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: 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.

Title: Freya

Author: Anthony Quinn

Pages: 464 Pages

Publisher: Random House UK

The Blurb

London, May 1945. Freya Wyley, twenty, meets Nancy Holdaway, eighteen, amid the wild celebrations of VE Day, the prelude to a devoted and competitive friendship that will endure on and off for the next two decades. Freya, wilful, ambitious, outspoken, pursues a career in newspapers which the chauvinism of Fleet Street and her own impatience conspire to thwart, while Nancy, gentler, less self-confident, struggles to get her first novel published. Both friends become entangled at university with Robert Cosway, a charismatic young man whose own ambition will have a momentous bearing on their lives.

Flitting from war-haunted Oxford to the bright new shallows of the 1960s, Freya plots the unpredictable course of a woman’s life and loves against a backdrop of Soho pornographers, theatrical peacocks, willowy models, priapic painters, homophobic blackmailers, political careerists.

Beneath the relentless thrum of changing times and a city being reshaped, we glimpse the eternal: the battles fought by women in pursuit of independence, the intimate mysteries of the human heart, and the search for love. Stretching from the Nuremberg war trials to the advent of the TV celebrity, from innocence abroad to bitter experience at home, Freya presents the portrait of an extraordinary woman taking arms against a sea of political and personal tumult.

The Review

I loved this book.

Freya is the brilliant story of the eponymous character in post-war Britain and her turbulent friendship with Nancy.

Freya is not the most likeable of characters and Quinn has made sure that the reader sees that her flaws are obvious but also that the things that she dislikes most about people, society, and social morals are the faux pas that she keeps producing.

Even though Freya can be very unlikable so can Nancy. You find yourself yelling at both of them as they both make mistakes time and time again. Quinn really shows the truth about friendship. The upsides and the downsides and just how difficult sustaining a friendship can be.

I really loved reading Freya. It is by no means a small book but I wanted more. The story did not need more and I was satisfied with the story as a whole but I just loved it so much. I was bereft when it was over.

Freya by Anthony Quinn is available now.

For more information regarding Random House UK (@penguinrandom) please visit www.penguinrandomhouse.com.

Title: Beatlebone

Author: Kevin Barry

Pages: 320 Pages

Publisher: Canongate

The Blurb

He will spend three days alone on his island. That is all that he asks . . . John is so many miles from love now and home. This is the story of his strangest trip.

John owns a tiny island off the west coast of Ireland. Maybe it is there that he can at last outrun the shadows of his past.

The tale of a wild journey into the world and a wild journey within, Beatlebone is a mystery box of a novel. It’s a portrait of an artist at a time of creative strife. It is most of all a sad and beautiful comedy from one of the most gifted stylists now at work.

The Review

I genuinely have no idea what this book was about or what I was supposed to take from it. I felt this way midway through and after 320 pages I still feel this way.

John Lennon wandering around with no purpose. Ok. I still don’t get it.

Beatlebone by Kevin Barry is available now.

For more information regarding Canongate (@canongatebooks) please visit www.canongate.co.uk.

Title: An American Marriage

Author: Tayari Jones

Pages: 320 Pages

Publisher: One World Publications

The Blurb

Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she struggles to hold on to the love that has been her centre. When his conviction is suddenly overturned, he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.

This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward – with hope and pain – into the future.

The Review

Recently, An American Marriage won the Women’s Prize award. I had all of the shortlisted books but hadn’t made my way through them all. I decided to read An American Marriage after it had won and after having read some of the other fabulous shortlisted books you can see why this book managed to scoop the prize.

It is the story of Celestial and Ray. A newly married couple who are put through testing times when Ray is wrongly accused of a crime that he did not commit. It is about how marriage works, how individuals can struggle becoming a unit, and it is about the power of long lasting love.

I found myself having a very strong and negative reaction to the character Celestial. I disagreed with her choices and I found myself getting angry at her, believing her to be: petulant, spoilt and disagreeable. However, what is great about this story is that I believe that people coming from different backgrounds, different ages, and different marital status’ will all have different reactions. In my opinion, that is essentially what makes An American Marriage by Tayari Jones a great book.

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones is available now.

For more information regarding Tayari Jones (@tayari) please visit www.tayarijones.com.