Thanks to my blogging break, I’m a little behind in churning out my reading wrap up posts, but bear with. As with August, I didn’t quite manage to go any further than the three book barrier, but I’m determined to smash that target for October. We’ll see though. September, as always, was quite a mixed bag of titles, so strap in.
The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read (and Your Children Will Be Glad You Did) – Philippa Perry (Penguin Life, 2020) ★★
From the Back:
“How can we have better relationships?
In this Sunday Times bestseller, leading psychotherapist Philippa Perry reveals the vital do’s and don’ts of relationships. This book is for us all. Whether you are interested in understanding how your upbringing has shaped you, looking to handle your child’s feelings or wishing to support your partner, you will find indispensable information and realistic tips in these pages.
Philippa Perry’s sane, sage, and judgement free advice is an essential resource on how to have the best possible relationships with the people who matter to you most.”
It’s incredibly rare that a book gets me angry, but I found with The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read, that was very much the case. I started reading it with some real optimism. My psychology background and my desire to learn more about what went wrong with my personality meant that I had high hopes, but unfortunately, they were trashed after the first couple of chapters.
One thing I found about the book was that it screamed “Privilege.” For example, at one point Perry advises you to book a hotel for the night as a treat so that you and your child can spend some quality time together.
In what world can the average parent pay for a night away in a hotel “as a treat?” When I was a kid, a week’s holiday to Devon that was booked months in advance was enough of a financial burden, so a spontaneous night away in a hotel was out of the question, and I’m sure that’s the case for many people, both past and present. Can’t afford a hotel? Don’t worry, you can just take a few days of leave from your job…
While I understand how Perry’s thinking works, I just saw her advice as essentially praising your child when they’re kicking off and letting them do what they want. For example, she advises to stop and give them a cuddle when they’re having a tantrum. Stop and talk to them, and explain why they’re upset – because every parent has time for that, right?
I admit 100% that as someone who’s not a parent (and who actively dislikes children), I’m probably biased, but I can’t help but think from the parent’s perspective, the book could be quite damaging. If I read it as a parent, I know for a fact I would be going back over every single mistake that I made and feeling like the worst mother in the world. It doesn’t seem like a very healthy way to give advice.
I spent a while thinking this through and wondering if I was being too harsh, however I discussed my findings with Mama J, who agreed that the advice Perry gives in the book is utter bullshit. So, I feel my complaints are justified.
Coming Undone: A Memoir – Terri White (Canongate Books, 2021) ★★★
From the Back:
“To everyone else, Terri White appeared to be living the dream – living in New York City, with a top job editing a major magazine. In reality, she was struggling with an abusive childhood and rapidly skidding towards a mental health crisis that would land her in a psychiatric ward.
Coming Undone is Terri’s story of her unravelling, and her precarious journey back from a life in pieces.”
TW: Sexual violence/abuse, self harm, alcohol/drug abuse, suicide
I’ll start immediately by saying this is not a book for the faint hearted. At times, it’s incredibly intense and it doesn’t hold back on the details, so please read with caution if any of the above topics are sensitive for you.
What I liked about Terri’s memoir is that it doesn’t hold back. She tells her story how it is, no matter how painful – and that’s something you have to admire.
While Terri’s book certainly looks at the extremes when it comes to drug and alcohol abuse, it also had me thinking about my own relationship with booze. At one point, she talks about the “‘am I an alcoholic?’ test,” which, I’ll be honest, was a bit of an eye opener, especially given how my drinking habits have certainly gotten worse over the last year or so!
You may be wondering why I gave Terri’s story a lower rating compared to some of the other books I’ve read. It was a difficult one. Her story itself is hard hitting and incredibly powerful – and no one can deny that. The reason I marked it down was largely due to the narrative style more than anything else. In places, the time frame changes quite frequently, so if you’re like me and have a fairly short attention span, it can be difficult to follow at times. So much to the point where you have to go back through the last chunk of pages to clarify what’s been happening.
Having said that, there’s no denying that Coming Undone is incredibly powerful and hard-hitting, and her journey towards recovery is something that will stay with you long after you finish the final chapter.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman (HarperCollins, 2018) ★★★★★
From the Back::
“Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.
Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled existence. Except, sometimes, everything…”
TW: Alcohol abuse, self harm, suicidal intention, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse
Just. Wow. Since the book was released in 2018, I read multiple reviews of Eleanor Oliphant, each one of them saying what a fantastic read it was. It had been on my TBR list for quite a while (hence me only reviewing it in 2021), and I finally got around to reading it in September this year. I thought after reading so many glowing reviews that it would be ridiculously overrated, so I went into it somewhat apprehensive.
However, I’m pleased to report that I wasn’t disappointed. Eleanor Oliphant was a delightful tale of friendship, learning to forgive yourself, and the power of kindness.
Eleanor initially starts out as a character that’s relatively unlikeable, but as you learn more about her and her past, you begin to warm to her, and most importantly, you start to feel for her. The reader is kept guessing throughout when it comes to Eleanor’s relationship with her mother, only being given small nuggets of backstory, but at the same time, it becomes apparent very early on that whatever happened has shaped the Eleanor we read about in the present.
I found her outlook on life quite relatable at times, but at others I ended up cringing for her – although I guess that’s the point. What I love though is how we see her transformation throughout the novel, from someone who starts out lonely and isolated from her peers to someone who very slowly begins to make friends and establish their place in the world. Additionally, I love how ultimately, the novel demonstrates not only the power of kindness and the importance of friendship, but also how we can be so quick to judge people who cross our paths.
Have you read any of the above? What let me know what you thought, along with any of your recommendations in the comments!