Sasha Swire’s diaries, though? Cor! I texted Camilla Long when I was about 15 pages in to this tell-all bitch-a-thon and said “Is it weird how cosy and comforting [the diaries] are?” and Camilla texted back: “Yes, they’re very lifestyle”. Camilla loved this book – she doesn’t like half-measures people who say things like “the WC” or “he passed away” – and the balls-out nature of Mrs Swire is exactly what Camilla is looking for in a memoirist.
Personally, I was fully appalled by the extracts of the diaries I read in the paper, in a pearl-clutching way that I am often capable of. I was outraged by the unsisterliness of the betrayal of Samantha Cameron and Sarah Vine’s confidences. And then doubly furious at my complicity, how gripped I was by it all. Like Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells come to life, I read every. single. word and wouldn’t stop going on about how awful it all was.
So I bought the book – in for a penny, in for a pound – and while it is very lifestyle, (there’s lots of stuff about long walks and curtains and fish pie), the newspaper extracts were very much the best bits.
Swire’s not very good at explaining things, (and why would she be here? She’s talking to herself), and so politicians I’ve never heard of are endlessly making witty quips like, “Of course, he’ll have to bring his horses“, meaning I had to read back two pages to the beginning of some tedious story to work out why this is any sort of solid burn. The ratfuck stuff is boring even when it does make sense.
Another book I read recently was If I Had Your Face by Frances Ha, which is a look at life in South Korea, following the stories of three girls living in the same apartment block in Seoul and a fourth woman, their neighbour. The cultural detail about the obsession in parts of the country with plastic surgery is fascinating but it only really scratches the surface of what you really want to know about daily life.
Say what you like about Crazy Rich Asians, it really opened the door on every aspect of life in a certain social scene, you really understand by the end why Kwan’s characters did what they did, said what they said. He wanted you to understand, see and know everything. If I Had Your Face assumes a bit too much on the part of the reader and the plot isn’t really there. Still, if you like the sound of it, you’ll like it – if you know what I mean.
Help Yourself is a collection of three short stories by Curtis Sittenfeld, which can be read in an afternoon. The first is a now rather standard story about a white woman getting herself into a race-related faux-pas pickle, the second about the making of a documentary and in the third, an academic waits to hear if she has got a much-wanted load of funding.
I would happily have read the first and last stories at length but in a Q&A at the back of the book, Sittenfeld basically says that novels are a pain to write and by the end she is sick of the book, so she prefers writing to a shorter length. I enjoyed all of these stories and was reminded why Sittenfeld is so brilliant yet unpredictable, (god I hated Rodham – and Sisterland), but the fact that there are only three, which you can read so quickly, felt a bit stingy.
How about you? Read any good books lately? Please leave a comment in the handy box below.