Title: Conversations with Friends

Author: Sally Rooney

Pages: 304 Pages

Publisher: Faber & Faber

The Blurb

Frances, Bobbi, Nick and Melissa ask each other endless questions. As their relationships unfold, in person and online, they discuss sex and friendship, art and literature, politics and gender, and, of course, one another. Twenty-one-year-old Frances is at the heart of it all, bringing us this tale of a complex ménage-à-quatre and her affair with Nick, an older married man. You can read Conversations with Friends as a romantic comedy, or you can read it as a feminist text. You can read it as a book about infidelity, about the pleasures and difficulties of intimacy, or about how our minds think about our bodies. However you choose to read it, it is an unforgettable novel about the possibility of love.

The Review

I have read Sally Rooney’s writing out of sync. I started with Normal People – which I enjoyed but thought was a bit of a victim of its own hype. I decided to read Conversations with Friends recently and now I think I get it.

Sally Rooney really does have a writing voice that exudes her talent with every single word. She manages to show the awkwardness of relationships – platonic, familial, and sexual. She frustrates you by the things that she doesn’t say and yet makes you feel compelled to read more.

The story of Frances and her relationships with the people around her are tumultuous and confusing. We watch her grow and develop but never quite being on the same level as her counterparts – whether this is due to age, experience, or social class is left for you to determine but you cannot but help root for her. You want things to end well or her even though you are distinctly aware that Conversations with Friends is not that kind of book.

My one issue with Conversations with Friends is the same issue that I had with Normal People. It is the stylistic choice to flout rules about speech marks. I prefer my books to have them. However, if that is the only complaint to find about a book then I guess that it is worthy of the highest praise.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney is available now.

For more information regarding Faber & Faber (@FaberBooks) please visit www.faber.co.uk.

Title: The Sisterhood – A Love Letter to the Women Who Have Shaped Me

Author: Daisy Buchanan

Pages: 320 Pages

Publisher: Headline

The Blurb

‘My five sisters are the only women I would ever kill for. And they are the only women I have ever wanted to kill.’

Imagine living between the pages of Pride And Prejudice, in the Bennett household. Now, imagine how the Bennett girls as they’d be in the 21st century – looking like the Kardashian sisters, but behaving like the Simpsons. This is the house Daisy Buchanan grew up in,

Daisy’s memoir The Sisterhood explores what it’s like to live as a modern woman by examining some examples close to home – her adored and infuriating sisters. There’s Beth, the rebellious contrarian; Grace, the overachiever with a dark sense of humour; Livvy, the tough girl who secretly cries during adverts; Maddy, essentially Descartes with a beehive; and Dotty, the joker obsessed with RuPaul’s Drag Race and bears.

In this tender, funny and unflinchingly honest account Daisy examines her relationship with her sisters and what it’s made up of – friendship, insecurity jokes, jealousy and above all, love – while celebrating the ways in which women connect with each other and finding the ways in which we’re all sisters under the skin.

 (AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

I was about 17 when my sister asked me if I would be a surrogate for her. Not right now. This was a hypothetical situation. My sister knew then (and she still knows) that I have no desire to give birth – it looks painful and messy and I have heard that sometimes you poop. Carla is my sister and I would do anything for her and so I agreed. Fortunately for me my sister didn’t need to call on me and my uterus and gave birth to my gorgeous niece in 2015. However, this story was mentioned because if you have sisters you know what you would do for them. Daisy Buchanan just gets it.

The Sisterhood is a celebration of the sisters we have in life. Buchanan mentions friends that become sisters and she talks in depth about real life siblings. She celebrates each of them for their individuality, she shares stories of their shared past and she shows that sometimes being a sister can be hard.

What is wonderful about this collection of essays is that Daisy Buchanan doesn’t hide behind her words. She shows aspects of her own personality that aren’t always the most desirable qualities but she needs to do that  to help you understand how much you can love your sister but want to thump them in the arm until they squeal too.

It is an amazing celebration of sisterhood that can be found within these pages. Read it, love it, and then buy it for your sister for Christmas.

The Sisterhood – A Love Letter to the Women Who Have Shaped Me by Daisy Buchanan is available now.

For more information regarding Daisy Buchanan (@NotRollerGirl) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Headline (@headlinepg) please visit www.headline.co.uk.

Title: The Most Fun We Ever Had

Author: Claire Lombardo

Pages: 544 Pages

Publisher: Doubleday Books

The Blurb

When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that’s to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest: Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she’s not sure she wants by a man she’s not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the lingering fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents’.

As the novel moves through the tumultuous year following the arrival of Jonah Bendt–given up by one of the daughters in a closed adoption fifteen years before–we are shown the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons’ past: years marred by adolescence, infidelity, and resentment, but also the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile.

Spanning nearly half a century, and set against the quintessential American backdrop of Chicago and its prospering suburbs, Lombardo’s debut explores the triumphs and burdens of love, the fraught tethers of parenthood and sisterhood, and the baffling mixture of affection, abhorrence, resistance, and submission we feel for those closest to us. In painting this luminous portrait of a family’s becoming, Lombardo joins the ranks of writers such as Celeste Ng, Elizabeth Strout, and Jonathan Franzen as visionary chroniclers of our modern lives.

The Review

Oh wow. Claire Lombardo’s book The Most Fun We Ever Had is a modern day sweeping family saga filled with drama, mystery, intrigue, and love.

The Most Fun We Ever Had focuses on the Connolly family: the parents, four daughters, and the assortment of grandchildren. It looks at the way in which we can never really fully know the people who we are most close to. We are only really allowed to know what the individual person allows us to know. It shows us how secrets can never be kept fully hidden; how eventually we will have to deal with the demons of our past.

It shows how fragile relationships between the ones you love can be. How loving someone doesn’t necessarily mean you have to like them.

Lombardo really has got inside the nooks and crannies of family life. She shows the nuances and drama can be both big and small and still have a massive impact.

The Most Fun We Ever Had is a novel to get fully invested in. It has the making of a Netflix series written all over it. Come on Reese Witherspoon – get this book optioned.

The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo is available now.

For more information regarding Claire Lombardo (@ClaireLombardo) please visit www.clairelombardo.com.

For more information regarding Doubleday Books (@DoubledayUK) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

Title: Future Popes of Ireland

Author: Darragh Martin

Pages: 448 pages

Publisher: Fourth Estate

The Blurb

In 1979 Bridget Doyle has one goal left in life: for her family to produce the very first Irish pope. Fired up by John Paul II’s appearance in Phoenix Park, she sprinkles Papal-blessed holy water on the marital bed of her son and daughter-in-law, and leaves them to get on with things. But nine months later her daughter-in-law dies in childbirth and Granny Doyle is left bringing up four grandchildren: five-year-old Peg, and baby triplets Damien, Rosie and John Paul.

Thirty years later, it seems unlikely any of Granny Doyle’s grandchildren are going to fulfil her hopes. Damien is trying to work up the courage to tell her that he’s gay. Rosie is a dreamy blue-haired rebel who wants to save the planet and has little time for popes. And irrepressible John Paul is a chancer and a charmer and the undisputed apple of his Granny’s eye – but he’s not exactly what you’d call Pontiff material.

None of the triplets have much contact with their big sister Peg, who lives over 3,000 miles away in New York City, and has been a forbidden topic of conversation ever since she ran away from home as a teenager. But that’s about to change.

 (AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

I don’t really know what I was expecting when I picked up The Future Popes of Ireland by Darragh Martin. I knew it would have something to do with Ireland – that was a given and I knew it was going to be a family drama but how it was going to play out I was at a bit of a loss with. I think I wanted a book version of Derry Girls meets Mrs Brown. Sadly, I don’t feel I got that.

This is not a critique on the writing of Darragh Martin. I want to make that very clear. He has obviously invested a lot of time into writing and researching his book. For me, it just felt very disjointed. The way the timescale lashed forwards and backwards and the extremely short chapters or segments of chapters left me feeling dizzy and constantly trying to play catch up over which character I was reading about. It was due to this that I didn’t feel like I could connect with any of the Doyle family.

This is something that I don’t particularly like in any book but I think it is brave when a writer uses that choice of style.

Future Popes of Ireland by Darragh Martin is available now.

Title: Ringo – With a Little Help

Author: Michael Seth Starr

Pages: 456 Pages

Publisher: Backbeat Books

The Blurb

Ringo: With a Little Help is the first in-depth biography of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, who kept the beat for an entire generation and who remains a rock icon over fifty years since the Beatles took the world by storm.

Born in 1940 as Richard Starkey in the Dingle, one of Liverpool’s most gritty, rough-and-tumble neighbourhoods, he rose from a hardscrabble childhood – marked by serious illnesses, long hospital stays, and little schooling – to emerge, against all odds, as a locally renowned drummer. Taking the stage name Ringo Starr, his big break with the Beatles rocketed him to the pinnacle of worldwide acclaim in a remarkably short time. He was the last member of the Beatles to join the group but also the most vulnerable, and his post-Beatles career was marked by chart-topping successes, a jet-setting life of excess and alcohol abuse, and, ultimately, his rebirth as one of rock’s revered elder statesman.

Ringo: With a Little Help traces the entire arc of Ringo’s remarkable life and career, from his sickly childhood to his life as the world’s most famous drummer to his triumphs, addictions, and emotional battles following the breakup of the Beatles as he comes to terms with his legacy.

The Review

Okay. So, I read Ringo by Michael Seth Starr because I wanted to like Ringo. He is probably my least favourite Beatle and this is because of some o the negative things he has said and done over the years. For example, he has made seriously negative comments about Liverpool, then tried to backtrack saying that this is just ‘Scouse humour’ and anyone really from Liverpool would not have taken offence. As someone who was born, raised and still lives in this great city I beg to differ with his comments. They were – nay are – offensive and more importantly they are just plain wrong. Liverpool is amazing.

However, I am always willing to admit I was wrong or have my mind changed. Therefore I picked up the book Ringo – With a Little Help fully expecting to have my mind changed. Unfortunately, my mind remains the same. Michael Seth Starr has written a great book,. It is well researched and whilst you get the impression that his agenda for writing about Ringo is because he is a fan of Ringo, Starr’s appreciation didn’t manage to budge my over riding belief that Ringo isn’t very nice.

You also get the feeling that Starr (the author not the drummer) has a bit of a dislike for John Lennon. I think this general bias also had a bit of an impact on my reading of the book.

Whilst Ringo – A Little Help is well researched and well written, Starr did not manage to make me change my mind. Those who are a fan of The Beatles and of Ringo will enjoy Michael Seth Starr’s attention to detail.

Ringo – With a Little Help by Michael Seth Starr is available now.

For more information regarding Michael Seth Starr (@biowriter61) please visit www.michaelsethstarr.com.

For more information regarding Backbeat Books (@backbeatbooks) please visit www.backbeatbooks.com.