The Lit Club: Books We Read in One Sitting

 


[Image description: A stack of colourful books sits on the table. There is a hot drink in a light green cup next to it. Above are words: Risen Book Club: Books We Read in One Sitting.]

 

Edited by Kseniia Gridneva


Hello, bookworms! This month’s Lit Club theme is Books We Read in One Sitting. Enjoy!

 

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[Image description: Meg's hand is holding Oranges are not the only fruit by Jeanette Winterson over the bookshelf filled with books. There is a child in a dress holding onto a bicycle that is too large for her on the cover.]


Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson


Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is a coming-of-age story, part fiction, part based on Winterson’s life growing up in a strict protestant household and eventually falling in love with a woman. It explores religion and sexuality, mixed with fairytale-like stories which makes it a brilliant compelling read.

For such a short book at 220 pages, it is extremely captivating and well written. The gritty raw emotion of Jeanette’s feelings, whilst standing up against a whole community for what she believes in, and eventually severing all ties with her family. 

Although this book is part fiction, it’s realistic and educational. I am aware of the extremes some religions go to, but the fight LGBTQ people go through to be themselves daily is important. The almost cult-like actions of this community are absolutely terrifying and my heart goes out to anyone who’s had to hide or has been cast out by loved ones.

5 stars 🌟
Review by Meg Scarbie




[Image description: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong laying on top of flowery cross-stitch in progress. The cover of the book is dark blue with orange autumn leaves. There is a blue ribbon used as a bookmark.]


On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong


Ocean Vuong's devastatingly gorgeous first novel is a painful but extraordinary coming-of-age story about surviving the aftermath of all kinds of trauma. It takes the form of a young gay Vietnamese American writer's letters to his mother. While she doesn’t read English, he doesn't write Vietnamese “above second grade”. And yet is it important for him to write this confessional piece, to feel his family close once again. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous is then about processing and articulating difficult memories through the lenses of history, poetry, and beauty. 


“[A] woman gifted herself a new name—Lan—in that naming claimed herself beautiful, then made that beauty into something worth keeping. From that, a daughter was born, and from that daughter, a son. All this time I told myself we were born from war—but I was wrong, Ma. We were born from beauty.” 


The result is a lyrical narrative of a fractured family, torn by harrowing experiences — those of the mother and grandmother in Vietnam, and of the boy they raised together in Hartford in the 1990s. Abused by his loving but mentally ill mother and tormented by schoolmates, the narrator, Little Dog, eventually finds solace in his first love affair, a tragic relationship with a rough American teenager tempted by drugs. His relationship with Trevor takes centre stage in the middle of the book. Ocean Vuong doesn’t pull his punches, Little Dog’s and Trevor’s friendship and later relationship is messy, vivid, and filled with scenes of awkward but tender sexual discovery. 


“The first time we fucked, we didn’t fuck at all”; “We did what we had seen in porn”; “He fucked my hand until he shuddered, wet, like the muffler of a truck starting up in the rain.” 


As beautiful as the prose is throughout, however, this novel requires a lot of patience. The language is often figurative, more interested in exploring emotions rather than what had actually happened. There is a lot of information, but it comes to the reader in a jumble, out of sequence, the combination of hardships that Little Dog endures and the beauty the adult writer finds in them. And yet I couldn’t put this book down. It felt like reading a confessional of a dear friend you lost touch with one summer after school. That friend that doesn’t have everything figured out but flounders about in life alongside you, trying to make sense of it all.


“Do you ever wonder if sadness and happiness can be combined, to make a deep purple feeling, not good, not bad, but remarkable simply because you didn’t have to live on one side or the other?”


5/5 stars 
Review by Kseniia Gridneva.