When the prompt arrived for this week’s 99-word story, I immediately thought of my character Matty. Not only because I’ve been reading and rereading and scrutinising a part of her history I want to publish next month, but because swimmingly is exactly the kind of word she’d use (although I don’t think she ever has).
About the author and blogger ...
Anne Goodwin’s drive to understand what makes people tick led to a career in clinical psychology. That same curiosity now powers her fiction.
A prize-winning short-story writer, she has published three novels and a short story collection with small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize.
Away from her desk, Anne guides book-loving walkers through the Derbyshire landscape that inspired Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
Subscribers to her newsletter can download a free e-book of award-winning short stories.
Allow me to introduce two novels about the marginalisation of women’s experience: the first set in sixteenth century Strasbourg where the church rules hearts and minds; the second in contemporary a South Africa grappling with its colonial past. Both include a scene of arson, but that is not the worst of the violence.
Two fabulous fiction books about ordinary people in historically significant times. The first is a family saga set in China, Taiwan and America across six decades of the twentieth century. The second is a snapshot of Swiss history on a single day in 1959 when the male half of the populace denied their mothers, sisters and wives the right to vote.
Although fire has a significant role in both of these novels, I intended this post’s title metaphorically: along with the pandemic, the climate crisis and the (sometimes related) refugee emergency are the defining themes of the 2020s. If you like to explore our times through fiction, as I do, see if you think you’d enjoy The Forests, a translated cli-fi novel and/or The Bones of Barry Knight, a poignant portrayal of people literally or figuratively estranged from their homes.
These two recent reads feature characters who find themselves in morally compromised situations, partly of their own making. The first, set in the contemporary US art world, is about a young man’s relationship with a middle-aged man he saves from drowning. The second, set during a turbulent time in American history, focuses on a family of thespians, drinkers and dreamers.
These novels – the first contemporary YA; the second historical fiction – address radically different responses to mental health issues wrapped up in page-turning stories. I enjoyed them both in different ways.
When I selected these books for my first reviews of 2022, I thought all they shared was their UK publication date of January 6th. I was wrong. Both are unconventionally structured novels by and about migrants, from the Indian subcontinent, to rich countries founded on the genocide of their indigenous populations, where truth is sometimes sacrificed on the altar of populist politics and the realities of racism and the climate crisis denied. Read on for the different ways these authors handled their theme.
These very different novels are both about young men detained in strange settings: the first a psychiatric ward; the second a labyrinth. Steven, in the first, is a reluctant captive who needs to learn the value of where he’s landed in order to leave. Piranesi, in the second, seems perfectly adapted to his environment, but he needs to discover the dark side to become his full self.
Allow me to introduce you to two novels that expose Britain’s dirty hands in the immoral corporate wheeling and dealing that directly harm the poor both here and abroad. If that sounds heavy, remember that the beauty of fiction is that it can wrap that painful politics in a gripping narrative of romance and intrigue. Now, isn’t that a step up from governments that condone such corruption or, at least, turn a blind eye?
Allow me to introduce you to two translated novels, set on different continents a century apart, in the aftermath of wars that, for some, will never end. The first is set in contemporary Angola, a country rich in minerals but economically poor, hampered by twenty-five years of civil war; the second takes place in France, at the end of the First World War, a war which will continue to impact on the members of one small family for the rest of their lives.
I’m sharing my reflections on two books I read recently, which I enjoyed despite not being my usual reads. I bought them because they relate to my interest in mental health issues, but there must have been more than that. Both are based on true stories - the second is actually creative non-fiction - about the author’s friendship with someone who has a psychiatric diagnosis and has been subjected to a care system that is often uncaring. Like my latest novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, they celebrate marginalised lives.
Here are two novels about forced migrations and which focus on structural inequalities and the particular dangers to women and girls. The first is about the partition of India in the mid-1940s and the second a contemporary novel set in the Americas.
These two historical novels, set near the dawn of the twentieth century, illustrate how appallingly women’s freedoms, even – or especially – over custody of their own bodies, have been controlled by men. Both stories take place in or around institutions: the first an Irish hospital battling the pandemic; the second a university battling the ordinary citizens of an English town.
These two recent reads about a subject close to my heart: finding the meaning within supposed madness and unOthering those deemed severely mentally ill. The first is a classic, an antidote to the mad woman in the attic in Jane Eyre; the second, which deserves to become a classic, published this year. I have no hesitation in recommending them both.
Forgive the tenuous connection between these recent reads, the first featuring harem women in Egypt at the beginning of the twentieth century and the second a contemporary Italian girl who grows into a woman while imprisoned in a container. While you might shudder at the latter, I urge you to give it a chance, as it’s one of my favourite reads of 2021.
Well, what do you know? I can’t recall when I last read a novel featuring a kidnapping, and then two come along at once, both published (in the UK at least) on the same day (May 6). It’s worth noting, however, that I wouldn’t have flagged them as kidnap stories if I were posting these reviews individually. But it does distinguish them from the many other novels I might read about friendship and women’s lives from childhood to middle age. The first is set in the USA and the second in Nigeria and, if either sounds like your kind of story, don’t hesitate to get yourself a copy.
I’ve been reading about fictional male vulnerability in this contemporary translation and this classic from seven decades ago. In the latter, a man has lost his infant son in Nazi-occupied France. Although he’s had an easier war in England, he’s almost as lost as the child. In the other, a family flees poverty in Russia, ostensibly in the hope of better health care for an orphaned boy. But perhaps it’s not him, but his grandparents, who need help most.
What’s the impact of inequality and injustice on friendship? These two London-set novels might go some way to helping us understand. In the first, two women unite to claim a degree of personhood and agency within the culture of misogyny in the court of James I; in the second, a young Black man struggles to maintain a loving relationship within a contemporary climate of institutional racism.
Two novels featuring sex and psychotherapy: can you guess which one I couldn’t finish? The other is both entertaining and educational, so put your feet up and read on.
A novel and a novella featuring twins pulled apart when one is targeted to be a pawn in a war they don’t fully understand: in the first, nineteen-year-old Londoners; in the second, boys in an unnamed Arab country brainwashed into self-sacrifice at only nine.
The young protagonists of these two novels are worlds apart in time, geography and social class and expectations. The first is a Hungarian translation about a girl sent to an elite boarding school during the Second World War; the second is a fantasy about a street kid trying to rise above his physical and social disadvantages. Both feature endearing teenagers grappling courageously with injustice and, in the process, learning about themselves.
entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice
Anne Goodwin's books on Goodreads
Sugar and Snails
ratings: 52 (avg rating 4.21)
ratings: 60 (avg rating 3.17)
ratings: 9 (avg rating 4.56)
GUD: Greatest Uncommon Denominator, Issue 4
ratings: 9 (avg rating 4.44)
The Best of Fiction on the Web
ratings: 3 (avg rating 4.67)
Annecdotal is where real life brushes up against the fictional.
Annecdotist is the blogging persona of Anne Goodwin:
slug-slayer, tramper of moors,
author of three fiction books.
LATEST POSTS HERE
I don't post to a schedule, but average around ten reviews a month (see here for an alphabetical list),
some linked to a weekly flash fiction, plus posts on my WIPs and published books.
Your comments are welcome any time any where.
Get new posts direct to your inbox ...
or click here …