What We’re Reading #1 – Book Recommendations from SED

Welcome to our new monthly column sharing great reads from students, staff and friends of the School of English and Drama at Queen Mary University of London.

This month:

  1. If You Should Fail: A Book of Solace by Joe Moran
  2. Charming Billy by Alice McDermott
  3. Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M.Danforth

If you’d like to contribute please read our guidance and contact us

If You Should Fail: A Book of Solace by Joe Moran

nonfiction | society | memoir    

If You Should Fail is a perfect read in our disastrous times.

If Adam and Eve had been around today, they would be encouraged to regard their Fall from grace as a learning curve. For failure, as motivational lectures and podcasts tell us, is just another opportunity to get it right. 

Joe Moran’s very persuasive and personal book tells a different story about failure.  While modern capitalism, with its unceasing demands to be productive, would have us think of failure as a series of setbacks that individuals must learn to overcome, even in a system that ensures most of us will always struggle, Moran consoles us that failing is a constant and inevitable aspect of our experience.    

Learning to live with failure is not, Moran says, about learning to succeed, but about coming to terms with our vulnerability and appreciating that the sometimes messy, largely improvised lives we lead are good enough.

A welcome message for our times.  

Review by Charlie Pullen – PhD English

Charming Billy by Alice McDermott

subtle | sensitive | alive

Charming Billy is a gentle, intimate masterpiece.

Intricate family relationships reveal the beauty and complexity of Irish-American experiences in 1950s America. But at the heart of this tale there lies a painful untruth, which casts long shadows.

McDermott’s novel is definitely a page-turner, with a wide cast of rich and endearing characters who linger long in the memory. McDermott weaves past histories seamlessly into the narrative, capturing themes such as alcoholism, enduring love, and crises of faith, as she explores the central relationship between Dennis and his cousin Billy. The power of the writing comes through in what is left unsaid…

Charming Billy is a remarkable and sensitive novel worth savouring and luxuriating over every word.

Review by: Christine Hawkins – English Teaching Associate

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M.Danforth

lgbtqia+ | queer | supernatural

Plain Bad Heroines is sapphic, macabre and delicious.

Complex female characters emerge and twist all expectations in the wonderfully layered narrative. lf you like your queer ghost stories with lashings of jet black humour and saucy surprises you’ll love it! 

Initially the 600 pages was daunting when it arrived but Emily M. Danforth’s tale is a dark queer thrill ride from the spooky setting of Rhode Island’s Brookhants windswept school to the glossy magic hours of LA.

The book is being republished in Feb 2021 but you can get the original version via Amazon sellers or US stores and who knew Emily M. Danforth is the writer of The Miseducation of Cameron Post too. 

Plain Bad Heroines is an eery triumph to the power of multidimensional queer storytelling across centuries.  

Review by Rupert Dannreuther – Marketing Manager at SED

If you’d like to contribute please read our guidance and contact us