Book Review: The Quiet Room by Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennett

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Title: The Quiet Room: A Journey out of The Torment of Madness

Author:Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennett

Published:1994

Genre: Memoir

Again I seem to have reverted to yet another book on mental illness. This one is written by Lori Schiller and documents in pedantic detail her first realization that she was “not well” , all through to her current life living with her schizophrenia.
Schiller describes herself as outgoing, athletic, smart and popular prior to her illness. Essentially the perfect child from an affluent family. She first starts hearing voices during  a Summer camp when she is seventeen. Knowing the reaction, from having seen people’s reactions to even minor signs of any “mental” behaviour, she disguises the extent of her problem to family and friends. From then on,  until her graduation from college she learns to live with the voices in her head, yet functioning fairly well.

Book Review: How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? edited by Shannon Young

DragonfruitTitle: How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia

Author: Edited by Shannon Young

Published: 2014

Genre: Memoir

Every so often I come across a book recommendation on some expat site on books written by expats, which I am always quick to order or download hoping to gain some insight into women having similar experiences to mine. Sometimes I do find some reads that confirm that these feelings of displacement are indeed perfectly normal; or that it’s okay to not fit the mould of the happy expat wife going along with the banalities of the expat life; or that there can be much fault in a life perceived as glamorous by most. The stories in How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? are written by expat women in Asia, and are, as one review puts it, “an eclectic, soulful collection of stories by badass women who have ventured far out of their comfort zones.” The title itself is taken from one of the stories about the cultural rules that exist in expat locations which are most times unwritten, thus extremely difficult to navigate.

Book Review: Best White and Other Anxious Delusions by Rebecca Davis

51sUXM7+JlL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Best White and Other Anxious Delusions

Author: Rebecca Davis

Published: 2015

Genre: Memoir

Every so often, whenever I feel the need to laugh a bit,  I download books written by young South African writers. Let’s be honest, according to CNN and BBC, and very other media coverage on South Africa coming our way, it’s easy to think it is all doom and gloom, and that there will not be a country to return to. Of course, family and friends provide the perspective I need, but I do still need to read the humour, chucking away as CNN warns of the apocalyptic lows we’re headed for.

Books: PELT AND OTHER STORIES by Catherine McNamara

8d313-front2bcover_2nat2bcopiaTitle: Pelt and Other Stories
Author: Catherine McNamara
Published: 2013
Genre: Fiction

In between my getting stuck into the novels on my TBR list, I have also been dipping into my collection of short stories – that wonderful genre that allows you to escape what may be a too serious, too tedious, or simply too long novel and lose yourself in other worlds in a fraction of the time.

In between my getting stuck into the novels on my TBR list, I have also been dipping into my collection of short stories – that wonderful genre that allows you to escape what may be a too serious, too tedious, or simply too long novel and lose yourself in other worlds in a fraction of the time.

I have mixed feelings about Catherine McNamara’ s collection of stories.

Books: WHITE TEETH by Zadie Smith

Title: White Teeth
Author: Zadie Smith
Published: 2000
Genre: Fiction

Zadie Smith’s White Teeth took me close to two months to finish. That for me is a very long time, but it was read between a whole lot of other commitments. I read it during my daily commute,  when I had a few moments waiting for my son’s violin class to finish, and in between studying and writing and procrastinating. I finally finished it two weeks ago and it has taken me this long to write down my thoughts of it.  I took it off my ‘To Be Read’ (TBR) shelf expecting to be wowed, after all, the reviews that accompanied the book when it was published in 2000 were more than hyperbolic in their praise of Smith’s raw talent:  how it was reminiscent of Rushdie’s brilliance, how her turn of phrase was incomparable to none other, so steady and controlled for a debut writer.

Books: CRY BABY by Lauren Liebenberg

Title: Cry Baby

b2013-lauren-liebenberg-cry-baby-hrAuthor: Lauren Liebenberg

Published: 2013

Genre: Fiction

I read Lauren Liebenberg’s deliciously-named, The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam many years ago. I enjoyed it immensely and had been looking forward to reading her third book, Cry Baby. It is a story of an upper middle class couple, living in the Northern Suburbs of  Johannesburg  raising their two young boys – one of whom has terrifying nightmares that have an otherworldly significance to them. The author’s point of view changes from that of the two adults to that of the little boy throughout the book.

Books: THE BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA by Hanif Kureishi

Title: The Buddha of Suburbia
Author: Hanif Kureishi
Published:1990
Genre: Fiction

I recently saw an interview on France 24 with Hanif Kureishi discussing his writing. I remembered that I had one of his books, The Buddha of Suburbia,  which I decided to read again. Funny how one’s impression of certain books is influenced by so many other factors: one’s age; current emotional state; country of residence; reviews read about the book…This one felt like a completely new book to me. I can’t even remember the last time I had read it. This time it resonated a whole lot with me. Maybe it is living in France, and that feeling of always looking in being the observer; or it is watching the French tackle multi-culturalism; or maybe even raising my children in a country that is not their own. Whatever it was, I loved how Hanif Kureishi’s observations on multi-culturalism in the UK then, circa 1970s, remain just as relevant now.

Books: STUFFED – Adventures of a restaurant family by Patricia Volk

7b6eb-x18716Title: Stuffed: Adventures of a restaurant family
Author: Patricia Volk
Published: 2002
Genre: Memoir

I have read some scathing reviews about  Stuffed, and must say that as accurate as some are in their take on Ms Volk’s memoir of her family’s restaurant business, there are still some elements worth reading. Personally, I enjoyed reading about some of the misadventures of her family in their restaurant business; about the eccentric aunts and uncles; the family history – all of it.

Books: FRANCE’S GOT TALENT by Peter Gumbel

Title: France’s got Talent : The woeful consequences of French elitism
Author: Peter Gumbel
Published: 2013
Genre: Non-fiction

I have been sitting on this review for a while. Whilst I really enjoyed Peter Gumbel’s book, in it giving me a whole new understanding of some of the workings of the french education system, it left me hungry for more.
Peter Gumbel writes of his experiences as the Communications director of Sciences Po, under the then director of the university Richard Descoings, who was a fire-brand and controversial anti-elitist figure.

Books: QUIET: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

Title: QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
Author: Susan Cain
Published:2012
Genre: Non-fiction

I am an introvert, or more accurately as I have recently discovered, an ambivert. I can fake it like an extrovert, but long before all the excitement of socialising and the exuberance of any highly stimulating environment wears off, I am quietly seeking a corner to recharge.

Reading Susan Cain’s book was an eye-opener. It explained a lot about my own personality, and gave me more insight into my children’s personalities. I am raising both an ambivert and a highly extroverted-introvert – my own term here because my son does not seem to fit into any of the moulds described. It was also the kind of book that I would normally not have read had the subject matter not been close to my heart.