Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Family Drama, Fiction, Literary, Relationship Stories, Review, Summer Reads

Do Not Feed The Bear by Rachel Elliott

Today I am so thrilled to help kick off the Random Things Tours Blog Tour for Do Not Feed The Bear by Rachel Elliott. My first thoughts upon finishing (as I hugged it close) – What a wonderful book!

On her forty-seventh birthday, Sydney Smith stands on a rooftop and prepares to
jump…

Sydney is a cartoonist and freerunner. Feet constantly twitching, always teetering on the edge of life, she’s never come to terms with the event that ripped her family apart when she was ten years old. And so, on a birthday that she doesn’t want to celebrate, she returns alone to St Ives to face up to her guilt and grief. It’s a trip that turns out to be life-changing – and not only for herself.

DO NOT FEED THE BEAR is a book about lives not yet lived, about the kindness of others and about how, when our worlds stop, we find a way to keep on moving.

A life-affirming novel of love, loss and letting go

– for readers of ELEANOR OLIPHANT,
THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP and WHEN GOD WAS A RABBIT.

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Freerunning – there is something that feels quite liberating about it. Parkour UK describe the sport as something that ‘…aims to build confidence, determination, self-discipline and self-reliance, and responsibility for one’s actions. It encourages humility, respect for others and for one’s environment, self-expression, community spirit, and the importance of play, discovery and safety at all times.’ I have of course never personally done it (I don’t have the personal strength of both mind and body) but I found it interesting that throughout the novel Sydney has used it as a way to channel both her guilt and grief. She uses it as an escape, a way to disappear and yet it brings her into the spot light. It’s also something I have never encountered before in a novel and I love it.

As she is reaching her 47th birthday, Sydney returns to St Ives, the scene of a terrible tragedy in her childhood. Her grief is buried deep, as it has been for her family, never enabling them to quite move on. Life has a way of coming full circle though and soon events and people from the past creep back in bringing with it a sense of hope and, if not closure, then the ability to move on.

Do Not Feed The Bear is an exploration of grief and the effect it has on us. It’s funny but only a few days ago I listened to a Happy Place Podcast presented by the wonderful Fearne Cotton featuring the superbly inspiring, Elizabeth Gilbert. She spoke to Fearne about how damaging it can be to suppress our grief, to not allow it the voice it deserves, and as I listened I thought yes, that is so true. Over hundreds of years western society has shown us that it is weak to show our emotions, that they should be held in check and explored privately. Quite often we are afraid to allow ourselves that exploration, as if we may never be able to pull ourselves out again. It can be grief for the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one or the regret of an unfulfilled dream. There are different levels of grief and each and every one deserves our acknowledgment and the freedom to express them. This is touched on brilliantly in this wonderful novel.

This is a book that swept me up into it’s pages; a book that I wanted to hug and cherish all the time I was reading. The characters are unique and multifaceted and Rachel explores their present and their past so exquisitely that I felt bound to them and their journey. She steps perfectly into their minds bringing them alive on the page and oh, how I came to love them. In my minds eye they are still there, hopefully a little lighter in spirit since my time with them ended.

The shadow of events from that fateful summer in Sydney’s childhood has nurtured the pain of loss and this is keenly felt throughout. Yet this isn’t a dark book. Yes there is trauma and sadness and yet I never felt despair, I never felt that I couldn’t carry on reading. I felt their loss and yet Rachel writes with such tenderness and she encapsulates the sense that the dead and lost never really leave us. I found this extremely comforting.

When I’m reading a novel I often fold over corners of pages where a sentence or paragraph has particularly moved me (please don’t judge, I just never have my notebook to hand). There are many turned corners throughout my copy of Do Not Feed The Bear, the writing is stunning, so much care has been taken and every line, for me, was a joy to read. The beauty of the word structure and placement made me often pause and reflect. There is so, so much to connect to within this novel but at the very least there is a wonderful story told about life and the people we are and who we can be if we really want to.

I think one of my favourite characters is Stuart, an unusual but brilliantly written narrator but this story gives a voices to all of these wonderful characters and I urge you to grab yourself a copy and welcome them into your life.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour and read the wonderful novel. Thanks also to Tinder Press for sending me the copy. You can follow Tinder Press on twitter at @TinderPress

Do Not Feed The Bear is published on the 8th August 2019 and will be available in Hardback (with a beautiful cover by the way), eBook and on Audiobook . The paperback edition will be coming in April 2020.
#DoNotFeedTheBear by Rachel Elliott Blog Tour with #RandomThingsTours and

About the author

Rachel Elliott

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Rachel Elliott is the author of WHISPERS THROUGH A MEGAPHONE, long-listed for the Bailey’s Women’s Prize in 2016. She is also a practising psychotherapist, and lives in Bath with her miniature schnauzer Henry.

Quickfire Questions with Rachel

Give us three adjectives to best describe your new novel.
Sad, tender, hopeful.

What are the three most important character traits of your protagonist?
Creativity, stubbornness, physical agility.

Where is the novel set?
St Ives, Cornwall, a reimagined version.

What were the last three things you Googled in the name of “research”?
• Did Lego spacemen have removable helmets in 1984?
• How many people could you fit inside a Vauxhall Cavalier?
• David Hockney’s pool paintings

Who is your biggest influence as a writer?
Everyday life is the biggest influence.

What word or phrase do you most overuse in your writing?
The words ridiculous and beautiful. Because I find so many things ridiculous and beautiful.

Who would you cast as your lead character if made into a film/TV?
Claire Danes would make an excellent Sydney Smith.

Do you have any hidden talents?
Unexpectedly, I’m quite handy with a pair of dog clippers, although my dog would disagree.

Which of your characters would you most like to have dinner with?
Belle Schaefer, a 29-year-old bookseller with an old soul. She’s a true outsider, yet a vital part of the community; she has an allotment, volunteers at an otter sanctuary, runs author events, drinks with all the old guys in a pub called the Black Hole. And every now and then, she steals things.

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Blog Tour, Debut, Memoir

Minor Monuments by Ian Maleney

Welcome to Tales Before Bedtime and I’m thrilled to be kicking off the blog tour for Minor Monuments by Ian Maleney.

Minor Monuments is a collection of essays about family, memory, and music. Mostly set in rural Irish midlands, on a small family farm not far from the river Shannon. The book tracks the final years of Maleney’s grandfather’s life, and looks at his experience with Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as the experiences of the people closest to him. 

Using his grandfather’s memory loss as a spur, the essays ask what it means to call a place home, how we establish ourselves in a place, and how we record our experiences of a place.

 The nature of familial and social bonds, the way a relationship is altered by observing and recording it, the influence of tradition and history, the question of belonging – these are the questions which come up again and again. 

Using episodes from his own life, and drawing on the works of artists like Pat Collins, Seamus Heaney, John Berger, and Brian Eno, Maleney examines how certain ways of listening and looking might bring us closer to each other, or keep us apart. 

What is it the binds us to others and to ourselves? If we can no longer remember, then how can remember who we are? Once we leave the house we call home, are we ever truly able to return to that place – that we have recreated in our imagination? 

Minor Monuments is a thought provoking and quietly devastating meditation on family, and how even the smallest story is no minor event.

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Sound intriguing doesn’t it?  There is so much in this brief synopsis that drew me to this book.  The enquiring look into ‘home’ and what it can mean to us.  The names Seamus Heaney and John Berger also struck a cord.  But it’s memory that intrigues me.  How our memory effects us and also diseases that effect it such as Alzheimer’s, something that is becoming far too common place,  and of course that one line that reads ‘If we can no longer remember, then how can we remember who we are?’

This is an absolutely stunning collection of writing.  Ian shares so much with us and writes in such a warm, intimate and honest way.  I felt in many ways that this book is about the nakedness of the end of life of someone close to us.  We begin to notice things never seen before, things that then become memories that we return to over and over again.  But memory is a tricky fella.

Yet as we witness John Joe’s demise there is also a sense of hope and great love.  The things that only come from memories of the life that was before the disease took hold.  I think the way that Ian moves from subject matter to subject matter, memory to memory avoids this feeling desperate and sad.  It isn’t after all just a book about Alzheimer’s but also about processing our own grief and keeping those we love alive within our memories.

He was in the process of forgetting everything he’d ever known. He was fading out of the world, and I began to grieve long before the death was final. I wanted to record whatever it was he might say before it was too late. Not because what he had to say was particularly significant or even memorable, but because no one would ever say anything like it again.

It is heartrendingly sad in parts, but Ian writes with such beauty that it lifts the soul even so.  It was like listening to someone talk who you simply can’t pull yourself away from.  A wonderful conversationalist that uses words and sentences so beautifully that you almost feel you are living it right there with him.

There is so much more that I could say about this collection but I don’t want to spoil the journey for you.  I urge you to read it though and I think there will be much to discuss once you do.  I’m sure there is something in this book that each and every one of us will be able to connect to.  My only regret is that my reviewing schedule of late has meant I had to read this much faster then I would have liked but it totally swept me away and I very much look forward to returning to the pages at a slower pace once again.

Thank you so much to Anne Cater for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour.  So many wonderful books you bring to my door. 🙂

Thank you also to Ian for sharing tyour experience and memories with us.

About the author

Ian Maleney

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Ian Maleney is a writer based in Dublin. Born and raised in Co Offaly, he works as a freelance arts journalist and as an online editor at Stinging Fly. He is the founder of Fallow Media, an interdisciplinary journal for music, photography, and long form writing on the internet. Minor Monuments is his debut.

 

 

This blog tour will run until July 1st. Please do check out the post by my fellow bloggers.  Full details below.

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