• Shanley McConnell

Week Thirteen: The Monday Review

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1. The Weight, Anne Enright


This story.


My dear friend is always talking about how much she likes Anne Enright's writing, and this was my first encounter with the work. I agree; it is easy to read and thoughtful to scene. I was so impressed by the way she imbued characters with a sense of authenticity.


The Weight takes place on an airplane. What does one think about in a moment of turbulence? Who do they see?


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2. Wish, Linda Boström Knausgård, translated from Swedish by Martin Aitken


A mother reflects on her children, her husband and wills that no harm comes to them.


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3. The Familiars, Stacey Halls


According to the Irish Times, Stacy Hall "cast a spell over the publishing world in November 2017" with her debut novel, The Familiars. Her novel's central character, a seventeen-year-old wife in 1614, is alive with emotion, passion, strength and fear. She has been disregarded many times by the patriarchal society in which he lives. Overlooked, disrespected and belitted by her husband, Richard, father-figure, Roger and other men she wills speak up. Little does she realise their fear is deeply rooted in power. They are powerless against wise women.


Inspired by historical figures, Hall spins around Fleetwood Shuttleworth and her midwife, Alice Gray. When the latter is accused of witchcraft, a desperate Fleedwood goes to great lengths to rescue this friend, her only friend.


The Familiars is provoked, and highly considered. Its literary reference and first-person narration lead to an engaging read. Sometimes the novel reminded me of Jane Austen and Dodie Smith, but this is compliment to Hall's reflection and definitive tone. Throughout the book, her dialogue remained sensitive to historical milieu and era.


Highly recommend this Sunday Times Bestseller.


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4. South of the Border, West of the Sun, Haruki Murakami

translated by Philip Gabriel


"Sometimes when I look at you, I feel I'm gazing at a distant star. It's dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago. Maybe the star doesn't even exist any more. Yet sometimes that light seems more real to me than anything."

----South of the Border, West of the Sun



Hajime lives in a reflection of loss, of love. Success and aimlessness. Growing up in the suburbs of post-war Japan, Hajime is an only child in a time when everyone else appears to have had brothers or sisters. It matters little if siblings are close or estranged, Hajime wonders about such a life. His only real friend is Shimamoto, another only child, whose crippled leg further ostracises her from the other students at their primary school. Separated for twenty-five years, the two are reunited under complication, mysterious circumstances where sacrifice and reflection is the heart of their love.


I like this novel for poignant, thoughtful phrasing, and, although I found myself upset by the near-end, the denouement was a considered turn-around. I appreciate the way Murakami understands the differences between affection and attraction, remorse and reflection. The way love combines a number of factors.


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5. Out There, Kate Folk


This short story was published in the print edition of the March 23, 2020 The New Yorker issue. It's a story about relationships, about fake people and romance, about connection, curiousity and uncertainty.


It's a satirical piece, and I found it an interesting read.


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