Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Dates Read: 12/04/2021-19/04/2021

My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn’t know anything about this book before starting to read it – I’m vaguely aware that there’s either a TV or film adaptation, I’ve certainly not watched that and hadn’t read any reviews as I don’t tend to do that in advance of picking up a book, simply because I prefer to form my own opinion without influence from elsewhere.

Interestingly, having finished this yesterday, today I’ve read a few reviews and it’s clearly a Marmite book. People seem to love it or to hate it. I’m in the former rather than the latter camp. I realised as I started reading that the majority of my choices so far in 2021 have been set in the UK or, if not physically in the UK, very much under British influence, even if across different ages, so it felt good to be transported somewhere else. I don’t really understand these manufactured US neighbourhoods. I guess they must be a little like Milton Keynes but the majority of my life has been spent in the suburbs of pretty big, northern-ish cities, which, as everyone here will know, are a higgledy piggledy sprawl, evolved over many centuries and so the orderly neatness of Shaker Heights feels very alien to me.

The ‘Little Fires’ referred to in the title are metaphorical as well as literal – the central characters all have their own inner embers, threatening to combust or be extinguished as we learn that no one is quite what they seem. The author does a good job of leading us through different emotions as their backstories and motivations are slowly revealed. On me this had the effect of initially dismissing some characters as unlikeable or unsympathetic, but gradually moving to compassion as she reminds us that we’re all just trying to live our lives to the best of our abilities. Sometimes we make bad decisions or do or say the wrong thing, but that doesn’t inherently make us bad, it just makes us human.

So all in all, I enjoyed Little Fires Everywhere. I wouldn’t want to live somewhere like Shaker Heights, but spending a week there has been, for the most part, fun.

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