Thursday, 6 December 2018

Life After Men (A Silver Sex Kittens Short Story #1) by Jean Gill and Karen Charlton

Reviewer: Liza Perrat, author of the French Historical, The Bone Angel trilogy (Spirit of Lost Angels, Wolfsangel, Blood Rose Angel) and new Australian 1970s series: The Silent Kookaburra and The Swooping Magpie.

What we thought: What a heart-warming and entertaining short story! Well, long short story really.

Being of a similar age, mid-50s, I could readily identify with the two main characters: Carys and Moira, just enjoying life and attempting to do the things they were always afraid of doing, or never got the opportunity, earlier in life.

We are introduced to other “Sex Kittens” in this story –– single, divorced or widowed women –– creating a humorous, warm-hearted and supportive circle of friends for future stories.

This story might not be long, but already we can see the characters changing, accepting their new life circumstances, and trying to make the best of them –– something with which many women of this age are faced. A situation that can be challenging, when one’s bloom of youth has faded, and when you lack the heart or stamina to “begin again”.

However, this story, the first of many in this series I believe, gives us hope that starting over is, in fact, possible. And maybe even enjoyable.

Funny, witty, laugh-out-loud, I would highly recommend Life After Men and I can’t wait for the next “Sex Kittens” story.

Avoid if you don’t like: Coming of Age stories featuring older women.

Ideal accompaniments: A glass of chilled white wine and some 80s music.

Genre: chick lit, humorous, short story

Available on Amazon

Disortion by Gautam Malkani

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

Two elements combine in Gautam Malkani’s second novel to create a narrative as fractured and arresting as the image on its cover.

The first, drawn in part on his own personal experience, is the burden placed on the shoulders of young carers, distorting the parent-child relationship and forcing them to grow up well before their time.

The second is the insidious influence of the technology behind search engines and social media, which sucks in knowledge about us, our habits and preferences, and feeds back to us what we want to see – not what we need to know.

Dhilan’s mother has had cancer since he was nine years old. With an absent father and an NHS that can afford only limited home support, he has become her carer through a cycle of illness and remission so long-drawn out it has become his whole life. Now a university student, he has split his life into three: Dhilan, the carer, Dillon, who has a precarious relationship with his girlfriend Ramona, and Dylan, who earns money through a small start-up company digitising old analogue material like newspaper articles. Using these, and with a web of lies that go back so far even he doesn’t know where they begin, he walks a precarious tightrope between his different lives.

Each identity has its own online identity and search history, and so the data he sees fed back to him varies wildly. Perhaps that is why the mysterious ‘botched Botox man’ latches on to him as a person to lecture about the evils of the Internet. Or perhaps that has something to do with Dhilan’s father, a one-time journalist who seems to have left no footprint at all on the digital world.

As Dhilan’s mother enters the terminal stages of cancer, is Dillon/Dylan off chasing phantom’s, or is he about to uncover something of vital importance?

Malkani has always been a master of language. In his debut novel, Londonstani, he invented a hybrid language for his south London characters to prevent the novel from dating as fast as each generation’s slang. Here, Dhilan invents words that fill gaps in meaning that standard English cannot meet – like prettyful, which means neither pretty nor beautiful, but which he uses to describe his dying mother.

This book reads like a cry of rage – rage on the one hand at the expectations placed on young carers, and on the other, rage at the cynical exploitation, by mega-corporations and others, of the data we willingly and blindly feed them, and the distortion of the glorious possibility the Internet once offered.

Not an easy book to read, but a breathtaking one. One that feels timely and decisive and necessary.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: Londonstani by Gautam Malkani, Psychoraag by Suhayl Saadi, The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Avoid If You Dislike:
Unflinching description of the last stages of death by cancer

Perfect Accompaniment: A cup of milky tea and a digital detox.

Genre: Literary Fiction

Available on Amazon