Sunday 19 February 2023

What a Shame - Abigail Bergstrom

There is something wrong with Mathilda.

She's still reeling from the blow of a gut-punch break up and grieving the death of a loved one.
But that's not it.

She's cried all her tears, mastered her crow pose and thrown out every last reminder of him.
But that's not helping.

Concerned that she isn't moving on, Mathilda's friends push her towards a series of increasingly unorthodox remedies.
Until the seams of herself begin to come undone.

Tender, unflinching and blisteringly funny, What a Shame glitters with rage and heartbreak, perfect for fans of Emma Jane Unsworth, Dolly Alderton and Holly Bourne.

What did I think?

I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading What a Shame but I was drawn to it by the description of 'darkly comic' and 'hilarious'.  The story revolves around Mathilda's grief, so it doesn't have a laugh on every page; I wouldn't call it hilarious but it's certainly darkly comic and I found several parts amusing.

My heart went out to Mathilda who is grieving both for a parent and the end of a relationship; she wants to move on but the dark cloud continues to hang over her.  Healing baths, tarot readings and shamanic rituals all help to a degree but to fully move on, Mathilda must confront her past.

I loved the support network of girlfriends that Mathilda has and how they are all there for each other.  Mathilda's story is quite dark but Jeremy the puppy provides some light entertainment and a lot of laughs.

The format of the book is a little unusual, written in sections that flow effortlessly into each other rather than chapters.  I usually struggle with books that don't have any rigidly defined chapters that each start on a new page, but there's just something so incredibly compelling about What a Shame that the rhythm would have been interrupted with unnecessary gaps in the page.

Haunting, dark and often amusing, What a Shame is a masterful debut from Abigail Bergstrom.  It's a compelling and enjoyable read, despite the darkness of the storyline.

I received a paperback copy to read as part of the Tandem Collective readalong and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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