Posts Tagged: Death

Mar 15

The Tutor by Andrea Chapin

Book: The Tutor
Author: Andrea Chapin
Publisher: Penguin
Available: 26th March
Summary: When the body of a Catholic priest is found by Katherine, a young widow staying with relatives in Lufanwal, life for the family begins to unravel. The head of the family flees England and, in his absence, resentment and ambition thrive. Into the midst of this upheaval comes a young tutor, quick-witted and unorthodox: William Shakespeare. Katherine is drawn helplessly into Will’s world of poetry and imagination, the intensity of her love distracting her from disasters looming all around. But malicious forces can’t be ignored for long, and conspiracies threaten to overwhelm the natural order – and charming Will Shakespeare is not what he seems. 


Whenever I’ve studied Shakespeare, one of the things that has always fascinated me, apart from his writing obviously, is how little we actually know about the playwright. I am a big fan of historical fiction surrounding his life and what might have inspired him to write. Therefore, Andrea Chapin’s The Tutor was right up my street. It’s got politics, religion, romance and literature, so whatever your favourite genre is, chances are this book will appeal.

The protagonist, Katherine, meets Will Shakespeare during a turbulent time in her life (I won’t give too much away), and begins to edit his writing for him. Katherine is a great character – she’s level-headed but passionate, kind but not a pushover. There’s a vulnerability about her but she’s still a strong character – widowed after a tragic fire, she throws herself into books and her family, and I like that she isn’t portrayed as someone to feel sorry for – even the times where we do pity her, you still get the sense that she will bounce back.

Then there’s Will Shakespeare. I think he can be a tricky character because of how renowned he is, but Andrea does a great job. I love that she doesn’t create a flawless genius – Will is rude, insolent, but also really funny and mysterious. It’s easy to forget that he was a real person, I think Andrea does a great job of setting him up as simply another character in her book, a love interest for Katherine – she doesn’t draw too much on what we think we know about him, she brings him to life on the page in her own way. Without giving too much away, at times he is cruel and Andrea writes in a way that you find yourself resenting him for how he treats Katherine. There’s so much speculation out there about who/what inspired Shakespeare, and I like how we get a glimpse into the character’s thought process, but from Katherine’s point of view to keep him slightly mysterious.

Andrea’s writing is brilliant – there’s a lot of detail but you don’t feel like she has picked up a history book and stuck to everything. When I read historical fiction I want to be transported to another world, not feel like I’m studying non-fiction, and in Andrea’s case it’s definitely the former.

The chapters are quite short so this is an ideal book for a commuter, but to be honest I think it will appeal the most to anyone who loves and has studied Shakespeare.

What are you all reading this week? x


Apr 14

Getting Waisted by Monica Parker

Book: Getting Waisted: A Survival Guide to Being Fat in a Society That Loves Thin
Author: Monica Parker
Publisher: HCI Books
Available: Out now
If you enjoy this book you might like: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A mostly true memoir) by Jenny Lawson
Summary: Monica Parker bridges the divide between a serial dieter’s survival guide and memoir, taking readers on a hilariously funny yet bumpy ride from chubby baby to chunky adult. Beginning each chapter which a diet she committed to and how much weight, money and self-esteem she lost, Monica shares her fears and frustrations with society’s prejudices against overweight people, and learns that when you start liking yourself, life is far more rewarding.


Hi everyone,

Hope you all had lovely weeks – what will you be reading this weekend?

I’ve been completely absorbed in Monica Parker’s Getting Waisted. I’ve read a lot of books about people’s struggle with food, but rarely from the perspective of someone who society does consider overweight. What I loved about Monica’s book is that, despite the comments and prejudices she faces, she doesn’t let herself become a victim. She makes a lot of jokes and is very self-aware that her issues with food don’t simply depend on what people think – she is very open about the deeper emotional issues which lead her to comfort eat.

I will admit that I didn’t believe some of the diets she tried – I actually did a quick google search and was horrified to find out they actually existed, that people would actually put their bodies through such torture simply to try and lose some weight, and that someone somewhere is actually selling these ideas. So I loved that Monica is completely open about the side effects she faced, highlighting how unhealthy some of the diets were – there’s one where she ate so much fruit it started fermenting inside her stomach. I mean… that’s definitely not healthy!

Some of the stories really shocked me, particularly when she recounts people’s pressure to make her thinner. For example, arriving in Canada to meet her aunt, she is subjected to intense scrutiny from her family, who are determined to make her lost weight. Of course this intense pressure has the opposite effect as she turns to food for comfort, and I found myself angry on her behalf that someone felt it was their ‘duty’ to ‘fix’ her body.

The book isn’t just about dieting and food. Monica underlines the way her relationship with food is interlinked with the events in her life – moments of joy, for example when she is pregnant and for once people are accepting that her body isn’t what they consider ‘thin’, to the loss of both of her parents, as she comes to terms with her childhood and family life. Her move to Hollywood was where she really blossomed, as she pursued her love of writing, deciding to define herself by her talent rather than appearance, in a challenging environment where everyone is chasing physical ‘perfection’.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who has tried different diets – it definitely makes you appreciate that confidence comes from loving yourself, not letting yourself be defined by others.

Have a lovely weekend!

Julie xx

Apr 14

The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

Book: The Dead Wife’s Handbook
Author: Hannah Beckerman
Publisher: Penguin
Available: Out now
If you enjoy this book you might like: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Summary: Rachel, Max and their daughter Ellie had the perfect life – until the night Rachel’s heart stopped beating. Now, Max and Ellie are doing their best to adapt to life without Rachel. She can’t let them go either, and caught in a place between worlds, she watches helplessly as they grieve. When Max is persuaded by family and friends to start dating again, she starts to see that dying was just the beginning of her problems. As Rachel grieves for the life she’s lost and the one she’ll never lead, she learns that sometimes the thing that breaks your heart might be the very thing you hope for.

dwh (293x450)

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re having lovely, book-filled weekends. I’ve just finished Hannah Beckerman’s ‘The Dead Wife’s Handbook’, and although it’s not a depressing book, it’s definitely a sad story – I think I might have to read something funny next to cheer myself up!

The premise of Hannah’s book is really interesting – it definitely makes you think about your own mortality, and what you would do if you died, and were able to catch glimpses of your loved ones as they tried to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives. Although I don’t cry very easily at books, sometimes I found myself feeling a bit choked up, as Rachel’s inability to comfort her loved ones made me wonder what I would do if I was in her position. Plus, the idea of being unable to communicate with anyone despite desperately wanting to made me feel quite frustrated on Rachel’s behalf.

That being said, sometimes I found it difficult to relate to Rachel, but I think this is mostly because I am neither a mother nor a wife. I felt that she wasn’t always being fair to Max, assuming that every time he moved forward it meant he was forgetting her, when throughout the book it’s abundantly clear that he is making sure she never fades out of his and Ellie’s lives.

One character who I absolutely loved was Max. Max is awesome. He handles everything from family tensions to Ellie’s tough questions about her mother with diplomacy and understanding. The few times he snaps or struggles, I felt that Rachel and their family and friends were quite tough on him, sometimes seeming to be a bit unforgiving. But what’s clear is his love for his wife and daughter, and I liked that this was always at the forefront of the book. This had the potential to turn into a ‘father meets new woman and ditches daughter’ type of plot, but not at all. Instead, it’s a story about a father’s love for his daughter, and his attempts to put her first while still trying to pick himself up and find some happiness for himself.

Overall, this is a beautiful book about motherhood and family love. It’s not a book to read if you’re feeling a bit down, but I would definitely recommend it as a lazy Sunday read!

See you all next week!

Julie x

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