#AWW2021 “There are only situations, and we do not know what will become of us until we are inside each new one.” // Book Review of “The Performance” by Claire Thomas

Title: The Performance
Author: Claire Thomas
Genre: Literary fiction
Intended audience: Adult
Dates Read: 31/08/2021 – 02/09/21
Rating: ★★★

Review:

This is a tricky book for me to review, for the simple reason that it’s very far removed from what I usually read, and I only read it because we chose it for book club, being a book club made up of theatre geeks. I don’t really know if it’s any good by literary fiction standards, though the slew of four and five star reviews would say yes.

You’ve only got to spend five minutes scrolling through my blog to notice that genre fiction is my cup of tea. Literary stream-of-consciousness is something I tend to avoid. The only time I can think where I picked up something like it was when I had to read Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man for uni and it was one of my worst reading experiences.

But I kind of liked this one. I found something I could relate to with each of the characters. It’s not so much a book that starts at A and takes us through to B. It’s more like it starts at B and then looks at how these three characters got there. Despite the title, it’s not really about the performance.

There are lot of themes swimming about in here. Aging, domestic violence, child-rearing, climate change, politics, wealth, race… Given the book is relatively short, it’s a lot to delve into, but I think the key is that the book doesn’t actually try to give any kind of opinion or lead the reader to a particular conclusion. The themes present in the book the way they do in people’s lives, in a contradictory, random fashion. The way you’re treated at work due to your age might pop into your head and give you pause, but a few minutes later it might be out of your mind as you start thinking about your son and grandson.

Isn’t it interesting how in my Ariadne review, I mentioned one of my major frustrations was that it made a point but never did anything with it, and yet here it didn’t bother me. I think it’s the difference in scope of the stories being told that makes the difference for me here.

Am I likely to pick up something else of Claire Thomas’. Probably not. But I went into this expecting not to like it at all, and I was pleasantly surprised.


This review is part of my 2021 Australian Women Writers Challenge. Click here for more information.

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“If this isn’t hell, the devil is surely taking notes.” // Review of “The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton

Title: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author:
Stuart Turton
Genre: Literary/speculative fiction
Target audience: Adult
Date Read: 01/05/20 – 08/05/20
Rating: 
★★★

Review: 

What even was this book?

No, that’s not rhetorical. Please, someone tell me.

Okay, maybe I’m being a bit disingenuous there, but I don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration to say this book is unlike any other I’ve read. It was compelling, even as I sometimes struggled to keep track of things. I had a small list of murder suspects, and I was ALMOST right!

You do sort of have to roll with this book. It would be easy to try to sit there picking apart all the time travel logic and how it  all works. I suspect Stuart Turton must have had a dozen spreadsheets in order to keep it all straight, and I think there are still times when things don’t quite add up. But as long as you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, then you will keep turning the pages, perhaps even start dreaming about the book as I did!

I have to say that up until about the last 30 or so pages, this was a five star read for me, despite the nit-picking. But as I was nearing the end, I realised that I wasn’t going to find out certain details about how the events of the book all came to pass in the first place… there are hints dropped, but nothing really concrete. We learn that certain character development (as in, a person changed due to their experiences) took place before the book starts, meaning we just have to accept them, rather than seeing it happen.

This didn’t kill the enjoyment for me, but it meant I closed the book at the end feeling dissatisfied. Maybe that’s just me, though? Don’t let me put you off!


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Book Review: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

Title: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café
Author: Fannie Flagg
Genre:
Literary fiction
Date Read: 13/07/2014 – 25/07/2014
Rating: ★★★★

Review:

friedgreentomatoesThis is one of my boyfriend’s favourite books, and he’s been on at me for ages to read it, despite the fact that I’m really more of a genre fiction fan and literary fiction really isn’t my thing… well, having said that, on the rare occasion I do read this type of thing, I usually end up enjoying it, but it takes me a while to get into it and I probably won’t start it unless I have a reason (such as a pushy boyfriend). He had throughout various conversations mentioned snippets of the novel though and it sounded entertaining, so when we finally got all his books out of storage, I decided to give it a go (I say that. I wasn’t given any choice.)

Fried Green Tomatoes tells two stories: the first, of a small town called Whistle Stop, in Alabama, through two World Wars and the Depression in between, and the other of Evelyn Couch, an unhappy, middle-aged woman living in the 1980s, whose life begins to turn around when she befriends an elderly lady living in the same nursing home as her mother-in-law.

Particularly when I was first starting the book, my main problem was that not a lot was really happening. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some great characters, but I need a plot to follow as well. Whistle Stop has many endearing characters, but the plot basically served to show off different aspects of this small town, rather than a traditional A to B to C story. The major players, though, such as Idgie Threadgoode, do end up drawing you in the more you read, and Evelyn’s journey to self-acceptance was definitely a highlight of the book.

There were moments when I thought certain plots weren’t going to be resolved, but everything does come together in the end and the reader gets to hear the resolutions of stories even if Evelyn doesn’t. As all the ends were tied up, I found myself actually getting rather teary, which I think is more to do with the quality of the writing than with my actual investment in the story, but the fact that it did evoke that reaction in me is why I bumped it up to four stars; it had really only been giving me a three-star vibe up until then.

Like I said, this isn’t the type of thing I would normally read, but I can see why it has become a classic amongst those who do enjoy this type of writing.