Never far from Nowhere – Andrea Levy

Title: Never far from Nowhereneverfarfromnowhere
: Andrea Levy
Published by: Headline Review
Publication date: Aug 8th 1996
Genre: General Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Bury Library

Buy the Book: Amazon.

This was one of my ‘my son is playing up, grab the first book I can’ visits to the local library – I know there is a huge thing of judging a book by it’s cover, but does that carry over to book spines as well? I was honestly attracted to the colour pink of this book and by the time I had checked out of the library I hadn’t even read the blurb on the back to see what it was about. That had to wait until I had gotten home and settled for the evening. In all honesty, I rolled my eyes and sighed about what I had picked up. For some reason, I try to avoid books that have won some sort of award, I think that has something to do with then setting my expectations to high and being disappointed.

Disappointed, I was not. Never far from Nowhere tells is the coming-of-age story of two sisters, Olive and Vivien and how vastly different their lives are based on the simple fact that one sister has a darker shade of skin than the other. I found it utterly fascinating, if not horrible, how the lives of these first English-born generation immigrants; their parents having moved over from Jamaica, are effected by their desires to retain (or reject) their own cultural identity. An identity that their mother herself has rejected, having never seen herself as ‘black’ which gives across a very mixed message to her daughters. The crunch of the story is about prejudice, something that Olive, the elder of the two daughters and having darker skin and frizzier hair, encounters much more readily than her younger sister; who didn’t inherit the African genes quite as much as her sister.

In a time where now we might be getting a little fed up of having political correctness shoved down our throats, this story might feel as if it is going ‘one step to far’ at times in regards to what happens to the main characters and their individual stories, but I can only imagine that this extreme level of prejudice was rampant during the 1970’s when the story was set. Each chapter gives us a change in perspective between the two sisters and we follow them on a gripping narrative of their lives as they grow and make their life choices – as a reader, I felt a vast array of emotions for what each of the girls chose, elation, anger, frustration; a sign of a good author!

As the title suggests though, the book is somewhat depressing. There is no escaping the life that these girls lead, and even though one of the sisters manages to get to University and away from the Council Estate London setting of her younger years, there is still a  forlorn feeling of hopelessness. Now, I am actually a bit of a fan of the dreary, so I found this added to the story for me, but I know it’s not for everyone. So, if you’re looking for a happy ending, then this probably won’t make you feel fulfilled. Also, I found that the ending came a bit too soon; I would have loved to have seen what choices the sisters came up with and if the ideas they came out with part way through (The idea to return ‘home’ to Jamaica) came to fruition. I think as a snapshot into the younger lives of the family and the contrast of their choices, this story is brilliant and captivating (I read the book in two days, which is record-time for me!) but the lack of any real resolution is a bit of a down-side.

Overall, I found the tale wonderful and insightful. It is tastefully and sensitively written, allowing us to see into the lives and never really reached dreams of an immigrant family during a time when immigration was heavily frowned upon – to put it lightly. It’s an interesting read and I am pleased to have been able to judge this book by the shade of (ironically) pink of the books spine.


Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Tdownloaditle: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Publication date: September, 2013
Genre: Romance
Pages: 399
Format: eBook
Source: Kobo

Buy the Book – Amazon

Buy the Book – Kobo

This is the second book in a row I have read called Fangirl – read about the previous book here.

I don’t even know where to really begin when it comes to reviewing this book – I guess I should start by saying that this book is about Cath, a fangirl for the fictional series’Book of Mages’ (Which while in the process of writing this review I have discovered that the author has written the book ‘Carry on’ which is about the characters from the fictional books featured in this novel) and how she obsesses over these fictional characters and cannot leave them behind even as she is starting a new live at University – something that her twin sister Wren seems to have done with ease. It’s not that she can’t leave them behind, it’s that she doesn’t want too; she wants to keep writing fan fiction about the Book of Mages characters forever. That’s fair. Who in this world really wants to grow up?

I guess this brings me to the first point of the story that I had deep issues with. Cath, doesn’t change. Everything that happens in the book is through the fault of someone or something else. Cath never seems to accept the blame for what she does. She submits some fanfiction for a creative-writing assignment and gets failed for it (Obviously) but the whole issue of plagerism that causes her failure just seems to ‘go away’ it’s like a slap on the wrist and done. Rather than learn from this, Cath just goes back to obsessing over the characters like there was no cause and effect. And, it’s this breezy way that Cath goes about everything that irritated me the most – more than the cliche aspect of her being a Fangirl that sits in her room alone without any real friends – she, as a character doesn’t change or really develop throughout the story. Unlike the supporting character of her twin sister Wren; who if this book was actually about would have been a much more interesting character to read about.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy reading Fangirl because I did. Even if some of it was at the expense of some self reflection in hindsight! At one point in my life, I was Cath. Everything I did centred around Fangirling and attaching myself to my fandoms – writing fanfiction until the small hours of the morning at the sake and expense of my school life! So, I was really interested in seeing how Cath would change when she got to college, but see the above comments on that. And she can’t take criticism for toffee – everyone thinks she is brilliant from her Professor at college to her thousands upon thousands of internet fanfiction readers.

The whole plot really centres around how Cath and Levi meet and get along and the relationship that develops between them and for the most part they’re a nice couple, but I find it strange that any guy would be interested in reading any Fangirls yaoi/slash/gay romance fanfiction, let alone have their girlfriend read it out loud to them while cuddled up together. Because of the nature of Cath – her extremely naive way of thinking and her inability to grow up – I actually found their relationship a little bit hard to swallow. Sure, for whatever reason, Levi really likes Cath (Even though she’s pretty mean and demanding) but Caths unwillingness to drop the fanfiction stuff and pay any interest to him and his life, is a little bit weird; and he’s not exactly sticking around cause they’re having hot, wild passionate sex, either! If anything, their relationship barely progresses beyond holding hands and the big romance scene is just a bit odd.

Another downfall of the book, is that the series that Cath fangirls over, is made up by the author, but it’s essentially a rip-off of Harry Potter called Simon Snow and that didn’t sit to comfortably – seeing as there are scene from both the official rip-off and the fan fiction interjected between chapters of the actual book; they didn’t really add anything to the story either. Fine, it’s there, it’s what Cath fangirls over. I can understand there had to be something for Cath to Fangirl over and it’s can’t be actual Harry Potter because of copyright and all that fancy legal stuff. Then Harry Potter gets mentioned. I found that extremely jarring. Almost as jarring as having to read stuff about the character Simon Snow and his partner in crime Baz – and when I say partner in crime, I mean in a Harry/Draco way. Only, you care about Harry and Draco, because the book you’re reading about them in is… about them. In Fangirl, I gave no shits about Simon and Baz, because the book wasn’t about them. It’s meant to be about Cath and Levi!

I mostly found this book entertaining because the position of the main character is one that I can related to.Many a time, I had lamented that all the ‘best guys in the world are fictional’ and looking back on it through Cath, I was cringing and thinking ‘was I really that bad.’ So I think, if you’re looking to read a book where you can relate to a Fangirl main character then give the book a go. But if you’re looking for a book that will stick with you or you’re looking for a book that will end in some profound manner then you’re better off looking elsewhere.