Books and Bodies

Today I have mostly been on the Chaise Longue of Death. Hormonally speaking it has been a difficult time. I have spent since last Tuesday mostly off and onable  with hormone related shenanigans. It is tedious, exhausting and not glamorous in the slightest. I feel like I should wrap a large amount of yellow, police crash tape around my nether regions and just take to wearing a huge, flashing cone on my head that spells out ‘vaginal nonsense occurring’ in Morse code.

It is for this, and many other reasons that I feel I could never take on Gwyneth’s mantel of lady part guru. My lady parts are staging a revolution and I am a hostage to my own mood swings. I spent large parts of last week either crying with deep seated sadness or incandescent rage, and this week I have very tight jaw muscles from all the grinding and clamping and general seething I have done. This will win no Oscars, nor butter any parsnips.

It has been one of those times when, if I could have run away from myself I would cheerfully have abandoned myself in a cardboard box on the steps of an orphanage and booked a one way ticket to Acapulco, packing only my maracas and a credit card. As it is, I have spent a fair amount of my time with my head buried in a book and the rest trying to sleep it off. By it, I mean my life.

I cannot recommend me to a friend, but I will recommend some books in lieu of something more worthwhile.

Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom.  A lovely man called Ian emailed me about two years ago, asking me if I would like to review a Catherine Gaskin novel his company were re-issuing. I said yes, for no apparent reason I could understand at the time. It turns out I love Catherine Gaskin’s books. They are very silly, old fashioned bodice ripper type affairs where the heroines usually learn a lot about making sherry and smoke incessantly in the four poster beds, leading me to worry about fire hazards. Their love lives are dismal, but very dramatic and I absolutely adore them. Since that day, Ian has sent me several Gaskins, and now Ursula Bloom. I had never heard of her, but I shall be scouting out more. Bloom is like Nancy Mitford lite. I was absolutely delighted by this book. It is a very mannered, Thirties romance about a repressed vicar’s daughter who accidentally wins £300 in a sweepstake and spends it on the cruise of a lifetime, where she learns to let go of her repressed morals and her woollen vests while scouring the Mediterranean for romance. It is terrific. I highly recommend it.

The Bricks That Built The Houses by Kate Tempest. I did not know if I was going to like this, but it kept calling out to me in the library and eventually I succumbed to it. Tempest is a kind of renaissance woman, musician, poet, writer and general word wrangler extraordinaire. This is a sort of grim love triangle set against the gentrification of Deptford. It sounds terrible, but I am doing it a huge disservice. It’s one of those books you really have to read. If you’re hooked by the first page, you’ll eat it up to the last. If you can’t stand the first page, put it back and buy something else. I loved it. She writes with such strength and there is real poetry here.

Trumpet by Jackie Kay. I’ve read Kay’s poetry. I’ve read her autobiography. I didn’t even know she had written a novel until I stumbled across this in the library. It’s the story of a woman coming to terms with the death of her husband, a celebrated jazz musician, an the shock of what his death unearths, that the man the world reveres, was actually a woman. It’s so much more than a story of grief. It has the wonderful twist, which you discover early on, but which is still a treat. It is vivid and sharp and surprising. I loved it.





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