I know I am a day early but I’m not going to finish my current book in time for the end of the month tomorrow so there was no point in waiting. I’ve been reading David Copperfield for well over a week now and don’t seem to be making a dent in it so I know for a fact that it won’t be finished by tomorrow. This is all part of my attempt to read more (any!) Charles Dickens this year but more on that next month I guess when (if!) I finish it.
So this month started with If You Go Away by Adele Parks which was brilliant. I haven’t read any of her stuff for ages but after reading this, I will be going back to read all of the books that I’ve missed over the last few years I think. Too many books, too little time of course but that doesn’t stop me have a To Be Read pile as tall as me. Debutante Vivian has society at her feet then one indiscretion causes her world to crumble just as the country erupts into war. She meets celebrated playwright Howard who wants no part in the killing of a faceless enemy but refusing to fight leads to his imprisonment and almost his death. Their love story is at the heart of the book but there is much more to this story. The book made me really think about the double standards (and downright misery!) that women back then had to face due to society’s expectations and also made me go on to read more about the conscientious objectors to the war.
Next was The Distance Between Us by Maggie O’Farrell which I really enjoyed. To be fair, I don’t think that I have read a book of hers that I haven’t loved she is such a great writer! It is a novel about parallel lives, displaced identities and the bond between two sisters. The two main characters Stella and Jake end up in the same place for very different reasons as both of their stories unfold. It is really cleverly written I couldn’t put it down. I read it in one weekend which almost never happens these days.
Then I read The View on the Way Down by Rebecca Wait which is one of my favourite books so far this year. I read The Followers by Rebecca Wait a year or two ago and loved it and was actually googling to see if she had written anything else since when I came across this book which she actually wrote before so I’m not sure how it had passed me by? Anyway it was superb. As in unforgettable. It is not the easiest of subjects and explores the complexity of family and the effects of mental illness. I thought I might struggle to read it in all honesty but it was just so compassionately written. It left me absolutely heartbroken but in an I’m-so-glad-I-read-it kind of way.
Next was Eloise by Judy Finnigan which has been sat on my shelf for ages. I must admit that from reading the blurb, I was hoping that it would be a bit more of a ghost story but it wasn’t at all really. I just felt like the story was lacking something and the writing felt a little clunky in parts. The main character Cathy is devastated after her friend Eloise dies from breast cancer and has disturbing dreams suggesting that the death was not all that it seems. Her husband basically thinks that she has lost the plot and to be fair to him, she does come across as an hysterical middle-aged woman even if she does turn out to be right but then again, him threatening to divorce her in every other chapter probably doesn’t help. I think my strong dislike for the main characters made it hard for me to warm to the book but I can’t help but think that she should really gone for it and gone all out down the supernatural route instead of just vaguely hinting at it.
Then I read The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas which was superb. I am a big fan of Rachael and have loved every single one of her books so I couldn’t wait to read this. It is a little different from her previous books in that it is young adult fiction and follows the story of Grace who has Asperger’s and her very own way of looking at the world. It gives a remarkable insight into the life of an autistic teenager which at times was exhausting to read. Exhausting as in how on earth does any teenager survive those tricky years let alone an autistic one?! It is brilliantly written I’ve never read anything like it. I passed it straight on to my teen to read who I know will love Grace as much as I did.
And last but by no means least was Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway. After reading Villa America last month you might remember me saying that I wanted to read more from the lost generation and I thought this might be a good start. It is a collection of short stories so great for picking up and reading in short bursts. I found it completely awe-inspiring that within the space of a few pages, he could create a whole world. There were some stories that I enjoyed more than others but what I did love about them all was the sheer toughness of them all. Real masculine toughness that I don’t think we see in modern literature anymore. Hemingway really was a uniquely gifted writer, I don’t think anyone else can compare.