Not to be Overlooked
By Jasmine Aldridge and Anna Hall
Not To Be Overlooked introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. This week’s column covers a review of Isaac and the Egg by Bobby Palmer and The Lady's Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite.
Isaac and the Egg by Bobby Palmer
Review by Jasmine Aldridge
In the throes of grief, Isaac Addy finds a screaming egg in the forest and decides to take it home. Little does he know that this egg will become an unlikely friend and help him face a loss that has ripped his life apart from the inside out. Learning to grow together, Egg integrates itself into every aspect of Isaac’s life, but as it gains intelligence and understanding, the companionship poses new problems. A dive into intimacy, bereavement and the power of the unknown, Bobby Palmer’s imaginative modern debut is a decisive shift in what literature can be.
The ideas Palmer conjoins through personal and illuminating language are alien in themselves yet work in unbelievable familiarity with one another. The novel begins in medias res, where we meet the protagonist Isaac at the threshold of life and death, cornered by his grief and losing grip on his reality. He is broken and desperate for a way out. Egg’s appearance is one of comedy and surprise - an alien in the forest rarely has such a personality - and his outlandish nature contrasts with the heavier topics explored through Isaac’s growth. However, this isn’t to say that there is an imbalance: Palmer expertly orchestrates humour with loss to offer an unexpectedly candid illustration of real life. Even though Egg and Isaac speak different languages (and call different planets home), they find companionship in their shared losses and joys: from anything as simple as watching TV, to as transformative as readjusting to life alone, their friendship holds them steady.
Through these unlikely pairings of emotion and fantasy, Isaac and the Egg explore the intricacies of the self with unparalleled perception and compassion. This perception is so lurid that it can resonate differently with everyone, meaning this book remains uncategorisable in its intention and content. Like Isaac, the reader is left to find their path through the weird and wonderful pathways hidden in this novel’s mesmerising sentences. Although the undertones of this book are sad, the beautiful message of hope and learning to find strength and happiness in the most unlikely of places make it a truly magical and transformative book to read.
Quirky, heart-wrenching and hysterical at times, Palmer’s debut is for anyone who enjoys emotional stories of fantastical friendship and strikingly raw human experiences. Overall, a magical read, and egg’s “thwap thwap'' footsteps will stay with you for a long time.
The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite
Review by Anna Hall
Sometimes all one wants is to fall into an easy read; like the literary
version of watching reality TV or a favorite show on repeat. On the surface that’s what Olivia Waite gives in her romance novel The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics. However, when diving deeper one can find more than just an engaging romance between Lucy Muchelney and Catherine St. Day. The story takes place in 19th century England, following Lucy who is an astrologist lost in her father’s shadow and society’s opinions on women in science, and Catherine whose life has been in a constant state of drab after the death of her husband and the end to an unhappy marriage.
The story thrusts the two women together, letting readers sit back and watch as they overcome past relationships and the scars they've left, aspirations that seem impossible, and their growing attraction. Though it's not the ease of the read that makes it so exceptional, rather it's the author's ability to drop such noteworthy quotes that leave one forgetting that it was just a fun novel. The book touches on feminist sentiments that are appropriate for the time period, yet the way Waite articulates the struggles of the time permeates the era and becomes beautifully relevant to the present day. As Lucy struggles to be accepted as an astronomer in polite society she often points out that the nature of science is about collaboration and a desire to move forward in the pursuit of truth.
Catherine, on the other hand, is the perfect example of someone recreating who they are. She’s always been the wife of an astronomer, but as she and Lucy interact, she slowly finds her own person. Waite has a way of making such poignant statements on what art is versus what art is expected to be. Through Catherine we get this exploration of interests that challenge who gets to define us and what we’re passionate about.
Olivia Waite does the perfect job of intertwining the fun of a cute romance whilst giving readers the “Oh!” moments that leave the book with highlights and notes in the margin. The book is definitely a hidden gem in the world of sapphic romances and becomes the perfect example of the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover.”