Wednesday, 10 February 2021

JANUARY BOOK REVIEW

‘A nightingale sang in Berkeley Squaaaare!' I've been burbling this song all day long, and I have no idea why... suddenly the line bursts off my tongue and into the vulnerable ears of whichever family member is around or on the phone... my grandmother used to sing with a tremulous treble she assigned to the throat operation which cured her of nodules. The operation destroyed the strength of her singing voice, she said, but I liked her trills and quivers. I like appropriating that quiver; it makes me feel very 1950s...

It is Mum's birthday today. Yesterday, I prepared the traditional Parsi celebratory dessert of rava, sweetened semolina and milk with rosewater and pistachios... I made some fresh milk bread to go with hot morning chai, and late this evening I cooked some figgy chicken with mashed potatoes and sugar snap peas (Dad loves the comfort of mashed potatoes) and on we shall go into the snowy depths of February. Meanwhile, I thought I'd share some of my readings from last month.

The Body Knows The Score by Bessel Van der Kolk has become one of those therapeutic classics along with Gabor Maté’s When The Body Says No. I found it a compelling read for the most part except where certain therapies were only available under almost laboratory type conditions. The last quarter of the book was therefore interrupted by my next reads, but Van der Kolk is so compassionate, I would absolutely recommend the book to anyone who has suffered trauma in any form.

Azadi by Arundhati Roy is a a very slim volume of essays, including ‘The Pandemic is a Portal’, the brilliant piece Roy wrote upon India being shut down with a four hour grace period. Can you call that grace? No, indeed. And while you’re reading Roy, take a look at Zadie Smith’s Intimations, another beautiful slim volume of essays - both writers are masters of their craft. 

Whenever I can’t put a book down, I am always amazed and gratified that my eyes can withstand the brief marathon. It is always a testament to the author - I felt this way about Deborah Levy‘s The Cost of Living, which is the second memoir in her living autobiography series. The memoir is a response to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, and is full of poetic energy, and the feminism of starting over after the failure of a long marriage.

Nikesh Shukla’s Brown Baby was also a memoir I did not want to put down. Writing against the grain of despair in Britain's divisive society, which regularly displays its prejudice, Shukla answers complex questions asked by his young daughters. Innocent enough questions, difficult to answer with ease and hope and the promise of joy. And yet, Shukla finds the vein to draw that hope from.

And lastly, my beloved Eva Ibbotson’s A Company of Swans and A Countess Below Stairs, rounded off my first month for the pandemic new year, with humour and a little dance in my step.