A Year of Marvellous Ways by Sarah Winman
I’ve had the pleasure of reading a few wonderful novels recently where the natural world is just as much part of the story as the characters are and this was another novel of that ilk. A previous novel I’ve written about which integrated the natural world beautifully was Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (refer to my January Favourites).
This is also the story of an unlikely friendship between an eccentric (in the best possible way) eighty-nine-year old woman and a young, broken-hearted soldier. There is also an element of magical realism woven through the narrative a la Trent Dalton.
Ultimately, I just found this novel a pleasure to read and am grateful to the friend who lent it to me.
A Winter’s Promise by Christelle Dabos
Book club was how I found myself in possession of, and reading, something I would never choose for myself – a young adult fantasy novel. And book club was how I found myself enjoying a young adult fantasy novel and wanting to get my hands on the next one in the series.
I don’t suddenly think I am a young adult fantasy fan – my two friends in book club who read this genre on the reg said this book was quite unique – but I am really glad to have kept an open mind and discovered this.
Protagonist Ophelia is promised to a man from another “ark” and sent off to live in his world. As quickly as she can, she has to learn who in this new place she can trust and who to be wary of in order to protect herself, her family and her people. And of course, figuring out who she can trust isn’t simple.
The Morbids by Ewa Ramsey
So technically I finished this in April but it was so heart-wrenching that I want to tell you about it now. Books don’t normally make me cry, this one did. And not just once, but multiple times. Maybe it was just the tiredness talking (I was really tired as I read this) but I think there was something more to it than that.
To be honest, I wasn’t absolutely sold when I started it. I thought it would be interesting, but I didn’t anticipate how much it would suck me in, how utterly invested in the main character Caitlin I would become, how strongly I would identify with Caitlin’s experiences, despite significant differences in the particularities. This book cracked me open and I cried, because it described mental illness with such brutal honesty. In this way, it reminded me of Clare Bowditch’s descriptions of her mental illness in her memoir Your Own Kind of Girl (refer to my 2020 December Favourites).
Selfishly, my tears as I read The Morbids were as much for myself as they were for Caitlin. Just as I have, Caitlin breaks, hits rock bottom and starts on the long-haul journey of clawing her way back again. So I was crying for her and for myself. On the one hand tears of grief for the suffering I and Caitlin experienced, and on the other tears of joy and gratitude for the life I have now, and the life Caitlin starts to find for herself.
I was on a Bat for Lashes bender throughout March, both discovering some newer (2019, I’m so not up with music these days) and older (2006) work of hers, all of which I have been absolutely loving. The album Fur and Gold (2006) was on repeat as I moved house, showered, did yoga, drove somewhere – basically if I had music on, it was highly likely to be that album. Then later in March, I had the brainwave that maybe there was some newer Bat for Lashes music I had yet to discover – sure enough, there was a whole album Lost Girls (2019). Since I discovered that, that album has also been on repeat. I’ve also been listening to the two Bat for Lashes albums I thought I knew well, The Haunted Man (2012) and Two Suns (2009) and have (re)discovered gems on those albums as well. So, here are three Bat for Lashes songs I am currently obsessed with.
I’m on Fire (from Fur and Gold, 2006)
Glass (from Two Suns, 2009)
Peach Sky (from Lost Girls, 2019)
Cautionary Tales – I think this is the third season of this podcast which I’m pretty sure I wrote about when each previous season was released. Just as good as ever, I love the way creator Tim Harford weaves together historical events, psychological research and present-day events to not only make us aware of our cognitive biases but also illustrate how these can lead us very astray.
I Weigh with Jameela Jamil – Dr Jen Gunter and Dr Jen Gunter Returns. with Dr Jen Gunter. So basically, I love every episode of this podcast but the two episodes with Dr Jen Gunter, ob/gyn extraordinaire and author of The Vagina Bible, stood out. My word, there is so much they don’t teach us about female anatomy and these podcast interview dig a bit deeper into just some of these things – very enlightening and very needed.
As I moved out of the share house I’ve lived in for just over twelve months, I revisited my favourite local café spot with Mum and Dad one last time and it didn’t disappoint. I had the beetroot and seed bread with poached eggs, whipped feta, asparagus, pickled beetroot and dukkah. Absolutely delicious and very wholesome – the bread is dense and very seedy, with stunning pink marbling through it from the beetroot.
Another highlight was Dad’s Birthday lunch down at Willie Smith’s in the Huon Valley. Mum and Dad kindly came down to Hobart to hep me move into my place, and both my brother and his fiance were here, so Dad got to celebrate his Birthday Tassie style. We shared a selection of dishes – dips with bread and crackers, sundried tomato and basil arancini, a scrummy vegan charred pumpkin dish, epic roasted potatoes with salsa verde and the Willie Smith’s salad (featuring pecorino cheese and, of course, apple). We of course finished the meal with apple pie. I also tried their spiced apple tea which was sensational – it’s essentially mulled apple juice, but “spiced apple tea” definitely sounds better!
Moving into my very own house has got to be the most exciting (but also most exhausting event) not only of the month, but probably one of the most exciting of my life. Like all such events, it’s taking a while to sink in that it’s actually real. Having a friend from Launceston stay the night definitely helped (same person who lent me A Year of Marvellous Ways) – somehow having someone else in my space made it feel more real that this is my space.
That friend and I had a really lovely Friday night and Saturday together. Friday night we went for a stroll around my local area, ate curry I’d made for dinner and chattered away until suddenly it was late and we were tired. Saturday morning we had tea/coffee and breakfast sitting in my living room window looking out at the Derwent River, then headed out for a hike. We climbed steep fire trails to New Town Falls, bush bashed our way up beside the falls, headed along the Hunters Track admiring the rocky scree slopes in one direction and the views to Hobart in the other, checked out the interesting rock formations, found some crazy purple fungus and cooled off at the end of the hike with a restorative foot dip in the New Town Rivulet. There were lots of gorgeous little birds about – Eastern spinebills, pardalotes, scarlet robins etc – and virtually no other people. The more time I spend on that mountain the more I love it! We then headed to a café for a late lunch before coming back to mine for cups of tea and a bit of restorative stretching, before my friend headed back to Launnie. There was plenty more chatter on the Saturday – we’ve definitely got one of those relationships where conversation just naturally meanders its way from topic to topic and there are always more things to say.
Not a pose, but a place. The house I now own and live in (still doesn’t quite feel real) has two bedrooms, but it’s just me living here, so the second bedroom is a bedroom no more – it’s my own personal yoga studio/room. I am insanely privileged to have this wonderful space and I am making the most of it – my at home yoga practice can go for up to two hours these days. I love the way the sunlight comes into the room and the views I get out to my garden.
In my new house I am blessed with a very good bath. The week after I moved, I was struggling physically – two migraines in as many days led me to take a sick day the following day to rest and decompress. A long soak in the bath with a candle lit, some tunes playing and a book in hand was an excellent self-care act and one which I will definitely be repeating.
So, that’s March.
Love, hope and peace from Emma.