Book reviews : Compelling fiction and a few decent ‘reasons to stay alive’

This week, whilst being away with the family on my holidays, I’ve been reading a couple of cracking books. One a very personal story about coping with depression and anxiety and the other a sweeping novel about life, death, family, relationships and everything in between.

I hope you enjoy the reviews…

Reasons to stay Alive (15)

by Matt Haig

One of the things I admire most about authors is an ability to be so candid. To provide an insight into their own lives, either through the prism of fiction or through the microscope of autobiography is a brave thing to do especially when the subject matter (as it is in this book) is deeply personal…

You see “Reasons to stay alive” is a book about mental health.

In the book Matt shares his personal experiences and in particular the challenges he’s faced with depression, anxiety and mental illness.

I still reckon that although we’ve made progress as a society a stigma still exists around mental illness. However the fact that we don’t openly discuss our mental health doesn’t mean it isn’t an issue for many of us.

Up to this point I’ve never suffered from any of the sort of debilitating mental challenges Matt talks about in his book. However I know many who have had to battle with mental illness in one form or another.

I’ve probably known many more (especially fellas) who have suffered but due to the way mental health is seen by society compared to physical health may not have been comfortable to admit these challenges.

In this book Matt discusses his own experiences from when he found himself standing on a cliff in Ibiza contemplating suicide through to irrational panic attacks about (among other things) Paris, Parties and popping to his local shop.

For me this book represents three things…

Firstly this book is a well told story. The story happens to be the life of the author but that doesn’t take away the fact that the story is an incredibly powerful one.

This book has also ‘self help’ elements. The fact that this book talks openly about mental health will help many however the author doesn’t stop there. In the book Matt shares what works for him which includes running, reading and travel.

and

This book is a love letter to a number of things...

To his family, to the power of reading, to the person who has clearly supported Matt through these challenges more than any other. His wife Andrea.

I enjoyed reading “Reasons to stay alive”. I learned loads, laughed at certain points and whilst I haven’t suffered from the same sort of mental health challenges as Matt found myself identifying with him in a number of ways.

So, regardless if you’re looking to understand more about the challenge of mental illness or are looking to find practical techniques which might help you with your own challenges with depression and anxiety then “Reasons to stay alive” is well worth reading…

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A God in ruins (16)

by Kate Atkinson

I’ve tried to start this review a number of times but find myself deleting the start each and every time…

The reason? I can’t find a way to start this review and truly do this amazing book any justice.

You see “A god in ruins” is an incredible novel where Kate Atkinson’s seems to have the ability to write complex empathetic characters and interweave these characters in a story which encompasses so much.

There’s a lot of “A god in ruins” (it runs at 500 plus words) but the story is tightly told and every page seems to compel you to continue reading more than the last.

It’s also an interesting combination. It manages to interweave an exploration of concepts like war, moral ambiguity, the impact of death and the complexity of family relationships with a fantastically well told story with plenty of characters but focused on just one man.

It manages to pull off something that many writers fail at…exploring a range of interesting topics through utterly compelling storytelling.

Teddy (the central character) is endearing but also has his faults and frailties and whilst sometimes the characterisation does feel a bit ‘broad brush’ (especially when it comes to some of the less endearing personalities) you feel you truly know who these people are…

The book also plays with time. The book isn’t chronological but instead jumps back and forth as the book progresses with each chapter highlighting a different era in Teddy’s life. However it also provides insights from the future mid chapter and often goes on entertaining tangents which could have detracted from the story but instead makes the book a far more immersive experience.

This book also apparently acts as a ‘companion piece’ to one of Kate Atkinson other books “Life after Life” which I haven’t read but after finishing this book in a matter of days has now been added to the ever burgeoning reading list!

As you can probably tell I really enjoyed “A God in Ruins” and I’m sure you will too.

I’d humbly suggest you add it to your ‘reading list’ today…

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So, there’s this weeks books. I’m currently in the process of reading quite a meaty autobiography along with an often misrepresented classic which I’ll be reviewing soon…
So, in the meantime…Happy reading!

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