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review 2019-06-13 18:58
A History of Running Away by Paula McGrath
A History of Running Away - et al. (Contributing Authors) Laura E. Kelly (Global Editor-in-Chief); Paula Marchese and Joseph P. McGrath (Managing Editors); Richard Paul Evans

A friend recently told me this book reminded her of my writing. That was certainly enough to peak my interest, not to mention it being written by an Irish author.


A History of Running Away is set mostly in Ireland, with a section at the beginning taking place in London and another few chapters set in the US. The narrative is split in three time-periods, the chief one being in the 1980’s. The other two are set in 2012 and present day.


The story mostly follows Jasmine who runs away from her home in small town Ireland to London, with the vague idea of being a dancer on top of the pops. Several months after she gets there Jasmine becomes involved in some unsavoury practises in order to get by. When she manages to extricate herself she travels back to Ireland, but this time Dublin. While living there she becomes interested in boxing, which is illegal for woman from Ireland of that era. Regardless of the illegal nature of boxing she recruits someone to train her and henceforth the real story begins.


I enjoyed this book and the way in boxing was used as a metaphor to depict Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws at the time. It was, however, quite muddled, without a clear structure and some character contradictions that were hard to see past. For example, Jasmine wanted to train as a doctor while she was learning to box. I found it hard to understand how someone who likes to beat people up also wants to patch them back together. Luckily my friend has only read a bit of my novel, so I’m not going to take offence just yet! The problems only really became apparent in the latter half, anyway. I feel like the author didn’t have a very definitive idea of where she was going before she started to write. Maybe she didn’t have a plan for the story and winged it, who knows? It did wrap up nicely, though, with all strands coming together in a nice twist. That makes me think some parts were formally planned.


I really liked the narrative set in the US. The voice was fresh and unique and I really wish this character had been explored in more depth. Unfortunately she only appeared in a few chapters and served more as a plot manoeuvre than anything else. The main voice was Jasmine, as I’ve said and the other female is unidentified until much later. Each voice was unique and separate, which I really liked.


I did enjoy this novel and I’d recommend it, it isn’t very long, anyway. There were a few problems with it, but these didn’t detract from the immersive plot and characters.

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text 2019-06-02 22:11
Reading progress update: I've read 44%.
A History of Running Away - et al. (Contributing Authors) Laura E. Kelly (Global Editor-in-Chief); Paula Marchese and Joseph P. McGrath (Managing Editors); Richard Paul Evans

I settled on a book! A writing friend told me about it and as it's set in Ireland AND the U.K, which are both technically my country (people from Northern Ireland have dual-citizenship), it's perfect. I've been reading non-fiction lately as fiction distracts me from my own writing, but I've missed it so much. It's related to my own novel anyway and could be considered research. The Irish part of the story, set in the early 80's, is about a female boxer who can't fight as it's illegal for women to do so. Apparently boxing is a metaphor for abortion, which is the topic of my novel. I'm completely absorbed by it.


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review 2013-01-20 00:00
Strides: Running Through History With an Unlikely Athlete
Strides: Running Through History With an Unlikely Athlete - Benjamin Cheever The subtitle of this book is a little misleading. There are some stories about running throughout history, but they’re almost all purely anecdotal. There are a few citations at the back, but they’re fairly sparse, and much of the history is actually myth. I would describe it more as a musing on running, comprising many humorous and touching anecdotes about the author’s experience with the sport. This includes everything from doing a 10-K in Baghdad to participating in the wine-drinking marathon mentioned above.

There were parts of this book I liked a lot. I liked that the author interviewed professional athletes and other experts to add to his own perspective. I liked his perspective, especially on his own experiences, since these were often told with the most humor. And I liked seeing the enthusiasm and love the author clearly feels for running. As a non-runner, it was interesting to see what draws people to running and what the challenges are. It sounds as though on of the great benefits of running is the feeling of community. That was conveyed through a variety of poignant stories.

One downside of the book was the complete mix of topics, from funny to moving stories and from myth to history to musings on running. The author would often make a point, relate a few anecdotes, make that point or another point, and than return with more anecdotes. As a result, the book felt somewhat choppy. I also would have liked to see more research and more history, both of which were smaller components of the book than I expected based on the description and subtitle. Of course, someone looking for something different, particularly someone looking to read another runner’s thoughts on running, might enjoy this book a lot more. Given how funny some of the anecdotes were, I might pick up a memoir or a comedy he’s written since those might be more for me.

This review first published on Doing Dewey.
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