Review: The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

I thought Tyll was extraordinary. When I learned it lost the 2020 International Booker Prize to The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, I immediately read Discomfort. One Goodreads review said something to the effect of “Trigger Warning: All of them,” but I ignored it. Winners of literary awards are often very “literary.” I expected any discomfort to be dressed with fancy metaphors to the point of being unrecognizable. They aren’t. So here’s a rare trigger warning from me: There are graphic scenes involving the torture of animals, self mutilation, incest, and sexual assault. There is also excessive talk of excrement, but they’ll take away my lit degree if I don’t clarify that Jas’s constipation is a metaphor for grief. read more

Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

20 Books of Summer 2020: Book 9

There’s a lot about Normal People that’s normal for high school and college relationships, but I have less patience for this type of story now than I would if I’d read this book from a dorm room. I don’t understand reviews that paint it as romantic or funny, because I’d argue it’s a starting point to talk about codependency. There’s room in literature for unhappy characters, and I love thorough character studies, even of miserable people, but there’s too much about this book that doesn’t work for me—bad communication between the lead couple, gimmicky structure, a lack of quotation marks, and a non-ending. I don’t mind open endings, in theory, but Normal People lacks an overall arc and its characters remain unchanged. A non-ending on a book like this leaves it feeling incomplete. read more