The Castaways by Lucy Clarke
Review by Emma Ferguson
The Castaways tells the story of two sisters torn apart. After an explosive argument with Lori the night before their journey to a remote island in Fiji, Erin tells her sister she is not getting on the plane. The decision changes her entire life when that very plane carrying Lori and eight others goes missing. Erin has spent two years trying to find her sister, unable to live without answers: What happened to that plane? How did it just disappear? Why has it never been found? But when the pilot resurfaces on an island in Fiji, everything changes once more and hope is reignited in Erin.
The narrative is split between the siblings. Lori tells the ‘then’ of two years ago when she finds herself trapped on a deserted island after the plane crashes, leaving only herself, a baby and three other men alive with her. Erin voices the ‘now’ chapters as she gets closer and closer to finding out what really happened. Their stories unravel alongside each other, revealing just the right amount of information to keep us guessing.
The familial bond captured in the book is raw and emotional, successfully tugging on our heartstrings throughout. The descriptive setting of the deserted island is engrossing and encapsulates Lori’s experience in the vivid jungle. Clarke has written an enthralling story.
Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan
Review by Natalie Joyce
Mayflies by Andrew O’Hagan is a coming-of-age novel focusing on life, death and enduring friendship. The novel is split into two—the first set in 1986, when two friends begin a friendship based on music, films and their dynamic connection, and the second in 2017, over thirty years later when they are grown men faced with bigger trials. Starting in a small Scottish town, it follows James and Tully who decide to take a summer trip together to the vibrant city of Manchester. Their plan is to go to gigs, chat up girls and have a thoroughly good time. This part of the novel captures what it is like to be young with a rebel spirit. It is also incredibly nostalgic for those who grew up in the eighties: the novel riffs on The Smiths, New Order, The Fall and Buzzcocks, and how these bands provided the escape one needed during 80s Thatcherism.
Mayflies is not only influenced by the music of the 80s, but how growing up in Thatcher’s Britain had a profound impact on individuals through the Miners’ strike and the devastation Thatcher’s decisions had on the population. The novel begins as a celebration of youth and music that evolves into a tender and heart-breaking tale about friendship and time, and how nothing stays the same forever.
The second part of the novel begins in 2017 when one of the characters is dying. At this point, the narrative focuses on the sensitive topic of euthanasia which is bound to provoke discussion amongst its readers. While this part is darker and more intense, it explores the relationship between James and Tully, how their lives have changed and how they adapt to life’s challenges. Mayflies is indeed a requiem to friendship.
Milk Fed by Melissa Broder
Review by Cassie Waters
Milk Fed is a truly unique novel. It is an erotic love story about food, faith and mothering. Rachel works in Hollywood talent management agency where she is surrounded by ultra-thin women. She is emotionally and spiritually separated from her parents, her Jewish faith and her body. As a chubby child, her mum’s constant obsession with thinness led her to develop an eating disorder. Now, aged 24, she attempts to hide it, eating her lunch secretly in food chains she knows her colleagues won’t go to. That is until she meets and falls in love with Miriam, an Orthodox Jewish woman working in her family’s frozen yoghurt chain who is confident in her fatness and wants to get Rachel to enjoy the myriad of frozen desserts on offer as much as she herself does.
What starts with Rachel taking the first bite out of a sprinkle covered frozen yoghurt turns into a frenzied food orgy. When reading the excessively detailed descriptions of food, I wasn’t sure whether to enjoy it and bask in the the food-induced revelry, or feel repulsed. Broder’s description of food is erotic and I felt queasy at times.
What I did enjoy, was the exploration of Rachel’s relationship with Miriam and how it helps me reconnect with her Jewish faith. Rachel attends Shabbat at Miriam’s house and is surprised when her mother says that all of her daughters are beautiful, never thinking to question Miriam’s food choices.
Milk Fed is strange and yet deeply relatable. I am sure many women in their twenties will read this and see themselves in Rachel, a woman finding herself outside of her mother, career and restrictions.