Lauren Berry – Living the Dream

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Lauren Berry – Living the Dream

Two young women in their twenties, two dreams. Emma dreams of working as a writer, she blogs about her life with quite a remarkable success, but actually she is stuck in an advertising company where she has to be creative in the dullest of imaginable ways. Her best friend Clementine Twist has just returned to London from a Year in New York where she attended Columbia film school to become a screenwriter. The feedback to her work is throughout positive, but back home she has to secure her living and moves back in with her parents and accepts a job as a receptionist of a club. Only their friend Yasmin seems to get it all right: she’s got a fancy job that she exerts successfully and the wedding with Mr Right is just around the corner. The more goes right with Yasmin the more seems to go wrong for Emma and Clementine. When does the adult life they always dreamt of finally start?

Lauren Berry really managed to catch the mood of women at the end of their twenties. Emma and Clementine are full of energy and passionate about what they love, but somehow life is in their way and they are stuck between mundane everyday-life problems. Reality and dreams seem to be many miles away from each other. Even though they are good at what they want to do, the chances just do not come to really show the world what they are capable of. The necessities of the world keep them from just indulging in their creativity, bills have to be paid, food has to be bought, so the need to earn some money is overwhelming and paralysing.

What I liked about the novel is the fact that even though the girls could easily give up and despair, they somehow stick to their dream and they have a certain sense of humour not to take themselves and their lives too seriously. Many scenes are quite funny – as long as you just read them and do not have to live them through. Even though it is at times quite close to being chick lit, the author can keep some seriousness in the story and the fact that her protagonists find themselves in the same situation as masses of young women who can surely identify with them, gives the novel an actual relevance.

Julian Fuhrman – This is How We Talk

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Julian Fuhrman – This is how we talk

An evening in Tel Aviv, Yonatan finds himself outside his home without money and no idea where to go. He thinks deep into the city’s nightlife, with alcohol, women and drugs. How could he end here in the streets between party-goers and protesters? He once had a plan, for the time after his gap year after the IDF, a career as a photographer, a loving wife and a son. But also Lia, his wife, has to find her place and has to cope not only with the demons of her past, but also with the picture she had of her brother. Just like her sister Sharon who tries to forget and not confront all the negative events that happen in her life by filling her day with work.

I struggled a bit with the novel at first. The narrative structure which always alternates between the present and different points in the past was not very easy to sort out at first. However, this gave it a lot more dynamics and made it actually livelier. I found Yonatan’s and Lia’s story quite interesting, especially having two opposite characters approaching the same point of culmination. I can see what the other two characters contributed to the story, but I could have done without them.

What I appreciated most was the fact how Julian Fuhrman caught the atmosphere of Israel. On the one hand, the carefree and light-hearted nightlife in which you can indulge and forget. On the other hand, being threatened by war and confronted with actual bombings is also a part of their life. Likewise, the question if, as an Israeli, you can befriend an Arab – to which extend do political implications limit your personal sphere? The necessary and mandatory service in the army and the need to flee from this time after having completed the IDF – a constant crucial test of the love for your country. The protesters and their fight for affordable housing and food, it was reported worldwide about this movement and Fuhrman thus integrated very mundane aspects in the novel which rendered the characters and the plot authentic. In the centre, of course, the basic conflict between Lia and Yonatan. How can you love joyfully in those circumstances and make you love last?

A novel which traps the attitude towards life of a whole generation.

Carys Bray – The Museum of You

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Carys Bray – The Museum of You

The summer she is 12 years old will change a lot for Clover Quinn. She has been living alone with her father all her life, her mother died only six weeks after her birth. There is still a room in their house where her father keeps all the belongings of his beloved wife he never could get rid of. Now, Clover ventures into the room and inspects the items. After having visited a museum with her school, she decides to become a curator herself and to set up an exhibition about her mother. She carefully selects the items and – just like in any other museum – writes accompanying notes for them. The more she advances with her work, the more she knows about her mother, or invents when she does not have any information. Yet, there are blanks which will only be filled when her father sees the museum fir the first time – but this moment ends not as planned.

“The Museum of You” is a really heart-breaking novel about – well, that’s the question. It is about love in different shapes, about friendship and family relationships. But it is also about death and loss and how to cope with it. This extreme combination makes it an emotionally loaded novel which oscillates between the exuberant love the characters sometimes feel, especially Darren for his daughter, and the emptiness because all of them suffer from the loss they have never overcome.

The story line is marked by flashbacks, Darren recollects the time with Becky, thus only slowly the whole picture unfolds and the reader learns how and especially why she died. This is definitely the hardest part of the story. Becky is never a real character in the story but the scenes after Clover’s birth are striking.

Clover of course is the most lovable protagonist you can imagine. She is clever and meticulous when it comes to her museum. Her friendship with Dagmar takes some time to develop, but she is sympathetic and open-minded which allows her so bond with the young Hungarian. Concerning her grandfather and her uncle, two men with severe problems, her carefreeness permits her to interact with them, ignore what has to be ignored and find the right words to talk to them. With her father things are more complicated, the one thing she need she cannot articulate. But this does not reduce her love for him and the way he is – even though he is different from all other dads she knows. Darren, the male protagonist, could be seen as somebody who never achieved something in his life. He always postpones things, lives in a mess and has some difficulties in showing affection. On the other hand, he does what has to be done, he is what you could call a “good person”, he puts himself last and his love for Becky and Clover seems to be limitless. He would do everything for them – isn’t that all that counts in life, to love somebody?

The novel really surprised me, I did not expect so much depth in. Additionally, Carys Bray found their perfect words in describing the characters with so much love and never judging them even if some character traits are not that favourable.