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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve paired these two novels because they both address human failings in unconventional ways. The first, translated from the Danish, illustrates the barriers to connection via a large cast of characters. The second is a zany take on our collective complicity in environmental collapse. Oh, and because the title of the first reminds me of Dali’s telephone, while I can only assume the enigmatic title of the second is intentionally surreal.
Here I introduce two translated novellas – the first from Italian, the second from French – about the bond between siblings, survivors of damaging childhoods. They illustrate the difficulties of closing the door on the past.
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.
Here we have two novels about (celebrity, and the darker side of men whose virtue is part of their fame. In the first, translated from the Italian and set in Rome, an author, teacher and public intellectual can never completely relax into his positive reputation for fear a secret he shared with a former lover will be revealed. In the second, set in New York and rural Tamil Nadu, a young man brought up to believe he’s a living god has to decide whether to continue in the role his father and his followers have given him when he discovers the truth about himself.
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.
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.
Three short reviews of novels on the theme of love and loss: the first, set in Canada, about a woman whose husband disappears and turns up a year later with a new identity; the second, set in France, is about a man who yearns to be reunited with the lover from his youth before he loses himself to dementia; the third, a translated novel set in Spain, is about the tender relationship that develops between two brutalised people.
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.
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.
Allow me to introduce two recent reads featuring a teenage girl’s sexual awakening with a physically attractive but morally suspect young man, arousing the envy of her less confident suitor. Both novels also emphasise her passion for the place in which she lives: in the first, a derelict asylum in southern England; in the second, the family farm in rural France.
Let’s consider two novels published this month which direct the reader’s gaze towards the characters’ inner lives, mentally and physically. The first, set in Australia during the recent rampaging bushfires, focuses on the characters’ wandering minds as they watch a play. The second, set in the Americas, looks in on the body and outwards to the stars.
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.
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.
Large gatherings at country houses are common enough in fiction, but these two recent reads, both involving family secrets, couldn’t be more different. It’s not so much that the first is set in England and the second in Japan, but one’s crime and the other literary translation. But even within those genres, they’re oddballs. In a good way? Read on for my thoughts!
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.
Only one of these three recent reads is classed as a horror novel and, although not my usual genre, it turned out to be my favourite of the three. But we don’t need to evoke the supernatural to scare ourselves: there are real-life horrors in each of these stories. In the first, a translation, war has killed many and put the survivors’ lives on hold. In the second, set in rural Cumbria, the spooky happenings are extra disturbing for a man with unprocessed memories of violence from childhood, as well as his helplessness in the face of his wife’s agonising three-day labour. The third is a 1960s classic set in a horrific – but typical of its time – psychiatric hospital where the regime seems designed to make a bad situation worse.
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.
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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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