Title: My Dark Vanessa

Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell

Pages: 384 Pages

Publisher: 4th Estate

The Blurb

Vanessa Wye was fifteen-years-old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.

Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that.

Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues our age.

The Review

It is rare that I will come across a book that makes me feel so deeply uncomfortable but My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell has done just that.

It is the story of Vanessa Wye. We follow her through different periods of her life. Mainly her formative teen years and post high school into adulthood. The story centres on one major event that happens to her as a teenager and how it has had a profound impact on her life thereafter.

At the age of fifteen, Vanessa embarked on a relationship with her English teacher.

Now as an audience we know that this is wrong. It is legally and morally wrong which puts us in the position of feeling that Vanessa has been violated. However, Vanessa doesn’t see it like that. Even as an adult she maintains that nothing was wrong.

This is where our moral dilemma comes in. If we trust our narrator then surely we trust her judgement on this situation. You want to believe in your narrator but your head is battling with what you know is wrong and what you know is right.

My Dark Vanessa is a powerful story but be prepared for it to make you feel uncomfortable.

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell is available now.

For more information regarding 4th Estate (@4thEstateBooks) please visit www.4thestate.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: We Should All Be Feminists

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Pages: 65 Pages

The Blurb

A personal and powerful essay from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the bestselling author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, based on her 2013 TEDx Talk of the same name.

An eBook short.

What does “feminism” mean today? That is the question at the heart of We Should All Be Feminists, a personal, eloquently-argued essay – adapted from her much-viewed Tedx talk of the same name – by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the award-winning author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’. With humour and levity, here Adichie offers readers a unique definition of feminism for the twenty-first century – one rooted in inclusion and awareness. She shines a light not only on blatant discrimination, but also the more insidious, institutional behaviours that marginalise women around the world, in order to help readers of all walks of life better understand the often masked realities of sexual politics. Throughout, she draws extensively on her own experiences – in the U.S., in her native Nigeria – offering an artfully nuanced explanation of why the gender divide is harmful for women and men, alike. Argued in the same observant, witty and clever prose that has made Adichie a best-selling novelist, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman today – and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists.

The Review

I’ll start this review with a personal anecdote.

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I were discussing what he would like to do for his birthday. He said that he would like to stay in a really fancy hotel that we had been looking into staying in for a while. I thought that this was a great idea and since it is six months until his birthday it gives me time to save up. When I told him this, he became sweetly defensive and told me that he didn’t expect me to pay for it. This was lovely of him to say because I earn substantially less than him. What I earn in a month he can in 3 times that amount in a week. However, it will be his birthday and I told him no, that I will pay for it. We then argued for a bit and I posed the question to him asking if it was my birthday and I wanted to stay somewhere would he let me pay and he became quiet before agreeing that he wouldn’t let me. When I asked him what the difference was his response was….wait for it…. “because I am a man.”

Apparently you need to have a penis to pay for hotels these days. Who knew?

Now my boyfriend is a good guy, he is respectful and he does believe that everyone (not just women) should have equal rights and I would even say that he is a bit of a male feminist. However, these ideals of men have money, they pay for things, this is how the world works mentality is so ingrained in our minds and societal functionality that even he slipped up and made this faux pas.

This whole theme of male power is the concentration of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s essay, We Should All Be Feminists. This essay was only written a few years ago but the same issues are happening everyday in modern society: men get paid more for the same jobs that women do; men still hold the majority of high paid positions; women still take on the bulk of housework whilst holding down a full time job. Now, of course, you could argue that these are massive generalisations and I am homogenising groups for my own pleasure but, come on, even you (dear review reader) have to admit that there is some truth in what I am saying.

Please give this short essay a read; it is fascinating in the fact that many things that we take for granted – both women and men (linguistic flip intended) – and gives us a deeper insight into modern society and how much things have changed yet how much there is still yet to achieve.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is available now.

Synopsis

Lena Dunham invites you into her world and delivers an account of some of the random events that have shaped her life and made her the person she is today.

Review

Pssst! Yes you, the one reading this. I have a slight confession. Before reading Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” I didn’t have a clue who Lena Dunham was. I’ve never watched HBO’s Girls nor had this tiny blonde lady from Manhattan made it anywhere near my radar (Lena Dunham – if you are reading this then I am very sorry). Instead, I was drawn to her book in that very way that us ‘high-brow’ book bloggers hate admitting to. I liked the pink and black writing on the cover. I hang my head in shame.

Having read Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” I do feel like I know who Lena Dunham is. Not just in a 21st century someone-who-is famous-and-therefore-known sort of way but on a more personal level.  This may seem like a crazy idea being that Dunham is only really showing us what she wants us to see; revealing only the parts of herself that she deems suitable for human literary consumption.

However, I get the sense that Dunham knows that the events of her life are funny and that by sharing them she really isn’t looking for judgement but looking to allow the reader to realise that life – anyone’s life – is full of humour, sadness, ambition and dark matter amongst a whole list of other things. She seems so conscious that in parts she comes across as a little unhinged but she bares her bones to us and good on her. There is a cathartic self-indulgence to this memoir in the sense that whilst I know the stories belong to someone else it has allowed me to reflect on my own life, the memories that have made up my story and it has given me the genus to laugh along with some of the things I used to take seriously.

So whilst I can’t honestly say that this book has inspired me to have a Girls marathon it has inspire me to take life as it comes and see the potential in each event I encounter. For that I thank you, Lena Dunham.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham is available now.

You can follow Lena Dunham on Twitter @LenaDunham

 

Synopsis

Lena Dunham invites you into her world and delivers an account of some of the random events that have shaped her life and made her the person she is today.

Review

Pssst! Yes you, the one reading this. I have a slight confession. Before reading Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” I didn’t have a clue who Lena Dunham was. I’ve never watched HBO’s Girls nor had this tiny blonde lady from Manhattan made it anywhere near my radar (Lena Dunham – if you are reading this then I am very sorry). Instead, I was drawn to her book in that very way that us ‘high-brow’ book bloggers hate admitting to. I liked the pink and black writing on the cover. I hang my head in shame.

Having read Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” I do feel like I know who Lena Dunham is. Not just in a 21st century someone-who-is famous-and-therefore-known sort of way but on a more personal level.  This may seem like a crazy idea being that Dunham is only really showing us what she wants us to see; revealing only the parts of herself that she deems suitable for human literary consumption.

However, I get the sense that Dunham knows that the events of her life are funny and that by sharing them she really isn’t looking for judgement but looking to allow the reader to realise that life – anyone’s life – is full of humour, sadness, ambition and dark matter amongst a whole list of other things. She seems so conscious that in parts she comes across as a little unhinged but she bares her bones to us and good on her. There is a cathartic self-indulgence to this memoir in the sense that whilst I know the stories belong to someone else it has allowed me to reflect on my own life, the memories that have made up my story and it has given me the genus to laugh along with some of the things I used to take seriously.

So whilst I can’t honestly say that this book has inspired me to have a Girls marathon it has inspire me to take life as it comes and see the potential in each event I encounter. For that I thank you, Lena Dunham.

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham is available now.

You can follow Lena Dunham on Twitter @LenaDunham