Title: Expectation

Author: Anna Hope

Pages: 336 Pages

Publisher: Random House

The Blurb

What happened to the women we were supposed to become?

Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.

Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?

The most razor-sharp and heartbreaking novel of the year, EXPECTATION is a novel about finding your way: as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a rebel.

FOR FANS OF SALLY ROONEY, DIANA EVANS, DOLLY ALDERTON, ELIZABETH DAY AND FLEABAG

The Review

I’m going to be glib and say that I didn’t know what to expect when I read Expectation by Anna Hope. I had chosen it based on the strength of how much I liked Anna Hope’s previous novel The Ballroom. I didn’t, however, expect to be as immersed in the world that she created so fervently. For me, Expectation was a one-sitting read.

The story follows the lives of three friends who, through the innocence of youth, believe that their lives will follow a certain path and trajectory. Yes, there will be pitfalls along the way but they have an end goal and they know what they want. So what happens when that doesn’t happen? Fast-forward to the summer of their lives when they are making life changing decisions and are not where they expected to be we can see the harsh reality of life paralleled with what was once youthful hope as the last vestiges of that optimism fade away. Through this, our protagonists – Hannah, Cate and Lissa – have to face their reality and also the knowledge that they aren’t necessarily the best versions of themselves anymore.

Throughout this book Margaret Mitchell’s words kept ringing in my head: “Life is under no obligation to give you what you expect.” I think that because I am of similar age (physically/emotionally) to the characters I really felt that the novel resonated with me and compelled me to read more. Anna Hope has created a relatable cast of characters with problems that are more pertinent than I realised. Besides an astonishing ability to tell a good story, Hope manages to embed you into the world she has created and makes you examine yourself.

Expectation by Anna Hope is available now.

For more information regarding Anna Hope (@Anna_Hope) please visit www.annahope.uk.

For more information regarding Random House (@randomhouse) please visit www.randomhousebooks.com.

Title: Mademoiselle – Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History

Author: Rhonda K. Garelick

Pages: 608 Pages

Publisher: Random House

The Blurb

Certain lives are at once so exceptional, and yet so in step with their historical moments, that they illuminate cultural forces far beyond the scope of a single person. Such is the case with Coco Chanel, whose life offers one of the most fascinating tales of the twentieth century—throwing into dramatic relief an era of war, fashion, ardent nationalism, and earth-shaking change—here brilliantly treated, for the first time, with wide-ranging and incisive historical scrutiny.

Coco Chanel transformed forever the way women dressed. Her influence remains so pervasive that to this day we can see her afterimage a dozen times while just walking down a single street: in all the little black dresses, flat shoes, costume jewelry, cardigan sweaters, and tortoiseshell eyeglasses on women of every age and background. A bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume is sold every three seconds. Arguably, no other individual has had a deeper impact on the visual aesthetic of the world. But how did a poor orphan become a global icon of both luxury and everyday style? How did she develop such vast, undying influence? And what does our ongoing love of all things Chanel tell us about ourselves? These are the mysteries that Rhonda K. Garelick unravels in Mademoiselle.

Raised in rural poverty and orphaned early, the young Chanel supported herself as best she could. Then, as an uneducated nineteen-year-old café singer, she attracted the attention of a wealthy and powerful admirer and parlayed his support into her own hat design business. For the rest of Chanel’s life, the professional, personal, and political were interwoven; her lovers included diplomat Boy Capel; composer Igor Stravinsky; Romanov heir Grand Duke Dmitri; Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster; poet Pierre Reverdy; a Nazi officer; and several women as well. For all that, she was profoundly alone, her romantic life relentlessly plagued by abandonment and tragedy.

Chanel’s ambitions and accomplishments were unparalleled. Her hat shop evolved into a clothing empire. She became a noted theatrical and film costume designer, collaborating with the likes of Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, and Luchino Visconti. The genius of Coco Chanel, Garelick shows, lay in the way she absorbed the zeitgeist, reflecting it back to the world in her designs and in what Garelick calls “wearable personality”—the irresistible and contagious style infused with both world history and Chanel’s nearly unbelievable life saga. By age forty, Chanel had become a multimillionaire and a household name, and her Chanel Corporation is still the highest-earning privately owned luxury goods manufacturer in the world.

In Mademoiselle, Garelick delivers the most probing, well-researched, and insightful biography to date on this seemingly familiar but endlessly surprising figure—a work that is truly both a heady intellectual study and a literary page-turner.

The Review

One of the people throughout history that I have found to have one of the most fascinating lives is that of Coco Chanel.

With a life steeped in mystery and drama (mostly of her own making and legend) and with so many books have been written about her I have found out a lot of information that I never knew. I must admit that Rhonda K Garelick’s book seems to be the most comprehensive and the book that is most willing to look at Chanel’s many flaws and bad decisions. Mademoiselle is an in-depth account of the life and loves that helped shape the woman she become. It celebrates her victories along with looking at her dark and often insidious past.

Love her or loathe her, you will definitely learn about Coco Chanel and learn to respect the impact that she had on feminism and fashion

Mademoiselle – Coco Chanel and the Pulse of History by Rhonda Garelick is available now.

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

Title: What Rosie Was

Author: Rosie Price

Pages: 304 Pages

Publisher: Random House

The Blurb

When Kate Quaile meets Max Rippon in the first week of university, so begins a life-changing friendship.

Over the next four years, the two become inseparable. For him, she breaks her solitude; for her, he leaves his busy circles behind. But knowing Max means knowing his family: the wealthy Rippons, all generosity, social ease, and quiet repression. Theirs is a very different world from Kate’s own upbringing, and yet she finds herself quickly drawn into their gilded lives, and the secrets that lie beneath. Until one evening, at the Rippons home, just after graduation, her life is shattered apart in a bedroom while a party goes on downstairs.

What Red Was is an incisive and mesmerizing novel about power, privilege, and consent—one that fearlessly explores the effects of trauma on the mind and body of a young woman, the tyrannies of memory, the sacrifices involved in staying silent, and the courage in speaking out. And when Kate does, it raises this urgent question: Whose story is it now?

The Review

What Red Was is a really difficult book to read. This is not because the writing is obscure or hard, not is it because of the triggering subject that it deals with (which believe me could be hard for people to read) but for me it is because of the normalcy of people’s behaviour in the book. The triggering act is a sex attack – normally I wouldn’t do spoilers but to discuss the book I think it needs to be mentioned. As I said previously, there is an acceptance to the behaviour of the attacker. This is not a novel full of shock and awe.

However, what I did find really positive about What Red Was is that amidst all of the hurt and pain caused Rosie Price shows how victims can and must move on. How their lives can be shaped by that one act or that it can be used as one part of bigger, wider story. I am in no way trying to diminish what happened to protagonist Katie, what happened to her in the novel is hideous and abhorrent and no amount of writing can justify it. What I will say is that Rosie Price allows you, the reader, to move on much like Katie does.

What Red Was by Rosie Price is available now.

For more information regarding Random House (@RandomHouse) please visit www.randomhousebooks.com.

 

Title: Half a Life

Author: Darin Strauss

Pages: 208 Pages

Publisher: Random House

The Blurb

In this powerful, unforgettable memoir, acclaimed novelist Darin Strauss examines the far-reaching consequences of the tragic moment that has shadowed his whole life.

In his last month of high school, he was behind the wheel of his dad’s Oldsmobile, driving with friends, heading off to play mini-golf. Then: a classmate swerved in front of his car. The collision resulted in her death.

With piercing insight and stark prose, Darin Strauss leads us on a deeply personal, immediate, and emotional journey–graduating high school, going away to college, starting his writing career, falling in love with his future wife, becoming a father. Along the way, he takes a hard look at loss and guilt, maturity and accountability, hope and, at last, acceptance. The result is a staggering, uplifting tour de force.

(AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

Hmmm. Well. How do I write this review?

I found this to be a very self indulgent book. Granted, it is a memoir and that can often be the case. However, I think the reason I had such a problem with it was because I felt like the author was cashing in on an event that, yes, was life altering for him but was probably more life altering for other people.

I felt that the author presented himself as almost wrong footed by life and that people just didn’t understand him. I don’t know, it just came across as self serving and whiny.

I was not a fan of this book.

Half a Life by Darin Strauss is available now.

Title: The Heart’s Invisible Furies

Author: John Boyne

Pages: 736 Pages

Publisher: Random House UK

The Blurb

Forced to flee the scandal brewing in her hometown, Catherine Goggin finds herself pregnant and alone, in search of a new life at just sixteen. She knows she has no choice but to believe that the nun she entrusts her child to will find him a better life.

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery, or so his parents are constantly reminding him. Adopted as a baby, he’s never quite felt at home with the family that treats him more as a curious pet than a son. But it is all he has ever known.

And so begins one man’s desperate search to find his place in the world. Unspooling and unseeing, Cyril is a misguided, heart-breaking, heartbroken fool. Buffeted by the harsh winds of circumstance towards the one thing that might save him from himself, but when opportunity knocks, will he have the courage, finally, take it?

The Review

Every so often I come across a book that I find very difficult to review. Not because I didn’t like it, in fact it is quite the opposite. I love the book so damn much that I don’t think my words are adequate to do it justice. Try, I must.

John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies was a book I was finding difficult to ignore. Simon Savidge kept talking about it on his YouTube channel Savidge Reads and I knew sooner or later I would have to read it. I was scared to read it because it isn’t a short book by any means – 736 pages is a massive commitment – however, from the very first chapter I was hooked.

The story, told in seven year intervals, deals with so many issues – the Catholic church and how it deals with perceived ‘sin’, LGBT rights, the troubles in Ireland, the AIDS crisis among many other topics. I can genuinely say that I never once felt like I was reading for reading’s sake. I devoured this book and was bereft when it was over. It was one of those magical books that makes you want to read more to know what happens but equally you don’t want to read because you don’t want to finish it.

Needless to say but The Heart’s Invisible Furies has made it too my forever book shelf.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne is available now.

For more information regarding John Boyne (@john_boyne) please visit www.johnboyne.com.

For more information regarding Random House UK (@PenguinRHUK) please visit www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk.