Hello reading friends!
A big warm welcome to new subscribers and Happy International Women’s Day to you all. I’m grateful to all the women who’ve loved and supported me over the years. They’ve made my life better in every way.
What I’ve been reading
I rarely recommend non-fiction in this newsletter (for no particular reason), but I do read quite a few non-fiction books when I can get my brain to focus. I’m particularly fond of memoirs (not celebrity memoirs, you won’t find a review of Spare here) and I don’t enjoy stories where there is too much violence or angst, which narrows down the field a bit.
I really liked How Not to Be a Boy by comedian Robert Webb, which on first inspection might look like a celebrity memoir, but is really about gender stereotypes and the construction of masculinity. It’s funny, sad and honest.
I’ve just finished Nothing Bad Ever Happens Here by the Australian writer Heather Rose, author of Bruny and The Museum of Modern Love, and enjoyed it immensely.
Born in Tasmania, Rose’s idyllic childhood is interrupted by a family tragedy, but the book is about much more than grief and loss. It’s about the circuitous task of finding yourself in a complex world. It’s about motherhood and building a career as a writer, something that interests me immensely.
Our bodies remember the past perhaps more than our brains. It takes everything to forget. Putting aside the past to focus on now, on this moment, is a victory. Every time we are here, in the vivid now, with breath and eyes, smell and touch, is a victory. It isn’t that the past didn’t happen. It isn’t that we must forgive or forget, although we can. There are lives we might have lived, could have lived, didn’t live, and this one we are living right now.
It’s good here. I’m so glad it’s now.
Do you have any favourite memoirs? I’d love to know.
What I’ve been listening to
I love listening to podcasts about writers and one of my favourites is In Writing, presented by Hattie Crisell. In this fascinating episode, Shaun Usher curator of correspondence, talks to Hattie about falling in love with letter writing (and his wife) at the same time, and shares some of the finest letters he’s read. It’s a wonderful episode. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
What I’ve been cooking
I’ve been on holiday in New Zealand for the past week so I’ve been having a lovely rest from the dreaded “what’s for dinner” conversation, but before I left I made some little coffee and walnut cakes to celebrate the birthday of my friend Jan.
The recipe was pretty simple and can be found here.
That’s all for this week. Don’t forget that book club is on next week. I’ll send out a reminder closer to the day. Hope you can join me.
If you’re new here and would like to know more about the book club, here’s some more information.
How to be a Boy was a huge favourite of Nick and Olivia but I'm yet to read it. I read many biographies when I was younger but now I often find I am impatient with the writer for being a) too self-centred (you have to be that to write a book about yourself!) b) too pathetic (I know life is hard, but isn't it for many people?) I actually prefer memoir because it is usually an imperfect recollection. Defo making those cupcakes - coffee and walnuts, yum.
I know there are some amazing memoirs, but I tend to read more biographies than memoirs. A favorite memoir isn’t really a memoir at all but a diary--The Diary of Anne Frank. I loved it as a kid, and I still do. Another, also in the Holocaust memoir category, is Daniel Mendelsohn’s The Lost: A Search for Six of the Six Million, a heartbreaking account of his arduous quest for information about the deaths of 6 family members during the Holocaust. I also loved Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, an account of his colorful early years as a writer in Paris during the 1920s. There are so many more I’d like to read. Looking forward to your book club next week. Those cupcakes look really delicious! 🧁