Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

Page 3 of 165

The Teacher’s Pet – Hedley Thomas

The Teacher’s Pet was originally one of the true crime podcasts that became a cultural phenomenon. It was downloaded over 30 million times, and made front-page news with each new episode drop. Now the journalist behind it, Hedley Thomas, has laid out the story in a book of the same name – The Teacher’s Pet – to commit the whole, extraordinary tale to the page. The terrific publishing team at Macmillan were kind enough to send me a copy for review.

In case you missed the story the first time around, here are the bare-bones facts: in 1982, Lynette Simms (then known as Lyn Dawson) disappeared. Her husband Chris reported her missing, weeks later, and police seemed happy to accept his version of events – that she had abandoned her home and two young children, without contacting any of her loved ones or co-workers. They didn’t think to investigate any further, despite the “marital difficulties”, despite Chris’s public affair with a 16-year-old student at the school where he taught, despite Chris installing that same student in Lyn’s house and bed to act as defacto wife and mother just a couple of days after her “disappearance”.

It wasn’t until forty years later, in 2022, that Chris Dawson was held accountable for the murder of his wife – thanks, in large part, to Hedley Thomas’s headline-grabbing investigation.

Chris Dawson was not a criminal mastermind. Police incompetence, the trust of Lyn’s family and the passage of time had conspired to help him get away with murder.

The Teacher’s Pet (Page 219)

The blurb of The Teacher’s Pet promises a “blow-by-blow” account, and it delivers. It’s a big hefty book, around 500 pages, with the genre-standard glossy inserts. The devil is in the details, sure, but I couldn’t help feeling at times that Thomas was overdoing it a bit – at times, The Teacher’s Pet reads like a never-ending list of people who say they “believe” Chris is guilty, without being able to point to a body or a crime scene. There’s a character list and timeline at the end of the book, but that might’ve been more helpful printed at the start, because the revolving door of interviewees with similar names can feel overwhelming.

It’s a journalistic true crime book, not a literary one, so don’t come to The Teacher’s Pet expecting evocative prose or earth-shattering insights. Leigh Sales called it “a masterclass in investigative journalism”, but I must say, I was surprised by Thomas’s approach. He went in with explicitly preconceived notions – that Chris Dawson was guilty of murdering Lyn Simms – but doesn’t interrogate that at all for the reader, or make any concessions to open-mindedness in journalism.

I was similarly surprised by some of his choices in storytelling, like mentioning (twice) discussing the case with Matthew Johns without mentioning Johns’ own history with historical criminal allegations. I guess I’m just more used to more reflective true crime writing that incorporates self-examination and individual motivations into the narrative.

The Teacher’s Pet is a comprehensive and interesting account of the unravelling of Chris Dawson’s crimes – but a revolutionary work of true crime literature? Not so much.

Buy The Teacher’s Pet on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)

15 Funny Memoirs

I’ve had quite a few heavy reads back-to-back lately, and when that happens, I always like to throw something light in there just to break the tension. Funny memoirs are just the ticket – especially when I can get the audiobook on, and hear the author tell their own hilarious stories. If you ever find your funny bone in need of a tickle, I highly recommend these fifteen funny memoirs.

15 Funny Memoirs - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
It’s funny how easy it is to support pages like this one – just use an affiliate link below and make a purchase! Simple!

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

Me Talk Pretty One Day - David Sedaris - Keeping Up With The Penguins

David Sedaris is the undisputed king of funny memoirs. Me Talk Pretty One Day is my favourite, but literally all of them have me rolling in the aisles and literal lol-ing (even in public, even in circumstances where I really shouldn’t be laughing). Sedaris can make just about anything funny: having a tumour removed, fighting with his family, fucking up the French language, shopping for antiques, getting speech therapy… These essays are ones you’ll return to time and again whenever you need a chuckle. Read my full review of Me Talk Pretty One Day here.

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby

Wow No Thank You - Samantha Irby - Keeping Up With The Penguins

If the title doesn’t tip you off, Wow, No Thank You is one of Samantha Irby’s best funny memoirs. She rose to prominence with her frank-talking blog (Bitches Gotta Eat), but I maintain that the book format is the best to truly appreciate her humour. There’s something about the juxtaposition of her no-holds-barred description of her life as an “increasingly uncomfortable” forty-something and the formalised print of a book that just elevates it, somehow. Pick this one up when you’re in the mood for relatable and hilarious chat over a glass of wine. Read my full review of Wow, No Thank You here.

Shrill by Lindy West

Shrill - Lindy West - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Ostensibly, Shrill shouldn’t belong in a list of funny memoirs. Lindy West had a painful childhood as a shy, fat girl. For a while there, her hobby was dressing down male comedians who made rape jokes. She writes about her visit to an abortion clinic, dealing with internet trolls, and the indignities of existing as a fat woman in a world designed for thin people. And yet, this feminist rallying cry is laugh-out-loud hilarious! West will show you that it is possible to weather life’s bullshit with a gleam in your eye, and raise a few smiles yourself while you’re at it.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Wishful Drinking - Carrie Fisher - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The world truly lost one of its best people with the passing of Carrie Fisher. She’s written so many funny memoirs, you can really take your pick from her oeuvre – but Wishful Drinking is a stand-out. This is the book to read when your hanxiety has you curled up under the covers, convinced that everybody hates you. With her trademark radical vulnerability, Fisher describes her battle with addiction(s), including periods of institutionalisation and tragic loss. It hardly sounds like a laugh a minute, but if you know anything about Fisher, you’ll know that she can find the funny.

Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham

Talking As Fast As I Can - Lauren Graham - Keeping Up With The Penguins

How about, instead of queuing up your eighteenth Netflix binge of Gilmore Girls, you turn to one of the funny memoirs written by its star? Talking As Fast As I Can is the delicious and delightful inside scoop on playing Lorelai Gilmore, being a woman in Hollywood, and wondering whether you’ve actually “made it”. It turns out Lauren Graham’s comedic chops aren’t just for the small screen; they translate beautifully to the page. Her humour is punctuated with endless fun facts and behind-the-scenes tid-bits that will have you saying “did you know…?” every time someone mentions her iconic show.

Dry by Augusten Burroughs

Dry - Augusten Burroughs - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Augusten Burroughs is definitely better known for Running With Scissors, his account of his highly unusual upbringing – but it turns out he’s lived a lot of life beyond surviving adolescence with questionable parental supervision (to say the least). And, great news for fans of funny memoirs, he doesn’t hesitate to turn his later life experiences into fodder. Dry is the story of how he clawed his way out of addiction in employer-mandated rehab, and how he managed his newfound sobriety in the whirling dervish of Manhattan life. As much as it’s an informative and insightful read, it’s his descriptions of life inside the dismal rehab facility that really shine.

The Family Law by Benjamin Law

The Family Law - Benjamin Law - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Australian author and journalist Benjamin Law grew up in 1980s Queensland, the son of immigrants from Hong Kong in the heartland of support for the White Australia policy. It could have made him bitter, or caused his family to splinter, but instead he’s written The Family Law, one of the rare funny memoirs about race and identity. The through line is family connection, the love between siblings and parents, forged in the fire of being the only Asians on the mostly-white Sunshine Coast. The humour is self-deprecating, colourful, occasionally scatalogical, and uniquely Australian. Read my full review of The Family Law here.

My Mess Is A Bit Of A Life by Georgia Pritchett

My Mess Is A Bit Of A Life - Georgia Pritchett - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The title of this funny memoir comes from Georgia Pritchett’s halting confession to a therapist: My Mess Is A Bit Of A Life. The verbal slip perfectly encapsulates this collection of “gloriously funny vignettes” about learning to live, even thrive, with anxiety. Pritchett’s series of short, sharp anecdotes are like particularly hilarious and insightful contributions to a conversation over cocktails. She doesn’t shy away from the highs or the lows of life when everything you feel is turned up to eleven. Her deadpan delivery of critical reviews she has received in her career is a particular delight. Read my full review of My Mess Is A Bit Of A Life here.

Paris Match by John Von Southen

Paris Match - John Von Sothen - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The American-man-abroad (and specifically the American-man-in-Paris) memoir is well-trod ground, to say the least. John Von Sothen entered a pretty saturated market with Paris Match. The good news is he lives up to his predecessors with a perfectly serviceable funny memoir about trying to adapt to Parisian life as a born-and-bred American. He struggles to assimilate, but he turns those struggles into (mostly) hilarious anecdotes and insights for our enjoyment. Keep an eye out for Wesh We Can, a chapter about his fumbling attempts to communicate – sure to have you in snort-laughing stitches. Read my full review of Paris Match here.

Remainders Of The Day by Shaun Bythell

Remainders Of The Day - Shaun Bythell - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Shaun Bythell has been running a Wigtown bookshop for twenty years now, and Remainders Of The Day is the third installment of his series of funny memoirs about day-to-day life as a bookseller. It’s comedy of the cozy kind, with brilliant moments of sensational snark. “Spotted Bum-Bag Dave shuffling onto the bus to Newtown Stewart as I was closing up,” Bythell writes of a local ‘colourful character’ at one point. “He hasn’t set foot in the shop for quite a while. I think I may have offended him. I certainly hope so.” It’s a delightfully easy read that will bring you chuckles galore. Read my full review of Remainders Of The Day here.

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

How To Be A Woman - Caitlin Moran - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Caitlin Moran is a genius. She somehow intuited that, in order to make her provocative insights about feminism and the current state of gender roles palatable, she needed to share outrageous and hilarious observations to illustrate and illuminate what she’s talking about. The laughs in How To Be A Woman are the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down. This is one of the funny memoirs that jump-started the contemporary conversation about feminism: what it means, what it should address, and whether any issue faced by women is truly “too small” for consideration.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

Fun Home - Alison Bechdel - Keeping Up With The Penguins

If you’ve ever used the concept of the Bechdel Test without knowing where it comes from, you’ve got some reading to do! Fun Home isn’t as light hearted as some of the funny memoirs on this list – it’s billed as a “family tragicomic” – but it’s still an essential inclusion if only for its impact. It’s a graphic novel depicting Bechdel’s fraught relationship with her father, and how their respective sexualities and shame around them unknowingly defined their bond. It’s sharp, it’s smart, it’s heartbreaking, and it’s hilarious – all in one.

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

I Feel Bad About My Neck - Nora Ephron - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Nora Ephron is one of the most underrated literary geniuses of the 20th century. Be it her romantic comedy films, her brilliantly witty novels, or her incredibly funny memoirs, everything she wrote was genius and it’s a crying shame that she’s not more widely recognised as such. I Feel Bad About My Neck is a canonical book (or, at least, it should be) about womanhood, domestic life, and aging. Ephron articulates the deeply held fears and horrid truths that we don’t often dare speak aloud, all the while making us laugh and holding our hand.

We’re Going To Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union

We're Going To Need More Wine - Gabrielle Union - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Gabrielle Union describes We’re Going To Need More Wine, the first of her funny memoirs, as a book about “the good, the bad, and the WTF” of her life as an actress and activist. With chapters including Sex Miseducation, On Mean Women and Good Dogs, and Warning: Famous Vaginas Get Itchy Too, she certainly isn’t backwards in coming forwards about subjects that make most of us look over our shoulders to check who’s listening. Read this one with a bottle of your favourite libation, and enjoy the feeling of your bestie giving you the giggles. Read my full review of We’re Going To Need More Wine here.

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

Everything I Know About Love - Dolly Alderton - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Looking for a contemporary Bridget Jones’s Diary? Try Everything I Know About Love, a funny memoir that brings all the comedy of the iconic ’90s best-seller with the added benefit of being both current and true. Dolly Alderton has navigated the choppy waters of young adulthood, from disastrous dates to fast friends to just-for-the-rent jobs, while keeping a weather eye out for anything about it that could make us laugh. Whether you find it perplexing or relatable, this is a brilliant window into coming-of-age in the 21st century that’s sure to make you laugh.

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick

Classic sci-fi isn’t really “my thing”, but since when has that ever stopped me? Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? comes endlessly recommended to me, and I like the philosophic allusion of its title.

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? - Philip K Dick - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Get Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? here.
(Bloggers dream of affiliate links, I can tell you that much – there’s a few on this page, and when you make a purchase, I’ll earn a small commission.)

Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? was first published back in 1968, but remains popular – largely due to the film adaptation franchise. My edition (SF Masterworks) includes an interesting introduction by Graham Sleight. In it, he poses the question that he says is at the heart of Dick’s dystopian novel: “What is a fake? And, if you can make a fake seem authentic enough, does it matter?”. He wrote that in 2009, long before the time of fake news and alternative facts, and yet it feels more apt than ever.

The story is set in a post-apocalyptic North America, where a global nuclear war has left much of Earth uninhabitable thanks to a radioactively polluted atmosphere. Most animal species have gone instinct, or are well on their way. The Powers That Be incentivise humans to move to interplanetary colonies by offering them free personal androids, robot slaves that can do all their dirty work. As the program becomes more popular, the robots become more advanced, to the point where they’re almost indistinguishable from old fashioned flesh-and-blood humans.

As the androids become more human, they start to have human desires – like getting back to Earth where they think they belong, and they can live free from the oppression of their masters. Enter men like Richard Deckhard, bounty hunters who track down these absconders and “retire” them (i.e., shoot them with laser guns).

Dick takes an interesting approach, then, to dystopian science fiction, writing Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? more in the style of detective noir fiction. Deckhard is the hard-boiled world-weary investigator, tempted by selfish motives (sex, owning his own ostrich) but keeping his cool in life-threatening situations.

Speaking of sex: I’ve got to say, even if I knew nothing else about Dick, it’s abundantly clear throughout Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? that he really hates women. Really hates them. Richard Deckhard’s wife is a sad sack, totally pitiable and more of an obstacle to the progression of the plot than anything. The android villainess is a femme fatale, drawing Deckhard away from his purpose and manipulating him with sex. The pages are peppered with really gross descriptions of their physical appearance. Yuck. Yuck, yuck, yuck.

Other than that, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? isn’t a bad read. I reckon the main reason for its enduring popularity is its layers: there’s so much you can read into it! It’s a novel about the nature of humanity and identity, how we understand our reality, and the basis of morality. Much heavier stuff than I was expecting from a post-nuclear-fall-out novel about shooting robots with laser guns.

I can’t say I’m all that eager to check out the movies, though. There was the 1982 Harrison Ford-led Blade Runner, which departed significantly from the source text, and 2017’s Blade Runner 2049, which clawed a lot of it back. I only made it about half-way through the trailer for the former before I got bored, so I think I’ll give it a miss. I’ll keep Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? on my shelf, though, and re-visit it next time I’m eager to ponder the philosophical underpinnings of alternative facts.

My favourite Amazon reviews of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?:

  • “this… book has drained what little intellectual energy I had. I’m now an even more boring individual.” – JC Christiansen
  • “I do not remember the movie being this stupid.” – M Snow

Emmett – L.C. Rosen

Emmett - LC Rosen - Keeping Up With The Penguins
Buy Emmett here
(affiliate link)

When Jane Austen set about writing Emma, she said that she was writing a protagonist she expected no one would like but herself. L.C. Rosen seems to have taken the opposite approach in writing Emmett, a queer YA adaptation of Austen’s perennial matchmaker novel.

The titular character is the guy that everybody likes: handsome, smart, aware of his privilege, and determined to be “nice”. (Seriously, you could turn Emmett into a ripper of a drinking game if you just take a sip every time you see the word “nice”.) This niceness extends to setting up his friends and f-buddies with their romantic matches. What could possibly go wrong?

I liked the setting of Emmett, the swanky Highbury Academy in a wealthy neighbourhood, where everyone drives a hybrid car and art exhibitions are “interactive exhibits”. It’s a nice nod to Clueless, which (aside from being based on the same source text) has clearly had a strong influence on Rosen’s writing.

I worry, though, that I might be a bit too old and hardened to be the ideal reader for Emmett. Even though the teenage characters are on the mature side, having sex and drinking at parties and all the other stuff that gets the pearl-clutchers up in arms, it all felt very Young to me. Emmett has the kind of deluded self-confidence you find exclusively in earnest well-off teenage boys. As much as it wasn’t quite for me, I can see how Emmett would be a fine, cutesy read for young adult romantics getting their first taste of Austen-esque stories.

Many thanks to my friends at Allen & Unwin for sending through a copy for review!

Buy Emmett on Booktopia here. (affiliate link)

20 Books About Angry Women

I don’t think it’ll come as any surprise that I love reading about women’s anger. Women who are raging, women who are pissed off, women who are fully unhinged – I love them, one and all! There’s something very cathartic about reading stories with angry women in them, seeing characters express that fury that quietly burns in so many of us. Here are twenty of my favourite books about angry women.

20 Books About Angry Women - Book List - Keeping Up With The Penguins
If you want to support an angry woman (me) in her cause, use an affiliate link on this page to make a purchase.

Carrie by Stephen King

Carrie - Stephen King - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Is it sacrilegious to suggest some of the best books about angry women were written by men? Whatever the case, Carrie might not be perfect, but it sure is iconic. Stephen King’s debut novel follows the unpopular teenage daughter of a religious fanatic. The titular character is tormented and teased by her classmates, but unbeknownst to them, she is growing more and more powerful. She has the power to move things with her mind, and when a small kindness turns out to be a cruel joke, she uses that power to exact grotesque and horrifying revenge.

Fates And Furies by Lauren Groff

Fates And Furies - Lauren Groff - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Fates And Furies is one of the more literary books about angry women – and the angriest woman doesn’t even get her say until the second half of the novel. It’s a portrait of a marriage infinitely more complex and enraging than it first appears. Mathilde has been hiding many secrets from her husband Lotto, violent secrets and dark histories that cast everything we know about them and their marriage in a new light. This New York Times bestseller is intense and propulsive, confusing at times but always intriguing.

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn - Book Laid Face Up On Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

There have been books about angry women for hundreds of years, but Gone Girl is the one that got the most cut-through in recent memory. Gillian Flynn got unreliable and unhinged girlies trending! Her anti-heroine, Amazing Amy, seems like your standard beautiful blonde girl gone missing at first glance – but as the pages turn, and you get to hear from the woman herself, you realise that the darkest and most malevolent kind of anger burns within her. Hot enough to have her destroy her own life, just to take her husband down with her. Read my full review of Gone Girl here.

Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Eileen - Ottessa Moshfegh - Keeping Up With The Penguins

No one writes books about angry women like Ottessa Moshfegh. If there was a poster child, she’d be it. Eileen was her break-out novel, the one that thrust her angry women protagonists into the best-seller lists – whether we like them or not. The titular character is consumed by loathing and resentment for the men she’s forced to “care for”: her alcoholic father, the boys in the prison where she works, the guard she stalks. She indulges in fantasies of escape. The arrival of a new counselor at her workplace promises a change… I don’t think it constitutes a “spoiler” to tell you it hardly ends with a happily-ever-after.

Bunny by Mona Awad

Bunny - Mona Awad - Keeping Up With The Penguins

What happens when a dark, introspective outsider gets invited into the inner sanctum of the beautiful and bright-eyed? You’ll find out in Bunny, a dark academia novel that will take you all the way down the rabbit hole. Samantha has been granted entry into a highly coveted MFA program at a New England university. At first, she resents the clique of Bunnies, the twee girls with saccharine smiles. But when she’s invited to one of their salons, she finds herself drawn into their world, one that is surely more sinister than it appears. It turns out the sweetest smiles can hide the darkest fantasies and blackest rage.

Animal by Lisa Taddeo

Animal - Lisa Taddeo - Keeping Up With The Penguins

How long can a woman endure the cruelties of men before she gets angry? Not that long, it turns out. Animal is “a depiction of female rage at its rawest, and a visceral exploration of the fallout from a male-dominated society”. This explosive and confronting book follows a woman, Joan, pushed to the brink by violence and abuse. She goes in search of answers about what’s happened to her and why, looking for the strength to finally fight back. Olivia Wilde called it “so insanely good and true and twisted it’ll make your teeth sweat”.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power - Naomi Alderman - Book Laid on Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Some of the most powerful (geddit?) books about angry women are the ones where that rage manifests physically. Naomi Alderman’s The Power is a feminist dystopia – or utopia, depending on how you look at it. Teenage girls suddenly develop the power to deliver electric shocks through their skin. The boys and men who have overpowered them all their lives are suddenly at their mercy, and the shift has ramifications around the world. As older women develop the power too, some of them use it to exact revenge, some of them turn to religion, and still more try to hide and remain loyal to the status quo. All of them are angry, though, and that’s the best part. Read my full review of The Power here.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie - Courtney Summers - Keeping Up With The Penguins

When a woman is angry enough, she has no choice but to take matters into her own hands. That’s what happens in Sadie, where a young woman seeks vengeance on the man who killed her sister. She’s pursued all the while by an intrepid podcaster, who thinks he’s going to crack the case of the missing and dead girls from a trailer park in the middle of nowhere. She outsmarts him, though – she outsmarts everyone who might stand in her way. That’s the kind of power that being angry can give a woman who’s been wronged. Read my full review of Sadie here.

How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie

How To Kill Your Family - Bella Mackie - Keeping Up With The Penguins

A funny book about murder? Yes, please! How To Kill Your Family is one of the most delightful (and therefore most emotionally confusing) books about angry women you’ll ever read. The hot pink cover belies the anti-heroine’s murderous intentions. Grace has lost everything, but she has a plan to get it all back. First, she’s going to kill her family. Then, she’s going to claim their fortune. And, once she’s gotten away with it all, she’s going to adopt a dog (what a relatable queen!). You can’t choose your family, but that doesn’t mean you have to live with them.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys - Keeping Up With The Penguins

One of the original angry women in fiction – Bertha Mason, from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre – had to wait over a century to be paid her due and have her story told in her own terms. Wide Sargasso Sea reclaims and reimagines the life of the “mad woman in the attic”, Mr Rochester’s first wife before he met and manipulated the young and beguiling Jane. Who among us can say that, having been ripped from our homeland and horribly mistreated, we might not ourselves turn to arson and take back our freedom by force?

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

Whisper Network - Chandler Baker - Keeping Up With The Penguins

One of the many dark truths brought to life by the #MeToo movement was the existence of whisper networks: chains of women in workplaces, passing information to each other about men who might be unsafe, knowing they couldn’t speak any louder without retribution. It makes sense that this reality filtered through to fiction books about angry women, as we see in Whisper Network. The women who work for Ames at Truviv, Inc. have been protecting each other from him for years. Now that the world is finally waking up to the abuses of men in power, they have the strength to fight back – but it will come at a price.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins - book laid on wooden table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The next generation of books about angry women is being written by kids who grew up reading The Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen would’ve been happy to have never been angry; she just wanted enough food to feed her family, and a safe roof over all their heads (and maybe some sexy smooches with her hunting buddy Gale). Unfortunately, it’s not to be. She volunteers to take her sister’s place in a sadistic reality show run by her country’s elite, and stumbles into a war of the haves versus the have-nots. Read my full review of The Hunger Games here.

A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing - Eimear McBride - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Full to the brim with “scathing, furious, unforgettable prose”, A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing is a scary-good debut novel about a young woman who is, rightfully, very, very angry. The protagonist has grown up with the terror of her brother’s brain tumour, compounded in a house of denial and silence around trauma and abuse. The stream-of-consciousness style echoes feminist icons like Virginia Woolf, continuing their tradition of expressing rage on the page that cannot be contained. This examination of the angry woman’s psyche will live in your head rent-free after you’ve read it.

My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister The Serial Killer - Oyinkan Braithwaite - Keeping Up With The Penguins

My Sister The Serial Killer gives you exactly what it says on the tin: the story of Korede and her sister, Ayoola, who has the unfortunate habit of killing her boyfriends. Korede is literally the person Ayoola calls to help her hide a body (c’mon, every angry woman has one). The plot boils over when a love triangle forms: Ayoola sets her sights on the handsome and charismatic doctor that Korede has loved from afar for months. Sibling loyalty can only go so far, after all. This forces Korede into the small gap between the proverbial rock and hard place: should she keep her angry sister’s secrets, or divulge them to the man she loves (possibly saving his life)? Read my full review of My Sister, The Serial Killer here.

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

My Brilliant Friend - Elena Ferrante - Book Laid On Wooden Table - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Novels are some of the most beautiful and complex books about angry women you’ll ever read – and it all begins with the first book in the quartet, My Brilliant Friend. It tells Elena and Lila’s stories from the very beginning, as children growing up in a violent and turbulent neighbourhood of mid-20th century Naples. It’s enough to make any young woman angry, but Elena and Lila experience and express their rage in very different ways. Ferrante’s gorgeous Italian writing is translated into English by the inimitable Ann Goldstein. Read my full review of My Brilliant Friend here.

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

The Final Girl Support Group - Grady Hendrix - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Think back to every horror movie you’ve ever watched. After all the screaming and wailing and bloodshed and jump-scares, there’s usually one woman left standing, one who – through luck or skill – survived the horrors. That’s the final girl, and in The Final Girl Support Group, these survivors gather to share their experiences and help each other rebuild their lives. What these women have survived is enough to make anyone angry, but when someone starts targeting their group, their survival instinct is put into overdrive. No matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary - Sarah Penner - Keeping Up With The Penguins

The angry woman at the heart of The Lost Apothecary has a very special set of skills, skills she has acquired over a very long career, skills that make her a nightmare for the abusive and violent men of 18th century London. Women come to her for help, and she sends them on their way with a well-disguised poison and a promise that it will solve all their problems. It all goes to hell, of course, when a young girl visits the apothecary and makes a mistake with fatal consequences. In present-day London, a woman is about to uncover the secret of the underground apothecary vigilante.

The Recovery Of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

The Recovery Of Rose Gold - Stephanie Wrobel - Keeping Up With The Penguins

These books about angry women might be fictional, but The Recovery Of Rose Gold hits very close to home. Stephanie Wrobel was undoubtedly inspired by the real-life story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard: a young woman disabled by her mother’s Munchausen by proxy, who takes matters into her own hands. Of course, in the fictional version, the story takes some different turns and we’re granted a lot more access to the source and nature of the anti-heroine’s anger. But at its bones, it remains the same – a young woman turning the tables on her abuser. Read my full review of The Recovery Of Rose Gold here.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang

The Vegetarian - Han Kang - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Not all books about angry women have the loud kind of rage. There’s very little screaming or breaking of things in The Vegetarian, but the protagonist is undoubtedly consumed by her own quiet fury. Yeong-hye is an ordinary woman with an ordinary husband, who up-ends her life and the lives of those around her by deciding to commit to vegetarianism. It’s a compelling read, but also (at times) a horrifying one – but, ironically, it says very little about the philosophy or ethics of vegetarianism. Yeong-hye’s dietary habits are not the point, even if they are the motif on which this story hangs. Read my full review of The Vegetarian here.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

The Silent Patient - Alex Michaelides - Keeping Up With The Penguins

Perhaps the scariest kind of rage is the kind that simmers quietly – silently, even. The Silent Patient is a mystery-thriller about the kind of anger that has no answers and no voice. Alicia’s life looked perfect from the outside: nice house, creative career, attentive husband… until, one day, she shot him in the head. Afterwards, she didn’t say a single word, in her own defense or otherwise. Theo is a forensic psychotherapist, and he’s convinced he’s the only person who can reach Alicia through the fog of her furious silence. Is it just a professional curiosity, or is there something more sinister that connects them? Read my full review of The Silent Patient here.

« Older posts Newer posts »