Books featuring a mother with a mental illness · Miscellaneous

Mini Book Reviews: December 2020

I’ve been a bit short on time lately and have read so many great books. So, rather than review them individually, I thought I’d do something different and summarise my December reads in one post!

Here they are, in no particular order.

Actress by Anne Enwright 

Publisher: Vintage (2019)

“Katherine O’Dell is an Irish theater legend. As her daughter Norah retraces her mother’s celebrated career and bohemian life, she delves into long-kept secrets, both her mother’s and her own.” 

I knew I wanted to read this one after I heard Anne Enwright in conversation with Gail Jones for the Melbourne Writers Festival 2020. This was a close examination of the relationship between the narrator, Norah, and her mother, the famous (fictional) actress Katherine O’Dell. My interest was piqued at the revelation that Katherine suffered from mental illness in her later years, although there were some signs of it in Norah’s childhood. Superbly written, it left me wanting to know more about Norah beyond her relationship with her mother. That skillful art of drawing you into a character’s world is the mark of a great book, I think, and Actress was certainly great. 

The Trespassers by Meg Mundell 

Publisher: UQP (2020)

Fleeing their pandemic-stricken homelands, a shipload of migrant workers departs the UK, dreaming of a fresh start in prosperous Australia…But when a crew member is found murdered and passengers start falling gravely ill, the Steadfast is plunged into chaos…

What a brilliant novel! As much as I enjoyed it – there were sooo many beautiful turns of phrase – I probably shouldn’t have read a novel about a pandemic while we’re in the middle of one, for my mental health. Told from three different points of view, each of the narrators had a distinct voice and engaging storyline. I was especially glad that one of the narrators – Cleary – was d/Deaf, and that Meg Mundell consulted with d/Deaf writer Jessica White to ensure Cleary’s world was portrayed with accuracy and sensitivity.  Perfect for fans of literary fiction!

No Place Like Here by Christina June 

Publisher: Harper Collins Focus (2019)

[w]hen Ashlyn’s father is arrested for tax evasion and her mother enters a rehab facility for “exhaustion,” a.k.a. depression, her life is turned upside down…  Ashlyn’s father sends her to work with a cousin she doesn’t even know at a rustic team-building retreat center in the middle of nowhere.”

At first I didn’t like Ashlyn. She seemed superficial and self-absorbed, but my opinion changed as her situation became clear: she and her mum had been living with her dad’s emotional abuse for years. That wasn’t the only thing that changed my opinion. This novel had excellent character development! Ashlyn gained confidence as she took on more responsibility at the retreat, and she and her mum started to communicate openly about how they felt. I loved that both Ashlyn and her mum recognised that her mum’s depression hadn’ t been cured by a few months at a rehabilitation facility, that it was something they would have to live with and manage together. A great YA novel, this made me keen to check out Christina June’s other work!

You can buy any of the three books above from Readings independent bookstore.

That’s all for my December mini reviews, because I don’t want to list every book I’ve read and bore anyone who might be reading.

What did you read in December, and what are you eager to read in 2021?

Happy holidays!

6 thoughts on “Mini Book Reviews: December 2020

  1. No Place Like Here has a gorgeous cover, but also has a great plot/storyline. It really sounds like something I’d enjoy reading. I’ve never come across any of these books before but they all have piqued my interest. I don’t think I’ll be reading any books about pandemics for a while though!

    Best Wishes & Happy New Year,
    – Lucy Rambles x

    Liked by 1 person

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