It feels like forever ago since I was sat here writing to you, but a lot has gone on since I last wrote! First of all we finally found somewhere we want to live (after feeling some serious buyer fatigue setting in) – so thats all very super exciting but admittedly the admin and politics involved in buying property in the UK is very tiring meaning I havent had a lot of free time of late!
Secondly, it was my Birthday (woohoo!) and I got to celebrate it in style! My partner took me away to York for the night, which is honestly one of my favourite places in the UK. If you’ve never been, google ‘The Shambles’, its literally like diagon alley for all you Harry Potter lovers! My partner also surprised me with this wonderful book cake, which I have been eating copious amounts of all week. My 1-2-1 Noom guide is like ‘how is your motivation’ and I’m looking at all the cake in my food log and going ‘yeah yeah it’s great’…hahahaha!
Seriously, it’s all chocolatey, fudgey and dairy free….scrumptious! My partner’s sister made it – how clever is she!!!
I received 2 books from my Rare Birds book subscription this month, one of which is my next read. I was actually super relieved to see that it was a short read (the first book was super long), as as I mentioned, I don’t have a lot of spare energy at the moment!
RED AT THE BONE, BY JACQUELINE WOODSON
I was really drawn to this cover, I love blue covers, but the beautiful colour palette layered on top is quite simply striking. I definitely think this is a good looking book and one that would stand out on a shelf or in a book store. The front and back are littered with comments promising a ‘haunting’ that ‘sings off the page’, so my expectations of this read were pretty high.
“Brooklyn, 2001. Watched lovingly by her relatives and friends, 16 year old Melody celebrates her coming of age wearing a custom-made dress – the very same dress that was sewn for Melody’s mother for a celebration that ultimately never took place.
Unfurling the history of Melody’s family – from the 1921 Tulsa race massacre to post 9/11 New York – Red at the Bone explores sexual desire, race, class and the life-altering facts of parenthood, as it looks at the ways in which young people must so often make fateful decisions about their lives before they have even begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be’.
The subject matter greatly interested me, having become an Auntie at the age of 9, I had first hand insight to young people becoming parents and was really interested to how the novel would explore this.
We open with Melody’s party, the scene is set through the use of audio and visual descriptions, and whilst I’ve never been to Brooklyn, I was stood there with Melody and could picture how her party was unfolding. One element I noticed almost immediately is the way in which the prose is structured, there are no speech marks and the flow is very staccato. Paragraphs are separated by huge spacings, chapters are in the mindset of different characters, but you’re never quite sure who you are reading or what era you are reading in until you’re a few paragraphs in. The book works like this throughout, flipping backward and forwards in time, between characters, between dynamics.
It’s a very interesting story, one which I would describe as ‘told in reverse’, as we start with the present and then explore to how we have got there. It’s a thoughtful exploration of how two families became combined through a teenage pregnancy. One family upper class with a beautiful house in a desirable neighbourhood, whilst the other struggles to make ends meet and lives in a run down house in a single parent household.
It is about the struggles of a teenage Mum, her decision to continue with the pregnancy and her feelings towards her baby and her sexuality as she grows older. It is about each character and their take on the pregnancy in the past and their observations of the present.
Personally, whilst I enjoyed the book and the writing (which is beautiful and very striking), I did feel a little underwhelmed versus the quotes on the cover. This book was supposed to ‘remind me why I love reading’, and whilst yes there were pepperings of that, the advantage of this being a short book for me to read, actually was a bit of it’s demise. I actually felt like I was perhaps watching the tv version of this book, because I didn’t feel that we got to a real social, humanity level with our characters. There are absolutely incredible characters to read here, Sabe is one of my favourites, but I didn’t learn enough about her for my liking. In fact, this story is set at Melody’s party, but I don’t really feel that I know anything about Melody.
Each character had such an amazing background and insight and depth to add to the page, but I feel that their opportunity was cut short by the length of the chapters and the word count within each one. The blurb promised an exploration into many topics, I perhaps feel like we just looked at the tourist hot spots on this adventure, rather than really spending time in each section. I would have preferred a longer read to have had more time with each character. I also never really understood how each character felt about Melody’s party, or did I really understand the significance of it.
There were decisions, thoughts and emotions that I don’t feel were really explored deeply either. Iris (Melody’s mum) went to a catholic school, was that part of her decision to keep the baby? Not sure. In addition, I felt that whilst the author very carefully conveyed her thought processes of ‘I woke and the baby was still there’, a frightened young mother who felt she had perhaps made the wrong decision (again why the reasoning behind that decision becomes so important), the state of her mental health wasn’t really explored, nor did I understand how the family reacted to what happened in the next stage of her life.
From personal experience, there is definitely a lot more to this that the author had the opportunity to focus on and explore that would have explained the dynamic between mother and daughter much more clearly, but chose not to.
However, there is a scene in which Iris has to explain her situation and I felt her panic and emotions very well in that scene. I thought that that was written exceptionally well, the reactions from Iris and the other party involved were very realistic.
CAN’T PUT IT DOWN RATING: 3.5/5
I truly enjoyed the foundations of this book and the characters were excellent. I loved reading into the past and understanding the family dynamics, and I thoroughly appreciated the idea of two families, one rich, one poor, coming together through teenage pregnancy. It’s a very interesting (and I expect more common than we would know) concept to explore from a social and human perspective.
I thought that the way in which the author so respectfully approached sexuality was done with real skill and I was pleased that no character was struggling with that themselves. However perhaps a sign of the time that part of the novel was set in was the need to keep this a ‘secret’ but again I didn’t feel like the true reason was made clear.
The end of the book truly gripped me, although I did feel it was somewhat rushed. I again would’ve liked more.
My end comments for this book in summary are – fantastic character dynamics and exploration of race, sexuality, teenage pregnancy and motherhood – but not enough meat on the bones provided to truly satisfy my appetite!
WASHED DOWN WITH:
So my partner surprised me with an amazing luxury apartment for our stay in York, and it happened to be part of a coffee house, so the coffee provided was this one, and oh my word I’m obsessed. There was enough supplied to bring home, and I’ve been drinking it from a cafetière with my breakfast each morning. I’m just finishing off some ground Costa I have, and then I’ll definitely be ordering some! It’s nutty, smooth and so well balanced. It’s not too strong, doesn’t give me the jitters or make me irritated (sign my coffee is way too caffeinated haha!) and best of all, it’s local.
I havent got a fancy snap as I ripped it apart too quickly! But this is what I’m raving about! £5.45 for 250g, and they do subscription boxes and bundles too! Click the link below
Before I head off today, I just wanted to share with you that I have been selected as Rare Bird’s Member of the month this month, which is pretty exciting!!! So if you’ve ever wanted to know more about me, click here for my interview with Editor Rachel.
So readers, what are you thinking of this book? Is it something you’ll be looking to pick up? Either way – why?
Until the next Chapter,