Recently, a friend mentioned she was reading The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves by Stephen Grosz. Whether through grief, marital breakdown, family, health, financial or career crises, everyone experiences difficulties in life. And, at times, it is difficult to know what to do for the best. We can’t always discuss problems with family or friends.
Striking a chord
Grosz is a psychoanalyst so his thoughts and insights are interesting. The Examined Life is a series of short stories based on cases he encountered during his years in practice. The individual stories are quite different but aspects of them will strike a chord for many people — either with their personal experience or experiences of friends or family.
At times, I found his observations surprising. And at times, the problems don’t seem significant enough to warrant so much therapy time. I was frustrated that the problems didn’t always have clear solutions or resolutions. However, despite these reservations, I liked this book. The individual stories are short but I took my time reading them because I wanted to think about each problem and solution before moving on to the next. If you’re interested in what makes people tick, I think The Examined Life is worth a read. I bought the Kindle edition.
The blurb for Tony Connolly Brexit & Ireland promises the inside story of the Irish response to the outcome of the UK’s 2016 referendum on EU membership.
Connolly, Europe editor for Ireland’s public broadcaster RTE, kicks off with a description of events on the night of 23 June 2016. Drinks flow in a Brussels bar where UK officials await the referendum result. EU officials watching the results on Sky TV. Irish officials prepare to convene at Government buildings at 3 am. Farmers go to bed expecting ‘remain’ to prevail.
But ‘leave’ won and Connolly’s book describes what has happened since that night. It’s a highly readable and absorbing account covering developments up to autumn 2017.
Connolly is strong on the interactions between Irish politicians and civil servants and their European and British counterparts. While many of the key events described are familiar from Brexit news coverage, Connolly’s behind the scenes insights and commentary are fascinating.
Bringing Brexit to life
As well as covering politics and policy, Connolly brings Brexit to life by talking to business owners. There is a mushroom business owner nervously watching sterling on the night of June 23. There are farmers heading for bed thinking that ‘remain’ will prevail and waking to find ‘leave’ has won. Connolly looks in detail at dairy and beef farmers, a fishing business and various entrepreneurs. He outlines their reliance on the UK market and describes the interactions between businesses in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The later sections of the book focus on the evolving debate about the post-Brexit border between Ireland and Northern Ireland — a debate still ongoing at the time of writing.
At 350-odd pages, Brexit & Ireland is a fast and absorbing read and an insightful overview of developments thus far.
Brexit & Ireland | The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response by Tony Connolly is published by Penguin.
I really liked how In a Cottage in the Woods opened. Cass Green sets up the story in just a couple of pages.
She introduces a troubled heroine, Neve Carey and a suicidal woman called Isabelle. Neve meets Isabelle on a bridge and they have a brief conversation just before Isabelle jumps. Although brief, we learn a lot about Neve from this conversation. For one thing, she’s kind enough to stop and help a stranger. She’s also very hard on herself. She questions her own motivations, and thinks that she falls short. She’s someone who does the right thing when it matters, but she’s also troubled and unhappy. Within just a couple of pages, you get a really strong sense of who she is and why she does what she does.
Neve’s a very believable character. There’s a lot going wrong in her life — her relationship has broken up and she’s temporarily staying in sister’s house because she can’t afford to stay anywhere else. Her work is boring and she’s underpaid. Her financial insecurity and emotional unhappiness impact her relationships, stirring up conflict that isolates her from family and friends. This isolation is what makes her the perfect heroine for Cass Green.
Cottage in the Woods
Neve inherits Isabelle’s cottage in the woods when she has hit rock bottom — no home, no relationship, no money, no job. So she has no choice but to move in. The cottage is isolated and creepy, making it an excellent setting for Neve to face her demons. And not all of them are internal. Someone doesn’t want Neve in the cottage. The question is who? And why?
In a Cottage in the Woods is an entertaining page turner and a fast read. I enjoyed it. If you like the sound of it, you might also like The Woman Next Door.