Our July book club list of recommended reads is ready! At Galway Now we love nothing more than tucking into a great book after a busy day. Have a browse of what’s on our shelf this month and find your new favourite page-turner.
Erin’s Choice: Finding Me by Viola Davis
Finding Me is an autobiographical look at Viola Davis’ life and personal journey through poverty, hardship, racism, abuse and a system which often wanted her to fail. Through the chapters In Finding Me, Viola confronts her past in order to heal her present, and shares the road she walked towards becoming one of the most prolific actors of our time.
Why I Loved It: Since first watching her outstanding character portrayal in How To Get Away With Murder and her transformative representation in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, I have adoreed Viola Davis. Along with this, her thought provoking interviews have filled me with such knowledge and inspiration, so I was drawn to understanding more about her life and journey. I had no idea the extent of hardship Viola Davis overcame to get to where she is, and I loved how honest and vulnerable she was about herself, her life and her experiences of working in the industry. There are also many moments of joy and forgiveness between the pages.
Aisling’s Choice: My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
This razor-sharp satire set in 2000/2001 features a narrator that seems to have it all. She is a young, beautiful Columbia University graduate living in luxury on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in an apartment paid for by her inheritance. After the death of her parents our unnamed protagonist becomes increasingly depressed. We see her attempt to sleep for an entire year using prescription medication in the hopes that she will become a brand new person.
Why I loved it: Honestly, it’s hard to explain why I loved this book, and it’s definitely not for everyone. For a book that seemingly has very little plot, I could not put it down. I was surprised at how engrossed I found myself into the narrator’s extremely depressing life and thoughts. This book is well written, insightful, and Moshfegh`s deadpan delivery makes for a humorous read. The protagonist is incredibly unlikeable, not just in how ungrateful she is, but in the way she treats everyone around her. In saying this, a part of me couldn’t help but root for her and hope that she made it out of this obvious depressive episode she found herself in. Moshfegh`s writing is so brilliant, she manages to make a book about a girl sleeping for a year so compelling.
Trish’s Choice: Troubled Blood by Robert Galbraith
Troubled Blood is the fifth novel in the Cormoran Strike series written by J.K. Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. In this instalment, Private Detective Cormoran Strike and his partner, Robin Ellacot take on a decades old cold case of a doctor, Margot Bamborough, who went missing in mysterious circumstances over 40 years ago. Strike has never tackled a cold case before but despite the slim chance of success, he is intrigued and takes it on. Plus, Strike and Robin are still battling their feelings for one another, while Robin is also juggling a messy divorce. As the dynamic duo investigate Margot’s disappearance, they come up against their most fiendishly complex case yet.
Why I loved it: The Cormoran Strike series is gripping crime fiction that is masterfully told and is rich in plot and characterisation. Having read all previous books in the series, I was excited to add this one to my list. At almost 1,000 pages it is definitely a novel of epic proportions but don’t let that put you off. It is jam packed full of exciting and unexpected twists and turns with another enthralling mystery to solve whilst also further developing the growing relationship between Strike and Robin. It is an intriguing read from start to finish and one I didn’t want to put down, even if reading it sometimes felt like a marathon! A super addition to the Strike series and one for all the crime fiction lovers out there.
Caitriona’s Choice: Room by Emma Donoghue
Room is a totally unique novel written from the perspective of the five-year-old protagonist, Jack. The novel follows Jack and the only other person he knows, ‘Ma’, as they navigate life whilst confined to the four walls of ‘Room’. Room is a shed belonging to Old Nick, Ma’s kidnapper, and is enclosed a by a 15 feet gate in the back of his garden. To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. His rug, wardrobe, and ‘eggsnake’ under the bed are all very real members of his world, to whom he has an emotional bond. Ma was captured by Old Nick when she was just 19 and has been living in Room for seven years. The novel begins and ends in Room, when Ma and Jack return after their eventual escape to say a final goodbye. It is emotional, thought provoking and entirely gripping. It is an honest account of the innocence of childhood, trauma, resilience and a mother’s love.
Why I loved it: This book was like nothing I had ever read before. It drew me in from the first page right until the very end and was impossible to put down. The novel is narrated by Jack, and in this way, it is an incredibly intimate and innocent account of the horrendous conditions Ma and Jack had to endure. This novel made me think deeply about how our environment shapes us, for example, Jack has only ever known what is in Room to be real, and everything else he has heard of is just ‘TV’ (not real). It made me wonder how much more of the world I have yet to experience beyond my day-to-day routine. The story is vulnerable yet innocent, child-like yet provocative. It has an omnipresent eery undertone, due to the conditions in which they are in, for example Jack must sleep in the wardrobe when Old Nick comes at night. My favourite part of the novel is when Ma and Jack eventually escape, and Jack must learn how to exist in a world bigger than his previous four walls. He does not know how to walk on stairs, the sun is too bright and there are too many faces. There is a humorous element in Jack’s acute observations of people in society, such as the change in tone of voice that implies sarcasm, and people who laugh even when nobody tells a joke. It is a book that made me both laugh and cry all at once.
Bonus Choice: Acts of Desperation by Megan Nolan
This debut novel by Megan Nolan is an anti- romance trope like no other. It is the story of a young woman and her destructive battle to find self- worth in the eyes of a lover. Megan Nolan writes with stark vulnerability, to the point where you feel you exist somewhere in the story, too. The unnamed protagonist meets a man (Ciaran) whom she recounts as the ‘most beautiful man [she] had ever seen’. They pursue a brief, all- consuming romance. Their troubled relationship unfolds throughout the pages, and the flaws in Ciaran’s character are revealed; each incident of abuse more gruesome than the last. This is not a story of heartbreak, but of the young woman’s ruthless quest to gain control in a powerless dynamic. She seeks to become the cheater, liar, and the manipulator. Right to the very end, the protagonist is unpredictable. At one point she seeks to escape degradation, and the next she fetishizes it. Her jealous obsession leads her to commit ruthless acts against the self and others. The story follows her inner journey of self-abandonment, desire, shame, and eventual courage.
Why I loved it: I really liked this novel because the main character is written with such explicit detail and vulnerability. It is an invitation into one’s innermost thoughts of shame, self- loathing, and desperation for male validation. The story depicts one young woman’s relationship with her body, and her life- long belief that its sole purpose is to facilitate male pleasure. Some of the incidents written in the text were quite horrific between the main character and her partner, but it was the type of story that I couldn’t predict nor put down. I also liked that at the end, she did not reach a life – changing epiphany. Much of her character and ways of being towards men stayed the same throughout the novel. Instead, it ended with her simply deciding to try something different and choose herself, “What would I think about, now that I wasn’t thinking about love or sex? That would be the next thing, trying to figure out what to fill up all that space with. But that was all right. That would follow.”