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If Only I Could Tell You – Hannah Beckerman

Published March 1, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Audrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.

As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?

What did I think?:

This review comes with a huge thank you to Orion Books who hosted a bloggers event just before Christmas – Books And Baubles where they showcased some of the books they were most excited about that were being released in 2019. I received this review copy in exchange for an honest review and as soon as I read the synopsis, I couldn’t help but be keen to pick it up, I was in just the right mood for a family drama and a narrative full of secrets and luckily, Hannah Beckerman fulfilled all my expectations. Having never read anything by the author before, you’re never sure what to expect as a reader and I was thankful to find a page-turning story that constantly had me intrigued about how such a previously close family could fall apart so spectacularly.

Hannah Beckerman, author of If Only I Could Tell You.

I could sense from the very first moments of reading the synopsis that I was in for an emotional reading experience and I certainly wasn’t wrong. Without revealing any secrets, I can say it’s a highly charged, devastating story which leads to lack of communication, misunderstandings, feelings of betrayal, loss and despair and horrific memories of moments that stick with our lead characters years after certain events occurred within the family. All three of our female protagonists are greatly affected as a consequence and take these thoughts and feelings into their adulthood which in turn has a life-changing effect on their present relationships with their parents, siblings and even their own children in the case of Jess and Lily. This domino effect of misery can only be remedied once the two sisters bury the hatchet and agree to talk to each other. Yet, how is this ever going to happen when they refuse to accept the others’ existence?

If Only I Could Tell You led me on a roller-coaster of emotions which ranged from pure sadness and incredible frustration as I hoped in desperation for the two sisters to just TALK to each other before a catalogue of heart-breaking home truths was unveiled with gut-wrenching consequences. It was written so beautifully from the three different voices that you could immediately put yourself in Audrey, Jess and Lily’s shoes, feel what it was like to walk around in them and understand the chain of events that unfolds from their particular opinion. It made me realise the importance of family, the crucial nature of effective communication and the undeniable fact that life is just too damn short to hold a grudge or bear anger towards someone else. This powerful and spirited novel will definitely have me seeking out more of the author’s work in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

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Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay And A Mother’s Will To Survive – Stephanie Land

Published January 27, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich.

“My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.”

While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.

While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.

Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes. With this book, she gives voice to the “servant” worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children.

What did I think?:

This review comes with a huge thank you to the lovely people at Orion Books who hosted an event just before Christmas entitled Books and Baubles where I managed to pick up a review copy of this moving memoir which was published on 24th January this year. I think I mentioned in a recent review that I love to read nonfiction that’s going to teach me a little something and if it has the ability to touch my heart in addition, well that’s a win-win situation for me! Reading real-live stories from normal individuals living extraordinary lives is another aspect that might draw me into picking up a book and when I read that it followed a single mother struggling to raise her daughter in impoverished circumstances within modern day America, I was too intrigued to let it slip through my fingers and had to pick it up and check it out.

On finishing and having been incredibly moved throughout, it hammered home how lucky I was in my current situation to have a guaranteed decent wage, roof over my head, supportive partner and the ability to treat myself on a monthly basis. Stephanie Land’s daily struggles to achieve the things I occasionally take for granted was both eye-opening and thought-provoking and I was constantly touched by her determination, ridiculously strong work ethic and maternal instinct to ensure her child never wanted for too much, even if it meant going without things herself.

Stephanie Land, author of Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay And A Mother’s Will To Survive.

Maid follows Stephanie’s tumultuous life with her daughter, from teaching her to walk in a homeless shelter to her difficult relationship with her daughter’s father. We watch her fight for appropriate, affordable housing that is still inadequate and has devastating consequences for her child’s health and witness her steely resolution to work as many hours it takes just to provide enough food for her family and keep them both warm and comfortable. The only work she is able to take on is as a maid which involves back-breaking tasks, a constant supply of energy and resolve for very little money. She has no choice but to pay for childcare whilst she is working and has to use a car to move between different jobs so the wages she makes barely covers all these necessities and she is forced to rely on government assistance just so she and her daughter can eat.

I was raised in a working-class family where before my mother went back to university and forged a career for herself, she was a mainly stay-at-home parent with my father receiving the only wage for our house (from the army, which wasn’t huge). We never knew poverty and for that I feel incredibly grateful but we weren’t well-off either and there were times when we couldn’t have everything we desired. However, all three of us never wanted for anything and I know my mum would have taken food from her own mouth if it meant that we ate that evening. Luckily, I don’t believe that was ever necessary. As I have a very close relationship with my mum, I really responded to Stephanie’s emotional connection with her daughter and her instinct to protect and defend her, even if that meant Stephanie suffering herself as a result.

Apart from being quite an emotional read, this book was memorable to me in the way it made me think deeply about situations I hadn’t really appreciated before now. For example, what it feels like to have to work so hard for very little and still not have enough money to be able to do things that you would enjoy. Then there’s the shame that Stephanie felt about having to rely on food stamps and how she was treated by (some very ignorant, might I say) individuals because of that. That is to say, people saying to her “you’re welcome!,” referring to the fact that it was their tax money that paid for her shopping or judging what she bought with her food stamps – particularly if it was chocolate or a treat for her daughter. It made me so mad! I found her relationship with her family and her daughter’s father especially upsetting as well. She really didn’t have a decent support system in place and some of her family’s attitudes or deliberate ignoring of her situation really made my blood boil.

I respect and admire Stephanie Land so much for first of all writing this book and secondly, for making other people more aware of the situation that has become a ridiculous kind of normal for many people all over the globe who are just trying to make ends meet and survive but are subject to hideous poverty and unstable living conditions. It was a poignant, revealing read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Louis & Louise – Julie Cohen

Published January 24, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

If you could look at one life in two different ways, what would you see?

Louis and Louise are separated by a single moment in time, a strike of chance that decided their future. The day they were born is when their story began.

In one, Louis David Alder is born a male.
In the other, Louise Dawn Alder is born a female.

Louis and Louise are the same in many ways – they have the same best friends, the same parents, the same dream of being a writer and leaving their hometown in Maine as soon as they can. But because of their gender, everything looks different. Certain things will happen in their lives to shape them, hurt them, build them back up again. But what will bring them back home?

What did I think?:

This review comes with an enormous thank you to the wonderful Orion Books who just before Christmas, hosted a Books And Baubles event in London where they showcased some of the fiction they’re most excited about for 2019. I was fortunate enough to pick up a few proof copies that gave me a bit of a “book flutter,” but I think it was Louis & Louise that provoked the biggest reaction as I’m sure my blogging bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages can confirm as I was delighted to meet up with her again at the event. I’ve been a huge fan of Julie Cohen’s work after reading Dear Thing and more recently, her last novel Together and absolutely adoring them so it was a no-brainer that I was going to pick this one up too.

Cohen always chooses such thought-provoking subjects to write about and puts so much heart and soul into her writing that you can almost see her individual thoughts about the issue exuding from the pages. As I’ve come to expect from her novels, Louis & Louise was such a contemplative and touching reading experience that encompasses subjects which I will continue to mull over for days to come.

Julie Cohen, author of Louis & Louise.

As a rule, I tend to steer clear of stories that are generally sentimental, for example, romance novels, stories about Christmas etc – things along that vein. That’s not because I’m turning my nose up at them or the authors writing them because they’re doing a fantastic job and obviously have a huge market of readers. It just isn’t me. I like my stories to be a bit meatier, have a bit more substance, some dark and difficult moments and characters that you can really appreciate for their originality and development. That’s why I love Julie Cohen. Don’t let some of the cover art fool you, Julie is an absolute wonder at taking extraordinary people, following their lives, throwing in some despair and struggles whilst the reader remains breathless, desperate to know whether they’ll sink or swim. There aren’t always happy endings, not everyone gets that fairy-tale or handsome prince but I appreciate this even MORE – it’s a metaphorical smack to the face that screams of authenticity and gritty real-life.

Louis/Louise ?

In Louis & Louise, Cohen follows two different people that are actually the same person. Kind of. We learn about a couple, Irving and Peggy where in one thread they have a baby boy whom they call Louis and in the other thread they have a baby girl and call her Louise. The narrative than follows Louis and Louise in alternate chapters, almost like a Sliding Doors effect and explores how different their stories might be depending on what gender they are, even down to the relationships they have with their parents. I found this to be a tremendous way of investigating how much gender defines us as a person and how certain live events can shape the future trajectory of our future depending on how we are treated. As Cohen herself expresses in the very early moments of the novel, gender begins to press itself on us from the very moment we are born, from being one of the first things the doctor/midwife tells your mother i.e. “It’s a boy/girl!,” to the kinds of clothes and toys that are bought to eventually, the expectations put on you as a female or male.

Louis & Louise is a stimulating, intelligent piece of fiction that made me consider a lot of things including my own sub-conscious gender biases that I’m trying very hard to address and challenge. I connected with both Louis and Louise as people and found their individual journeys through life fascinating and at times, heart-breaking. The author has once again outdone herself with not only a beautiful character study but a story that digs deep into the relationships between families and friends, the nature of sexuality and gender and how the principles individuals are given according to this affects their lives. It was a moving, poignant novel that I thoroughly enjoyed, leaving me in eager anticipation for whatever Julie Cohen might write next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Arrangement – Sonya Lalli

Published August 10, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

You can’t choose who you fall for…but it helps if there’s a list

Raina, twenty-nine, is still unmarried much to the dismay of her family who think that by now she should have been married in a dream Indian wedding. The pressure to settle down reaches new heights when her grandmother, Nani, decides to play matchmaker in order to find her the perfect man.

Eager not to disappoint her family, Raina goes along with the plan but when the love of her life returns – ex-boyfriend Dev – she’s forced to confront her true feelings and decide what she really wants.

Funny, feelgood and heart-warming, The Arrangement shines a light on being single in your twenties, societal and cultural expectation of women, and modern day arranged marriages. Perfect summer read for fans of Ayisha Malik’s Sofia Khan is Not Obliged and Aziz Ansari’s Master of None.

What did I think?:

Happy publication day to Sonya Lalli and her wonderful novel, The Arrangement – a story about love, the “arrangement” of love and the importance of family and friendships that I thoroughly enjoyed. Thank you so much to Lauren Woosey at Orion Books for sending me a copy of this incredibly touching read in exchange for an honest review. I have to be perfectly honest, I’m not usually the biggest fan of romance novels as I think I’ve mentioned before in my blog so I did approach this book with a slight wariness and trepidation about what I might find. Would it be too cheesy and sickly sweet? Well, I had no need to worry. Sonya Lalli has a wonderful sense of humour which she uses throughout the novel to tell a moving story where I instantly fell in love with the characters and cared about their lives.

Our main character is Raina, a young woman living in Toronto, Canada with a high powered career but as yet, no husband on the horizon at the age of twenty-nine, much to the despair of her beloved grandmother, Nani. Raina is of Indian heritage and the pressure is on to find a suitor and have that perfect wedding by the time she is thirty. To mollify her Nani, Raina gives her permission to come up with some potential husbands that she agrees to date and see where things go. Of course, Nani comes up with a whole list and encourages Raina to go on multiple dates to try and find her Mr Right. However, Nani isn’t aware that Raina is still holding a torch for her last boyfriend, Dev who she dated when living in London and the relationship ended quite acrimoniously when Dev had his doubts about moving to Toronto for her. Now Dev is back in Raina’s life and saying all the right things, leaving Raina torn and confused about what her heart really wants.

This novel is contemporary romance with such a humorous twist and I absolutely loved it. Not only did I fall completely in love with Raina and her adorable Nani as characters but I also appreciated the nods that Sonya Lalli gave to traditional Indian culture which I found fascinating and felt like I learned a lot about their customs and beliefs. Raina goes through such an emotional journey in this novel – we see her past relationship with Dev, her present situation when he returns and a different side of Raina as she goes on dates with potential suitors. We also get to see her more vulnerable side where not only are her strongest friendships tested to the limit but she has a heart-breaking struggle with close family members that really moved me. My favourite relationship in the novel had to be Raina and her Nani, who practically raised her from a young girl and is her staunchest and most enthusiastic supporter, no matter what Raina does or says. For anyone looking for a funny and heart-warming read I would certainly suggest The Arrangement – it was a beautiful story that made me feel all fuzzy inside and put a big smile on my face to boot.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Blog Tour – EXCLUSIVE short story prior to the release of The Arrangement by Sonya Lalli

Published August 8, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

You can’t choose who you fall for…but it helps if there’s a list

Raina, twenty-nine, is still unmarried much to the dismay of her family who think that by now she should have been married in a dream Indian wedding. The pressure to settle down reaches new heights when her grandmother, Nani, decides to play matchmaker in order to find her the perfect man.

Eager not to disappoint her family, Raina goes along with the plan but when the love of her life returns – ex-boyfriend Dev – she’s forced to confront her true feelings and decide what she really wants.

Funny, feelgood and heart-warming, The Arrangement shines a light on being single in your twenties, societal and cultural expectation of women, and modern day arranged marriages. Perfect summer read for fans of Ayisha Malik’s Sofia Khan is Not Obliged and Aziz Ansari’s Master of None.

Hello everyone and welcome to a very special post on my blog. The Arrangement, published by Orion Books, is due to be released on 10th August but prior to that the author, Sonya Lalli is providing a short story about one of the characters in the novel to give you a bit of a taster of what The Arrangement might be like. The story will be published by five lucky bloggers in five parts.

Over to the author, Sonya Lalli :

In The Arrangement, thirty-year-old, fun-living Serena is on the sidelines. She shares a mutual friend with the novel’s heroine Raina, and for a while dates one of Raina’s relatives. Even though Serena’s story doesn’t make it into my novel, I wanted to share a bit more about her own dating misadventures – and give you a few clues about what’s to come in The Arrangement! 

The first part was published yesterday by Bronagh, The Handwritten Girl so if you want to read it please click HERE for her post. Today, bibliobeth is host to the second part of the story:

“Red chinos. Ten o’clock.”

Serena casually glances to her left, but all she can see is a group of women decked out in neon pink and sparkles huddling around a bride-to-be. None of them are wearing red chinos.

“No, my ten o’clock, silly.”

She looks right, and instantly spots him. Red Chinos is one of the only men at the bar not on his cellphone, and he has his legs crossed so tight Serena wonders if he has to pee.

“He’s bachelor number one.”

“He’s not really my type.”

“How has your type worked out for you so far?”

Serena sticks out her tongue, and the next thing she knows Shaylee’s up from the table and walking towards him. She taps him on the shoulder and a beat later they’re both looking at her. Serena shrinks lower in her seat.

What had she just agreed to? Was she really going to go on three dates in three hours just to prove a point?

She watches them converse, and a few minutes later Red Chinos gets off the barstool and Shaylee hops on. Serena can’t help but notice the smirk plastered all over his face as he draws nearer.

“Serena,” he says, sitting opposite her in the booth. “Your friend over there said you think I look interesting.”

“Interesting.”

“So let’s just get to the point, shall we?” He leers at her. “I’m cute. You’re cute. Wait, how tall are you?”

Her mouths drops a little as he sizes her up.

“About 5’2” or around?” He nods, as if pleased with his ability to measure her sitting down. “I usually prefer taller women.”

“I usually prefer –”

“So should we get out or here or what?”

Serena glances at Shaylee across the bar. She’s made friends with the woman on the stool next to her, and they’re laughing at something on Shaylee’s phone. There was no being rescued from this, was there?

“I think my friend wants us to get to know each other,” Serena says eventually. “Here.”

In public, she thinks.

“And what do you want, Serena?”

Why had Shaylee picked her the creepiest guy in the whole bar? Was she trying to prove a point to Serena? She racks her brain for what to say.

“Uh, what’s your… name?”

“Noah.”

She laughs.

“Why are you laughing?”

“You can’t expect me to believe your name is really Noah.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s just… that’s the name of Ryan Gosling’s character in The Notebook.”

He stares at her blankly.

“And, if you walk into any bar into Toronto, chances are 95% of women my age are going to think of Ryan Gosling the minute you say that name.”

“Noah is my name.”

“Nobody is actually named Noah. You clearly use that name as some sort of… move to pick up women.”

Serena presses her lips together, trying to conceal a smirk. Normally, she’d be the last of her friends to call out a guy for being a creep. But if Shaylee was going to screw her around like this, she might as well have some fun.

She leans forward, smiling cockily. “Tell you what. I’ll go home with you if your driver’s license actually says Noah.”

“Is that so?”

“Hundred percent.”

He reaches into his wallet – a little too quickly. Seconds later, he slides across his Ontario drivers license.

Noah Forester

“Shit…”

“I can’t hear you with your foot in your mouth, Serena.” He leans forward to grab the license. “Or is that even your real name? Maybe I need to see your ID.”

“Listen,” she sits up. Her face is burning hot. “I’m sorry. I didn’t… I don’t, I’m not – ”

“Don’t worry. I’m not expecting you to come home with me.”

She sighs in relief, and is suddenly overwhelmed by embarrassment. Why had she called him out like that? Had she been too rude? Maybe he wasn’t the creep she thought he was?

Standing up from the booth, he leans down so close to her face she can smell his dank-IPA breath.

Maybe not.

“I’m looking for something easy tonight, sweetheart – and you’re not worth the effort.”

After Red Chinos leaves the bar, she regrets having not spray painted a warning sign on him for the other women who would cross his path that evening. She sinks bank in the booth as Shaylee walks over to her.

“So how did it go?”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Yeah, I was just taking the piss with that one.” She sits down, rubbing her hands through her hair. “When I walked up to him, he said, ‘mademoiselle, what are you le drinking ce soir?”

“I hate you.”

“No, you don’t.” Shaylee grabs her drink, which she’d left at the table, and throws down the rest. “OK, I’ll pick a better one this time. I promise. It can only go up from here, right?”

Serena glances around the bar, completely disheartened. She liked being in love. She liked chasing, and being chased; falling, and then letting someone catch her. Kris had caught her in the beginning, and then let her fall, hard, until she was all by herself, staring up at something and someone she didn’t even recognize.

She thought James would be different – James who made her laugh as they waited for the kettle to boil, who spent half the workday communicating with her on Slack primarily with emojis, GIFS and compliments. Then he’d stood her up. At least he’d let her down early.

“Hey,” she feels Shay’s hand on hers. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for this to bum you out.”

“No, it’s okay.”

“Thinking about James?” She shrugs, and Shaylee continues. “Any guy who doesn’t treat you right doesn’t deserve you.”

“I know that. In theory.”

“Well, in theory, one of the next two guys I’ve lined up for you just might deserve you.”

“And if they don’t,” says Serena, reminding her of their deal, “I’m never dating again.”

For my review of The Arrangement by Sonya Lalli, please come back and visit on the 10th August when my review will be published!

Together – Julie Cohen

Published July 13, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

This is not a great love story.
This is a story about great love.

On a morning that seems just like any other, Robbie wakes in his bed, his wife Emily asleep beside him, as always. He rises and dresses, makes his coffee, feeds his dogs, just as he usually does. But then he leaves Emily a letter and does something that will break her heart. As the years go back all the way to 1962, Robbie’s actions become clearer as we discover the story of a couple with a terrible secret – one they will do absolutely anything to protect.

Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes’s Me Before You, David Nicholls’s One Day and M L Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans.

What did I think?:

First of all, the hugest “thank you,” to Lauren Woosey and the lovely team at Orion books for sending me a copy of Julie Cohen’s new novel, Together in exchange for an honest review. I’ve only read one other of Julie’s novels, Dear Thing which was selected as part of the Richard and Judy Book Club here in the UK a little while ago and both myself and my sister, Chrissi Reads absolutely loved it. When I saw the advertisements for Together going around on Twitter (especially with this STUNNING cover), I knew I had to have it and am so grateful and excited for the opportunity to tell you all how madly I fell in love with these beautiful characters and their fascinating story.

The story is essentially a love story between Robbie and Emily which begins when they are older and going through some difficulties health-wise. The most brilliant thing about this narrative is however that the story begins here and then goes backwards in time so we see the entirety of their relationship, all their struggles and triumphs in reverse. We, the reader, find out very early on that there is a huge secret that the couple have kept throughout their time together, something that no one else knows and if anyone else finds out it has the potential to destroy them. As a result, Robbie and Emily keep quiet about the shadow in their past and just live each day together as a happy couple as their love continues to strengthen and grow. Of course, we eventually find out exactly what the secret is and it’s just as mind-blowing, devastating and heart-breaking as I could have anticipated that it might be.

Obviously, I’m not saying anything about the “big reveal,” but I just want to talk about how this book was presented to me by Orion Books which was completely wonderful. I read until a certain point in the narrative (perhaps about twenty pages from the end?) and then was asked to tweet how I felt at this period. The rest of the pages in the novel had been placed in an envelope and I then eagerly ripped it open, desperate to discover how the story would end and just what on earth was going on with our characters and their lives. Let me just say, it’s a goodie. No, that’s not even the word for it – it’s phenomenal, suck-your-breath in, gasp and hold it for a little while before you can breathe normally kind of good!

Throughout this novel, I completely fell in love with the characters of Robbie and Emily and the hardships they have been through as a couple. Of course by the end I was gaping in disbelief but in no way, shape or form did it change what I felt about the characters at all. I’m afraid they had already stolen my heart and I still continue to think about them and their story weeks after finishing the novel. I’m certain that one of the signs of a brilliant author is how much the narrative sticks with you after you’ve finished reading. If Together is anything to go by, I’m going to be thinking about Robbie and Emily for a long, long time. Julie Cohen’s delicious characterisation and beautiful writing style had me hooked from page one and I’m glad I had a day off when I began this novel as I didn’t put it down until I had finished it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Stranger Than We Can Imagine: Making Sense Of The Twentieth Century – J.M.R. Higgs

Published September 4, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The twentieth century should make sense. It’s the period of history that we know the most about, an epic geo-political narrative that runs through World War One, the great depression, World War Two, the American century and the fall of the Berlin Wall. But somehow that story doesn’t quite lead into the world we find ourselves in now, this bewildering twenty-first century, adrift in a network of constant surveillance, unsustainable competition, tsunamis of trivia and extraordinary opportunity.

Time, then, for a new perspective. With John Higgs as our guide, we step off the main path and wander through some of the more curious backwaters of the twentieth century, exploring familiar and unfamiliar territory alike, finding fresh insight on our journey to the present day. We travel in the company of some of the most radical artists, scientists, geniuses and crazies of their age. They show us that great innovations such as relativity, cubism, quantum mechanics, postmodernism and chaos maths are not the incomprehensible, abstract horrors that we assume them to be, but signposts that bring us to the world we live in now.

John Higgs brings us an alternative history of the strangest of centuries. He shows us how the elegant, clockwork universe of the Victorians became increasingly woozy and uncertain; and how we discovered that our world is not just stranger than we imagine but, in the words of Sir Arthur Eddington, ‘stranger than we can imagine’.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to New Books Magazine and http://www.nudge.com for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review. When I first read the synopsis for John Higgs’ fascinating narrative about the twentieth and early twenty-first century I was instantly intrigued and had to know more. What I found within the brilliantly concise chapters was both interesting and highly educational with a dash of humour on the side and I really feel I’ve learned a lot about subjects I had previous little or no knowledge about.

The author takes a variety of different topics – with chapter headings such as Modernism, War, Individualism, and Uncertainty to name just a few and takes the reader on an epic journey to discover why exactly the twentieth century was so pivotal. Although I still have to admit to being none the wiser about Einstein’s theory of relativity, I count that as my own personal demon as Higgs explains theories, ideas and notions in a very down to earth and comprehensible fashion that will instantly make you want to go out and do further research of your own into certain topics.

Personally speaking, I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and the author’s chapter on the “id,” Freud’s model of our basic human instincts was a joy to read. However, there are so many other examples of interesting subjects that I’m certain every reader will find something meaningful and informative to connect with. For example, did you know that the author H.G. Wells predicted machines that could fly, wars fought in the air, fascist dictatorships and even the European Union? Or that the term “genocide” was only coined in 1944 to describe “a deliberate attempt to exterminate an entire race?” The word hadn’t even existed before then!

As a piece of non-fiction, this book ticks all the right boxes for me. It’s insightful, holds your interest with short, snappy chapters that get over what the author wants to say in perfect fashion and is a unique way of looking at certain concepts that are not really covered in other works. I didn’t connect with every single chapter but then again, I didn’t really expect to, everyone is different in their own personal interests. However, I did find it a solid, brilliant piece of writing that taught me much more than I could have expected.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars