Friday, 28 July 2017
Published June 1st 2017 by Viking, Penguin UK
With thanks to Penguin UK for sending me an advance reader's copy of this book.
Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn't deserve to ever feel good again.
But her counsellor, Erika, won't give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby's head.
But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.
What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone-even a 100% bad person-deserve a chance to be good?
This is a book that examines the grey areas in life and how hardship can push people to their breaking point.
The story is told between the present, where Beth is in prison, to the past, showing how Beth's life progressed. From trouble with foster parents, to issues at school and being thrust into the working world and supporting herself independently from a young age; Beth had a hard life. However, her counsellor Erika asks her to try to remember the good things in life and in doing so we realise there is more to Beth than meets the eye and Beth learns that too.
Most of the characters in this book frustrated me but at the same time I could see how they had become the way they were.
Beth's voice is very distinctive in the book, seeming both very young and older than her years. Her naivety and lack of knowledge about things everyone should have the right to know shocked me. Her crime wasn't a surprise but the journey of how she reached that point was heartbreaking.
This was an interesting, emotionally charged read and an apt social commentary which deserves discussion. I would give it 3 out of 5.
About the Author:
An avid observer of the diverse area of south London in which she grew up, Clare's writing is inspired by her long-standing interest in social exclusion and the particular ways in which it affects vulnerable women and girls. All The Good Things is her first novel. She now lives, writes and works as a bookseller in Leeds.
Friday, 14 July 2017
Published April 11th 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton Ltd (first published October 2016)
When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.
What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.
Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.
It is about opening your eyes.
"There is a fire raging, and we have two choices: we can turn our backs, or we can try to fight it. Yes, talking about racism is hard to do, and yes, we stumble over the words - but we who are white need to have this discussion among ourselves. Because then, even more of us will overhear, and - I hope - the conversation will spread." - Jodi Picoult
A few of my friends and I have started a little book group where we have chosen a few books each and are alternating each month between each others' choices. My friend Megan chose this book and I was initially a little reluctant to read it. I have read many books by Jodi Picoult in the past and I have enjoyed them all. However, I have found that they can be quite exhausting as they deal with such difficult issues. I didn't have that problem with this book. While it dealt with very difficult, relevant issues, I was engrossed and couldn't put the book down. When I finished I was left with my eyes open but not overwhelmed. This book deals with the fact that while race relations have improved massively in the last hundred years, there are still a lot of prejudices in society and outright racism in some circumstances which for the most part is ignored.
The story is split between three perspectives: Ruth, who is a midwife at the hospital where the baby died; Turk, the baby's white supremacist father; and Kennedy, the defence lawyer for the case. The author wrote with sensitivity from all perspectives. However, it was hard to stomach reading the sections from Turk's perspective. The outright prejudice and racism from him and those around him made me really angry while I was reading it. Ruth's perspective was enlightening as she encounters racism on a daily basis. Kennedy's perspective was also enlightening as she gets to know Ruth and is confronted with the harsh reality of the situations Ruth dealt with every day. The relationship between Ruth and Kennedy was really interesting and I liked how it progressed through the novel.
In light of current events, it seems more important to me than ever to focus on the similarities between people rather than differences and to remember we are all human and have the right to expect the same treatment wherever we go.
Small Great Things is fast-paced and gripping. This is an incredibly moving and powerful story that has opened my eyes to the prejudices that still exist in our society today. I can't recommend this enough; it should be required reading! 5 out of 5.
About the Author: