Binnie Kirshenbaum – Rabbits for Food

rabbits-for-food
Binnie Kirshenbaum – Rabbits for Food

Things have been getting worse for Bunny, given this name because her parents raised rabbits, and now, New Year’s Eve is approaching. Like every year, Bunny and her husband Albie will take part in the mandatory dinner with people they call their “friends” even though they don’t see them any other evening of the year due to obvious reasons. Albie would be fine to stay at home, but Bunny knows that even though she feels depressed, she needs to play along. But then, the worst case happens: she breaks down and finds herself in a psych ward.

The novel is divided into two parts: before and after, just like people who have a breakdown or have to live through a life-changing event, divide their life. For me personally, the two parts are so different that it is not easy to come to one conclusion in the end. I’d say: thumbs-up for the first half of the novel, but a strong trigger warning for the second.

Even though the protagonist is highly depressed and struggles with the smallest everyday actions, I found the beginning of the book often very funny since the author is a master of irony and a humour that I really liked. There are so many brilliant phrases, it was a great joy to read even though Bunny’s suffering is almost overwhelming. You slowly approach the climax, New Year’s Eve, and you know that something big is going to happen, thus the suspense becomes almost unbearable.

When Bunny is hospitalised, her welcome there still has some funny aspects, but only until the laughter gets stuck in your throat and Bunny’s life becomes utterly horrible. I have read several novels about psycho wards, “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Girl, interrupted”, which were not easy to support, but admittedly, more than once I was close to just stopping reading because I could hardly stand what the nurses and doctors there do to the patients. I hope that this is not reality – even though I fear that it might come much closer than anybody from the outside world would dream. No, what Bunny has to endure in hospital is not something nice and there is no need to embellish anything, but admittedly who could ever turn to such a place to find help?

Binnie Kirshenbaum surely is a remarkable and highly gifted writer, yet, this novel definitely should be accompanied by a warning.

Sarah Baxter – Literary Places

sarah-baxter-literary-places
Sarah Baxter – Literary Places

Why do you read book? To enjoy yourself, be entertained by a good story and – at least for me – to travel via the novel to another place and learn something about culture, habits and life in general there. Due to lack of time and money, I cannot visit all the places I would like to see with my own eyes, thus, the fictional world set in real places is often the only alternative available. Especially when it comes to time travel which, of course, will just remain a dream.

Sarah Baxter’s traveller’s guide leads you to 25 famous places of novels, among them Paris, London, St Petersburg, New York and Berlin. She briefly describes the setting of the novel and then compares the presentation as we get it in the book with what to find there today. Some places are almost identical and what you see through the eyes of the protagonist is what you can see yourself when travelling there. Others have changed a lot and the place now only exists between the covers of the book.

The text is accompanied by illustrations by Amy Grimes and even though they are mostly abstract, they wonderfully transport the atmosphere evoked in the novels. When reading make sure you either got a hard copy of the book or an electronic version in colour. I’d be a pity to have them just in black and white.

A beautiful collection which reminded me of novels I read a long time ago and which I definitely want to look at again now.

Liam Callanan – Paris by the Book

Liam-Callanan-paris-by-the-book
Liam Callanan – Paris by the Book

The sudden disappearance of her husband is nothing new to Leah Eady, he has done it again and again in the almost two decades they have spent together. He needs some time-out for his writing, to gather his ideas. But this time, things are different. She cannot find his “away-note”. He never leaves without a short letting them know that he’d be back again soon. When Robert does not show up again after weeks, Leah and her two daughters are devastated. Some clues lead her to believe that he could be in Paris and thus the three of them head for the French capital. Sometimes things just happen and later you cannot recollect what exactly was the decisive moment, so Leah finally finds herself in Europe owning a lovely bookshop. The longer they stay there, the more they adapt to their new life, a life without Robert. But every now and then, he shows up again. They see him in a picture, they imagine having crossed him in the streets. But: is he even still alive?

The book sounded so lovely that I had to read it. A bookstore in Paris, a kind of extraordinary love story, the frequent allusion to Albert Lampoisse’s short film “The Red Balloon” – these are the perfect ingredients for a great feel-good bitter-sweet story. Yet, it did not completely catch me.

Somehow there were too many breaks in the story, I never knew exactly where it was going too and thus it turned a bit lengthy at times. The characters unfortunately lived too much in the books they read and films they watched to ever find themselves really in Paris and therefore the charm of the town got completely lost.

I liked the way the protagonist and her struggle with the situation are portrayed. Even though I think the construction of their relationship is too awkward to be authentic, the moment of not knowing what happened to her husband and being responsible for two teenagers while coping with your own emotions – that’s all but easy. Figuring out how to survive might lead to extreme decision like going to Paris and starting anew.

All in all, there were lovely passages, but to sum it up: it is too long for the story that’s been told.