I began Kiss Me First almost as soon as I had finished The View From The Way Down; and having enjoyed the former so much and had little expectations for the latter; indeed I barely read the blurb before I began.
The novel centres around Leila – both overweight and something of a loner, she is largely ignored by her peers until she becomes involved in website Red Pill in which she partakes in ethical debates. It is on the forum that she is discovered by its owner Adrian, who asks to meet her with a proposition. It is thus: a woman he knows called Tess wishes to end her life with minimal impact on her friends and family, and so she requires someone to continue living as her via the realms of social media. Leila accepts the proposal and begins to form a friendship with Tess through which she delves into her chaotic past in order to discover more about the life she will be taking on following Tess’s suicide.
After Tess ‘checks out’ Leila devotes much of her time to emulating Tess through emails, Facebook and pre-recorded phone calls, and she quickly becomes emerged in a world far more exciting than her own. And when an ex-boyfriend of Tess’s gets in touch, Leila soon finds herself infatuated with him and the tale takes something of an unsettling turn.
Not dissimilar to How to be a Good Wife, Kiss Me First is a slightly disturbing read whose protagonist does little to appeal to the reader; a quality which oddly contributes to the unputdownable nature of the book. Despite the cast being made up of predominantly seedy characters Kiss Me First is ultimately a thought-provoking portrayal of the ills of social media and makes for an accomplished debut from Lottie Moggach.
I almost didn’t read The View on the Way Down, and yet I find myself writing this review as the Easter weekend draws to a close, with red, blood-shot eyes and a tear streaked face. As I often complain, the list of books I want to read constantly increases; thus for whatever reason, my copy of Rebecca Waite’s debut novel slipped under my radar until recently when I saw a mention of it on Twitter. I had just finished Running Like a Girl by Alexandra Heminsley and, keen to get as much reading done as possible over the long weekend, I immediately began The View on the Way Down.
Centred around a family who are struggling with the aftermath of eldest son Kit’s suicide five years ago, parents Rose and Joe have a strained relationship, while teenage Emma has turned to both comfort eating and Jesus in the wake of her brother’s death. There is also another son; Jamie who is estranged from his family, working in a book shop in Sheffield and also battling with his own demons following Kit’s suicide.
The naivety of Emma’s character is just one of many endearing qualities of the book; and the reader immediately sympathises with her as she deals with bullies, losing faith in God and not really knowing the circumstances in which her brother died.
For me, the most poignant and moving part of The View on the Way Down was the way in which it dealt with the often un-talked about subject of depression; a cause very close to my heart but equally one I have always struggled to contemplate. The delicate way in which Waite wrote about Kit’s suffering in the lead up to his death was so breathtakingly beautiful that, despite the fact I was wracked with sobs on a packed and very public train, I read the passage twice.
Waite’s talent also lies in the fact that despite much of the book being about both death and depression, she has written a beautiful, touching tale that is as uplifting as it is sad. And the brotherly loyalty and love that dominates the book as it draws to its end is a fitting end to this wonderful book. The View on the Way Down is a beautifully written, spell-binding debut that has completely blown me away.
Recently on Twitter, there has been much talk of How to be a Good Wife, the debut novel of author Emma Chapman. Given that most people I follow are in the book industry, whether writers, publicists or fellow book-lovers, Twitter has quickly become something of a book hub, where I learn about the latest releases that everyone’s talking about. Last week it was the aforementioned debut and so, when heading to deepest, darkest Sussex after a particularly hectic week at work, I decided to move on from the novel I had been struggling with for over a week, in favour of what I hoped would be a more gripping read.
From the off-set, How to be a Good Wife was something of an uncomfortable read; made all the more so given the recent bleak weather that has descended across England. The solitude of Sussex after the bright lights of London, coupled with a loud blustery storm certainly made it atmospheric.
Telling the story of Marta, wife to Hector and mother to Kylan, How to be a Good Wife explores themes of memories, secrets and betrayals against the backdrop of silent Scandinavia. Marta has stopped taking her prescribed medication, against the wishes of both her son and her husband, and the reader witnesses what at first appears to be the onset of a mental breakdown.
But as Marta’s behaviour becomes more and more erratic, shards of forgotten memories begin slotting together, resulting in a climatic twist to Chapman’s debut. Both menacing and sinister, How to be a Good Wife is an unsettling read to be devoured in one sitting.