About the author and blogger ...
Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She has published three novels and a short story collection with Inspired Quill. Her debut, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. Her new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is rooted in her work as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital.
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 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.
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.
Let me present two chunky novels, both published in the UK on 3rd February, about which I had some reservations but came to love. Despite a decade’s difference in age between the novels’ protagonists, both are coming-of-age stories in which an unexpected kind of love – or unconventional for their particular communities – teaches these young women about family, ambition, identity and themselves.
These two unconventional novels address the difficulties of reconciliation to individual and societal involvement in the exploitation and annihilation of other communities and ethnic groups. Neither tells a straightforward story, but I struggled most with the structure and style of the first. This is a pity, as I’d like to have learned more about the persecution and murder of Guyana’s indigenous people. I found the second, about the legacy of the Holocaust for contemporary Germans, an easier read.
I'll continue posting longer reviews of books gifted to me by the author or publisher, but I'll probably keep this up for books I've bought myself. It should work for me, but will it work for you? Let me know in the comments what you think.
Read on for reviews of six contemporary novels, one classic novel, a short story collection and two non-fiction books, all read over the last three months.
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.
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.
Both these novels address mid-20th-century fascism from unusual angles: the first through the preoccupations of a Jewish family in Mussolini’s Italy; the second through an alternative history in which Britain, instead of going to war against the Nazis, has succumbed to colonisation in everything but name.
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.
I’m sharing my reflections on these recent reads about the aftermath of a family tragedy, the first set in 1970s rural England and the second in contemporary Alabama. Both are by women writers whose previous novels I’ve loved and I’m delighted to say they didn’t disappoint.
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.
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.
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 recent reads set in medieval Europe, where reluctant heroines must confront obstacles both spiritual and tangible to take a chance on happiness with the man they love. The first is set in Britain and the second, two centuries later, in France. Both include St Margaret as a minor character, but I was rooting for the maids on a mission, hoping they’d save their loved ones, and themselves.
No, I'm not going to mention the election, although I read the second of these two novels as a certain world leader screamed for the count to be suspended in some states and accelerated in others. And I wouldn't want to speculate on whether the status of these fictionalised ordinary Americans might shed some light on how half the country lost its mind. But I do love a story that upends the American dream. Where is the space for those who don’t strive for success and fame? Where do the American Asians fit in the narrative? Prepare to be provoked and entertained!
When I selected my reading for Black History Month, I didn’t realise that three of the four books had a connection to Jamaica. Nor did I realise that one would obscure black history as much as it illuminates. While three books are around ninety-seven short of composing a timeline, they’re listed here in chronological order of the events they portray. Scroll down for links to my reviews of other books (mostly fiction) I’ve read in recent years.
Just as colours look different to the eye depending on the hues surrounding them, stories read differently according to the arrangement on our mental shelves. When I read it almost two months ago, I didn’t tag the first under the theme of conformity to community mores; when I drafted my review of the second, narrated in a collective voice, the story flipped in my head into one of the conflict between the drive to belong and the fear of being engulfed. Admittedly, this pairing stems also from a niggling guilt at the widening gap between receiving my copy and posting my review. Read on, and let me know whether or not you think they fit.
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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