Book Review: Such a Fun Age

It has been a while since I’ve posted, but after spending lots of time trying to eek this out for as long as possible, I’m back with a review of Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, which was longlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize. It was the only book on the list that I liked the sound of – and it by far exceeded my expectations.

Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid (2019)

Coming of Age/Fiction

Synopsis (Goodreads)

“In the midst of a family crisis one late evening, white blogger Alix Chamberlain calls her African American babysitter, Emira, asking her to take toddler Briar to the local market for distraction. There, the security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, and Alix’s efforts to right the situation turn out to be good intentions selfishly mismanaged.”

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that feels so close to our current moment. 

Kiley Reid provides, “a beautiful tale of how we live now” (Elizabeth Day). The story is nestled in the city of Philadelphia, and draws upon the social and racial injustices at the heart of modern, American society, through the young, black protagonist, Emria.  

The story alternates between the perspective of Emira and Alix, a white middle-class blogger. They are worlds apart but are brought together by Alix’s employment of Emira as a babysitter for her daughter, Briar. This dual perspective Reid uses allows the two polar experiences of class and race to be played off against each other, which illustrates the existence of Alix’s inherent privilege and mistreatment of Emira. 

Alix struggles to see why her treatment of Emira is problematic, despite making her wear a uniform and her history of only employing black childminders. It’s almost as if she thinks by having a black babysitter, she is doing her bit. Emira is half aware of all this, and it is her boyfriend, Kelley that exposes it more blatantly. But Emira loves looking after Briar and doesn’t want to break that bond between them. And also, the job is a lifeline, in just keeping her above the water. It takes her a while to confront these microaggressions – but the best thing of all, is that she eventually triumphs. 

The novel also looks at the influence of race in relationships. Emira meets Kelley during the incident with the police and then once again on the subway, and they hit it off immediately. But there are many differences between them, and these are explored by drawing upon their relationship,

“Emira had dated one white guy before, and repeatedly hooked up with another during the summer after college. They both loved bringing her to parties, and they told her she should try wearing her hair naturally. And suddenly, in a way they hadn’t in the first few interactions, these white men had a lot to say about government-funded housing, minimum wage, and the quotes from Martin Luther King Jr.”

Reid eloquently raises the potential fetishisation of race in relationships through the perspective of Emira and her group of friends. Emira and Kelley’s relationship is topsy turvy but explored in such a human and real way, that it’s hard not to be drawn in by it. Additionally, through their relationship Reid explores the issue of microaggressions – forms of indirect or subtle forms of racism that can often go unnoticed. There’s a performative element to the type of equality Kelley tries to portray in his social standing and worldview, that doesn’t go unrecognized by Emria,

“Like… I get it, you have a weirdly large amount of black friends, you saw Kendrick Lamar in concert, and now you have a black girlfriend…great.”

Emira

As a white, privileged person, this strikes a chord and left a profound effect on the way I perceive race, and how it influences class and relationships. It is written in a way that makes it embody the current moment. It illustrates the simmering and overt racism that exists within American society, and the small acts of unintentional racism that can go unnoticed. 

Reading this made me laugh, cringe, feel angry, and annoyed all at the same time, but one thing for sure – it touched me completely. I fell in love with Emria’s ballsy personality and sense of determination. Reid provides the reader with characters who come alive through the pages and makes you feel something, and that is the greatest gift a writer can have – I can’t believe this is a debut novel and feel excited at the prospect of Reid writing more in the future. 

This is sharp, witty, well-executed and grips you right from the start – there’s simply no messing about. I would describe it as a millennial coming of age story that combines the important, intertwining messages of class, race, privilege and how to navigate this within families and relationships.


Like many others, I am still learning about the best ways to talk about race. As always, If you think I need to phrase something differently or I’ve said something out of line – please let me know. I won’t take offence but will be thankful you have pointed it out.

Sunday Post #5


In this weekly wind up, I recap what I’ve published during the week and share with you what I’m currently reading. I hope you’ve all had a great week, and continue to stay safe in these challenging times.


Things already seem incredibly different this week compared to last Sunday. The UK is seeing rising Covid cases and we’re already running out of tests before the Winter even begins. There are murmurings that something is going to be announced, but who knows what, the government are unpredictable by nature and I wouldn’t be surprised if something changed overnight.

I had a tweet blow up Friday night, and couldn’t believe some of the comments – I even had to block and report people who were saying Covid-19 was a hoax. But there you go, that’s the kind of world we live in.

I’ve been writing a lot this week and have continued my success on Medium, nearly securing 2.3K views on one post. It feels different there and I feel like people read what I have written. Yesterday I managed to write a whopping 4,000 words and I’ve still been keeping to my daily habit of writing something every day. But as always, some days it’s easier than others. This weekend I’ve written practically nothing, but figured I probably deserved some time off. 

It is starting to feel like Autumn in the mornings, as we’re getting the golden kind of sun that I know and love. It’s still fairly warm during the day but the nights are drawing in and I’m probably a bit too excited about having to wear a dressing gown in the mornings.

There’s still a lot of uncertainty about my job, as there is only one month left of the furlough scheme. It is a worrying time, but hopefully, I’ll be able to cling on.

I’ve posted relatively little this week, but I have been writing daily to try and make sure I can work to publishing something every day. Here’s what I published this week.

There are lots of things in the works for the weeks ahead, so hopefully, I can work towards establishing some kind of publishing schedule to spread things out in an organised way. If I go back to work, I’m going to need to do this to try and manage my time better.


This Week on the Blog

Book Haul #1 ~Ali Smith, Ottessa Moshfegh, Zadie Smith & More

This Week – Elsewhere

5 ‘Difficult’ Books Worth Reading, in Books Are Our Superpower

The Daily Routine of a New Writer


I’m currently reading the same books as I was last week, but I’m nearly finished with Such A Fun Age – I am enjoying it so far and I think it will be one of my favourite books this year. I’ve been dipping in and out of Quiet, as it’s quite heavy going because of its academic approach. I’m finding that I am relating to it a lot though – due to being a natural introvert. I suspect it will take me a while to read but I don’t mind that. 

Next week you can expect a review of Such A Fun Age, though I expect it will be quite a difficult one to write, as it’s a complex book.


Happy reading, and keep staying safe.

Book Haul #1 ~Ali Smith, Ottessa Moshfegh, Zadie Smith & More

It’s been a while since I have purchased physical books and enough to make a whole post out of, but I thought I would give you a quick round-up of the books I have brought in the last few months. Most of these I got this month, as I treated myself to some books for my birthday.

I love physical books as much as the next person, but that said, I am trying to consciously limit my consumption this year because I have very little space and am on somewhat of a budget. Also, with the pandemic, I’m not going out of my way to browse in bookshops at the moment.

That said, I have splurged a little this month and this is what I’ve bought.


Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid

Coming of Age, Fiction

I brought this because it was the only book listed on the Booker prize nominees that I had heard of and wanted to read.

It opens with an incident following a young black woman who is interrogated by the police for appearing to kidnap a young, white child. This all takes place in Philadelphia, in an affluent neighborhood. Emira, the babysitter and one of two main protagonists, looks after the child of Alix, a well known white blogger. Their lives are inextricably linked but divided along the lines of social and racial inequality.

I am currently reading this at the moment and am about seventy pages in – I’m enjoying it and can’t wait to read the rest of it. I also love the cover and design!

Autumn, Winter, Spring, Ali Smith (Seasonal Quartet)

Fiction, literary fiction

I first read Autumn a while ago but had it on loan from my local library. In love with the cover designs by David Hockney, I decided to purchase that and the rest of the books that are out in paperback. Although Summer came out a month or so ago, I’ve decided to wait until that comes out in paperback so I can have the whole collection.

This Seasonal Quartet is made up of four stand-alone novels which are all connected in some way. Having only read the first one, I don’t know how or why, but I’m guessing like the seasons, they have some similarities and stark differences. With Autumn, I feel in love with Ali Smith’s remarkable prose and sense of starkness and political commentary, so I can’t wait to read the rest of them. As a concept and physical book, they are all so appealing.

English Pastoral, James Rebanks

Nature writing, Non-fiction

James Rebanks, a farmer whose family has farmed the same land in the Lake District through generations, has published his fourth book which looks at what lands means to us and how it is owned, regulated and enjoyed in England.

I read The Shepherd’s Life last year and was taken aback by how beautifully it was written. It dealt with issues such as tourism and our respect for places of great beauty, but also his struggles with continuing the generation of farming in his family. I am very much looking forward to reading his next book as it deals with the wider political questions over land ownership, and how we can make farming into a more sustainable endeavour for the future.

My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh

Psychological fiction

Image: Violet Daniels

I have heard great things about this book and seen it everywhere, so I thought I’d pick it up.

Telling the story of a young woman, living in New York and struggling to figure her life out – I was naturally drawn to the premise of this novel. Being a regular insomniac myself, I am also drawn to her struggles with sleep and hopes at self-medication. From what I’ve read about this book, it combines dark humour with some heavy topics so I’m looking forward to seeing how the author navigates this contrast.

Intimations, Zadie Smith

Non-fiction, personal essays

After having a roaring success with Alone Together, I decided to give another Covid memoir a go. Although a lot shorter I figured I would enjoy this one too. Written by the highly accredited author Zadie Smith, this collection of essays documents her experience of lockdown and the emotional and personal difficulties it involved.

I know Smith is a profound and talented writer, so I am interested in reading about her perception of recent events and how it affected her life. I’m sure it won’t take too long to read either, in being such a small book.


That’s it for now! You can keep up to date with any new books I buy over on my new Instagram account. I’m trying to learn how to take nice photos but I am still new to the whole thing, so please be kind!

Happy reading, as usual!

Violet

Please note – this post does contain Amazon affiliate links and if you choose to use them, I will earn a small fee but this doesn’t impact my review in anyway.

Sunday Post #4

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted at @ Caffeinated Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news ~ A post to recap the past week on your blog and showcase books and things we have received. Share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. See rules here: Sunday Post Meme.


Another week, another Sunday. I’m writing this feeling a little sleep deprived as I haven’t slept much this weekend – but not by choice. I’m having another insomnia flare-up, which I haven’t had for a while. They tend to come and go in spouts. I think it’s because I’ve been feeling more anxious than usual, and I’ve neglected writing in my journal and the importance of gradually winding down in the evenings – which always helps.

It’s been a strange week – again, I haven’t published too much but I have still been writing every day, although the word count is down on last week. I averaged around 1000 words a day this week, compared to my usual 2000. I don’t stick religiously to a word count, but I think it’s good to have an idea of how much you are writing to help you stay on track.

I’ve been doing my first bit of copywriting for a small company based in London and I’ve been enjoying it so far. It’s freelance and technically my first paid writing job which is exciting and a step forward. I get to learn about completely random things like antique carpets and cloud software but it’s strangely satisfying!

I’ve had some more success on Medium – I’ve now been named as a top writer in their reading and books categories, which is exciting and completely unexpected. Having only been on the platform for a month I didn’t think I would get this much recognition so quickly. I have been loving writing over there and it’s really improved my confidence.

It was my 23rd birthday last Wednesday, which passed in a haze. It was a strange lockdown birthday but still a nice day. We got a takeaway and I did lots of reading, it was nice. I saw my family from a distance yesterday and was able to celebrate with a cake (but I didn’t blow the candles out in the usual way!) and nice food. It’s the little things these days.

It’s meant to heat up again next week just when we thought Summer was over. I hope it doesn’t get too hot, I’m ready for winter now.


This Week on the Blog

Surviving Another Year Around the Sun

Book Review: Alone Together

Book Review: Salvation Station

This Week – Elsewhere

10 Books to Read in 2020, Books Are Our Superpower, Medium

Reviewing my First Month on Medium

Currently Reading

Quiet, Susan Cain

I’ve always known I was an introvert, so I thought I better read this book. I fancied reading some more non-fiction so I decided to pick this up.

I’ve only read about 50 pages so far, but have already learnt some pretty interesting things. Van Gogh was an introvert, as is Bill Gates! It starts with a discussion about how American culture and society grew to prioritise extroversion, and how this is gradually changing as we alter our misconceptions about introversion and shyness.

I think I’ll learn a lot about myself with this one.

Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid

When the Booker Prize nominees were announced a while ago, this was the only book I thought I would like the sound of, so I decided to read it.

The story begins with Emira, a young, African-American babysitter, who gets accosted at her local supermarket for looking after a white child. The security guard in a racially motivated attack accuses her of kidnapping the child and she is forced to call the father.

It follows the perspective of Emira, and her employer, a famous blogger called Alix Chamberlain.

I’m really enjoying it so far and it hooked me straight away!


I really haven’t been reading that many articles this week, so I will leave out my favourite articles for the week – hopefully there will be some to include next time.

Please note – this post does contain Amazon affiliate links and if you choose to use them, I will earn a small fee but this doesn’t impact my review in anyway.

Book Review: Salvation Station

Firstly, many thanks to She Writes Press and Book Publicity Services for providing me with a copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review.

Salvation Station, Crime Fiction

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

“When committed female police captain Linda Turner, haunted by the murders of two small children and their pastor father, becomes obsessed with solving the harrowing case, she finds herself wrapped up in a mission to expose a fraudulent religious organization and an unrepentant killer.
 
Despite her years of experience investigating homicides for the force, Captain Linda Turner is haunted by the murders of the Hansen family. The two small children, clothed in tattered Disney pajamas, were buried with their father, a pastor, in the flower garden behind a church parsonage in Lincoln, Nebraska. But Mrs. Hansen is nowhere to be found—and neither is the killer.
 
In St. Louis, the televangelist Ray Williams is about to lose his show—until one of his regular attendees approaches him with an idea that will help him save it. Despite his initial misgivings, Ray agrees to give it a try. He can’t deny his attraction to this woman, and besides, she’d assured him the plan is just—God gave her the instructions in a dream.
 
Multiple story lines entwine throughout this compelling mystery, delving into the topics of murder, religious faith, and the inherent dangers in blindly accepting faith as truth. While Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer—before more bodies surface.”


Combining a classic whodunit and an exploration of Christianity and blind faith, Kathryn Schleich in her debut novel, creates a unique and gripping read. Schleich combines multiple story-lines to uncover the corruption and horror at the heart of a devout Church community in Nebraska.

The Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Do not be deceived by the disturbing front cover depicting a plastic doll, left abandoned in the leaves. This book despite appearances is not a horror story, but rather, a classic crime fiction whodunit. I had my reservations when I started, as the cover led me to think it would be more of a horror/thriller, but alas, it wasn’t.

The first thing that stood out to me, was that the lead police investigator was a woman, which I loved. Of course, there are some writers within the genre that feature female leads, like Kay Scarpetta in Patricia Cornwell’s novels, but even then, Scarpetta is the chief medical examiner, rather than the lead police role.

It was so refreshing to see and made a change from having a typically male leading character as the head of police. The story features different perspectives, but Linda Turner and Reverend Ray Williams are the main narrators. I got on with Linda as a character and valued her honesty and commitment to solving the horrific crime.

Schleich has an eye for creating great characters. Ray Williams, the Reverend and host of The Road to Calvary, a hit evangelist organization, soon to be a successful TV commercial, is very likeable. Although gullible and a bit haphazard, Ray desperately cares about his local community.

Susannah comes into Ray’s life out of the blue and goes headfirst into wanting to improve The Road to Calvary. Ray falls in love with her ambition and readiness to help, and their relationship blossoms, but all is not what it seems. Susannah from the off is dislikable in her manipulation of Ray – but she also makes him happy, so what’s the problem?

Having a range of good characters for me is key in any good story, and Schleich definitely provides this.

The plot is simple, mirrored on a classic whodunit premise. The reader is hit with a dark and ominous feeling at the beginning and this is continued right through to the end. The chapters are short and sharp and give a sense of pace – which I liked. Aside from the gripping beginning, the novel isn’t suspenseful and not a page-turner by classic definition – but I was so invested that I didn’t need an added incentive to keep reading.

Moreover, I liked the way it wasn’t just a crime novel. Using The Road to Calvary, and other religious overtones, Schleich can make a poignant comment on religion and the notion of blind faith. The story and community in which Ray, Linda and Susannah are a part of, is religious and benevolent by nature, but of course, this is a false misconception.

Without saying too much – the ending was dramatic and satisfying. I would recommend this to anyone who loves a good crime fiction novel with a twist, and for fans of police procedurals.

Please note – this post does contain Amazon affiliate links and if you choose to use them, I will earn a small fee but this doesn’t impact my review in anyway.