Lucina, a young Chilean writer, has moved to New York to pursue an academic career. While at a party one night, something that her doctors had long warned might happen finally occurs: her eyes haemorrhage. Within minutes, blood floods her vision, reducing her sight to sketched outlines and tones of grey, rendering her all but blind. As she begins to adjust to a very different life, those who love her begin to adjust to a very different woman - one who is angry, raw, funny, sinister, sexual and dizzyingly alive.
Author Lina Meruane is a prominent writer in her native Chile -she's published three novels, had short stories appear in various anthologies and won several prestigious prizes. She gained a PhD in Latin American Literature from New York University, and currently serves there as professor of World and Latin American Literature and Creative Writing.
The autobiographical novel is a rare beast - they're not seen all that often, and some I've read in the past have not been brilliant - the line between reality and fiction too blurred. Author Lina Meruane initially intended to write a memoir about having gone blind temporarily but, according to an interview with TheNation, found the genre too constricting - so moved over to the world of fiction. It's a choice that works remarkably well, as the truth behind the fiction here allows real passion and emotion to burn through the pages straight to the reader - a raw and bloody urgency and passion grabbing you by the throat.
The main theme of blindness allows Lina (and through her character Lucina) to explore a myrida of fascinating themes throughout - from the terms put open her in order to keep her eyes safe, through to the exploration of a relationship layered with dependency and fear, through to a woman discovering herself and learning how to live again. Location and time plays a huge part too - with the book taking place between Chile and New York and touching upon historical and cultural milestones as the character and the reader naturally come across them.
The characters here are real - raw and often unlikeable, but combined with her rather dazzling prose - gristly, elegant and bloody, it makes for a dizzying, vital read that lingers long in the mind. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy
Jubilee Jenkins is no ordinary librarian. With a rare allergy to human touch, any skin-to-skin contact could literally kill her. But after retreating into solitude for nearly ten years, Jubilee's decided to brave the world again, despite the risks. Armed with a pair of gloves, long sleeves, and her trusty bicycle, she finally ventures out the front door--and into her future.
Eric Keegan has troubles of his own. With his daughter from a failed marriage no longer speaking to him, and his brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son attempting telekinesis, Eric's struggling to figure out how his life got so off course, and how to be the dad--and man--he wants so desperately to be. So when an encounter over the check-out desk at the local library entangles his life with that of a beautiful--albeit eccentric--woman, he finds himself wanting nothing more than to be near her.
Now, I should start this by saying that I'm no expert when it comes to Romantic Fictions novels - they're something I rarely pick up, and there are very few that I've enjoyed. However, if you add to a romantic plot with strange medical conditions, a character with an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of books and repeated references to my favourite superhero team, then you've got a book that I just might enjoy.
This isn't a soppy romance with idealised characters either - both Jubilee and Eric are flawed, warm characters who the reader instantly connects with, even if some of their actions and backgrounds are a little heightened in order to provide some real shocks and surprises along the way.
The unique thing about Jubilee is that she can't touch anyone, giving an instantly gripping twist to the standard romantic plot - a condition that, whilst in this case fictional, is nevertheless handled with respect and care by the author. That respect and care extends to all of the characters here - many of whom who have suffered problems and tragedies in their lives, making them well layered and hugely believable, Oakley careful never to allow her cast to slip into caricature.
A tale with elements that could seem over familiar, Oakley introduces original elements in order to build a world that feels both magical and real - and crafts a love story that will touch the coldest of hearts - even cynical old me!
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy
Oscar-nominated Charlotte Rampling most recently appeared in hit ITV drama Broadchurch, the BBC’s London Spy and HBO’s Dexter, and the feature film 45 Years.
Her career has spanned popular entertainment and arthouse cinema, having starred in English, French and Italian films from 1966’s Georgy Girl (opposite Lynn Redgrave), to films with French director François Ozon, including 2003’s Swimming Pool.
Having shied away from biographies and autobiographies (“too personal”) Rampling has now written Who I Am, an intimate self-portrait via reminiscences, translated from the French it was originally written in.
The characters that Rampling has played on screen over the years - from the shallow, vain Meredith in Georgy Girl through to the distracted, pained Kate in 45 years, are filled with a sense of mystery - Rampling's intelligence always shining through in order to instantly add layers of depth and intrigue.
Here, that intelligence is used to good effect in a memoir that is exquisitely written and filled with fascinating glimpses and moments from a life that is just as intriguing as one may imagine when looking at an image of Rampling.
No standard celebrity memoir here - instead moments from Ramplings life are conveyed to the reader through snatches of conversation and memory, as Rampling wrote this with Christophe Bataille, a well known French writer. The "stream of consciousness" style may be off-putting to some - and at times it had me wondering if I truly would be learning anything about Rampling when reading. However, on reflection, recollections of the author's Father and revelations about the early death of Rampling's sister prove to be both intriguing and haunting. This isn't a book to read to find salacious gossip or recollections of a celebrity lifestyle - but instead moments of a fascinating life seen through the mysterious eyes of one of our greatest actors. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.
Imagine feeling lost in your own body. Imagine spending years living a lie, denying what makes you 'you'. This was Ryan's reality. He had to choose: die as a man or live as a woman. In 2012, Ryan chose Ryannon. At the age of thirty she began her transition, taking the first steps on the long road to her true self, and the emotional physical and psychological journey that would change her for ever.
In 2017 we seem to have reached a new era of awareness and acceptance when it comes to Trans people - with media campaigners and writers like Paris Lees and Janet Mock alongside actors such as Laverne Cox and Rebecca Root, Trans issues are being talked about in the mainstream media, and, for the most part, being accepted and celebrated.
We're not there yet though - there's still a hell of a lot of ignorant people out there, and media coverage can often be tainted with a curiosity that swiftly veers into disrespect and unwelcome intrusion.
Step forward Rhyannon Styles, performance artist, dancer, hairdresser, clown - and now writer. She's been a columnist for "Elle UK" for the last two years, and brings her experience, expertise and considerable talent to "The New Girl", a memoir that entertains every bit as much as it informs.
Rhyannon was born Ryan, and throughout her life went on an emotional, psychological and ultimately physical journey to become the woman she is in today. It's a journey that Rhyannon tells with no holds barred - allowing the reader to get to know her very well indeed. As such, it removes any potential awkwardness for the reader who may not be all that familiar with the ins and outs of transitioning, and instead feels like you're catching up with a friend over coffee. That's not to say that Rhyannon's journey isn't difficult - parts of this read had me tearing up, and Rhyannon's frankness and honesty conveys in part the immense difficulties and huge life choices that people questioning their gender face.
For a subject that it so difficult, emotional and intensely personal, Rhyannon does a fantastic job of not making things get too heavy - she's clearly a funny, witty and warm person and as such the reader enjoys embarking on every step of the journey with her, no matter how dark and difficult it gets.
Transitioning is going to be an individual and different journey for anyone who chooses to embark on the process, and, as such, there's no way one could cover all the potential questions that one on the journey, or the family and friends supporting them, may have. Rhyannon, quite rightly, chooses not to try and cover every possible base, but concentrates on telling her story - one packed full of humour, insights and warmth that offers considerable support, hope and understanding for those reading, whether you're trans, questioning, or just an ally. The last year or so has seen some brilliantly good Queer literature published in the UK - and "The New Girl" is a shining example of that.