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.
These two recent reads are about challenging women’s traditional roles as homemakers in the mid twentieth century. The first focuses on the barriers facing a woman seeking a career in science in early 1960s America. The second follows the fortunes of three sisters and their mother as the times change in 1970s France.
I was unsure how – or whether – I’d connect these two recent reads until I was pondering my response to this week’s flash fiction challenge. Although very different stories, both address how difficult it can be to find an escape route from repeating patterns of self-destructive behaviour. In the first, a woman approaching middle age faces up to her tendency to fall into abusive relationships. In the second, a young man admitted to a psychiatric ward wonders if his own future is written on the faces of his fellow patients, stuck in a cycle of relapse and remission. The wheels keep turning – will they manage to jump off?
Here are two novels in which issues of female disempowerment are explored within a murder narrative. The first is a modern classic, translated from Arabic, set in a culture where women have no custody over their own bodies. The second is a contemporary Irish crime novel, set in a society where men have learnt ways of controlling their partners without leaving a physical mark.
I’ve linked these two very different novels via the theme of compromised freedom, partly because that’s how I feel myself right now. In the first, an elderly widow frees herself from pity by casting a stranger as her grandson but fears being found out. In the second, women are magically freed from misogyny at a cost of losing the men and boys they love.
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.
These two novels depict a character’s reflections on their life following the sudden death of their spouse. Both the male writer in the first novel and the female teacher in the second are mourning not only the loss of a partner but of the promise of their original romance.
Two novels about women whose identities stem from the supernatural: the first, a vampire who moves to London to work in a gallery; the second, a traditional healer in rural Mexico and the journalist who wants to write her story.
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.
Here are two books featuring different kinds of caring: the first a translated memoir about a healthcare professional who looks after people’s minds along with their feet; the second a novel about an actor who opens his home to his struggling father and to his childhood friend.
Do you remember that song about the sisters, devoted to each other … unless a man should come between them? Here are two versions of the novelisation of that story. In the first, set primarily in the Philippines, the two daughters of a former dissident compete for the affections of a powerful man. In the second, a YA dystopian novel, thirty teenagers who’ve been raised together, and think of each other as sisters, also hope to be chosen a high-status man. In both cases, their position is bleak, but the culture and politics of the society they inhabit render the alternative bleaker still.
Two translated novels – the first from Hebrew, the second from French – about young people invited to apply for grants to support their ambitions, which lead them into damaging situations. The first is about a tour guide to the Nazi death camps; the second about a teenage dancer groomed for abuse (with a section from the point of view of her school boyfriend, who feels burdened by his Jewish heritage). They question whether the legacy of such cruelty is to forgive, forget or become monsters ourselves. Difficult subjects, but both an easy and worthwhile read.
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.
I was going to call this post hopes dashed, but that would be too sensational for these two lovely novels about women getting on with it after disappointment, not because they’re heroic survivors but because they’re ordinary flawed human beings. In the first, an untenured academic carries on as normal despite a drawn-out miscarriage; in the second, an aspiring artist continues painting despite a lack of talent and community support. Both stories unfold in elegant understated prose with touches of humour.
I’m struck by the similarities between these two novels, despite being of different genres and set six centuries apart. Both are about men who take pride in their knowledge and intellect yet are blind to the biases that limit their understanding, particularly in relation to women and to physical health. The first is about a nuclear physicist dosing himself with radiation, the second about a young monk’s encounter with the Black Death.
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.
Let me tell you about these four novels featuring older women looking back at their lives, and forward, some with dread, to what’s left of it. The first is a translated novel set in Belarus. The second and fourth are set in care homes around the middle of the twentieth century. The third is a contemporary novel set in a London hospital with flashbacks to a glittery Alexandria. All illustrate the vulnerability of old age, but also the strength and spirit of the central characters.
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.
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.
These two recent rereads focus on older characters who have been diminished by their culture’s punitive attitudes to their sexuality. In the first, a contemporary Londoner has hidden his love for his closest friend on account of the Caribbean community’s homophobia. In the second, a woman has been ostracised in twentieth-century Ireland because of the misogyny and genophobia among the powerful Catholic clergy. Yet a degree of redemption is offered to the characters, albeit late in life.
Salina roams aimlessly through the desert, sequentially accompanied by each of her three sons. Harold is physically and mentally unprepared for his epic journey, although he does have a specific destination in sight. Salina’s story unfolds in a newly-published novella, translated from the French; Harold’s in a deceptively light bestseller, published in 2012.
It was good to read these two American novels about Black gay men, especially during LGBT history month: the second set in 19th-century Mississippi and an unnamed part of Africa; the first set in contemporary Texas and Japan.
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.
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