I’ve really gotten into the swing of things when it comes to getting through my reading list. I’ve actually been trying to make an effort to get through a good chunk of my list before I invest in any more books, but it’s easier said than done. Having said that, I’ve managed to avoid buying any books in June, so I guess that’s progress! As usual, this month’s wrap-up is a pretty mixed bag, so let’s crack on – here’s what I’ve been reading this June.
The Other Mother – Jen Brister (Vintage, 2021) ★★★★
From the Back:
“‘I’m Jen Brister: stand-up comedian, middle-aged adolescent, and mum. But not that Mum – I’m the other one.
Confused? Two years ago, my partner (a woman – we’re not solicitors) gave birth to twins (I know! Believe me, I’m still reeling myself). Like every new parent, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Add “gay” and “non biological” to the mix and what do you get? Not a weird box of detergent, but a panicked beige lesbian desperately Googling “will my babies love me?” at 3am.’
A very funny, very honest look at parenting life, from IVF awfulness to crying over the pages of sleep training manuals. This is a book for any parent who feels they don’t fit the mould of a traditional family.”
I’ve been familiar with Jen Brister’s work for a while now – she’s a very funny comedian and I heard about her book, The Other Mother, when she appeared on Rob Beckett and Josh Widdicombe’s Lockdown Parenting Hell podcast. Given that books by comedians are a genre I tend to favour, I knew I had to give this one a read. It gave such an incredible insight into the journey that same sex couples go through when it comes to having children, and Jen writes with such honesty about the whole journey she and her partner went on. From the process of going through IVF to navigating toddler tantrums, she doesn’t sugar-coat a single thing, but that’s what makes the book so entertaining. She gives an honest, no bullshit account of her and her partner’s journey to parenthood, while also giving an insight into what it’s like to be the “other mother.”
Last Night – Mhairi McFarlane (Harper Collins, 2021) ★★★★
From the Back:
“Eve, Justin, Susie and Ed have been friends since they were eighteen. Now in their thirties, the four are still as close as ever; Thursday night pub quiz is still sacred, and Eve is still secretly in love with Ed.
Maybe Eve should have moved on by now, but she can’t stop thinking about what could have been. And she knows Ed sometimes thinks about it too.
Then one night, in an instant, all their lives change forever. And Eve discovers she isn’t the only person keeping secrets.”
I must admit, at the start of the book, I wasn’t entirely sure where it was going. However, after the first few chapters, I was hooked and wanted to know more. While it certainly took a while to warm to Eve as a character, the overall storyline kept me engaged and wondering where it would go next. I can’t say I expected things to go the way they did, because the initial set-up had me thinking it would go in a different direction. The theme of friendship is something that runs throughout the book, but in addition it explores grief and past trauma, so overall it’s certainly a lot more than it seems. While it initially took a while for me to get into it, by the end I didn’t want to put it down because I was gagging to find out how things end. Despite tugging at your heartstrings on numerous occasions (especially if you’ve experienced grief yourself), it’s still funny and incredibly heartwarming. Definitely worth a read!
The Sight Of You – Holly Miller (Hodder & Stoughton, 2020) ★★★★★
From the Back:
“Joel is afraid of the future. Since he was a child he’s been haunted by dreams about the people he loves. Visions of what’s going to happen – the good and the bad. And the only way to prevent them is to never let anyone get close to him again.
Callie can’t let go of the past. Since her best friend died, Callie’s been lost. She knows she needs to be more spontaneous and live a bigger life. She just doesn’t know how to find a way back to the person who used to have those dreams.
Joel and Calllie both need a reason to start living for today.
And although they’re not looking for each other, from the moment they meet it feels like the start of something life changing.
Until Joel has a vision of how it’s going to end…”
Oh my god. This book put me through the emotional wringer on multiple occasions. Beautifully written and incredibly thought provoking, The Sight of You instantly has you rooting for the two main characters, making it even more heartbreaking as things progress. Even though the end is alluded to within the first half of the book, it’s incredibly clever because the story keeps you guessing over the finer details and whether or not it will actually happen. While on the surface the book appears as your typical love story, the ultimate theme that runs throughout is letting go of your past and living for today. It had me welling up on multiple occasions and I got through it in less than a week because I couldn’t put it down. If you’re a fan of the whole romance genre, this is one you should add to your TBR list.
The Prison Doctor – Dr Amanda Brown (HQ, HarperCollins, 2019) ★★★★
From the Back:
“Violence. Drugs. Suicide.
Welcome to the world of a prison doctor.
Dr Amanda Brown treats inmates in the UK’s most infamous prisons. From miraculous pregnancies to dirty protests, and from violent attacks on prisoners to heartbreaking acts of self-harm, she has witnessed it all from her patients.
In this eye opening, inspirational memoir, Amanda reveals the stories, the patients and the cases that have shaped a career spent helping those in need.
Despite their crimes, she is still their doctor.”
TW: Self harm, drugs, child abuse, sexual abuse, violence.
After reading Kerry Daynes’ memoir, The Dark Side of the Mind, back in April, which focused on the career of a forensic psychologist, I started to get more fascinated by the whole true crime genre, so when this came up in my Amazon recommendations, I thought I’d give it a go.
The Prison Doctor is an honest memoir following Dr Amanda Brown’s career change from a local family GP to working as a doctor in prison medical centres. It follows her journey as a prison doctor, starting out at HMP Huntercombe, a young offenders’ institution, moving on to the infamous Wormwood Scrubs, up to her current position at HMP Bronzefield, a women’s prison. The memoir gives an honest and powerful insight into what it’s really like to work in a prison, and Amanda recounts some of her most memorable patients and their stories. It can be a pretty difficult read at times, and it often blurs the lines between good and evil.
On the surface, the patients she treats are inmates serving prison sentences for serious crimes, but on the other, you find yourself reeling at some of the horrific and emotional stories that have often led them to the crimes they’ve committed, highlighting exactly how much bravery and compassion it must take to fulfill a role such as this one. While this was a book I was hooked on from the start, I appreciate it may not be for everyone. In particular, there are a lot of references to difficult topics, such as self harm, drugs, and sexual abuse, so if you’re affected by any of these issues, it may be one to read with caution.
The Baby Group – Caroline Corcoran (Avon, 2020) ★★★
“Her life was perfect. Until the video.
Scarlett’s golden life suddenly unravels when someone sends a shocking video of her to everyone she knows. The only people who claim they haven’t seen it are the friends in her new mothers’ group: Cora, Emma and Asha.
Scarlett is forced to delve into her past to discover who is out to get her. But as her circle of trust gathers around her, she has to ask – are her friends as innocent as they seem?”
This was definitely a novel for the current age, where social media influencers are more prevalent, but for some reason, I didn’t take to The Baby Group as much as I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong, I spent a lot of time trying to work things out, but I didn’t feel as engaged with the plot as I have done with other novels I’ve read. One thing I noticed was an instant dislike for the characters – not necessarily Scarlett, but more so her friends in her NCT group, which I guess is the main theme of the novel – the idea that friendships can sometimes be forced because of the circumstances. Beneath the whole “suburban mothers who aren’t what they seem” trope, you’ve got a few other themes going on such as slut-shaming, infidelity, and the age-old question of how much we should be sharing about our lives online, so it was certainly something that was relevant for this day and age. It certainly picks up the pace towards the end and delivers a twist you didn’t necessarily see coming, but I can’t say that it’s something I’d want to read again in the future.
I told you it was a mixed bag this month! As always, I’m open to suggestions on what to read next, so please do leave me your recommendations in the comments. Plus, if you’ve read any of the above, let me know what you think!