book review: The Former Chief Executive by Kate Vane

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THE FORMER CHIEF EXECUTIVE by Kate Vane
★★★★☆
Self-published, June 8, 2017

The Former Chief Executive is a short and sweet little book. It tells the story of Deborah Stevens, a retired former hospital manager who’s just lost her husband to cancer. She hires young and charismatic Luca to look after her late husband’s garden, and the two forge a strange sort of friendship.

Despite the simple premise, there’s a lot going on in this book. The generational gap between Deborah and Luca takes center stage; an issue that Kate Vane tackles with insight and sensitivity, as she examines each of their distinct approaches to life. There’s arguably more nuance here than I’ve seen given to this sort of narrative before. Even though our protagonist is older, this isn’t a story which maligns millennials for laziness – on the other hand, Kate Vane acknowledges a lot of advantages that Deborah’s generation had.

This book is also an interesting meditation on mortality. While Luca’s girlfriend, Belle, is due to give birth in a short time, Luca is training to be a “death midwife,” someone who helps provide emotional support to terminally ill patients. Birth and death run parallel in this novel, which is ultimately a reflection on life itself, on whether anyone ever really knows what they’re doing.

Though mostly solid, the prose could stand a bit of polishing here and there. Little things – a few too many exclamation points and question marks outside of dialogue for my personal taste (despite the third person narration this is a very introspective book which reads like Deborah’s thoughts unfolding – a narrative voice which Kate Vane employs consistently, though it does start to grate at times when Deborah continues to muse to herself in the form of question after question). My only other complaint is that I thought it ended on a note that was incongruously abrupt given the pace up until that point.

That said, I was really charmed by this book. It’s a really brilliant character study that weaves together a host of distinct and memorable characters. Deborah is certainly flawed – proud, judgmental – but I liked her even more for that, because I love female characters who have all the complexity of real women. This was a great and thought-provoking quick read. I really enjoyed it.

Many thanks to the author for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my feedback in any way. All opinions are my own.

Goodreads || Amazon || Kate Vane

book (play script) review: The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh

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THE LIEUTENANT OF INISHMORE by Martin McDonagh
★★★★☆
Bloomsbury, 2001
Review on Goodreads

This is probably McDonagh’s most absurd work, which is saying something. The Lieutenant of Inishmore is a farcical look at Irish terrorist organizations, set on the island of Inishmore in the Aran Islands in the early 1990s. The play focuses on a cycle of small-town bloody revenge set into motion by the death of an INLA man’s beloved cat.

As usual, much of McDonagh’s humor relies on the irony behind corrupt morality – in this case, we meet Padraic, who’s literally in the middle of torturing a man when he gets a call that his cat Wee Thomas is poorly. (It’s reminiscent of Woody Harrelson’s character in Seven Psychopaths, a violent gangster who’s unnaturally attached to his shih tzu Bonny, or Ralph Fiennes’ character in In Bruges, a hitman with a selectively rigid moral code.) But even though McDonagh likes to revisit similar themes time and again, it never gets old for me. He fuses comedy and tragedy/morality and violence in such a uniquely striking way, each of his plays approaching the theme from a distinct angle. And while most of his plays are rather silly on the surface, there’s something so much darker lying beneath, and that’s what he really excels at with Inishmore.

Better than The Cripple of Inishmaan; not as good as The Pillowman. Major trigger warning for animal death (which for some reason doesn’t bother me so much in this particular brand of absurdist comedy).

book review: The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

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THE GLORIOUS HERESIES by Lisa McInerney
★★★★★
Penguin Random House, 2017
Review on Goodreads

I hold onto her and tell her I love her and tell her I’ll do anything she wants me to do but beyond my words and her weight in my arms there’s the knowing we fucked this up. There was something beautiful here once.

This is one of the most hard-hitting and thematically rich books I’ve read in a long time. There’s so much to unpack here, I’m not quite sure where to begin.

The Glorious Heresies centers around five characters: fifteen-year-old drug dealer Ryan and his alcoholic father Tony, grandmother Maureen and her gangster son Jimmy, and a prostitute named Georgie. The way these characters relate to one another is complicated, tangled. They weave in and out of each other’s lives, implicitly connected by a single act that occurs in the first chapter: Maureen discovers an intruder in her home, and, startled, she hits him over the head, killing him. The consequences of this unplanned murder unfold over the course of the novel, which spans several years, in the city of Cork.

Lisa McInerney’s debut novel is an unflinching examination of the cycle of poverty that drives crime in modern day Ireland. This book not only explores the complex web of social dynamics that breeds crime and corruption, but pays particular attention to the way this is manifested across generations. Is someone truly responsible for the way they raise their children, if they too were a victim of society’s moral and structural failings? Where and how does the cycle end? These are the questions McInerney raises while examining this group of broken individuals living on the fringes of society. Crime and religion are so heavily intertwined in these pages it’s hard to know where one ends and the other begins, as McInerney fearlessly dissects these themes as thoroughly as possible in this not-quite-400 page novel.

The Glorious Heresies is bleak and profane and at times quite depressing. But it’s also darkly comedic and hopeful. McInerney’s intelligent prose is laced with Irish slang that makes this a visceral and immersive reading experience, in a novel which is layered with complex characters who are each in their own way seeking retribution. It’s honestly one of the most striking things I’ve read in a while. I know I won’t stop thinking about this any time soon.

Thank you Blogging for Books and Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Blogger Aesthetic Award

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I was tagged by Steph at Lost: Purple Quill for the Blogger Aesthetic Award!  Tag created by Liam at Hey Ashers!. Thanks for the tag, Steph!  Everyone go follow Steph if you aren’t already!

The Rules:

  • Collect any number of images that you feel represent you as a person—your personality, aspirations, favorite things, anything at all that makes you you.
  • Put your chosen images together into a collage of whatever size and shape you find pleasing.
  • Share your masterpiece with everyone, in all the places.
  • Maybe nominate other bloggers as a way to tell them, “Hey, you, I think you’re awesome, and we should celebrate that awesomeness.”
  • Share these rules (and maybe the below tips, if you’re feeling helpful).
  • Tips:

My aesthetic: 

All photos taken from my Instagram – feel free to follow me on there!

I think it’s kind of self-explanatory.  Cats + books + summer + Vermont + tennis + theatre + NYC + trying and failing to master the art of the fishtail braid.  Me in a nutshell.

Nominations:

Chelsea @ Spotlight on Stories // Irena @ Books and Hot Tea // Ella @ A Book Without End // Ann @ Ann Reads Them // Hadeer Writes // Jennee @ Belle of Booktopia // Charlotte Annelise