Book Review: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Red Clocks

Five women. One question. What is a woman for?

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in-vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom.

Ro, a single high-school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own, while also writing a biography of Eivør, a little-known 19th-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted, forest-dwelling homeopath, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt.

My Review:

When I first started to read Red Clocks, I wasn’t sure this was going to be the book for me. But then, I continued reading, and boy was I wrong!

I got a bit confused at first by the chapter changes — each chapter is from one of the four main character’s point of view and their name is never mentioned in that chapter. However, once I got to know the characters, their voices were so unique that there was no danger of confusing them.
I love the premise of the book — that in the near future (ie, anytime, really), the abortion laws in the US are repealed and embryos are granted person status, which changes everything around reproduction. Also, there’s a new law around adoption where “every child needs two”, meaning single people can no longer adopt. Red Clocks takes place just as these new laws are going into effect so that we can see their full impact.
By throwing the world into this kind of situation, combined with the story of the 19th century Icelandic Arctic explorer, Elivor. Zumas is able to explore the concept of motherhood from many different angles in a fascinating and thoughtful way. By about mid way through the book, I couldn’t put it down and just had to finish.
NOTE: I received an ecopy of this book via NetGalley.

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Book Review: How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

How to Stop Time

by Matt Haig, illustrated by Chris Riddell

“The first rule is that you don’t fall in love, ‘ he said… ‘There are other rules too, but that is the main one. No falling in love. No staying in love. No daydreaming of love. If you stick to this you will just about be okay.'”

A love story across the ages – and for the ages – about a man lost in time, the woman who could save him, and the lifetimes it can take to learn how to live

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.

So Tom moves back to London, his old home, to become a high school history teacher–the perfect job for someone who has witnessed the city’s history first hand. Better yet, a captivating French teacher at his school seems fascinated by him. But the Albatross Society, the secretive group which protects people like Tom, has one rule: never fall in love. As painful memories of his past and the erratic behavior of the Society’s watchful leader threaten to derail his new life and romance, the one thing he can’t have just happens to be the one thing that might save him. Tom will have to decide once and for all whether to remain stuck in the past, or finally begin living in the present.

How to Stop Time is a bighearted, wildly original novel about losing and finding yourself, the inevitability of change, and how with enough time to learn, we just might find happiness.

Review:
How to Stop Time is one of those cozy weekend reads full of interesting storytelling and thoughtful takes on love and life. This, combined with the amazing illustrations by Chris Riddell, make the book a real treat (I bought the illustrated version — well worth it!).

 

I love how Haig uses the character of Tom, a man who ages extremely slowly, to explore themes about what it means to really live and the value of love, things like the difference between existing and living, and is it worth loving someone if you will inevitably watch them age and die while you don’t. These are great questions to explore and Haig does it in a way that doesn’t seem “heavy”.

 

Tom was an interesting character — he’d seen amazing things and met influential people in his long life, but he lived in fear of being exposed and this influenced his every action and thought. The one criticism I have of this book is that sometimes Tom gets a bit dragged down in his thoughts and fears and it slows the book down and feels repetitive at times.

 

However, the ending more than made up for this and I would recommend this book for a thoughtful read, complete with historic adventures.

 

And, something new, here’s my review turned into a video! I’d love to know what you think.

 

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Book Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe

The daring, dazzling and highly anticipated follow-up to the New York Times bestseller The Song of Achilles

One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2018“An epic spanning thousands of years that’s also a keep-you-up-all-night page turner.” – Ann Patchett
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world.

Review:
I was so excited when I saw this book — I absolutely love Greek mythology, the Odyssey is one of my favourite books of all time, and I was fascinated to read about Circe, who has only been presented as a minor character in Greek myth.
And I wasn’t disappointed.

 

Miller did an amazing job of bringing this goddess to life, to telling her story in an empowering way, and even to staying true to the myths. I love taking a character from myth or history and presenting them with a backstory and motivations and seeing where that all leads.

 

The book has the richness and history of someone who understands Greek myth–the story is peppered with details that add to this authenticity and enhance its scope. There are some lovely descriptions and writing.

 

But, most of all, there is Circe, the witch from the Odyssey who turns men into swine. We get to understand how she got there, her childhood and history, her point of view of events. We get to see this amazing woman grow and become formidable, all entwined with Classical Greek themes of gods and mortals, fate and choices, and being a hero versus living a long, quiet life.

 

If you love Greek myth or strong heroines, I highly recommend this book.

 

Note: I received a copy of this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Freshwater

Freshwater

An extraordinary debut novel, Freshwater explores the surreal experience of having a fractured self. It centers around a young Nigerian woman, Ada, who develops separate selves within her as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.” Unsettling, heartwrenching, dark, and powerful, Freshwater is a sharp evocation of a rare way of experiencing the world, one that illuminates how we all construct our identities.

Ada begins her life in the south of Nigeria as a troubled baby and a source of deep concern to her family. Her parents, Saul and Saachi, successfully prayed her into existence, but as she grows into a volatile and splintered child, it becomes clear that something went terribly awry. When Ada comes of age and moves to America for college, the group of selves within her grows in power and agency. A traumatic assault leads to a crystallization of her alternate selves: Asụghara and Saint Vincent. As Ada fades into the background of her own mind and these selves–now protective, now hedonistic–move into control, Ada’s life spirals in a dark and dangerous direction.

Narrated by the various selves within Ada and based in the author’s realities, Freshwater dazzles with ferocious energy and serpentine grace, heralding the arrival of a fierce new literary voice.

Review:

 

Freshwater is quite a book. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked it up, but it is unlike any other book I have ever read.

 

The story is told mostly from the point of view of the gods in Ada’s head, the ones that she was born with but the gate did not close behind them, leaving Ada with a foot in both worlds. It was fascinating reading Ada’s story from this perspective and this really is an extraordinary way to consider mental illness and how people protect themselves mentally from traumas in their lives. It made Ada an even more powerful character.

 

The writing in Freshwater is beautiful and lovely to read, sometimes harsh, sometimes poetic. Emezi has a way of painting a picture with just a few words and often made me stop to savour her sentences and word choices.

 

I can see how this might not be the book for everyone, but I found it powerful and compelling.

 

Note: I received a Netgalley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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