Windswept & Interesting by Billy Connolly
Review by Natalie Joyce
Affectionately known as the ‘Big Yin’ in his homeland of Bonnie Scotland and beyond, comedy legend and national treasure Billy Connolly presents his first full-length memoir Windswept & Interesting – detailing his deprived upbringing in Glasgow to Global success and the challenges of his later years due to Parkinson’s Disease.
Connolly recalls his early life and the appalling abuse he endured at the hands of his own family, the violence inflicted upon him from the nuns at his school, with rulers crashing down on his knuckles and extreme physical violence. The years of physical and sexual abuse from his father affected him greatly, but he made a conscious decision to hide the abuse during his rise to stardom in the 1970s and 1980s as he didn’t want to talk about it.
But this book also has endearing elements, such as the love Connolly has for his sister Florence, who looked after him when their mother left, recounting that Florence “bathed me, fed me, dressed me,” and took on the role of his absent mother, despite being just eighteen months his senior.
In the early 1960s, he was a welder in the Glasgow shipyards, before pursuing a career as a folk singer, and then in the 1970s, transitioned into the comedy scene for which he is best known. It was an appearance on Michael Parkinson’s show in 1975 which made Billy a national star, from stand-up shows to roles in Hollywood movies, the world was his oyster, and he made his mark.
Windswept & Interesting consists of chronologically arranged reminiscences, beginning with his tough and traumatic upbringing, and ending with a more settled version of himself – despite battling prostate cancer and facing life with Parkinson’s. This book shows how Billy Connolly faces life with great equanimity and is a testament of how he became a true comedic legend and National Hero.
Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam
Review by Cassie Waters
Rumaan Alam’s third novel is a suspenseful and dream-like disaster tale. Amanda and Clay, a wealthy middle-class couple, are on an idyllic holiday in the Hamptons with their children when there’s a knock on the door late at night. They open it and find an older black couple, GH Washington and his wife, Ruth. They are the owners of the Airbnb and they’re escaping a city-wide blackout that is causing chaos across New York.
Amanda and Clay’s suspicion of the other couple and their sense of racial tension is quickly subsumed by more pressing worries. Before the internet cuts out, a push notification warns them that the blackout has spread, and a hurricane has hit the East Coast. The characters have no choice but to trust each other, clinging to small displays of normality as increasingly strange things begin to happen. Vast herds of deer can be seen walking through the fields as one of the character’s teeth alarmingly and seemingly for no reason falls out, whilst Ruth and teenage Rose bake a cake.
However, if you’re expecting a moment when the tension will reach its climax and the characters will be forced to run or fight for their lives, it won’t arrive. The tension builds and builds, but the characters stay in a state of suspense, unsure of what the future holds and waiting indoors to see what arrives. Instead of rehashing the tropes of a classic disaster novel, this masterful book examines race and class and taps into our fears surrounding pandemics, climate change and technology. It will tap into your experience of the early stages of the pandemic and leave you wondering about what could happen next.
It Ends with Us by Colleen Hoover
Review by Halimah Haque
Colleen Hoover’s novels are known to be emotional rollercoasters and her third book, It Ends with Us, is no different. Lily hasn’t always had it easy, brought up in an abusive home, she works hard for a life different from her mother’s. After graduating from college, she moves to Boston leaving her small town in Maine and opens her own business. There, she meets neurosurgeon Ryle and neither of them can ignore the undeniable chemistry that they share.
Despite Ryle’s initial aversion to committed relationships, the pair delve into the perfect romance, until haunting memories from Lily’s past begin to reappear – as well as overwhelming thoughts of her first love Atlas. When Atlas suddenly re-enters Lily’s life, her fairy-tale world with Ryle begins to fall apart – forcing her to face her past.
This book brilliantly captures the complexity of abusive relationships, reflecting Lily’s parents’ relationship through her own. While both Ryle and Atlas are shown to love Lily wholeheartedly, Hoover shows us as readers how that simply isn’t enough. I loved seeing the similarities and differences between the relationship she had with Ryle and her past with Atlas, through her intimate letters. It was a really nice touch and encapsulated her growth as a character.
Although I adored this book, the epilogue felt rushed and didn’t mirror the intense journey Lily had undergone throughout. It would’ve been therapeutic to have a moment where Lily could truly reflect on her experiences. But given her many traumas and hardships, I appreciate Hoover’s attempt at a lighter ending and giving her protagonist the happiness, she deserved.