Style, menopause, hot sauce & books – how’s that for a lead in?! A surprise mini post today because there are a few things I’ve been meaning to mention and one in particular that I need to flag before Friday. I do like posting on a Tuesday again though – even if it’s just a quick ‘hello’ it helps me to feel as though life’s getting back to normal which it is in a way. I had my second jab on Saturday so spent the weekend feeling a bit peculiar – at one point I nodded off on the sofa and then jumped up in a rush to take the Christmas tree down… something very strange was going on in my Covid fuelled brain. Anyway I’m back to normal now and feeling very lucky and thankful to both the NHS and Astra Zeneca.
So, let’s crack on with what I have to tell you because I don’t have much time which will no doubt be a relief because it means I can’t chat for as long as usual.
Books – The Women’s Prize For Fiction Shortlist
Firstly, given that I suspected a sofa weekend lay ahead, I was thrilled when the Women’s Prize for Fiction got in touch last week to see if I’d like copies of the books in the shortlist. I don’t know about you but having spent lockdown retreating into easy to read page-turners I’m ready for something with a bit more substance. It’s great that we’re gaining a reputation here as women who read rather than just look and so I’m happy to help raise awareness of the six finalists and their books here. They are:
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
“The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.”
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
“Piranesi lives in the House. Perhaps he always has. In his notebooks, day after day, he makes a clear and careful record of its wonders: the labyrinth of halls, the thousands upon thousands of statues, the tides which thunder up staircases, the clouds which move in slow procession through the upper halls.
On Tuesdays and Fridays Piranesi sees his friend, the Other. At other times he brings tributes of food and waterlilies to the Dead. But mostly, he is alone. Messages begin to appear, scratched out in chalk on the pavements. There is someone new in the House. But who are they and what do they want? Are they a friend or do they bring destruction and madness as the Other claims?
Lost texts must be found; secrets must be uncovered. The world that Piranesi thought he knew is becoming strange and dangerous. The Beauty of the House is immeasurable; its Kindness infinite.”
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller
“What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant?
What would you do to get it back?
Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Inside the walls of their old cottage they make music, and in the garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.
But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. Jeanie and Julius would do anything to preserve their small sanctuary against the perils of the outside world, even as their mother’s secrets begin to unravel, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.
Unsettled Ground is a heart-stopping novel of betrayal and resilience, love and survival. It is a portrait of life on the fringes of society that explores with dazzling emotional power how we can build our lives on broken foundations, and spin light from darkness.”
Transcendent Kingdom by Vaa Gyasi
“As a child Gifty would ask her parents to tell the story of their journey from Ghana to Alabama, seeking escape in myths of heroism and romance. When her father and brother succumb to the hard reality of immigrant life in the American South, their family of four becomes two – and the life Gifty dreamed of slips away. Years later, desperate to understand the opioid addiction that destroyed her brother’s life, she turns to science for answers. But when her mother comes to stay, Gifty soon learns that the roots of their tangled traumas reach farther than she ever thought. Tracing her family’s story through continents and generations will take her deep into the dark heart of modern America.”
How The One Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
“In Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, Lala’s grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister, a cautionary tale about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers. For Wilma, it’s the story of a wilful adventurer, who ignores the warnings of those around her, and suffers as a result.
When Lala grows up, she sees it offers hope – of life after losing a baby in the most terrible of circumstances and marrying the wrong man. And Mira Whalen? It’s about keeping alive, trying to make sense of the fact that her husband has been murdered, and she didn’t get the chance to tell him that she loved him after all.
How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps her House is the story of three marriages, and of a beautiful island paradise where, beyond the white sand beaches and the wealthy tourists, lies poverty, menacing violence and the story of the sacrifices some women make to survive.”
No one is talking about this by Patricia Lockwood
“A woman known for her viral social media posts travels the world speaking to her adoring fans, her entire existence overwhelmed by the internet – or what she terms ‘the portal’. Are we in hell? the people of the portal ask themselves. Are we all just going to keep doing this until we die? Suddenly, two texts from her mother pierce the fray: ‘Something has gone wrong’ and ‘How soon can you get here?’
As real life and its stakes collide with the increasing absurdity of the portal, the woman confronts a world that seems to contain both an abundance of proof that there is goodness, empathy and justice in the universe, and a deluge of evidence to the contrary.”
Style – new small ethical brand – Kate Barton
Style – WIW
Style – one to revisit?
Style, menopause, hot sauce & books
Hot sauce – Indian ‘ketchup’
Menopause – Have your say – Women’s Health Strategy
Last of all I’m sure you’ve noticed that the topic of menopause is trending at the moment and it’s always good to throw some weight behind it before attention moves on to another cause. I’m pleased to say that the government is reviewing its Women’s Health strategy, albeit rather covertly. There’s a survey in the public domain that hasn’t been very well publicised but it’s a really good way for us to prove the need for better provision for menopausal women. It will influence strategy at all kinds of levels going forward, including NHS care.
Menopause – Watch Davina McCall’s ‘Sex, Myths and The Menopause’ (live if you can!)
I’m sure you’ve already heard that tomorrow night (Weds 12th May) at 9pm Davina McCall is fronting a Channel 4 programme on menopause. She reveals that she was told from a professional perspective not to talk about it, that menopause was “ageing and a bit unsavoury.” However regardless of that she’s gone ahead explaining that for her, going through menopause was so bad it was a bit like withdrawing from heroin at times.
It’s really important that we prove to the media industry that menopause is not ‘unsavoury,’ showing how much interest there is by making sure it has high viewing figures. Watch it live if you can rather than on catch-up, that way you’ll help to give it even more credibility. If the TV execs see that viewers were waiting to watch, it proves that it’s a relevant topic.
Menopause – read this before the programme if you have time
The show’s producer wrote a really good piece in The Observer on Sunday so if you missed it, you can read it here. Intelligent voices are gathering in all the right places and opinions are slowly changing.
Wow – that was a mixed bag today wasn’t it? And now I must dash but I’ll be back on Friday with another try-on of clothes for our British Summer… and looking at the weather forecast the photos may be representative of it in all its unpredictable glory!
Disclosure: “Cornucopia – style, menopause, hot sauce & books” is not a sponsored post
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