Not To Be Overlooked
Not To Be Overlooked introduces a variety of wonderful but lesser-known books to assist readers in finding their next great reads. The column covers poetry and fiction with reviews by Emily and Jacqueline respectively.
She Must Be Mad by Charly Cox
Published by HarperCollins HQ, September 2018
Dubbed as “social media’s answer to Carol Ann Duffy”, with odes to Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and Solange’s Instagram stories, She Must Be Mad is a compilation of prose and poetry for “every girl who feels too much”. Divided into four categories: she must be in love, she must be mad, she must be fat and she must be an adult, Charly Cox leaves a trail of glitter as she recounts vignettes of adolescence with incredible elegance and tenderness. From first kisses to failed nights out, to the existential hatred of kale leaves, Cox covers it all.
Charly was 22 when she published this book, with some pieces written when she was as young as 15. Her talent leaps off the page; when I first read it, I would highlight particular poems I loved, and now I have an almost entirely neon copy beaming next to me. She explores difficult topics like body image and mental health with disarming candidness and vulnerability. Because of this, moments of hope shine through like beacons, and that is what I loved the most about She Must Be Mad. The poem porn was especially striking, as Charly dismantles the idea that women’s worth is measured by their bodies, both by their own and their partner’s projections – “Why do they never show the naps? The intimate legs twined like spaghetti/ Cooked and thrown back in the pack/ Stuck with starchy love”. Coming of age is, in some ways, understood as a mourning of youth, as evident by the author’s recount of her childlike perspective of funerals and grief.
The transition from poetry to prose is seamless, whilst Charly’s use of structure and style is unapologetically distinctive and varied throughout. I was brought to tears by her tribute to her Grandad, seaweed – for grandad, not least because of the picture of him holding hands with a ‘pint-sized’ Charly. This book is ultimately a celebration of love, our physical longing for it, and it implores us to recognise it in places we sometimes would not think to look. I could not recommend it more!
Indelicacy by Amina Cain
Published by Daunt Books, July 2020
Anima Cain’s Indelicacy tells the story of Vitória, a woman whose life changes when she marries a wealthy man she meets at the museum where she works as a cleaning lady. From the outset, Vitória knows that, no matter her station in life, she wants to write. During her time working at the museum, she is enthralled by the paintings that surround her, and she carves time out to write about them. Vitória’s enthusiasm for the paintings is in direct contrast with the attitude of her friend and co-worker, Antoinette, who spends most of her days dreaming of a better life for herself, almost blind to the beauty of the art in front of her. This contrast most starkly comes into play when Vitória leaves her job as she prepares to marry, and feels somewhat ashamed of her newly found status, which leads her to disappear without warning Antoinette.
In her new life, Vitória finds an even greater purpose in writing than she did before. Specifically, Vitória starts writing about herself writing about paintings. When her maid, Solange, asks her if there is a market for what she is writing, Vitória simply answers: “My soul”, which functions as a gentle reminder to pursue one’s passions. While Vitória makes a new friend, Dana, and finds an equal amount of joy in taking ballet classes as she does visiting museums as a patron, she still feels ill at ease, both in status and in her marriage in general. She decides to try and make a change that she believes will make her happy and quell her uneasiness. What comes to pass is what she wanted, just not how she thought she would get it, and Cain ends things on a hopeful note.
Indelicacy is a short read at less than 160 pages, with very short chapters, but Cain writes in such a way that readers will want to savour every word and might wish the novel would never end. Unfortunately it does, but it is most certainly one that will stick with readers for quite some time.