The Futile Tirade Against Time | Memento Mori by Muriel Spark

This novel emanates the subtle horror of perceived senility. Old age makes Death less abstract but no less terrifying. A group of elderly friends begin receiving ominous phone calls stating “Remember you must die.” Is their relativity to death creating a mass hallucination or is something more sinister afoot? Or maybe their collective distrust of the minds of themselves and their friends combined with eccentricities hardened over many years is the spark that creates an entirely esoteric evil?

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Spark is brilliant and this novel is exemplary of her exuberant talent. This novel seeped into my brain. Her words, water to the plant she was growing inside my head. I begun to acclimate to the stifling dread surrounding this group of elderly people. It was scary to see how the treatment and disbelief of those in advanced years opens the door to manipulation and control. It was just too easy.

The phone calls served as a focal point to examine the complexities of this friend group. Their mixed reactions to the calls illustrates the intricacies of their personalities and the various powers at play. I especially enjoyed the idea that the phone calls were from “Death”. The calls weren’t necessarily ominous; the caller is merely stating a fact. There is no apparent threat. Yet their relativity to the long sleep, and the increasing number of their friends that are reaching the end of their time, bubbled dread and paranoia to the forefront of their lives. They were forced by the unseen hand of fate to confront the futility of fight against the end of  their days. It is a harsh reality to be reminded that it is not “if” we die, but “when”.

Whilst this is not the first novel I have read with elderly protagonists, it is definitely one of the finest. Spark does not remove these character’s autonomy or complexities without it being a concerted effort to create a story. These are people who happen to be in the unique circumstance of old age. They are losing respect, health, and breadth of life but they are still motivated to live, whether for good or evil. Spark has an undeniable pulse on human nature, as if she’s already lived infinite lifetimes. Spark’s portrayal of old age ignited a growing suffocation that only released at the close of the novel. She roots her climate in fundamental fears and lets it grow and fester. She is undoubtedly the queen of subtle horrors.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book but believe it deserves to be read multiple times to be able to get a steady grasp on everything Spark is trying to achieve. Whilst I got quite a bit out of it from my first read-through, I reckon I’ve only scratched the tip of the iceberg.

This was my second book of Spark’s and judging by how much I enjoyed this, and The Driver’s Seat, I am keen to read more, or all, of her publications. If you have any suggestions of which one to read next, please let me know in the comments.

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100 Nasty Women of History by Hannah Jewell | Review

In the wake of Trump’s presidency, Hannah Jewell sets out to shine a light on the women lost by the spotlight of history that has prioritised the stories and lives of men. Jewell recognises that women have not held the same laurels in history as their male contemporaries and this in itself does not preclude worthiness or merit. We all, hopefully, have developed coping strategies and outlets to deal with Trump’s presidency and the ignorance and bigotry that has been ignited since his inauguration. This book is Jewell’s outlet, but it is so much more than that. She delivers these women’s stories with an unending wit that is pure pleasure. Reading this was cathartic, reviving, inspirational, and necessary.

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Whilst reading through the impressive list of women, I realised how many I had never heard of before. After finishing the book, I shared Jewell’s rage that these women’s stories were not more commonplace. How did I not know of Noor Inayat Khan, a brilliant spy against the nazis? Or Jayaben Desai, who led strikes against British factories? And why is there not a trilogy of movies about Ching Shih, the Chinese lady pirate who was so bloody fearsome she stopped everyone in their tracks? Or Julie D’Aubigny, who lived hard, fast, and awesomely? So many of the women in this book are deserving of some serious attention that it seems negligent that I can’t turn on Netflix and find a documentary about them. These women are all so interesting that I can’t help but want to know as much as possible.

This book is fuelled by rage at the current state of feminine (dis)empowerment. Jewell wields her rage to create something truly powerful. These women’s stories deserve the limelight that history has failed to shine on their gloriousness. Jewell’s playful tone, laden with sarcasm, presented these “nasty women” with 21st century grace. Dripping with acrimony, irony, and swears, this book offers more than just 100 mini-bios but a biting commentary on the failure of both history, for dishonouring the memory of these women, and contemporary society, for breathing life into rampant misogyny. Her words force us to remember the women that were a force for good throughout history, whilst reminding us that their work is not yet done.

For my own reference I wanna list some of the women that really stood out to me, though all of them deserved their stories told. In order of appearance -> Sappho, Empress Wu, Ching Shih, Annie Jump Cannon, Hedy Lamarr, Phillis Wheatley, Nellie Bly, Louise Mack, Beatrice Potter Webb, Marie Chauvet, Mary Wollstonecraft, Ida B. Wells, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, Annie Smith Peck, Jean Batten, Julie D’Aubigny, Njinga of Angola, Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti, Lillian Ngoyi, Miriam Makeba, Te Puea Herangi, Wallada Bint Al-Mustakfi, George Sand, Gladys Bentley, Coccinelle, Josephine baker, Noor Inayat Khan, Nancy Wake, Irena Sendler, Olympe de Gouges, Juana Azurduy, Luisa Moreno, and Jayaben Desai. I need docu-series of AT LEAST this list of women. But keep them coming because I will never tire of tales regarding wonderful ladies.

Trio of Reviews | Necrotech, Where Am I Now?, Gone with the Wind

Maybe one day I will be able to keep up with reviews on my blog, but I have not yet reached that time in my life. I’ve decided to lump together three recent reads for me that have taken up most of the second half of December. I’ve enjoyed all of these books, which makes them wonderful to end the year on.

Necrotech by K.C. Alexander31128541

Action packed and super fast paced. Set in a post-apocalyptic city that is run by mega corporations that keep track of everyone through SIN (Security Identification Number). Though some get off the grid by becoming saints who are SINless.

Riko is one unsaintlike saint who wakes up with without her memories and a lot of people to hurt to find why. She is a kickass mercenary with metaphorical balls of steel.

In this world, there is incorporated tech – tech which is incorporated into flesh. At birth, when SIN is incorporated, so is nanotech and they help with healing. If they get overloaded by either exertion or too much incorporated tech, then the tech will take over and control the body. This is called necrotech because essentially the body is dead but the tech fuels the body to kill. Therefore we get electronic powered zombies. This concept is so flipping cool and was so much fun.

This book does diversity right. Main character is bisexual and disabled (missing arm), plus the side characters are Indian, and these characters are incorporated without their traits being plot points. Really enjoyed that.

Overall, this book was epic. Cyberpunk adventure time with zombies and intrigue. I’m hooked.

4 out of 5 stars

Where Am I Now? – Mara Wilson29429875

Mara Wilson is an interesting person who has been off my radar since Matilda and Mrs Doubtfire. This memoirs describes the times in-between and I have to say that she has become a truly inspiring person. Some parts of her book really resonated with me. In particular the part about her realising she has OCD as well as the part about high school choir. I loved the chapter about the Matilda-Whore Complex where she discusses trying to become her own person outside of her “cute” reputation as Matilda and how this point of her life was a turning point for her own individuality. I think that I could connect with this transition in her life despite the child acting career. I think we all go through transitory periods where we go through who we think we should be in the eyes of others, and Mara discussing working up the courage to embrace herself was really beautiful. I listened to this as an audiobook and hearing her tell her stories was a wonderful experience.

4 out of 5 stars

Gone With the Wind – Margaret Mitchell237241

After years of being nagged by my mum to read this hefty tome so that she watch the movie with me, I finally picked it up, and surprisingly, I couldn’t put it down. I was utterly captivated by Scarlett. I can’t remember the last time I admired a character so much. She was so interesting and masterfully crafted. She was so stubbornly and unfailingly herself that it was wonderful to witness time and time again through the plot. She was such a strong character and I adored her.

Not only was Scarlett amazing, but every character was fully fleshed out and made real for me. Melanie felt like a close friend, Ashley an abandoned teddy that you wanted to hug and never let go. And Rhett. He was a treasured character. The right amount of perfect for this spanning tale of love, loss and war.

I hadn’t realised going in that it was going to have such a heavy focus on the war and the politics of the time, and really it was ridiculously interesting since I know nothing of the American Civil War. It was thrilling to read. After Scarlett and Melanie’s retreat back to Tara, the book almost had a post-apocalyptic feel to it, because their entire lives had been irreversibly changed. I love seeing well-developed characters react and adapt to completely new lifestyles. It was such a fun ride to watch them all grow.

4 out of 5 stars