Just books: Muriel Spark, Matt Haig and books about being human

15th July 2018

Even though I’ve not read many of her books, I love Muriel Spark. I went along to ‘The International Style of Muriel Spark’ exhibition in Edinburgh a few months ago and became even more intrigued by her life and work. She travelled to some amazing places, wrote the funniest letters to friends and produced more work than I’d ever realised. Her book Robinson is first on my list today, but I’ve been turning the pages of plenty other great books this summer too!

Robinson by Muriel Spark

The genre of action and adventure is often lumped together, but for me I appreciate a subtle adventure story over a novel jam-packed with action any day. Robinson to me is an adventure story laced with mystery that had me suitably unsettled in the final chapters.

Three plane crash survivors disrupt the solitary life that islander Miles Mary Robinson has built for himself on his namesake island, and before long a murder mystery unfolds. The unsettling part for me was how disorienting the experience became for January Marlow, the only woman to survive the plane crash, and the parallels that this absurd turn of events in her life had to her world back home.

The book is short, but the allegorical story could be interpreted in a multitude of ways. Taken at its surface layer, Robinson is a fantastic story of island castaways navigating a perilous place with the fear of an unnamed murderer in their midst.

How to be Human by Ruby Wax

I’ll be honest, when I first started reading this book the high hopes I had for it were extinguished quite quickly. I almost put it down. But, with a few more turns of the pages, I found myself nodding a little, and thinking ‘ah’ from time to time.

I believe that timing is everything when you read self-help books like How to be Human. I perhaps read this book a few months too prematurely to really enjoy it. I reckon it’s likely to be more helpful to people who have never yet thought to ask the question than it is for those who are asking that question nearly every single day.

The book does help to put things into perspective though, and a lot of people will probably cut themselves some slack after reading it which is no bad thing. It’s just probably not the best book if you’re someone who’s over professionals telling you how to breathe properly. But that’s a topic for another post!

Hannah Green and her Unfeasibly Mundane Existence by Michael Marshall Smith

I have mixed feelings about this one! At first, I was delighted by the storytelling that opened the novel, but slowly I became less eager to finish each chapter. Confusingly, the story felt rushed in the second and third parts, but had the book gone on any longer I don’t think I would have made it to the end.

Mundane is the word for this story, but not the for world that Smith concocted. I loved the concept, and I did genuinely love the characters; but their adventure (which had a lot of action) was tedious to follow and didn’t quite pull together for me. I’d love to read about the Engineer, Devil, Hannah and hilarious Vaneclaw from a different angle, with an entirely different storyline.

The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

I made an agreement with someone who doesn’t read that we’d tackle a book together and chat about it. He said he’d quite like to read a book he’d read about that had f**ck in the title. Of course I knew the book, it had to be that one I’d seen absolutely everywhere.


I was supposed to pick up The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. One asterisk, not two. Art, not magic. The good news here is that after reading the book I did buy, I don’t actually give a f**k or a f*ck.

It was an easy read which I finished in an airport, although I’m quite happy to report that I didn’t learn that much from it. Instead I just nodded along at many of the entirely relatable themes that occurred in each section. Was it a little bland? Yes. Will I read the other expletive-titled book? Only if said friend buys it and lends it to me.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Okay, I’ve saved one of my favourites until last! I loved this book and quite frankly can’t get enough of Matt Haig right now. More helpful than any of the self-help books I’ve read lately, this novel spoke to me in more ways than one while keeping me hooked and entertained from start to finish.

Imagine living for centuries; how would your brain handle the excess memories? How would you cope with all your friends and family ageing while you didn’t? I really don’t know, but somehow Tom Hazard does it, and Matt Haig doesn’t miss out any of the magical, historical details along the way. It’s a really moving book, and I was absolutely devastated once I’d learned how witch trials contributed to Tom’s long life story. I’ll read this one again!

2 comments so far.

2 responses to “Just books: Muriel Spark, Matt Haig and books about being human”

  1. Jean Smith says:

    Thoroughly honest reviews

  2. Val says:

    I haven’t come across any of these authors but have put Robinson on my reading list!

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