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.

Surviving Another Year Around the Sun

I’m never one for making a big deal out of birthdays. The more I have of them, the more I want to ignore them. I know I’m only young, but I’ve always feared getting old.

23 feels like the beginning of getting older, or of life getting more serious. I thought I’d write a sort of self reflection post, but I don’t really know where I’m going with it. This might be one that ends up being deleted.

I was thinking the other day that I haven’t done much in a year. Sure, I finished university and graduated but since last September I haven’t really achieved much. I started a job I loved, finished that one, started another job and then furlough happened and I’m back to square one.

I haven’t got that ‘proper’ job that everyone speaks of and I still don’t know when I will. I guess my younger self always thought I would have it together by this age and be a proper adult. But what does a proper adult even mean?

Time is a strange thing and it means different things to everyone. Some people want to get married in their twenties and have children straight away, whereas others want to wait. I’m not in a rush, but I do wish my life had a bit more momentum and I was somewhat closer to being where I want to.

But I can’t blame myself for that, Covid happened out of the blue and was never something I could control. And I have been making steps and pushing myself out of my comfort zone, and that’s what matters, right?

The next few years are going to be a hard one to try and start a career in and it feels like our generation has faced obstacle after obstacle (nearly two global recessions now, come on) so this year I’m not going to be too hard on myself and I’m going to celebrate every small achievement.

I may be 23, but that doesn’t mean I have to have my whole life together – it just feels that way due to societal pressures and expectations.

Bu I do have things to be proud of.

I’ve been brave enough to put myself all over the internet in the form of blog posts, articles and writing on Medium. First year university me would never have been this bold, maybe not even third year university me. I’ve gained a certain amount of confidence with my writing but I’m nowhere near there yet – but it’s a journey, right?

I feel like I am managing my anxiety better than I used to. At university I used to let it just take hold of me. But now I make the effort and I’m learning about what’s best for me. Having a slower pace to life since the pandemic has definitely helped, and so has rediscovering journaling.

I think in a way I have channeled myself more this year, as I’ve been able to do things I lost track of at university. Like reading, writing and just being. I haven’t found myself fully yet, but apparently that happens more as you go into your 20s…

I’m by no means perfect or where I want to be yet – but that’s okay. I survived another year – and that’s enough to celebrate in itself.

It’s also Hugh Grant’s birthday today, so happy birthday to him (he’s 60!)

What I’ve Learned from Writing Book Reviews

So it’s now September and I find myself with a backlog of over 40 book reviews. And when I haven’t written these book reviews, I’ve always been thinking about books in some way, consciously or unconsciously reviewing them in my head.

Apart from simply loving writing them, over the year I’ve realised I have learned a lot from them too. I’m no expert – quite the opposite. But this is what I have learned from the experience so far.

I Value Having a Record of Everything I’ve Read

This may sound like the obvious one – but hear me out.

When I was younger and I had all the time in the world to read, I would whizz through books at a speed so fast that if you asked me about the book the next day, I wouldn’t be able to tell you a thing about it. In other words – I would forget everything I’d read.

Writing book reviews has forced me to consolidate my thoughts on a book and has left me a neat little trail of reviews across the internet – which will be lovely to look back on in years to come. If I’m ever sat there thinking, “I wonder what I read when I was 22?” as long as the Internet is still alive, I’ll be able to know the answer.

If You Don’t Like the Book – Just Give Up

I used to be a firm believer that once you’ve started a book, you should never give up on it. Now that I (almost) read every book to write a review, there would be nothing worse than having to plough through a book I didn’t like and write a review about it after.

Life’s too short and there are so many books out there, ditch the ones you don’t like and then you can make more time for the ones you do.

And yes, it is okay to abandon the book at any time. Thirty pages from the end and you just can’t be bothered anymore? Then put it down and move onto the next.

It’s Rare to Find Someone Who Agrees With You 100%

For every book read, there’s a wealth of different opinions that come with it. Every book is going to be received and interpreted in a number of ways, and this is largely a credit to the power of literature.

We all think and feel in different ways so it’s almost impossible that we are going to have the same experience with a book. Additionally, we all like different things in books. Some of us like a fast-paced plot over an in-depth character study. It all depends on the reader.

Part of the wonder of being part of the book community is seeing everyone’s different opinions on a book – it’s one of my favourite things. But I’ve learnt more than ever is that no one is going to agree with you all the time. For instance, I felt like an anomaly when the book world was going mad for Normal People, and I had forced myself to read it for a second time but was still left wondering what all the fuss was about.

All Reviews Matter

Before I started writing reviews on my blog, I naively thought that only book reviewers that wrote for the top magazines and newspapers gained influence and mattered. It’s easy to think, right?

Sure, my reviews will have far less of an audience but they still have the potential to alter the perception or success of a book. Working with lesser-known authors that have approached me (which is still unbelievable in itself) I’ve realised the value of a well-written book review and what that can mean for an author – and it doesn’t have to be written by someone well established.

In a world where we can all be writers and reviewers on Amazon, NetGalley and Goodreads, all of our opinions and thoughts matter too. That’s the beauty of the internet.

Image: @katstokes_ via Uplash

Sometimes It Can Be Hard to Put Thoughts into Words

Some reviews have been easier to write than others. Sometimes I have felt so overwhelmed with a book that I’ve struggled to put my thoughts to paper, or haven’t even written a review for it, in fear of not being able to do it justice. Take The Goldfinch for example, probably one of the best books I have ever read, but I couldn’t write a review of it because it was almost too good – and my thoughts on it lacked a real coherency that book reviews need. So I left it, and that’s okay.

And then some books deal with difficult topics, such as Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and An American Marriage – incredibly important books, but I’ve found reviews for these hard to write in case I phrase something badly or have interpreted the message in the wrong way.

But now and always, it will be imperative that we continue to review these types of books and test ourselves. It’s better to try and get it wrong than to sit back and not try at all.


It’s been a fun nine months of writing book reviews and I’ve gained a lot from it. As someone who can easily forget books despite whilst reading them being madly in love with them, I’ve realised the value in keeping some kind of record of my thoughts to look back on. For non book bloggers, it doesn’t have to be a book review, but even making a few simple notes in a diary or journal, detailing what you thought of the book.

I’ve realised above all, that I love writing book reviews and starting conversations with readers across the world, as despite being many miles apart, we can be united by the shared experience of having read the same book. The sense of community at the heart of the online book world is invaluable and I hope I’ve managed to positively contribute in some way, despite only being here for a short while.

Here’s to more brilliant reads and writing more book reviews to come!


You can now subscribe to my newsletter to hear more from me.