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FMN Book Club

Book Club | Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Life right now is, to put it bluntly, mental.

Work, work, more work and a whole lot of life admin in between, I’ve barely had time to read a menu let alone a book. So looking back to those halcyon days in July and August when I could lose myself in a book for about 8 hours a day feels very bittersweet right now. Case in point, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, which I devoured in Italy over a month ago and have been waiting to share with guys as part of book club.

I adored this book. Totally and utterly adored it. The back of it and the name of it, kind of imply it’s going to be some kind of Gone Girl murder mystery but rest assured it is not. The cover of the book immediately makes you aware that 16 year old Lydia’s body is found in a lake so there is an element of ‘whodunnit’ implied, but the book quickly makes you aware this is no crime thriller. There are plenty of questions and Ng (pronounced ‘Ing’) leaves nothing unanswered by slowly unravelling this seemingly ‘perfect’ family and decoding the intricacies of family’s past and present and how they impact our future generations.

Lydia’s father was the son of first-generation Chinese immigrants, while her caucasian, all-American mother was the daughter of a wannabe Fanny Craddock who wanted nothing more for her daughter than to marry a rich, white man and be done with her ambitious science studies.The impact of both these legacies shape Lydia’s parents as humans, inform their marriage and how they raise there children. Then there is Jack, the mysterious bad boy who Lydia’s brother is positive has something to do with Lydia’s death. The book is set in the 1970s which is key for understanding a lot of the silences and pressures felt. Feelings of otherness, from everyone else, from your spouse and from your community, familial pressures and sibling love and rivalry are all impressed upon you with a writing style that is graceful and minimal it touched me more than any heavy handed prose ever has.

I really love novels like this. Ng’s writing is so concise is a glorious way; every word written matters and is needed, perfectly placed to make you feel every little thing. The story is tragic and as each character’s narrative plays out, the tragedy only heightens as we realise each character’s actions are both governed by forces outside of themselves and the ripple effect of these actions can’t be contained. It really made me thing about what it is to be a parent and how none of us are blank slates when we procreate and what that means for our children and their children. I only wished Ng could keep going backwards and forwards, detailing the lives of James and Marilyn’s parents and parents parents to further paint a picture the familial ties.

Just like Jonathan Franzen’s fictitious looks at the stoicism and repression alive and kicking within families of his native middle class Mid Western home, Ng’s depictions of being Chinese, Chinese-American or indeed just being a woman, in a predominantly white, patriarchal, suburban neighbourhood tell us a story of America fifty years ago, rather than just the family as it’s own entity. The trials and tribulations of ‘otherness’ in modern history are well-documented but each and every one is valuable at reminding us today to not take our place in society or the opportunities available to us for granted.

Anyway, I could go on and on about how much I got wrapped up in the book. I read it in a day and granted I was on holiday, but it really felt so easy to immerse yourself in quickly. I hope some of you managed to read it this month? I know summer can be tricky for reading for some people as it’s such a busy time of year so if you haven’t read it already, do try and pick this one up in the future.

As always, please please put any thoughts or feeling towards this book in the comments so there is a conversation about the book rather than me just spouting what I thought! 

Next month, we’ll be doing Marlena by Julie Buntin which again, really surprised me at how much I enjoyed it and how quickly I got wrapped up in it. Get it here (I did just find mine in a WH Smith in an airport too just FYI so keep your eyes peeled if you’re travelling).

 

Thanks so much for reading xxx

 

 

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Comments

  • Ciara

    This was a beautifully written and subtle telling of a devastating story. I think like you Lucy that I always enjoy reading novels that deal with how parents impact their children’s lives and like you would have loved to have gone back and back to be given more.
    I did find myself getting frustrated with them for not talking to each other. I felt so much could have been resolved and prevented if they had communicated more and that Ng used the 1970s as a plot device to enable them to not talk to each other. I found myself forgetting it was set then and only remembering when it was used to explain why. I also thought it was a shame that the relationships between the family members was one dimensional – it felt as if every interaction that would take place was only focused on this sole force. I struggled to really care about the characters as individuals, they felt more symbolic then like real people.
    I enjoyed this whilst I was reading it but felt a little flat afterwards.

    Looking forward to Marlena, have had it on my wish list for a while, so this is the perfect excuse to purchase. X

  • Enn Franco

    I haven’t heard about this books, thanks for showing it. Btw love this picture so much!

    http://www.ennfrancosays.com

  • Kirsty Anderson

    Adored the book. I couldn’t put it down. The comparison with The Lovely Bones was fair but I thought this was much better. The sadness felt by the family is palpable through the writing. I would go as far as saying this book is life changing, reminding us to recognise what matters. It’s so sad that Lydia doesn’t get the chance to, but such a refreshing twist. Thanks for the recommendation :)

  • Alex

    What a great book–wouldn’t have read it if not for it being your book club pick! It definitely left me wanting to know so much more about all of the characters. Thanks Lucy!
    xx Alex

  • Sounds great! x

  • viktoria

    Sounds really amazing!!!

    https://thedaydreamings.blogspot.de

  • Kim

    I really wanted to check this book out! I heard so many great reviews on it! Thanks for the share.
    Kim

  • This book sounds like my cup of tea! I love the sound of it and the fact it’s set in 1970’s sounds interesting too xx
    http://www.pagesfrombeth.co.uk

  • I teach this book to my 9th grade freshmen and have gotten a really great response! Many of them can relate with how Lydia’s unable to balance everyone’s expectations of her and how she juggles multiple identities.

    http://heyprettything.com

  • Pandora Sykes

    Ooh going to buy this book now.

  • The Gold Lipstick

    Absolutely love it!!

    Mireia from TGL
    https://thegoldlipstick.com/

  • Sian Hunter

    i liked this book, especially that the mystery element was more about the secrets we keep inside ourselves rather than any sort of crime thriller. it was really good to read the perspective of an immigrant and how different cultures fit together in the family. it was also interesting to experience the push and pull of the different family members desires to fit in and stand out. i liked the examination of racism and sexism and how the different characters reacted to these difficulties. looking forward to starting marlena! thanks, as always, for this book club

  • Catarina Mira

    Finished this in one sitting! I usually don’t read these kind of dramas, so thank you for this suggestion. ❤️

    http://www.catarinamira.com

  • Julia Deutschen

    I’ve never read this book neither heard of it, but I will defenitely add it to my to-be-read pile!

    xx Julia

    http://www.talesofjules.com/

  • Jovita Antanovich

    Never read this book, but I must try, sounds super interesting ;)

    Jovita
    http://www.b-vanilla.com

  • Nicole Tse

    I enjoy books like this as well. I have been branching out and reading various genres lately and I would recommend a book called Three Cups of Tea. Highly inspirational and thought-provoking. It is based on a true story about a mountain climber/nurse who ends up building schools for children in some of the most isolated communities in the middle east.

    Nicole
    https://nicoletse.wordpress.com

  • Marta

    Very beautiful pics!!!!
    Have a nice Saturday!!!
    Marta

    http://www.lagattarosablog.it

  • This is next on my list!
    http://www.thegeneralista.com

  • Rosie Springett

    I bought this book as a holiday read on your recommendation and loved It! I felt almost relieved to discover it wasn’t a whodunnit and found the story of Lydias life heartbreaking. Totally know what you mean by every sentence is meaningful to the story and the feel. I also read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine which is fabulous!! Definitely recommend for another month x