I thought a blog would be a great way to exchange book recommendations as I love reading and writing reviews. I've also started putting pen to paper, and have recently completed a creative writing course. Maybe you'll be reading one of my books down the line!?
If you want to share about what you're reading, or anything at all for that matter, let loose and go for it!
“Hang on – this is it? This is where we were going?” said Brigit. “Yeah,” said Paul, pointing up at the rather worn and faded sign featuring the name The Balloon Man, alongside a grinning clown. Clowns struck Paul as creepy at the best of times, but the devil horns and goatee the local kids had added did nothing to help the situation. “But… ” said Brigit, “I thought when you said ‘we’re going to see a man about a balloon’ you meant…” “What?” “Well, I dunno. I thought it was some kind of street slang.” “For what?” Brigit rolled her eyes and puffed out her cheeks. “How the hell would I know? I’m a nurse from Leitrim. I’m not au-fait with the patois of the Dublin criminal underground.” “And I am?” Brigit blushed slightly at this. “Well… you are from Dublin.” “And all Dubs are criminals?” “That’s not…” Brigit folded her arms. “You know that’s not what I meant. Is now really the time for us to be having this conversation?” “Fair point,” said Paul. “I’m going in. You stay here or you’ll make him nervous.” “Why would I make the balloon man nervous?” “Well, he’s a criminal.” Paul flashed Brigit a cheeky smile and then pushed the door open with his good hand.
Brigit stopped to look in a shop window, checking she hadn’t picked up a tail. She’d seen this on telly numerous times. You look in the reflection and see if anyone is following you. It was proving trickier than she’d imagined. In a movie, the extras would all walk by in straight lines and some over-muscled Eastern European guy would stutter-step, look around in confusion and give himself away. In reality, actual people were proving to be much messier than that. She’d never noticed before but on a cold winter’s day, pretty much everyone was wearing a long black overcoat. It looked like a hitman convention back there.
Self-pity thus combines two things that may seem incompatible: a deep sense of grievance and a high sense of superiority. It is this doubleness that makes it so important to the understanding of Brexit, a political phenomenon that is driven by ideas that would not otherwise combine. Crudely, passionate nationalism has taken two antagonistic forms. There is an imperial nationalism and an anti-imperialist nationalism; one sets out to dominate the world, the other to throw off such dominance. The incoherence of the new English nationalism that lies behind Brexit is that it wants to be both simultaneously. On the one hand, Brexit is fuelled by fantasies of 'Empire 2.0', a reconstructed global mercantilist trading empire in which the old white colonies will be reconnected to the mother country. On the other, it is an insurgency and therefore needs to imagine that it is a revolt against oppression. It therefore requires both a sense of superiority and a sense of grievance. Self-pity is the only emotion that can bring them together.
F.Y.I: The book page says the author is someone other than who it is. I'm working to change this.
Middle England won the Costa Book Award and I’ve always really enjoyed their picks in the past. Considering this was as much a family drama as it was a critique of Brexit, I couldn’t wait to start.
Middle England is the third book in the Rotter’s club series, but I haven’t read the other two and I can’t see any need to. I wasn’t confused at any point and found that everything that had happened to the characters previously was well explained.
This worked in alternate chapters, with the main focus being on Colin, a middle-aged author and Sophie, his niece. There were quite a few chapters from the perspective of Colin’s friend, Doug, a left-wing political commentator. In saying this, the novel didn’t really lean towards the left or right, but instead used these perspectives to focus on the problems of Brexit.
The novel takes place over a number of years and the largest focus concerning Brexit was from Doug’s perspective. He has a contact in David Cameron’s (the Prime Minister who called the vote on EU membership) and he meets up with him over the course of several years while he’s immersed in the government. This was quite a humorous relationship and showcased the downfall of Cameron in light of the referendum result.
Sophie, Colin’s niece, meets a man at the beginning of the novel and their relationship is charted throughout. Difficulty arises between them which again highlighted the issues concerning Brexit and how these differences in political opinion can infect relationships.
The novel didn’t have one particular focus, but many threads that ran through it, such as Colin’s relationship with his past love. What held it all together, though, and appeared throughout was Brexit. It was handled gently and wasn’t overstated.
While I enjoyed spending time with the characters, there was no-one I loved. I enjoyed it and its simple exploration of Brexit. A novel that was very timely.