There are some books that receive an awful lot of praise and hype when you post about them on social media, Lessons In Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus was one and Still Life by Sarah Winman is another. This always then buries a high expectation into you whilst you’re reading it and, unfortunately, you often find that the book can never reach the hype that social media has set for it. Either it’s not your thing or the mass of audience who came to tell you it’s great aren’t into the sort of books you like. Still Life isn’t one of those books. It’s brilliant.
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Still Life focuses on the stories of a few small characters in whose lives nothing ever truly outstanding ever happens but Winman makes you care so much. The story mainly follows our protagonist Ulysses after he returns from Italy during the war to his friends in London who work at a pub that has a parrot. It’s a great little concept that sometimes has you defying your concept of reality but never feeling absurd doing so because you’re so overjoyed with the results.
Still Life plot – 4.25/5
There’s something to be said about a book that when you look back at it, you can explain almost every detail that happens and yet nothing about it would make someone go ‘ooh that sounds like a fascinating story’. The reason you’ll love the story in Still Life isn’t because it features massive blockbuster moments or because there are clever, sweeping moments but because it is wholeheartedly real and humble.
When I posted about Still Life on my Twitter, almost everybody mentioned that they didn’t get it at first as it wasn’t overly obvious as to what the point was. However, Winman’s phenomenal writing kept them intrigued. Whilst mentioning her writing, I must warn you that there are no speech marks in this book. At first, it was incredibly confusing as I wasn’t sure if I was reading it wrong or had a dodgy issue. However, after some research, I found out this was on purpose and it was Winman’s artistic style.
Now, at first, it is a bit jarring, however, as many people mentioned online, the way Winman writes is so clever, natural and progressive that you never really notice it. You quickly grasp when people are speaking and who is speaking and you quickly fall into the gorgeous characters she has created and so completely forgo all of your rules on how grammar should work.
Still Life characters – 4.75/5
Sometimes a book will come along that has you fall in love with the characters and their interactions and the journies they go on. Still Life is one of those books. If you can look past the lack of speech marks and the fact you feel a little lost when you first start reading then you’ll be rewarded with some of the most incredibly written characters you’ll ever have the joy of reading.
Almost every character in this book is deep, has a sense of humour or is just generally likeable. Some of them are all three. As well as these admirable traits, they all interact with each other in such a beautiful way giving off a big family feeling that will make you route for every single one of them to succeed throughout.
There’s an ongoing “love story” that teases us with promise and consistency but has us realise that no adult relationships are easy, they’re not that mysterious but they’re often hard work and require both sides to speak and know what’s going on. I’ve never read a love story where it didn’t work out how I thought it would and I still come away absolutely loving it.
I keep mentioning other people’s views on the books but again I’ll say that many people say that the characters “stayed with them long after the book was finished” which is a true testament to the grip this group of people will have on you.
Still Life final rating – 4.5/5
Still Life is one of the best books I’ve read all year. I’ve given it this rating because it is one of the most beautifully written, down-to-earth, encapsulating books I’ve read in a long time. The characters will keep you wholly invested and their interactions and relationships will make you yearn for more. You’re not going to be blown away by the plot and I’ve heard criticisms from people that not a lot actually happens drama-wise – but when a book has a big thick tick through so many other boxes, you can’t help but appreciate it for the art-like state it reaches.
If you liked the sound of Still Life, you might like my reviews of the following books: