Title: Staunch

Author: Eleanor Wood

Pages: 297 Pages

Publisher: HQ

The Blurb

A late 30s The Wrong Knickers meets Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Eleanor finds herself in her late 30s on a beach in India with three old ladies, trying to ‘find herself’ and ‘discover her family history’ like some sad middle-class crisis cliché. How did she get here?

Truthfully, it could be for any one of the below reasons, if not all combined:

  • Stepmum dying/Stepdad leaving – family falling apart, subsequent psychotic break; both parents now on third marriage
    • Breaking up with J after 12 years – breaking up a whole life, a whole fucking universe – for reasons that may have been… misguided?
    • New boyfriend moving in immediately, me insisting ‘it’s not a rebound!’ even after everyone has stopped listening, being cited in his messy divorce, him being sectioned, then breaking up with me
    • Going into therapy after dating a potentially violent, certainly threatening, narcissist (the most pertinent point of which should be noted: I did not break up with him – he ghosted me)

How to address this situation? Take a trip to India with your octogenarian nan and two great aunts of course. The perfect, if somewhat unusual, distraction from Eleanor’s ongoing crisis.

But the trip offers so much more than Eleanor could ever have hoped for.

Through the vivid and worldly older women in her life, she learns what it means to be staunch in the face of true adversity.

The Review

I have a new goal in life. I want to be staunch.

Let me explain.

I like to think that I am not a person driven by fear. I don’t worry unnecessarily. I respond to things rather than over-thinking. However, for the past seven days (at the time of writing) I have been holed up in one room fearing the world. A virus is ripping through the country and because of my weakened immune system and the medication that I take to control my immune system I am not embarrassed to say that I am scared. Terrified, even.

So when I read something as uplifting, as courageous and as heart-warming as Staunch by Eleanor Wood I am genuinely given hope. This story of one woman’s admiration for the brave women in her family made me stop and pause, to reassess. I travelled with these ladies to their mother country. I shared their experiences – both good and bad. I revelled in their victories and had my heart squeezed by their failures. In truth, I lived their stories as I read the page.

It reminded me that whilst things are pretty crappy at the moment (and believe me, they are) that things will get better and easier and there will be things to look forward to eventually. It was the first fluttering in my belly of maybe one day being staunch.

Staunch by Eleanor Wood is available now.

For more information regarding Eleanor Wood (@eleanor_wood) please visit her twitter page.

For more information regarding HQ (@HQstories) please visit www.hqstories.co.uk.

Title: Sex and Sexuality in Victorian Britain

Author: Violet Fenn

Pages: 144 Pages

Publisher: Pen & Sword

The Blurb

Peek beneath the bedsheets of nineteenth-century Britain in this affectionate, informative and fascinating look at sex and sexuality during the reign of Queen Victoria. It examines the prevailing attitudes towards male and female sexual behaviour, and the ways in which these attitudes were often determined by those in positions of power and authority. It also explores our ancestors’ ingenious, surprising, bizarre and often entertaining solutions to the challenges associated with maintaining a healthy sex life.

Did the people in Victorian times live up to their stereotypes when it came to sexual behaviour? This book will answer this question, as well as looking at fashion, food, science, art, medicine, magic, literature, love, politics, faith and superstition through a new lens, leaving the reader uplifted and with a new regard for the ingenuity and character of our great-great-grandparents.

The Review

One of my favourite period in history has to be the Victorian era. I will actively read books set during this time – fiction and non-fiction – just because the world was so fascinating. The changes that were occurring not just industrially but also socially – it always makes for an interesting read.

It was due to this that I was intrigued to read Sex and Sexuality in Victorian Britain. What made it even more interesting for me is that it isn’t focused on London which to be fair is usually the location for a lot of books on Victoriana. This book had links to my hometown of Liverpool. Hurrah.

Sex and Sexuality in Victorian Britain was fantastic. It was an academic book without the need of academia to be able to read, understand, and enjoy it. It was eye-opening and titillating all at once. Fenn has researched hr topic well and added the element of heart – something that sometimes lacks in other texts of this ilk. I hoovered this book, relishing every page and any fan of history should find enjoyment between these pages.

Sex and Sexuality in Victorian Britain by Violet Fenn is available now.

For more information regarding Violet Fenn (@violetfenn) please visit www.sexdeathrocknroll.com.

For more information regarding Pen & Sword (@penswordbooks) please visit www.pen-and-sword.co.uk.

Title: Ask Again, Yes

Author: Mary Beth Keane

Pages: 400 Pages

Publisher: Michael Joseph

The Blurb

A gripping and compassionate drama of two families linked by chance, love and tragedy

Gillam, upstate New York: a town of ordinary, big-lawned suburban houses. The Gleesons have recently moved there and soon welcome the Stanhopes as their new neighbours.

Lonely Lena Gleeson wants a friend but Anne Stanhope – cold, elegant, unstable – wants to be left alone.

It’s left to their children – Lena’s youngest, Kate, and Anne’s only child, Peter – to find their way to one another. To form a friendship whose resilience and love will be almost broken by the fault line dividing both families, and by the terrible tragedy that will engulf them all.

A tragedy whose true origins only become clear many years later . . .

A story of love and redemption, faith and forgiveness, Ask Again, Yes reveals the way childhood memories change when viewed from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so.

A story of how, if we’re lucky, the violence lurking beneath everyday life can be vanquished by the power of love.

 (AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

If I was asked to describe Ask Again, Yes then I think I would really struggle. It isn’t a novel where a lot of things happen and yet loads of things happen. It is a novel that is driven by the relationships of the characters but we have a backdrop of the social history of New York over the decades.

The enduring story is one of love and how it can transcend time and circumstance.

I don’t really know how to sell this book except to say that it is brilliant, engaging and absolutely kept me turning the pages until it was over. I had the comfortably warm feeling after I finished and that to me is a sign of a great book.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane is available now.

For more information regarding Mary Beth Keane (@Mary_Beth_Keane) please visit www.marybethkeane.com.

For more information regarding Michael Joseph (@MichaelJBooks) please visit the Twitter page.

Title: It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and Other Lies)

Author: Scarlett Curtis (ed.)

Pages: 576 Pages

Publisher: Penguin

The Blurb

It’s OK if everything might feel a bit overwhelming.
It’s OK to talk about it.
It’s OK to not want to talk about it.
It’s OK to find it funny.
It’s OK to be human.

Over 70 people have shared their powerful, funny and moving stories exploring their own mental health, including Sam Smith, Emilia Clarke, Candice Carty-Williams and Adam Kay.

One in four of us will experience a mental health issue. This book is here to tell you, or someone you care about, it’s OK.

 (AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

In these uncertain times that we live in people are beginning to own their own mental health. None of us, even those we consider to be superhuman, are exempt from sometimes suffering with their mental wellbeing. What is great about this collection edited by Scarlett Curtis is that those people that we often put on a pedestal and see as a hero also have their own demons that they are dealing with.

This is a great collection to dip in an out of when you need that morale boost and when you need to see that other people are dealing with things too. The more our mental health is normalised and seen as something we should be protecting the less stigma there will be around the issue.

It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and Other Lies) by Scarlett Curtis is available now.

For more information regarding Scarlett Curtis (@sarcurtis) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Penguin (@PenguinUKBooks) please visit www.penguin.co.uk.

Title: Recollections of My Non-Existence

Author: Rebecca Solnit

Pages: 256 Pages

Publisher: Granta Publications

The Blurb

In 1981, Rebecca Solnit rented a studio apartment in San Francisco that would be her home for the next twenty-five years. There, she began to come to terms with the epidemic of violence against women around her, the street harassment that unsettled her, and the authority figures that routinely disbelieved her. That violence weighed on her as she faced the task of having a voice in a society that preferred women to shut up or go away.

Set in the era of punk, of growing gay pride, of counter culture and West Coast activism, during the latter years of second wave feminism, Recollections of My Non-Existence is the foundational story of an emerging artist struggling against patriarchal violence and scorn. Recalling the experience of living with fear, which Solnit contends is the normal state of women, she considers how oppression impacts on creativity and recounts the struggle to find a voice and have it be heard.

Place and the growing culture of activism liberated her, as did the magical world of literature and books. And over time, the clamour of voices against violence to women coalesced in the current feminist upheaval, a movement in which Solnit was a widely audible participant. Here is an electric account of the pauses and gains of feminism in the past forty years; and an extraordinary portrait of an artist, by a seminal American writer.

The Review

Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit is a palate cleanser of a book. It is a series of essays that create a memoir. The collection, whilst being specific to Rebecca Solnit’s life equally acts as a record of social change dealing with issues such as sexual assault, gentrification, race, and feminism.

Some essays are more enjoyable than others but it is an interesting collection.

Recollections of My Non-Existence by Rebecca Solnit is available now.