I started this blog in 2013 to share my reflections on reading, writing and psychology, along with my journey to become a published novelist. I soon graduated to about twenty book reviews a month and a weekly 99-word story. Ten years later, I've transferred my writing / publication updates to my new website but will continue here with occasional reviews and flash fiction pieces, and maybe the odd personal post.
Here are reviews of two different types of English political novel. The first is contemporary and addresses how political events impact on an ordinary London family. The second is a historical novel that gets right to the heart of one of the most turbulent periods of British history.
Let me tell you about these two novels about women’s lives in terrain under occupation by external powers. The first is a historical novel about the struggle for personal and political freedom in 20th-century Greece. The second is a futuristic dystopia about how, in the climate crisis, the wealthy lay claim to the coolest lands.
6 positive social changes in my lifetime: trans visibility; deinstitutionalisation; reproductive rights and more
History, humour, testimony, short stories and dystopia: there’s something for everyone in these 9 new mini reviews (and 1 mention)
Testimonies of historic inequalities rooted in racism: The Help & In the Upper Country
I’m pleased to share my thoughts on two recent reads which focus on collecting the testimonies of women wounded by policies and practices rooted in racism: the first set in the early 1960s and the second century before.
Black, Queer and marginalised: Didn’t Nobody Give a Shit What Happened to Carlotta & Crosshairs
Two novels about the shit that can happen when you’re Black and gender nonconforming that also acknowledge the joy of living true to oneself.
Are toilets visible in fiction?
A woman lives with her husband on a farm a short distance from a small town. There’s a distance between the partners also but they’re bound by habit and circumstance. When strangers arrive on their land, convention dictates they should chase them away. Instead, a tentative friendship develops, much to their neighbours’ disapproval and it’s not too long before violence ensues.
The link is often tenuous when I pair my reviews. But, even when there’s a common theme, it’s unusual for a four-sentence summary to serve both. Heck, even the covers match! Yet, while both brilliant debuts, these are very different novels: the first a near-future cli-fi dystopia; the second a historical novel set at the end of the American Civil War. Read on to see which you’ll pick up first!
Swimming through Stolen Summers
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.
Women’s historical oppression: The Pull of the Stars & The Spinning House Affair
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.
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)
2022 Reading Challenge
Anne has read 2 books toward their goal of 100 books.
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.
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