Book Review: Sugar and Snails @Annecdotist @InspiredQuill

Goodreads Synopsis

Shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize.

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

My review

This is the first book I’ve read from Anne Goodwin. Sugar and Snails is her debut novel and what an impressive story it is. Anne draws upon her psychiatric knowledge to write a narrative which is absorbing, poignant and intriguing.

To begin with we are introduced to Diana a 40 something Professor living a life of solitude with her much loved cat Marmaduke (who almost takes on the role of a life partner – she can’t bare to part with him.) Diana begins looking for love and hopes to find it with Simon.

But Simon doesn’t know her secret…

As the story progresses we learn that there is so much more to this novel – discovering Diana’s past and her decision at the tender age of 15 to change gender. So this is both a coming-of-age story as well as an exploration of mid-life and gender issues. There are shifting time periods and settings in different cultures: (Cairo, Egypt and North Derbyshire, and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, in England,) which interweave the story in a confident way.

The characters of Diana’s mother and in particular her father are also carefully and brilliantly crafted.

My recommendation: Highly recommended. You will love this story if you enjoy thoughtful stories about gender, family relationships, psychiatric/mental health/self-harm issues, secrets and regrets and the search for love and acceptance.

Thank you so much to the author for a complimentary copy which I was pleased to receive. I happily give my unbiased opinion.

My rating: 5 stars.

Author Bio:

Anne Goodwin writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She is the author of three novels and short story collection published by small independent press, Inspired Quill. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is inspired by her previous incarnation as a clinical psychologist in a long-stay psychiatric hospital.

Authors Blog: annegoodwin.weebly.com

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Writespiration : The Non-Binary Prom

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I’m taking part in Sacha Black’s Writespiration writing prompt. https://sachablack.co.uk/2016/07/27/writespiration-93-underwater-ballroom/

Here’s what Sacha asked us to do this week:

Your challenge this week is to set a piece of flash fiction under water. Write a story in less than 200 words. Paste in the comments or use a pingback and submit before 7th August.

I couldn’t wait to write this, the prompt was just so perfect. I love the idea of setting the flash under water… What could I do with this? I decided to play with the prompt  a bit placing the main character’s emotion under water rather than actually setting the flash fiction under water.

I won’t say anymore about this until the end of the flash other than to say this is not a subject that I’ve ever written about on my blog before. Or even thought that about much until recently….

So I am a bit nervous sharing this piece of flash:

The Non-Binary Prom

I’m underwater, or I might as well be. The sun’s shining but I can’t feel it on my back. All I can hear is everyone whispering, a waterfall of gushing laughter presses against me.  Ed swims through and signs my tee-shirt. Nobody else comes near. I have my back to him but it doesn’t stop me from imagining his face creasing into a confident surfer I know who I am smile. He scribbles something, and his mates laugh. I tear my tee-shirt off, exposing my ripped body, and tiny almost bikini top. He’s written girl and then crossed it out and written boy with this ugly question mark.

‘What you wearing to prom, Les?’ he asks. He’s laughing, because he knows that I can’t make up my mind whether to wear a suit and tie, or a fucking dress.

Non-binary. That’s me. I’m not on the prissy Prom committee but if I was I’d plan an underwater ball with us all swimming, skinny dipping, no clothes, no fancy ball gowns, nowhere to write mean things. Just floating, tattooed skin, splashing I’m human. That’s who we really are. What’s inside counts but Ed can’t see that.  He’s drowning in binary.

© Marjorie Mallon 2016 – aka, Kyrosmagica. All Rights Reserved.

 

The idea for The Non-Binary Prom piece of flash came from several recent events.

Firstly, my daughter’s T-shirt signing, (last day at secondary school,) and the big event of the year – her prom. She absolutely loved dressing up, wearing the fancy dress, high heels, getting her make up done….. and it was lovely. But …. a person who identifies as non-binary would have a different experience. (Any non-binary people reading this do comment below.. I would be interested in hearing your opinion on events such as Prom.)

Also,  we’ve been talking about gender issues at home – a friend of my eldest daughter is non-binary. I have to say when my daughter first told me about her friend I found this really hard to comprehend. How can someone not identify as either male or a female? OK, I can see why someone might think of themselves as male but be in a female body and vice versa, but non-binary is much more fluid and its very fluidity makes it much more difficult to understand. So that gave me the idea to link it with being underwater pushing against a tide of same aged pupils who are secure in their birth gender and don’t understand you.

Then, quite by chance I came across a Vegan blog entitled Cooking on A Boot Strap – Self Love Stew written by Mx. Jack Monroe who is non-binary. As an aside the Self Love Stew recipe looked delicious, so I decided to check out Jack’s blog some more. Curious, (writers always are!) I read through Jack’s account.. I Have Something To Tell You

Jack’s account is so well written that I began to understand a little more about what it means to be non-binary. I’ve always considered myself to be a very open minded caring sort of person so that got me thinking… and that got me attempting to write from the point of view of a non-binary individual for the above piece of flash. Not sure I did it justice… Let me know what you think.

Hope my piece of flash got you thinking too… Are you, or do you know someone who is non-binary?

Do comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts on gender issues.

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My fun (totally not serious but nevertheless 90% true,) author bio on Wattpad – Link below.

Marjorie Mallon was born in Lion City: Singapore. She grew up in a mountainous court in Hong Kong. Her crazy parents dragged her  spotty soul away from her exotic childhood and her much loved dog Topsy to the frozen wastelands of Scotland. There she mastered Scottish country dancing, haggis bashing, bagpipe playing and a whole new Och Aye lingo. 
As a teenager she travelled to many far flung destinations to visit her abacus wielding wayfarer dad. On one such occasion a  barracuda swam by. It stopped to view her  bikini clad body, longing to take a big bite. With dogs' fangs replacing barracudas' teeth, she returned to her mother's birthplace: Kuching, Cat City. There, Blackie, a black-hearted dog sniffed her frightened butt, whimpered and ran away! Shortly after this extraordinary event an angry female Orang-Utan chased her unfit ass out of the Malaysian jungle believing that she was a threat to her babies! She still monkeys about, would love to own a cat, or a replacement Topsy but refuses to entertain  murderous dogs, or over-protective monkeys.
It's rumoured that she lives in the Venice of Cambridge, with her six foot hunk of a Rock God husband, and her two enchanted daughters. 
After such an upbringing her author's mind has taken total leave of its senses. When she's not writing, she eats exotic delicacies while belly dancing, or surfs to the far reaches of the moon. To chill out she practises Tai Chi and Yoga on the crest of a wave. If the mood takes her she goes snorkelling with mermaids, or signs up for idyllic holidays with the Chinese Unicorn, whose magnificent voice sings like a thousand wind chimes. 

She is a child of the light and the dark. Her motto is simply this: Do what you love,  stay true to your heart's desires, remain young at heart, and  inspire others to do so, even if it appears that the odds are stacked like black hearted shadows against you...

 

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