A bit of a Stretch: The Diaries of a Prisoner- Chris Atkins (new read, audiobook)
‘Where can a tin of tuna buy you clean clothes? Where is it easier to get ‘spice’ than paracetamol? Where does self-harm barely raise an eyebrow?
Welcome to Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Like most people, documentary-maker Chris Atkins didn’t spend much time thinking about prisons. But after becoming embroiled in a dodgy scheme to fund his latest film, he was sent down for five years. His new home would be HMP Wandsworth, one of the largest and most dysfunctional prisons in Europe. With a cast of characters ranging from wily drug dealers to senior officials bent on endless reform, this powerful memoir uncovers the horrifying reality behind the locked gates. Filled with dark humour and shocking stories, A Bit of a Stretch reveals why our creaking prison system is sorely costing us all – and why you should care.’ (A Bit of a Stretch synopsis)
I don’t read very much non-fiction (I need to read more), but memoirs are my favourite genre to read via audiobook, I think they work really well and can be brought to life- particularly because they’re usually narrated by the author. I particularly seem to enjoy memoirs about institutions such as hospitals and prison (I’d recommend This is Going to Hurt, and the Confessions series). I enjoyed this book, felt for the people and I think it has a great balance of humour. I really felt enveloped in the setting and the stories were told in a way that brought the individuals and setting to life. I wouldn’t say this is my favourite prison memoir, and I probably enjoyed Orange is the New Black more (I will say here, Orange is the New Black is one of the rare tv shows that is better than the book, they have done so much with the characters and I can’t recommend it highly enough). Throughout this book, I thought about the crime committed by Atkins and his place in prison- as a white male who has not experienced mental illness, poverty or trauma, the writer’s prison experience is not reflective of the majority. However, I was extremely happy when Atkins acknowledged this himself and reflected upon the privilege that he experienced even within prison; this awareness made the memoir and narrator more likeable. Atkins also used the memoir to emphasise some of the struggles of other men within the prison and used his time to become a better person, as well as highlighting the issues within the prison system. I personally agree that prison is not working, people are dehumanised and there should be far more done to support those with mental health issues and rehabilitate. Overall, this was an enjoyable insightful book and I would really recommend it if you like this genre! 😊 Please let me know if you’ve read any memoirs about the prison system, I find them so interesting.
I always forget to note quotes for audiobooks haha but there were lots!
Perfect- Cecelia Ahern (new read, physical book)
‘Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured – all her freedoms gone. Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with the complicated, powerfully attractive Carrick, the only person she can trust. But Celestine has a secret – one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground.
Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save only herself, or risk her life to save all the Flawed. And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed…?’ (Perfect synopsis)
I enjoyed the first book in this series (Flawed), however, I didn’t really like this book, I mainly kept reading because I have an annoying irrational need to finish books haha, and my friend gave me it to borrow. I don’t really like love triangles, and whilst this wasn’t as bad as some it did still annoy me a little bit. I thought the pace was a little bit strange sometimes and a little rushed at the end, however, there were strong parts and I’m glad the Ahern decided to go with two books instead of the typical trilogy as I don’t feel that another book would have been necessary. I have to admit I’m struggling to remember too much about this book, but I wrote a couple of tiny notes: at times I felt that there were instant connections between Celestine and new characters who were introduced. This is a heightened, dystopian world; however, these relationships didn’t feel very realistic. This book still has elements of the Hunger Games and more of Divergent. There were also some unsettling parallels to concentration camps within the book. Overall, despite whingeing about this book I did enjoy the idea of a dystopian story based on ethics and moral dilemmas, and I think the message of anti-discrimination is amazing, I just personally didn’t like elements of the writing style. You may like this book if you enjoy Divergent or if you’ve read Flawed in the past. 😊
‘Maybe the strongest fighters are the nurturers because they’re connected to something deep in their core, they’ve got something to fight for, they’ve got something worth saving.’
The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins (reread, physical book) and Catching Fire- Suzanne Collins (reread, physical book)
I’m writing a separate blog post for my hunger games reread when I finish Mockingjay, this is one of my absolute favourite series.
Thank you for reading, please recommend non-fiction, I’d like to read more of it! Also, memoirs and books set in institutions. 😊