This is the raw material from which Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit was wrought. Oranges was an easier read than this and had moments of hilarity which are few in this honest retelling of the Oranges story, this time as autobiography, though shaped in such a way that it reads like a novel. The character of Mrs Winterson, the author's mother, looms large and her physical description - she could fill up a phone box - her enormous, sandalled feet - is scary. All in all it's a bit of a miracle that Winterson survived her horrendous childhood but her love of reading saved her. She devoured the entire contents of the local library, going around the walls until she was done, and so educated herself to a high degree until she was eventually accepted at Oxford. Winterstone's writing is not always successful in my humble, as her experiments don't always come off for the reader, but here, the story-telling is exquisite and moving.
Despite irritants, including repeated use of the male pronoun, rambling and undue attention to Freud, Ted Hughes and Philip Roth, there is much to delight in. The distinctive voices of the greats, from Plath to Jean Rhys, Marvell to Shakespeare, Plutarch to Isaac Babel, classical forms, romantics, modernist and post-modern, all demonstrating the uniqueness of style, pitch and tone that make up the writer's voice.
Alvarez has his own strong voice, very much redolent of sixties London, which is both attractive and slightly dated. His insights in language, rhyme, rhythm and texture are insightful and rewarding to anyone struggling to find their voice as a writer. His advice is to keep on writing until you get there, backed up with a description of his own writing journey, imitating others, stealing from here and there, always watchful and listening.
A moving and surprising story that gives a fresh insight into the relationship between people and animals, especially between a child and family 'pet.' The child's perspective and the clinical way in which their parents use an animal for a psychological experiment involving their own kid is handled in a way that draws in even the most cynical of readers. The writing is superb and utterly absorbing.
Franzen was at his best when he wrote this. His insight into the pain of family relationships is both hilarious and painful and the characters are so well-drawn that you want to know what happens to all of them after the last page.
How gentrification affects people and culture, not just the landscape. Schulman is a compelling writer of fiction and she brings her skills to her subject here. The same is true for London as NYC as we've seen in places like Soho, Hoxton Dalston and even Hampstead where the oligarchs have moved in and started excavating their basements to build swimming pools.