childhood and early adulthood in Iran both before and after the Islamic Revolution. Satrapi’s story was a coming of age story, but also a vivid, graphic (I know) portrayal of what it was like on a day-to-day basis for a normal family to adapt to the changes the revolution foisted on them. I can remember this book clearly; I even remember exactly when I read it (July 2008) and this is unusual for me because no matter how much I enjoy a book it usually gets hazy within six months. (Probably I read too much, too fast and too lazily.)
Alison Bechdel wrote a long-running comic strip called Dykes To Watch Out For and published a graphic memoir called Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic in 2006. Are You My Mother? is a sort of sequel to Fun Home. Continue reading
To me Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life (published in the U.S. as Love, Nina: A Nanny Writes Home) sounded as if it might be a collection of ‘hilarious’ letters about the everyday domestic chaos of life with small children. Highlights being, perhaps, lost nappy bags and cold mugs of tea. In TV terms, a sort of Call the Midwife crossed with Outnumbered.
It’s not like that at all.
This is a book of letters written over 5 years by Nina to her sister in Leicestershire. In 1980 Nina left Leicestershire at the age of twenty and without any qualifications to go and work in London as a nanny for Mary-Kay Wilmers (editor of the London Review of Books) and her two sons, Sam, 10 and Will, 9. Her decision to nanny was random: it sounded like it might be a nice life. Being chosen by Mary-Kay was random too; a lot seemed to hinge on which football team she supported. Continue reading