Lauren Molyneux reviews the latest best sellers including her ‘top pick’, which provides an elegantly articulated insight into grief, loss and companionship
From the blurb, The Friend presents itself as a book about loss and companionship. In actuality, it’s about so much more than that.
When our narrator unexpectedly loses her lifelong friend to suicide, she feels obliged to take his dog, a Great Dane named Apollo, into her own care. Though a self-professed ‘cat-person’, she soon comes to appreciate the canine’s company, and begins to realise that she is not the only one who is grieving. The loss is explored through our narrator’s words, who is able to elegantly articulate her feelings, reminiscing and sharing memories about her dear friend. At the same time, the feelings she expresses are mirrored in the actions of the melancholic dog, and the healing power of the human-canine bond shines through.
The Friend is beautifully written – Nunez’s prose is smooth as silk and almost sings from the page. It is equally charming and intimate and, although it explores the value of man’s best friend wonderfully, it also offers elegant insights into art, literature and the act of writing, academia, creativity and philosophical thinking.
Told with interesting exposition, the second person address somehow makes everything feel more real and allows the writer to play with genres boundaries to include elements of fiction, memoir/autobiography, informal letter and personal journal.
The Friend offers up an elegant meditation on grief, loss, friendship, healing and the very special bonds shared between humans and dogs. It explores so many unexpected avenues and has such resonance that you’ll want to read it twice-over.
Nine Perfect Strangers
Liane Moriarty brings together Nine Perfect Strangers at a luxury retreat in the middle of nowhere. Their curiously charming resort leader, Masha, promises they will be changed forever, but none of them could have anticipated the transformation they will each undergo.
Nine Perfect Strangers places the introduction and development of realistic characters at the heart of the novel. Although it is based upon a ‘thriller’ plotline, one that has interesting twists and plays around with reader expectations, I strangely found myself more invested in learning about what brought all these characters to the resort, their histories and varying hard times, than getting excited about the narrative twists, which at times seemed a little forced.
Nine Perfect Strangers is an ideal summer read. It is a novel which sets a good pace from the offset and feeds you just enough to keep you interested. Easily finished in an afternoon, it explores some interesting ideas, particularly surrounding wellness, image, mindfulness and philosophy. It’s a story about taking care of yourself, about how much the past can affect your future, how tight its grasp can be and how difficult it can be to shake it off. Nine Perfect Strangers fuses together elements of several genres to produce something that is very readable, if at times a little bit rushed and hyperbolic.