Book Review: My Year of Rest and Relaxation

Author: Ottessa Moshfegh

Review: I experienced this book as a slow burner, physically. Frustrated and tense I struggled to find a reason to continue beyond the first half; its bleakness was suffocating. And then I saw something else, a reminder of a line I used only a few months back – “I wish there was something I could take that would make grief go away”. What initially felt like indulgent escapism became a book about re-calibration and – quite literally – a renewal of a mind and body. My appreciation became visceral, the metaphors made sense as life for the protagonist emerged through death. With prose that’s sharp, witty and strangely poignant, I too came out the other side – dare I say – rested and a little more restored.

Pages: 289

Genre: Literary Fiction

Reviewer: Jody

Book Blurb:A shockingly, hilarious and strangely tender novel about a young woman’s experiment in narcotic hibernation, aided and abetted by one of the worst psychiatrists in the annals of literature. Our narrator has many of the advantages of life, on the surface. Young, thin, pretty, a recent Columbia graduate, she lives in a apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan paid for, like everything else, by her inheritance. But there is a vacuum at the heart of things, and it isn’t just the loss of her parents in college, or the way her Wall Street boyfriend treats her, or her sadomasochistic relationship with her alleged best friend. It’s the year 2000 in a city aglitter with wealth and possibility; what could be so terribly wrong?

This story of a year spent under the influence of a truly mad combination of drugs, designed to heal us from our alienation from this world, shows us how reasonable, even necessary, that alienation sometimes is. Blackly funny, both merciless and compassionate – dangling its legs over the ledge of 9/11 – this novel is a showcase for the gifts of one of America’s major young writers working at the height of her powers.

Quarterly Bookclub 7 – Wrap

NEXT MEETUP: Friday 14th June 2019

BOOK: ‘No Friend but the Mountains’ by Behrouz Boochani (translated by Omid Tofighan)

I have a dilemma. How do I write about a book that I don’t like? Do I write nothing at all? I’m torn because I take my hat off to anyone who has written a book, published or not. I haven’t. I’m awed by the sheer will and determination one must possess to complete such a project. Right now, I don’t have it. Perhaps I may never have it. Although like a lot of people some part of me believes that there’s a book in me somewhere, at some future time in my life. Who knows? And if there is, will I have the courage to put it out into the world? Because it’s courage and fortitude and resilience that’s needed to open yourself up to not just critique but also criticism. Maybe the answer is to simply not include those books I don’t connect with for whatever reason.

The space I’m in right now yearns for more kindness and generosity in this world. If I put something out to there, am I responsible for the effects of that? Even if those effects don’t find their way back to the subject of my words? Yes. I am.

Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m only going to talk about books that I do like. Perhaps that looks like a 3+ star rating. And, give respect to all that put their labour’s out there for the rest of us to make of them what we will.

So, given this, check out my review on Richard Powers ‘The Overstory’ (create link to blog post). What a popular choice this was for a bookclub read even if we hadn’t all quite made it to the end, but the consensus was that we would all finish. When you read a book about the human exploitation of the natural resource of trees, it’s hard not to think about the merit of buying hard copy books. Some of us are unlikely to embrace the e-reader movement because the time spent with a book is as much a tactile experience as it is an emotional and intellectual one and each of these contribute so much to the experience of reading. Then there are those of us that for practical reasons like the lack of bookshelf availability, the ability to customise the text size and simple convenience are starting to be drawn further into the e-book world. I for one, can add just a little bit of guilt to the mix of buying physical books after reading ‘The Overstory’, but there will always be exceptions!

One of the topics that we discussed was books that have made an impact on each of us. It was fascinating to not only hear our stories but to watch each other as we talked about these experiences, each person’s face gave away so much more than our words could have done on their own. As a follow-up I’ve written a piece called ‘On Reading…’ featuring a tribute to some of my memories with books that have made my reading life to date so vivid.

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