An American Marriage by Tayari Jones review

Hi everyone! Continuing on my quest to read all the Women’s Prize shortlist novels before the winner is announced (I know I’m cutting it fine but miracles have happened!) I’m reviewing Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage. We follow newlyweds Roy and Celestial who drive down to visit his parents in Eloe, Louisiana. Whilst staying in a hotel, Roy is falsely accused of rape and is subsequently sent to jail following trial. The novel follows their lives as they adjust to this new, devastating world, with Celestial having to make an important decision: does she wait for her husband or does she move on?

Jones is a brilliant writer. Chapters are narrated by different people; Roy, Celestial, and their mutual friend Andre. Each voice is unique and authentic making it clear whose thoughts we are in now. The use of slang also makes it more realistic. By letting us see the different viewpoints, the reader not only gains a better understanding of these characters and how others perceive them, but Jones also highlights the novels main themes from different perspectives. She also never judges her characters, so the reader must decide for themselves who is correct. Her language and word choice are also brilliantly chosen, evocating sights and emotions with only a few words or sentences.

However, despite Jones’ technical prowess, I was left emotionally cold. I struggled to connect with any of the characters, with perhaps the exception of Celestial, whose chapters are noticeably shorter than either Roy’s or Andre’s. Reading somewhere that Jones had initially written the novel from Celestial’s point of view only, I couldn’t help but wonder – where did the rest of her chapters go? Her dilemma was the most interesting aspect of the story for me, so it was disappointing that she seems to fade out of her own narrative early on. Roy, despite being wrongly convicted, wasn’t really sympathetic. His preoccupation of being seen to do good or ‘right’ by society, and his entitlement to his wife’s body, could have been interesting topics to explore, but sadly Jones doesn’t seem to do that. She also brings up an interesting subject; when Celestial asks what Roy would have done if she had been imprisoned, he says that would never have happened, implying because she is a woman. Looking at the incarceration system, not just from a racial but a gender discrimination too, would have been fascinating, but again Jones merely touches on it.

I can see why An American Marriage made the shortlist. It is incredibly well-written and ambitious, with Jones looking at masculinity in an interesting fashion. One could even argue my previous complaint of Celestial being side-lined linked into that, that Roy and Andre saw their problems between them two as men, without including Celestial. Yet I couldn’t connect with the vast majority of the characters. I have heard listening to the audiobook is better, as the actors involved are excellent in their respective parts and are very emotive. So perhaps I would have had a different experience of the novel had I listened rather than read, and I may listen to the audio in future. But yes, sadly despite its technical brilliance, An American Marriage never quite hit the spot for me.

An American Marriage is published by OneWorld and you can find more information here.

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Golden Keys to Open Doors: About Spiritual Cotton Candy by Harry Meier review

Hi everyone! So today I’m reviewing Golden Keys to Open Doors: About Spiritual Cotton Candy by Harry Meier. I kindly received my copy from the author via Booktasters. This is going to be a short post today as Golden Keys… is a booklet of around 57 pages. In it, Meier discusses what he describes as ‘spiritual cotton candy’; statements made by spiritual or enlightenment gurus that sound pretty but are actually worthless. Meier also looks at teachers, namely those found online, who seem more concerned about selling their latest DVD than helping people.

This was a really interesting booklet, looking at the spirituality ‘industry’ if you like and how its ideas might not be helpful. Meier also addresses the notion that his own opinions might be considered useless by a reader and he repeats this a couple of times throughout. There is a point in the booklet where he looks at the monetary gain of a prominent online guru which was fascinating and also quite horrifying. The idea that there are people forking over $1,000 to attend a 24-hour online course when there are plenty of free articles about spirituality and enlightenment available highlights how massive these business ventures can be, something I had never contemplated until now. Meier provides a lot of food for thought, especially in relation to these businesses, and their relationships with their clients.

However, I would have liked if Meier had expanded upon on the booklet, most notably in his own background on the subject. He writes that he had a near death experience, almost drowning as a teenager, and afterwards going to an esoteric shop and purchasing a book. This segment is only given a paragraph in the booklet, but I really wanted to know more. Did he learn anything from the book? How did it affect how he viewed the world? Did his thoughts on spirituality change over time? There are a lot of questions that, if answered, would give a fuller picture of Meier’s relationship with his own enlightenment, and also show the reader the journey he has taken to reach his conclusions. At the moment, it feels very much skimmed over.

Overall, I did like Golden Keys to Open Doors. It is a really short read but a very interesting topic; especially to those who have some knowledge of online gurus that Meier mentions but never names. He is also an engaging writer, often using scenarios to explain his thought process, making it much clearer for the reader. Short, punchy read about a topic that I didn’t know interest me until now.

Golden Keys to Open Doors: About Spiritual Cotton Candy is published independently and you can find more information here

Jorrie and the Skyhorse by Zoë Landale review

Hi everyone! So I thought I’d share another Reedsy review with you. This week I read  Zoë Landale’s Jorrie and the Skyhorse. Strange creatures slip through the dangerous Five Gates that open onto remote Satter Island. When Jorrie runs away from home to Satter Island, she bonds—inconveniently and irrevocably—with a wolfhound. After the dog is blasted with a fatal curse, Jorrie, aided by an ancient skyhorse, must reclaim her magical talent in time to try to save the dog and herself. Discover the first book in this exciting new fantasy trilogy by award-winning author Zoë Landale.

The plot is really well-structured. It was fast-paced, engaging, and I was curious to know how it ended. At the beginning of the novel, the reader is thrust straight into the action which doesn’t stop. There were a couple of mysteries in the novel which helped keep me intrigued, and they came together in a satisfying manner at the conclusion. Landale’s world building is also well done. It is very inventive and certainly different from other fantasy novels I’ve read. There also seems to be a lot of this world unexplored and it will be really interesting to see how Landale expands upon this universe in later novels. Her characters are a lot of fun, especially Jorrie. Her character arc was very sweet, and it was a joy watching her develop as the book progressed. Hopefully we’ll see more of her in the trilogy.

However, I did have a couple of issues with the writing. In Chapter 3, Landale uses the same wording twice; Jorrie compares the size things to her ‘outstretched hand’. This phrasing is seen again later on. The repetition felt a bit lazy, especially being mentioned twice in one chapter, and didn’t grab me. Using different language to describe how big or small something is would have worked better. There are also quite a few spelling errors (the Lodge where Jorrie and her family stay is called Loge at one point) and some sentences will have words missing. In Chapter 4, Thor remarks, ‘But it’s been, it’s been half over for years’ which doesn’t make any sense. All of this combined pulled me out of the story and made the reading experience less enjoyable.

It is a pity because I really liked Jorrie and the Skyhorse. Landale’s pacing is really good, her world unique and interesting with sympathetic characters but the writing ultimately lets it down. The spelling errors were too distracting, and the repeating of phrases was unnecessary. If these issues were addressed, then Landale’s new trilogy would be an excellent series for YA audiences.

Jorrie and the Skyhorse is published independently and you can find more information here

Saltwater by Jessica Andrews review

Hi everyone! I kindly received an ARC of Jessica Andrews’ debut novel Saltwater after requesting it on Netgalley. What drew me to the novel originally was the plot; our narrator Lucy Bailey has gone to live in her grandfather’s house in Co. Donegal after graduating with a Literature Degree from Queen Mary University in London. Not only do we see her life in Ireland and the reasons why she left London, but we also witness her childhood in Sunderland and her relationship with her mother.

Andrews has written the story in vignettes, often hopping between different periods of time. There might be a couple of pages on Lucy’s life in Donegal, then followed by her childhood in Sunderland, then even looking at her grandmother’s life. At first, I found this technique quite confusing and disjointed; often getting characters a bit muddled up. But the more I read, the more I really enjoyed it. By reading about people like the grandmother, it gives you a better picture, not just of Lucy but her whole family. You can empathise with them and how they behave, knowing what has happened in their past. The fragmentary nature of the novel reminded me of another debut: Daisy Johnson’s Everything Under (who, funnily enough, provides a quote praising Saltwater as ‘sublime’). The novels also explore the complex relationship between their narrator and her mother. However, I feel that Is where the similarities end and I enjoyed Saltwater for different reasons than Everything Under.

The main reason was nostalgia. Lucy’s teen years reminded me of my own, especially when she noted clothes or music. The bands she mentions are the ones I listened to and I recognised myself and my friends in her group. And yes, I did cringe when I remembered some of the stuff we thought was cool. This made Lucy’s reflections as a teenager really fun to read and probably the most enjoyable part of the book for me. Lucy is also a really sympathetic and relatable character, especially after leaving school and going to University. The insecurities and worries, the trying hard to fit but never quite feeling you’ve succeeded, the attempts to define yourself away from your parents… all of that makes her empathetic as she navigates her way to becoming an adult. Andrews conveys those feelings of insecurity wonderfully. I also found Lucy’s relationship with her mother very relatable.

Andrews’ writing is also wonderful. There are many beautiful, lyrical passages throughout the novel, perfectly capturing either a landscape or a mood. You are instantly catapulted to the natural world in Donegal or the hustle and bustle of London. Her imagery is very evocative and original, never relying on clichés to describe. She creates such a rich tapestry that the places become characters in their own right. This ties in nicely with the idea of places where you lived previously somehow still shape or define you in some way.

Despite my confusion at the beginning, I liked Saltwater. This is partly due to the nostalgic factor for me (and I’ll admit, not everyone will relate to those specific bands) but mainly down to Andrews’ amazing writing and sympathetic narrator. Heart-breaking, tender but still beautiful, Saltwater is an excellent debut and pegs Andrews as a writer to watch.

Saltwater will be published by Hodder & Stoughton on the 16th May and you can find more information here.

Everything Under by Daisy Johnson review

Hi everyone! This Thursday I’m reviewing Daisy Johnson’s debut novel Everything Under, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker last year with Johnson becoming the youngest ever nominee of the prize. The novel follows Gretel, a lexicographer whose mother Sarah abandoned her sixteen years ago. She has never heard of Sarah since, until one day she receives an unexpected phone call. The novel is split between past and present; we watch a daughter struggle to reconnect with her mother, while Gretel and Sarah’s life on a canal is slowly revealed, where they meet a mysterious boy called Marcus.

Johnson’s language is beautiful and haunting, capturing this really intense, complicated relationship. She also manages to put into words sounds and smells that I would have found impossible to describe; like the sounds of water against a barge. Her writing is truly impressive. Language itself is a major part of the novel and Johnson spends a lot of time mulling over it. There are the obvious allusions; Gretel being a lexicographer, so she effectively gives words definitions and early in the novel it is clear Sarah has dementia and is losing her vocabulary. This focus on language highlights how much is unspoken between the two women; how much Gretel would like to ask her mother but not having the words to do so. It is particularly heart-breaking as chapters set in the past show that they used to have their own, secret language; and to witness both this language and relationship crumble is saddening.

The structure of the novel is also very effective in telling the story. The novel is told in quite short chapters, which will flit between different moments in time. They read like memories, these snippets of life that we remember clearly. It is interesting as Gretel has tried to repress her memories after her mother left, not thinking about her life on the water. Yet as the novel progresses and the more she looks back, the more these apparently disjointed narratives come together to form a cohesive whole. The individual plots featuring Gretel and Marcus were fascinating in their own right, but together they are truly devastating, and it was incredible how Johnson wove them together seamlessly.

Everything Under is a remarkable novel and it easily deserved its place on the Man Booker shortlist. Not only is it an immaculately crafted novel, from the structure to the word choice but it also is just a great story. The relationship between Gretel and Sarah was my highlight as I couldn’t stop reading it, but I also really liked Marcus. I haven’t spoken about him in this review because his story is so full of twists and turns it is better not knowing much beforehand. But it was very compelling. Also, Johnson blends the mythical aspects into the novel really well, but again they contain spoilers, so I won’t say anything. I was swept away (no pun intended) by Everything Under and am eager to read Johnson’s short story collection Fen.

Everything Under is published by Vintage and you can find more information here.

Chasing Graves by Ben Galley review

Hi everyone! Another review I’ve done for Reedsy Discovery (I’ve left a link to it at the end); this time it is Ben Galley’s Chasing Graves. Meet Caltro Basalt. He’s a master locksmith, a selfish bastard, and as of his first night in Araxes, stone cold dead.
They call it the City of Countless Souls, the colossal jewel of the Arctian Empire, and all it takes to be its ruler is to own more ghosts than any other. For in Araxes, the dead do not rest in peace in the afterlife, but live on as slaves for the rich. While Caltro struggles to survive, those around him strive for the emperor’s throne in Araxes’ cutthroat game of power. The dead gods whisper from corpses, a soulstealer seeks to make a name for himself with the help of an ancient cult, a princess plots to purge the emperor from his armoured Sanctuary, and a murderer drags a body across the desert, intent on reaching Araxes no matter the cost. Only one thing is certain in Araxes: death is just the beginning.

Galley’s use of multi-character perspectives is incredible. It gives the reader a chance to explore this new world from various angles; from ghost to royalty to everything in between, as well as introduces the various intrigues that are presumably present in the trilogy. Caltro is set up as the main protagonist but all the characters are well-developed and never felt superfluous; all had their own part to play in the narrative. In particular, the relationship between Nilith and her dead husband Farazar is the highlight of the novel; a complex and emotional love/hate dynamic that Galley conveys really well. I was always sad finishing their chapters and I hope to see more of them in the second book. Caltro is also really well-written with a distinctive voice. Despite all the terrible things happening to and around him, he has this great sense of humour which stops the novel becoming bleak and makes him endearing to the reader. He is a great character for the trilogy to centre on.

Galley also blends Egyptian mythology and fantasy really well to create this unique world. The idea of the afterlife as a passing or voyage (hence the coins for the ferryman in corpses’ mouths) is turned on its head in the most terrifying way possible: the coins are used to ‘bind’ ghosts to servitude. Instead of setting them free, souls are effectively trapped. This idea is both a terrifying yet a clever example of Galley’s use of mythology throughout the story. The Styx river is renamed Nyx here and the mention of gods also highlight the mythical roots of Chasing Graves.

Overall, the book is a fast-paced, fun read. The reader is thrown into this world with little introduction, so very much like Caltro they must navigate this strange city. The reader learns about Araxes and the world very organically; there is no unnecessary information dumped in the middle of a chapter that the reader has to wade through. This helps to keep the story flowing and the reader engaged until the end. And what a cliff-hanger that ending is! I’m itching to read the second book. If you enjoy fantasy, then definitely check out Chasing Graves.

Chasing Graves is published independently and you can find more information here.

5 Poems to Read for National Poetry Month

Hi everyone! So most people probably already know this, but April was National Poetry Month in the US and Canada. Despite being from neither of these countries and missing April by two days (blame the Women’s Prize!), I still wanted to join in and recommend some poems that I really enjoy. Hope you do too! A couple of these poems have been mentioned before on my blog but some I’ve not yet had the chance to mention here, which is a shame because these are some of my favourite poems. I will leave links to them so if you fancied reading them you can. Most of them are from Poetry Foundation which is a great website for exploring poems and their writers. But without further ado, I’ll jump into the poems:

Ae Fond Kiss – Robert Burns

Not technically a poem but a song. Off to a good start. However this is my favourite work of Burns, and can be read as a tribute to lost love. It is a sad and poignant piece, but there is so much love and passion that radiates off the page it never becomes maudlin or self-indulgent. Everyone has been in a relationship that has ended or had their heart broken, so ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ is quite a relatable poem, despite being written in 1791. Burns really captures the rawness of those early days. If you haven’t read any Burns then this is a good place to start.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock – T.S Eliot  

Prufrock devastated me when I first read it as an undergraduate, and it still moves me to this day. Eliot nails down the feelings of loneliness and never being good enough, and it really connected with me. His imagery is also stunning, evoking these beautiful and sad segments of a life yet also hinting at underlying themes. In particular I love the phrase: ‘In the room the women come and go/Talking of Michelangelo’. It’s such a wonderful encapsulation of the poem. Eliot’s use of repetition and intertextuality also help to make Prufrock an incredible piece of poetry.

My Last Duchess – Robert Browning 

This is what happens when a  thriller meets poetry. And it’s wonderful. The premise is a Duke is showing a gentleman a portrait of his last wife and begins to talk about what happened to her. Browning’s language is so rich; conveying so many different interpretations that you notice something new each time you read it. The use of rhyming couplets is also brilliantly done; it almost lulls you into a false sense of security with the rhythm before you realise what the Duke is inferring. He is also a really unreliable narrator which works perfectly for this poem. Robert Browning is one of my favourite Victorian poets and ‘My Last Duchess’ is definitely my favourite of his.

Goblin Market – Christina Rossetti 

The longest poem on this list but well worth the effort. Sisters Lizzie and Laura live alone, hearing goblin merchants selling fruits during the night. Laura consumes some of the fruit, despite her sister’s warnings, and slowly begins to deteriorate. It is up to Lizzie to save her. Whilst ‘Goblin Market’ has these magical and fairytale-esque elements, it really is a poem about familial love. The relationship between Lizzie and Laura is wonderfully drawn and is the heart of the poem. It can be read as a feminist critique of Victorian society, capitalism, or an exploration of drug addiction. But I shall leave you to your own interpretations of this brilliant poem.

Medusa – Carol Ann Duffy

‘Medusa’ comes from Duffy’s collection The World’s Wife and I would highly recommend any of the poems featured in it. This poem is told from the perspective of Medusa, and it is implied that she is talking to Perseus. Duffy, in a similar way to Madeline Miller’s Circe, takes a female figure from Greek mythology and gives her a voice. Medusa is quite a sad, lonely figure; unable to look upon anything without it turning to stone. The reader feels sympathy for her. That is, until the last line. It is so ambiguous that it leaves the entire poem up for interpretation which I really enjoyed. You are never quite sure what you have read.

 

And those are my 5! What are some of your favourite poems? Let me know – or if you’ve read any of the ones mentioned above, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

My Reaction to the Women’s Prize shortlist

Hi everyone! Apologises if I’m a bit incoherent; I’m writing this last minute on Monday morning. I wasn’t initially going to write my reaction to the Women’s Prize shortlist – here if you haven’t already seen it – because, to be quite frank, I didn’t (and still don’t) think many people care about my opinion. But, I thought I’d write it anyway because I actually quite like the shortlist – which seems to be an unpopular opinion.

So the six books are:

  1. The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker
  2.  My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
  3.  Milkman – Anna Burns
  4.  Ordinary People – Diana Evans
  5.  An American Marriage – Tayari Jones
  6.  Circe – Madeline Miller

Out of the six, I’ve read three and left links to my reviews above. And I really enjoyed all three. If I had to pick, Circe might be my favourite; it has great characters and wonderful writing. Whilst I think Milkman is better written technically and is more impressive on that front, I did struggle at the beginning to really get into the plot. I know a lot of people preferred the audiobook to reading the novel and I can see why. As for My Sister… I really liked it. It is probably the book I would recommend to the most people yet I don’t think it is on the same level as Miller or Burns. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it but I’m not sure it is necessarily prize-worthy. It was still a pleasant surprise to see it this morning though.

Out of the three I haven’t read, I’m most tempted by An American Marriage (which I think will be my next read after I’ve shifted my currently reading list) and Ordinary People. Both seem to deal with marriages that are collapsing or going through difficult circumstances, and they sound right up my alley. An American Marriage I’m particularly interested in as people either really like it or think it’s overrated; I’m curious to see where I fall. Ordinary People I’ve heard less about but reviews seem positive so am curious about it.

Then there’s The Silence of the Girls. This is the only one which I’m not compelled to read. I liked Regeneration by Barker when I read it a few years ago, but this one isn’t grabbing me. Probably because I’ve heard it focuses mainly on Achilles than any other character, and I can’t help but think; does this story really need another retelling? There are plenty of interesting characters in The Iliad; shouldn’t they be considered for a modern update before Achilles? There’s also the fact that Miller won the Prize with The Song for Achilles a few years ago, and Natalie Haynes’ upcoming A Thousand Ships – both of which interest me far more than Barker’s novel.

But apart from that, I find the shortlist really good. The three books I’ve read I’ve liked, and there are two which intrigue me. There aren’t any books I wished made the shortlist, though admittedly I’m glad Normal People didn’t make the cut. The abuse storyline was poorly handled (also if your representation of BDSM is on par with Fifty Shades of Grey then it’s not great) and the secondary characters fell flat. Also I’m relieved Freshwater never made it either; the excerpts I read weren’t grabbing me so out of all the longlistees that was the one I dreaded reading. So overall, I’m happy with the shortlist. It has a nice mixture of commercial appeal and literary heft; there is something there the majority of people will like.

Let me know below what you think of the shortlist and who you think should win!

 

Circe by Madeline Miller review

Hi everyone! I have been a little bit behind on my Women’s Prize reading so thought I’d better pull my socks up and continue, especially since the shortlist is announced Monday 29th April. I picked up Circe by Madeline Miller, which is a reimagining of the eponymous witch from Greek mythology. Circe is the eldest daughter of Helios, God of the Sun, and the nymph Perse. From the very beginning Circe is regarded as strange; her mother openly despises her, her siblings mock and sneer, and her father simple doesn’t care. However, one day she learns she has powers of witchcraft and becomes a threat to Zeus. Helios therefore decided to banish her; sending her to the island of Aiaia where she continues to hone her skills as visitors show up on her shores.

Circe is such a wonderful character. The story is told from her perspective, so you really get a sense of what she is feeling and thinking. It was lovely to see her grow from an insecure, bullied girl to a woman who knows herself and her own strength, and it is quite empowering to read. Even though she is a god, there is a lot of humanity within her and she is an easy character to sympathise with. There has been some criticism that the novel is too episodic, that characters arrive, go on a wee adventure, and leave again. Whilst that is true to some extent, I was so swept up in the character of Circe that I didn’t really care. Also, this is Circe’s story, she is no longer a mere footnote in someone else’s tale but a fully fledged character in her own right. Miller’s focus is solely on her and not merely doing another recount of the adventures of, say, Jason or Odysseus, who both show up in the novel. They are so embedded in Western culture (and their funky stop-motion skeletons) that I never felt we needed more information about them. Also, The Odyssey is episodic, especially when Odysseus recounts his time at sea, and Circe mirrors that really well.

Miller’s writing is wonderful, in particular when describing the natural world. She manages to be evocative with so little words, but they are all carefully chosen to have this big impact. Because Circe uses herbs and flowers to make her spells the natural world plays a large part in the novel. In some ways the landscape reflects Circe herself, her trials and tribulations. Miller also deals really well with the theme of power. The gods are quite vain and terrifying, showing no empathy to anyone, even their own kin. Their incredible power has corrupted them, and we see variations of this idea throughout the novel. There are also different manifestations of power and it is interesting to see how the characters deal with them.

Overall, I really enjoyed Circe and it may be one of my highlights from the long-listed novels so far. I will be devastated if it doesn’t make the shortlist as it is such a wonderful story. Miller has combined great characterisation and depth with a fast-paced plot, making the novel compulsive reading. Even if you are not really into Greek mythology, I would still recommend it as it deals with contemporary issues. You don’t even have had to have read Greek myths before starting Circe, as like I mentioned previously, a lot of the secondary characters are embedded in popular culture. I would highly recommend it.

Circe is published by Bloomsbury and you can find more information here.

Curing my Venom by A. Rinum review

Hi everyone! This is a first for me: my first review of a poetry collection! Poetry is quite a tricky subject for me to write about; whilst I studied it at University and spent many, many hours pouring over literary criticism on the subject, I’ve never given my own opinions about a particular poem or collection. The main reason for this is I worry that I don’t understand or misinterpret it, more so than any other type of literature. But since it is National Poetry Month and the author very kindly sent me a copy of her collection, I thought I would overcome my worries and review Curing my Venom. The collection is split into five parts, each representing a stage of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Rinum focuses primarily on mental health and the challenges that occur with illness, but also mentions more positive aspects like self-acceptance.

Rinum’s language and word choice are excellent. The images she creates are very evocative and poignant; one can picture them so clearly. The repetition of certain images as well helps to emphasise Rinum’s meaning and keeps them at the forefront of the reader’s mind, for example poison is frequently used to represent mental illness. However, one of my favourite poems from the collection ‘What was I?’, uses nature as a way to explore depression and the highs and lows it causes. Sometimes one feels on top of the world and almost invincible and other times sadness seems to be the only thing that ever and will exist. The natural world is used to reflect the ‘world’ of the mind and I think Rinum deals with those two contrasting thoughts beautifully.

Rinum is also very playful with form. Some poems rhyme, others don’t (and admittedly I found some of the rhymes a bit forced and didn’t really work when reread) which helps to keep the reader engaged, as well as the lengths varying greatly. Some are short and sharp whilst others go into more depth. There is even one poem (‘Downside Up’) which is upside down, highlighting the effect mental illness can have on our perspective of the world.

The illustrations by Fatima Munir are also well done. They are highly detailed black and white designs, but they don’t overpower the words and compliment the poems really well. It means the collection is this curious blend of imagery and words which combined create a very striking piece of work.

As you can imagine, Curing my Venom is not the cheeriest collection you may ever read, and most of the happier poems are in the fifth and final section. Some hit a raw nerve with me so I had to skip to a happier one straight after, and whilst it a short read I did have to stretch it out a few days so I didn’t feel overwhelmed. But the language and drawings are very beautiful. A really interesting debut and one for people interested in poetry. Or perhaps those looking to get back into it; I’m certainly curious to read more  after finishing this.

Curing my Venom is published independently and you can find more information here.