September, 2011


29
Sep 11

The Generation Game, Sophie Duffy

The Generation Game is author Sophie Duffy’s debut novel and follows the extraordinary life of forty-year-old Phillipa, from when she was a young girl growing up in Devon, right up to the present day where she has just become a mother.

We follow Phillipa through an extraordinary mixture of experiences as she grows up above a sweet shop in Torquay – abandonment by her mother, forming childhood friendships, a traumatic death, unplanned pregnancy and trying to figure out her place in the world.

Reading ‘The Generation Game’ is like stepping back in time. Sophie creates some extremely memorable characters in Phillipa and Helena – and in all the people who influence and surround her throughout her life. The small details of the various decades the characters move through are brilliantly observed – if you were born around the late sixties, early seventies, this will almost feel like you are reading your own diary – the events, trends, celebrities and popular TV programmes of the time come leaping off the pages and stir up long-forgotten memories.

This is an immensely readable book, which hooks you in right from the start. The juxtaposition of the story of Phillipa growing up as a child and her present day thoughts and concerns from hospital as a new, single mother, is an interesting perspective – and of course we want to know what was in the Blue Peter time capsule that her close friend creates before his untimely death.

Spanning such a lengthy time-period and involving so many characters, the author manages to successfully pace the story so you never feel overwhelmed or lost. She also manages to bring the plot neatly together at the end of the novel, without saccharine-coating everything and everyone.

This is a brave, bold, warm, rich, amusing, engaging novel which sits well alongside more established authors like Kate Atkinson’s ‘Behind the Scenes at the Museum’.

I am sure we will see much more from Sophie Duffy in years to come.

About the author

Sophie is a novelist and short story writer living on the south coast of Devon with her family. She was awarded the The Yeovil Literary Prize in 2006 for The Generation Game as a work-in-progress – which was judged by award-winning novelist Katie Fforde. Sophie went on to win the Luke Bitmead Bursary for the novel earlier this year.

The Generation Game is published by Legend Press and is available in bookshops and on Amazon.

Read more about Sophie on her website or follow her blog.


22
Sep 11

Say Her Name, by Francisco Goldman

Award-winning writer, Francisco Goldman, married a beautiful young writer named Aura Estrada in the summer of 2005. The month before their second anniversary, Aura died from injuries sustained in a body surfing accident while they were on holiday. Blamed for Aura’s death by her family, and blaming himself, Francisco wanted to die too. Instead, her wrote ‘Say Her Name.’

In this extraordinary autobiographical novel, Goldman tries to make sense of Aura’s death by reflecting on her life and his memories of her. He writes with incredible detail about Aura’s childhood, about how they first met, about their life together as a married couple – all the time returning to his unbearable sense of loss. At times, Goldman writes as if he is speaking directly to his wife, at times he is a meticulous observer, painting a picture of her which is so vivid that, on these pages at least, he does manage to bring her very much back to life.

There is also an additional dimension to these tragic events, in that Aura’s mother Juanita, blames Goldman for her daughters death. He writes, ‘If I were Juanita, I know I would have wanted to put me in prison, too. Though not for the reasons she and her brother gave.’

The final chapters, which recall the terrible and frustrating events which led to Aura’s death, are incredibly challenging to read because, unlike most novels recalling such events, these are not a work of fiction. These are real events which happened to real people and as readers who already know how the events unfold,  the words on the pages become even more poignant.

Sometimes you may choose to read a book for escapism, for fun or for a moment’s distraction. With ‘Say Her Name’ you read because you are immediately drawn into the tragedy of this man’s grief, because you are mesmerised by the life of this couple, and because you care. It isn’t easy reading though, because as we discover the depth of Goldman’s love for his wife and get to know the amazing woman Aura was – and was destined to become – we are, of course, aware of how the story tragically ends.

I found ‘Say Her Name’ to be a compelling, moving novel which manages to weave in moments of  humour among the sadness. It is a book which is well worth taking the time and effort  to read this autumn.

*

Francisco Goldman is the author of four books – three works of fiction (The Long Night of White Chickens, The Ordinary Seaman, and The Divine Husband) and one work of non-fiction, The Art of Political Murder.

 

His fiction and journalism have appeared in the New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, The New York Review of Books, Outside, and many other publications. He lives in New York City and Mexico City.

Read more about Francisco Goldman at http://www.franciscogoldman.com/

‘Say Her Name’ is published by Grove Press UK.

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