Review – Sue Perkins ‘Spectacles’

An ex of mine once claimed that it should be possible to claim the equivalent of nectar points for converting girls to the worthy cause of lesbianism. These could be cashed in for microwaves, TVs, fridges etc. Ever since, I’ve found myself wondering whether Sue Perkins might not be up to her ears in white goods.

OK that was an aside – never a good place to start a review. But on the other hand, that’s one of the very qualities which makes Perkin’s memoirs ‘Spectacles’ so appealing – wild tangential leaps, narratives which spiral manically from their starting point, a lateral, grasshopper style which links apparently disconnected events in her life, making for a read which hovers on the fringes between laugh-out-loud hilarious and sobering – even at times disturbing.

What I particularly loved about this biography is the way she gives just enough of herself away, without dredging too deep: without this turning into some kind of introspective naval gazing. This is achieved through the same acute, self-deprecating wit which makes her such an attractive, charismatic TV host and presenter. There were times when I laughed so hard I worried for the safety of my internal organs, and times when she addressed some incredibly painful moments head on, saccharine free and with a courageous level of honesty.

If you like her work – and I must admit I’m a big fan – you’ll love this book.


Review – The Fishermen, Chigozie Obioma


This book took me such a long time to finish! I can’t quite explain why – other than the fact that I am a slow reader in general. But even so, two months is a bit excessive!
That said, its story is a richly textured weave: the tragedy of these young brothers’ lives played out against the backdrop of 1990s Nigeria and the atrocities commited by the Abache regime. It’s a story which frequently drifts from its moorings, spiralling backwards into histories – both personal and national, or detailing the stories of other, secondary characters. In this respect, The Fishermen has much in common with oral narrative techniques, in which the storyteller may spin off in many different directions, improvise or mix in songs and poetry.
I wasn’t too comfortable with some of the overtly metaphorical imagery that Obioma employs. Again, I’m not quite sure why – it seemed too elaborate, and held up the thrust of the narrative. Ben, the narrator of the story, for example, describes the mad-man prophet Abulu in the following way: “His face was fecund with a beard that stretched from the side of his face down to his jaw…The matrixes of his fingernails were long and taut…” I couldn’t quite decide why I found the complexity of such descriptive passages so disturbing. I guess it’s just a stylistic issue and therefore fairly subjective. But I found it sometimes jarred rather than delivered the lean, clean image I was expecting.
I think I would like to return to The Fishermen at a later date. I have the sense that there was something I was missing and that I will pick up on a reread. It is a story which sits in the memory long after you’ve finished the novel and it delves into aspects of human relationships which are sometimes almost unbearable to read.