To put it plainly, I was blown away by this book. Inspired by the formation and rise of Fleetwood Mac, with a real 70’s retro rock flavour, this is the type of book where you mourn finishing it, and absolutely have to pick up another book by that same author (Taylor Jenkins Reid in this case). It had me conducting in-depth research into each Fleetwood Mac member, reading old news stories on them and their tours, and listening to all of their music again with a new appreciation.
What I love about a Taylor Jenkins Reid novel is that there is always a twist or three, and you never know when she will reveal them to you, you just know that they are coming. No spoilers here, but the twists in this storyline are wonderfully delivered and altogether will have you reading this book in every square inch of space in your day.
What I also enjoyed about this book is that it is written as an interview script, giving you the perspective of each band member. It means you get multiple viewpoints, which all match and clash at the same time to really drive home how the eventual fall-out of the band came to be (this is not a spoiler, given that we know that Fleetwood Mac split).
An incredible book I won’t forget. It’s a must-read if you haven’t already.
[If you haven’t read this book, there are some spoilers in this post!]
The Midnight Library has been such a joyful and warming read for me. If you are looking for a beautifully written story full of reassurances and hope then you should add this to your list.
For those who have not read The Midnight Library, the book is about a young woman, Nora, who is struggling and unhappy with her life. Her career, her finances, her relationships (in terms of friends, family and partners) are all not progressing as she had hoped and, ultimately, her life is lacking in love and fulfilment. Sadly, she decides that suicide is her only option left and so she enters The Midnight Library, a sort of halfway-house/’room’ filled with all of the possibilities that her life could have been, or evolved to be, together with The Book of Regrets (fairly self-explanatory). The story explores some of the main choices that Nora regrets throughout her life, taking Nora to those lives that she would be living had she chosen differently. Ultimately, Nora learns that her current life is actually the one that will make her most happy, with the resounding messages behind the book being that you have all the tools in place at any time to live the life you want, and that the grass is not always greener.
We live in an increasingly fast-paced, immediate, and accessible world. It is difficult not to compare your own life to the idyllic little Instagram squares of nomadic travellers island-hopping around Australasia, or the perfectly dressed women brunching on a Tuesday in Mayfair. On the other hand, we live in a world filled with so many opportunities and options that we are also overwhelmed with choice, and it can be hard to make decisions without thinking ‘what if’. This is why the book resonated so much with me. It is a gentle reminder that you and your life are enough, and what is important is having things in it that you love. It is also a message of perseverance and bravery, of not giving up when things feel too much and to embrace opportunities and challenges as they come rather than dwelling on regrets.
What also made me love the book so much is that it touches on so many complex topics in such a direct but gentle way that I think everyone can learn from. The catalyst of the story is suicide. In some of her lives, Nora’s brother struggles with alcoholism, and, in one life, Nora’s best friend dies suddenly and tragically. Some lives include deep family rifts, others leave Nora feeling like a failure. Nora suffers imposter syndrome in some of her lives, and depression and anxiety in others. Many of these topics are difficult to do justice to, given their complexity, and some can find them difficult to fully understand unless they struggle too. And yet, the way in which Haig delivers each of these topics is both educating and eye-opening for his reader.
The Midnight Library is an important book that leaves you feeling happy and lifted, all whilst discussing some very difficult issues. It reassures you that you are not alone in the struggles you face, and to embrace life no matter how scary it can be at times. It is well worth a read.
As an avid historical fiction fan, Maggie O’Farrell’s, Hamnet, leap-frogged its way to the top of my never-ending reading list immediately on publication.
O’Farrell uses the gaps and unknowns of undocumented history to create an eloquent, emotional, and interesting novel. It is mainly told from the perspective of Shakespeare’s wife, Agnes (Anne) Hathaway, and is a story of their marriage and loss of their son, Hamnet. This in itself, highlights the two main reasons why I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Firstly, the writer touches upon such delicate subjects with great sensitivity, and crafts the narrative in a highly emotive way. O’Farrell’s beautiful writing is utterly compelling, and you really experience the same emotions as the characters. Loss, grief, marriage, and parenthood are topics that most readers will be able to empathise with in some way. Given the times that we live in today, it is difficult to also not draw comparison between the plague sweeping across Britain in Hamnet, to the current pandemic sweeping across the world. Using storylines that are relatable and run adjacent to the everyday lives of many is important, as, given that historical novels are not everyone’s cup of tea, by touching on subjects that readers can identify with, and emotionally connect to, made for clever and connective writing.
Secondly, I thought that O’Farrell struck an excellent balance between writing fiction around fact. Given the certain ‘mystery’ around Shakespeare’s personal life, and in particular, his wife and children, O’Farrell had a lot of space in which she could have really run with artistic licence. However, in what I feel was quite the opposite way, O’Farrell instead composed a piece of literature that could easily be believable by cleverly interlinking documented events with creative prose. For example, O’Farrell explores the possibility that Agnes was a witch without ever expressly stating this is the case, and instead subtly references things such as her interest in herbs, against a backdrop of the criminality of Witchcraft during that era. This demonstrated a certain integrity to the author, and made me enjoy the story even more, especially as a self-confessed history-bod! Even if I was not interested in history, the position that O’Farrell takes in adding fictional flesh to the bare historical bones would have certainly created an interest in Shakespearean England, and this, to me, speaks volumes about the quality of Hamnet.