Anyone who picked up The Years last year does not need to be convinced that Happening is a memoir of the highest calibre by an author who writes with such honesty and precision about the most personal of stories. Annie Ernaux offers a glimpse into a difficult and lonely period of her life as “something intelligible and universal, causing my existence to merge into the lives and heads of other people.”
Lillian Li’s debut Number One Chinese Restaurant follows the intertwined stories of people whose lives revolve around the Beijing Duck House, a family-owned restaurant in Rockville, Maryland. Packed with action and populated by an array of varied, complex characters, it’s an entertaining and insightful read.
Adam Scovell’s debut novel Mothlight is a first-person introspective journey of understanding how a personal identity is informed and shaped by other people. A novel written with the style and sensibility of a literary memoir, it is as much an exercise in self-exploration as it is an exercise in memory.
Françoise Frenkel’s No Place to Lay One’s Head, translated into English by Stephanie Smee, certainly is a remarkable discovery: harrowing and beautifully written, it is both an astonishing historical account of surviving the horrors of the Second World War and a timeless story about the importance of empathy and resilience in the most difficult times.
The new Netflix show Sex Education might seem like just another teenage dramedy. It has a John Hughes-inspired soundtrack, features an awkward teenage virgin boy protagonist, and a wardrobe with an 80s nod, which the show’s warm lighting casts in a vintage-y, golden hue. But the strength of the show lies in its portrayal of gender, toxic masculinity, and sexuality.
The construction of the Self is historically situated and is a conscious re-creation of what Nietzsche calls our “second nature” making us “poets of our lives”. The focal point of The Man From Earth is John Oldman, a university professor who claims to be 14,000 years old and has stopped ageing after 35. He has met the Buddha, sailed with Christopher Columbus and been a dear friend of Van Gogh. How is such a Self constructed?
Based on John Grisham’s only non-fiction book, Netflix’s The Innocent Man takes a close look at two murders that took place in the 80s in Ada, Oklahoma. Each murder case was closed when the police obtained guilty confessions, with four men receiving sentences varying from life in prison to the death penalty. What followed was an ongoing reevaluation of the justice system.
The first thing I see when I wake is the wedding ring on the bedside locker. I don’t remember it being there last night, but we’d had more to drink than usual, and sleep had come quickly for both of us. Amanda’s eyes fluttering closed, her breathing growing deep mere moments before my own eyes closed.
Today there is cauliflower for dinner, washed and cut, white florets of boredom. Cauliflower was relief till it became an imposition. First grandmother and then mother-in-law told me how to cook it, as if the success of my marriage rested on the cauliflower.
I’ve been in bed for maybe an hour, asleep for just a few minutes I think. And then the scream. My stomach muscles tighten. It feels as though a short sharp blade has been inserted. I freeze but only for a couple of seconds. I need to move.
It was the summer of 1972. We had been in the habit of heading to the mountains for our summer holidays, but the Olympics were on, and half the world was going to Bavaria. So instead, Dad had decided to visit the relatives in the Zone.