Blog Tour Review: My Judy Garland Life by Susie Boyt ⭐⭐⭐.5 

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SYNOPSIS:

June 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Judy’s death

August 2019 is the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz

October 4th the motion picture JUDY staring Renee Zellwegger and Jessie Buckley is released

An irresistible mixture of memoir, biography, cultural analysis, experiment and hero-worship about one person’s enduring fascination. This is for anyone who has ever nursed an obsession or held a candle to a star.

Judy Garland has been an important figure in Susie Boyt’s world since she was three years old: comforting, inspiring and, at times, disturbing her. In this unique book Boyt travels into the deep underworld of hero-worship, reviewing through the prism of Judy our understanding of rescue, consolation, love, grief and fame.

Layering key episodes from Garland’s life with defining moments from her own, Boyt demands with insight and humour, what it means, exactly, to adore someone you don’t know. Need hero worship be a pursuit that’s low in status, or can it be performed with pride and style? Are there similarities that lie at the heart of all fans? And what is the proper husbandry of a twenty first century obsession. Anyway?

‘When Judy sang to me as I grew older she seemed to confirm the things that I’d all my life held to be true.’

  • Things that are hard have more life at their heart than things that are easy.
  • All feelings, however painful, are to be prized.
  • Glamour is a moral stance.
  • The world is crueller and more wonderful than anyone ever says.
  • Loss, its memory and its anticipation, lies at the heart of human experience.
  • Any human situation, however deadly, can be changed, turned round and improved beyond recognition on any given day, in one minute, in one hour.
  • You must try to prepare for the moment that you’re needed for the call could come at any time.
  • There are worse things in life than being taken for a ride.
  • If you have a thin skin all aspects of life cost more and have more value.
  • Loyalty to one another is preferable to any other kind of human system.
  • Grief is no real match for the human heart, which is an infinitely resourceful organ.

 

MY REVIEW:

Hands up if you’ve ever obsessed over a celebrity? I imagine pretty much everyone reading this raised their hands just then. I know I did. While I’m no stranger to hero-worship, I did think reading this book that the author takes it to a whole other level. I’m a big fan of Mariah Carey and parts of this book reminded me of some lambs (Mariah’s name for her fans) I know who, while I understand their love and obsession, seem to me to never have left that peak of obsession we reach in our teenage years. 

Susie Boyt opens her book talking about her love for Judy Garland and how it helped her when she was a shy, sensitive child. I can relate to that. I’ve always been someone who feels things deeply and like Susie I fell in love with The Wizard of Oz at just three years old. I was instantly obsessed with the film and knew it back to front and inside out. I would quote lines, watch it repeatedly and put on skits acting out scenes with my friends. Of course, I was always Dorothy. But unlike Susie it was the movie and Dorothy I fell in love with, not the actress herself, though I’ve always been a fan from a distance. I can also relate to music and words from someone you admire helping you through hard times. Bad break up – I’d put on Someday by Mariah Carey. A day I’m feeling low – I’d put on Through The Rain. I could probably name a Mariah song for every emotion and situation so I definitely get using that to help you or just to make your day brighter. I’m not going to pull her apart and critique how she hero-worships in detail, and I think there was a lot of positives she has gleaned from her love of Judy, but there were times I thought she seemed a little crazy and I worried about her.

I loved learning more about Judy, including the difficult parts, and she is more interesting to me than ever before. I’ve always been in awe of her talent and admired everything she achieved despite the many obstacles in her way, some of which she arguably put in front of herself. She was a star through and through. But she was also neurotic and insecure. I always saw a sadness to her, like you could tell this was all a bit much for her. All she  wanted to be loved without condition other people taking from her and isn’t that what everyone wants after all? The tragedy is she never found it and died while estranged from her family and alone in a bathroom from an accidental drug overdose. That is no way for anyone’s life to end. I did like that her happiness and joy in life is emphasised as much as her difficulties aren’t shied away from. No one is one dimensional. They aren’t happy or sad, good or bad, they are a bit of everything and that changes all the time. This book showed me more of the real person behind the persona and it made me fall in love with her a little more.

But this book didn’t only teach me things about Miss Garland. It also gave great insight into how some fans think and can be affected by an obsession. The author is aware of how far she goes for her idol and often argues the virtues and benefits of such obsession, which I found fascinating. She asks why we’d want to give up the intense, teenage-like obsession when we get such a rush from it. The book contains a lot of psycho-analysis, which is understandable given her family history. All the way through the book it is clear that the author sees her life as having been enhanced by her love for Judy, rather than hindered by it. Though I have to wonder if there are times those around her wouldn’t necessarily agree. 

An intriguing book that at times felt a little messy and strange, My Life With Judy Garland is honestly like nothing I’ve ever read before. And it is a book I won’t forget. 

Thank you to Virago books and Ann Cater at Compulsive Reader Blog Tours for my copy of this novel.

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Susie Boyt was born in London and educated at Camden School for Girls and Oxford University. After a nerve-wracking stint at a lingerie boutique and an alarming spell working in PR for Red Stripe lager and the Brixton Academy, she settled down into writing and is the author of six acclaimed novels including The Last Hope of Girls, which was short-listed for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, and Only Human, which was short-lsited for the Mind Award. Of her last novel, Love & Fame, The Sunday Times said ‘she writes with such precision and wisdom about the human heart under duress that the novel is hard to resist.’

Susie wrote a much-loved weekly column about life and art for The Financial Times Weekend for fourteen years and still contributes regularly to their books and fashion pages. Last Year she edited The Turn of the Screw and Other Ghost Stories for Penguin Classics. She is also a director at the Hempstead theatre in London and works part time for Cruse Bereavement Care.

She lives in London with her husband and two daughters. She is the daughter of the painter Lucian Freud and the great-grand-daughter of the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud.

FINAL My Judy Garland BT Poster

 

Review: ‘My Sister, The Serial Killer’ by Oyinkan Braithwaite ⭐⭐⭐.5

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SYNOPSIS:

My Sister, The Serial Killer is a backly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach.  This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

MY REVIEW:

“Ayoola summons me with these words – Korede, I killed him. I had hoped I would never hear those words again.”

The first line of this book sent shivers down my spine. I’d been excited to read this much-hyped book for a while and was pleased when it was chosen as July’s book for my book club. But sadly this was a book that didn’t live up to it’s promise or the hype.

It started well and had a lot of good points. Initially there was a lot of tension: would the sisters get caught at the crime scene and while disposing of the body? Will the social media search for the victim lead to their exposure? I like the short chapters and though I never quite got to grips with the Nigerian-English, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book. 

Korede and Ayoola had what is understandably a tense relationship, though to those who don’t know Ayoola’s deadly secret it seems Korede is unnecessarily harsh towards her and even gets accused of victim shaming when others believe Ayoola’s lies. I liked her character for the most part and understood her desire to protect her little sister as it must be a complex range of feelings to have someone you love do such terrible things and ask for your help. Korede seemed like a decent person put in an impossible situation. She’s forever scared of being found out while Ayoola seems unbothered by her crimes and doesn’t understand why her sister is edgy and anxious. She sees herself as the victim, claiming each man died in an act of self-defense, though this seems a sketchy claim from the evidence. There were also things in their past that were teased that I was excited to learn more about and if that could be where Ayoola’s “tendencies” began.

Unfortunately, for me things soon went wrong as the atmosphere evaporated in a novel that was too lighthearted for its subject matter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like black humour – Sweetpea is one of my favourite books and Rhiannon a character I love – but I just didn’t think it was done well in this book. Instead of funny it came across flat. 

Once the tension had gone the story plodded on mundanely before ending abruptly in a way that made me really mad. I can’t say too much about why because I do think everyone should make up their own minds about any book and I don’t want to spoil things for anyone yet to read it. I felt as if the author had written a longer book and explored some of the plot points in greater detail then this would have been a great book. Instead it felt too short, unsatisfying, lacking in depth and like everything was tied up in a bow far too neatly. So, I’m joining #blacksheepofbookstagram in being one of the few people to say this one didn’t live up to the hype and wasn’t for me.

Out now.

Review: ‘The Three Beths’ by Jeff Abbott ⭐⭐⭐.5

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SYNOPSIS:

From multi-million-selling writer Jeff Abbott comes an intense and gripping new psychological thriller about a daughter’s desperate search for her mother – when she discovers two women with the same name are also missing. 

My mum would never leave me. 

This has been Mariah Dunning’s motto. So when she glimpses her mother – who’s been missing the past year – Mariah’s conviction becomes stronger than ever. Or is she losing her mind? 

An unlikely coincidence? 

When Beth Dunning disappeared without a trace, suspicion for her murder immediately fell upon Mariah’s father. Until Mariah stumbles upon two other recent disappearances. And all three women had the same name: Beth.

Or a sinister connection? 

Mariah would give anything to find out what happened to be mother and clear her father’s name. But the truth may be more devastating than she ever imagined… 

REVIEW:

“You never knew what small-seeming choice in your life could have a massive ripple effect.”

This was a readable thriller with short chapters that helped keep the steady pace and tension. At the start I had so many questions: where is Beth? Who was the woman Mariah saw at the mall? Why does her father seem so reluctant to have her asking questions and trying to find answers? As time went on there were more questions waiting to be answered… 

Mariah was a character I found easy to like. I can’t imagine the grief of having your mother vanish and feeling like the police aren’t looking for her because they’ve made up their minds that your father is guilty. Mariah’s desperation to find her mother and amateur detective work was exactly what I would want to do in her position, especially after being told of a possible link to another missing women that the police instantly dismissed. I liked that her father, Craig, was ambiguous and you were never sure if you could trust him. I had my predictions and I won’t go into them or if they were right to avoid spoilers, but I liked that I would waver in my thoughts about his possible involvement and how honest he was being. His strong desire to protect Mariah was exactly as you’d expect from any father and made some of his more questionable choices understandable. I really liked Sharon’s character although I didn’t really trust her and found her strange. Characters like that can be fun to read though and Sharon certainly added a lot to the story for me, especially the dynamic between her and Mariah. 

The decision by the author to not include flashbacks narrated by the women themselves added to the mystery. It meant our knowledge of them was coloured by the lense through which others saw them but I liked how the author showed us that people can be many different things depending on who you talk to. No person is one dimensional. 

This twisty thriller didn’t blow me away but it was a fun and enjoyable read. I found that the pace and tension wavered and I wasn’t kept gripped as I had been at the beginning, but I never felt bored or tempted to stop reading. By about half way through I thought I knew how this was going to play out and while it was predictable in some ways, other twists still took me by surprise right until the final pages. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and Jeff Abbott for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Out today.