Domestic Bliss and Other Disasters by Jane Ions – A Review

I love a book that makes me laugh. But actually finding genuinely funny novels is really quite a challenge. It is not often that a writer comes along and is able to weave a story that is filled with humour without tipping over into the unbelievable and absurd.

But Jane Ions in her recent offering, Domestic Bliss and Other Disasters published this week by Bluemoose has managed to pull it off! Welcome to the world of Sally Forth!

Sally is a semi retired teacher, working just a few afternoons a week at the local school supporting Lee , her wayward but strangely charming student. Sally is married to Bill, a senior and increasingly high profile politician. Sally’s children have left home and she is looking forward to space for herself. An chance to start a new chapter and redefine her own role in the world.

Life, however, seems to have other ideas. Other people’s lives are complicated and some how Sally seems to be at the centre of them all. Her son Dan returns and, equipped with a new passion for environmental awareness, he sets about building an Eco extension to the family home. This attracts attention and a surprising amount of people, many of whom seem to become unexpected but quite permanent fixtures in Sally’s life.

Add in her rather strained and at times uncomfortably competitive relationships with lifelong friends Jen and Judith, and her daughter Emma, who is straining at the leash of recent motherhood, and Sally’s life suddenly seems rather complicated.

This novels is a delightful mesh of the everyday, a celebration of how life can suddenly take off in directions we never ever imagined and the all the humour that accompanies that. It is filled with a host of characters, each with there own motivations and wry asides on life. And it is a cast list that comes together to provide light hearted, simple joy.

Quite simply, I enjoyed this book. I appreciated the humour, and the skill with which the domestic is woven into a plot that leaves no stone unturned, and gives every character within a perspective and importantly a voice. Our narrator Sally is intelligent, insightful and importantly for a novel of this kind, very, very funny!! A middle age women with spark, opinions and wry perspective on everything life throws her way.

This book is unlike anything else I have read this year and it was a welcome oasis from a world that increasingly seems to take it’s self far too seriously.

Rachel x

January round up … the longest month ever!

I have always hated January. There is just no getting away from the fact that it is dark, cold and ridiculously, almost supernaturally long. Add in another Covid lockdown and this month was destined to be a bit of a trial!

Books as always have been my salvation, my salvation and often my window on the world. So welcome to January’s round up; I hope you find something here to catch you eye.

I started the month with a very special book, special initially because it was given to me by one of my oldest and dearest friends. Life in Pieces by Dawn O’Porter was a reflection on the authors time in lockdown with her young family in LA. There was much we could all identify with here; the sense of panic and disbelief, the fluctuation of emotions, the inability to stop eating or to remember which day it is. But there were also personal challenges too, because Dawn entered lockdown in a state of grief having lost her dear friend Caroline Flack to suicide just weeks before. This book is raw, heartbreaking and hilarious, sometimes at the same time. A delightful first read of the year.

Next up was Old Bones by Helen Kitson , published this month by Louise Walters Books this is a delightful story of regret, loss and evolving friendships. You can fine my review here.

In fact this month has been an absolute gem for new releases and I am thrilled to have been able to read and review a fair few. Whether it’s the competitive world of snowboarding, found in the thriller Shiver by Allie Reynolds, the complexities of growing up in Catholic Ireland, The Rosary Garden by Nicola White or the beautiful and deadly beaches of Barbados, How the one armed sister sweeps her house by Cherie Jones the books published this month have literally had something for everyone.

Sticking with new releases, one of the patches of light in these strange dark days has been the opportunity to attend online book launches and events. It was a joy to see both Mrs Death Misses Death by Salena Godden and Captain Jesus by Colette Snowden off on their publishing journeys.

I am thrilled, as always, to be supporting some cracking blog tours this year. Laura Purcell’s The Shape of Darkness was another perfect gothic offering, and next week I will be sharing my blog tour reviews of Lucy Jago’s A Net for Small Fishes and Inga Vespers A Long, Long Afternoon. Both very different books, but both completely immersive and vibrant in their own unique ways.

My month has been pretty fiction heavy this month as far as new releases are concerned. But Alexa, what is there to know about love by Brian Bilston was a delightful detour into poetry. Anyone who has spoken to me in real life this month has had this book continually and wholeheartedly recommended. And I have been making quite a bit of Twitter noise about it too.

My one and only non fiction book this month has been How to be a Refugee by Simon May. An incredible story of survival at any cost, you can find my Instagram review here.

And finally to two more books I have read but not reviewed. The first of my Daunt Books subscription books was Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor and it was a cracker! This is the tale of Sir Henry Irving, Ellen Terry and Bram Stoker. With Oscar Wilder and Jack the Ripper as bit players this book was just incredible!

And in a bid for just good old fashioned comfort reading I have persuaded my book group to read the first of Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet Chronicles The Light Years . I have been bathing in the warm glow of the audio book but also slightly dreading what will happen if my book friends don’t love these stories as much as me!!

And there ends January! Who knows what February has in store – but remember there are always books!

Rachel x

Book Review: Captain Jesus by Colette Snowden

Bluemoose Books were one of my reading heroes last year. And having read their upcoming release Captain Jesus by Colette Snowden I see no reason why this year is going to be any different.

Released on 28th January this book is tender, touching and full of emotion. Just what the world needs in abundance right now.

The story unfolds through a dual narrative. Firstly from the perspective of Jim; a 10 year old boy growing up in the present day. A member of a loving family, who are about to experience an unimaginable and unbearable tragedy. The second perspective belongs to his mother Marie and takes the reader back to her teenage years, growing up in a single parent Catholic family; feeling different and tainted by a shame that she doesn’t understand.

Through the eyes of these two young people we see the world within this novel come to life. Colette Snowden has created two very distinct characters and given them powerful and unique narrative voices. At no point does the style of either narrator jar, or feel disconnected, rather there is a complete blanket of authenticity wrapped around their words. Giving life to young characters, giving them a steady believable voice is not always easy, but Snowdon pulls it off with style.

This is a story that has grief and loss at it’s core. It touches upon the physical and emotional toll that grief takes on a family not just in the aftermath of loss but also through the long term effects. The web that loss spins through this novel is far reaching and indeed loss comes in many forms. It is not just the loss of a loved one that drives this story, but the loss of a dream, the loss of faith and the loss of what makes you whole.

The multigenerational perspective is inspired. For Marie, growing up in small, constrained family, has had far reaching and long lasting effect. Her childhood is marked by a strange silence where truths were occasionally spat out only to be swallowed back and then never spoken of again. She is attempting to create a different life for her children.

But will the tragedy that befalls her small family be too big for her to deal with and what will be the impact on Jim and his siblings life?

From laughter, to religion, to growing up and beyond, this story crosses so many divides and offers an insight into grief, but also joy. It is beautifully told and reflects the best and the worst of the human spirit.

As always I am honoured to have had a sneak preview of this very special Bluemoose release. Roll on 28th January!

Rachel x