So November sees us once again entering into Lockdown, only this time the days are getting shorter and we’re facing into the bleakness of Winter. Nevertheless, as we can’t see friends and family, it’s a good chance to catch up on a bit of reading.
When you do stop refreshing Twitter and the news feed and venture out, treat yourself to some lovely new books from your local independent bookshop- most are offering click and collect or online ordering.
Books can bring escapism and entertainment, and offer a valuable respite from day to day life but also a space to reflect on the big issues that surround us. I hope that like me, you’re finding solace, company and hope in your reading at the moment.
You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.
Maya Angelou- Letter to my Daughter
The Book You Wish Your Parents had Read (and Your Children Will be Glad That You Did) by Phillipa Perry
I’ve just finished listening to the audiobook of ‘The Book you wish your parents had read (and your children will be glad that you did)’, written and read by Phillipa Perry, and I feel as though I’ve had about 100 epiphanies! This may be a slight exaggeration but I felt myself nodding my head so vigorously throughout, that an onlooker would probably have been concerned for my stability. Perry talks so wisely about the impact that our early years have on our adult selves, but without criticism or judgement which it makes it so more palatable. I don’t have children so I didn’t listen to it with the experience of parenting ringing in my ears, but I could certainly apply the advice given to any of my familial relationships. Actually, all of my relationships! The ability to reflect on one’s self, and be brutally honest about the impact our words and actions can have on others is hard. Understanding why you behaved in such a way can help you process your feelings, and then help you to ‘repair the rupture’, as Perry phrases it. I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone, it helps you see that most bridges can be repaired if you are prepared to put in the hard work in communicating, I think we’d all be better for it!
Okay, Let’s Do Your Stupid Idea by Patrick Freyne
This is a light yet heartfelt series of essays, funny but tender, and very self-deprecating. The perfect read for the dark times we find ourselves in at present: easy to pick up, easy to read, but written with a warmth and wit that will stay with you.
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
I recently finished The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer. It’s an ambitious, witty and heartfelt novel that follows the early adulthood of Greer Kadetsky; the bookish idealist with former hippie parents, as she navigates the university campus and then the workplace. Two separate incidents highlight to her a profound sense of injustice in the world, which changes the trajectory of her future relationships and career path. An early incident of sexual harassment from a fellow student and a powerful lecture from the famous second-wave feminist, Faith Frank, transforms Greer’s perception of- and personal relationship with- feminism, over the course of the narrative. Wolitzer offers insights in to the lives of the people in Greer’s life, including her genius, high-school sweetheart Cory and her activist former roommate, Zee.
It’s a book about family, mentor-mentee relationships, ‘selling out’ and doing your best with what you have. It is also ultimately a book about characters, so if you’re after something pacy and plot-driven, this might not be the best read for you. But if you like razor-sharp sentences, astute observations about being a woman in the modern world and ideas to ponder, give it a go.
The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
The Four Winds is my fourth novel by Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone and The Nightingale being two of my favourite ever books, so I was ecstatic to be accepted to read an advanced copy by St Martins Press on Netgalley.
Beginning in 1930s Texas we meet our protagonist, Elsa, unloved and unacknowledged by her family, she doesn’t have much hope for her future until a short, secret fling results in pregnancy. She is then dropped on the doorstep of the fathers house and subsequently disowned by her family.
Over the years she becomes rooted with her in-laws, showing her dedication and hard work ethics however her now husband, Rafe, becomes distant and once again, Elsa fears rejection.
Adding in the onset of the destructive droughts in the Dust Bowl era of the Great Depression, Elsa and her family experience the toughest conditions with the land so dry it cracks and no wheat harvests for years.
Elsa has to make the heartbreaking decision whether to chase the American dream and head to California, the land of hope and milk and honey or stay on the land she loves and calls home.
Hannah uses a combination of in depth research and her natural gift of beautiful writing to create an engrossing, emotional and often harrowing story. She weaves in issues surrounding the drought, poverty, politics and feminism.
It is, however, incredibly bleak. I appreciate the book is reminiscent of the time however I personally needed a few more highs rather than constant lows. I was envious of Elsa for getting back up every time she was knocked down and wonder what I would have done if it was me in that situation. I just felt it lacked the vibrancy and pace of her other books.
That being said, it is an epic book and I will continue to be a huge Kristin Hannah fan!
Love in Colour – Bolu Babalola
Yet, when you get to the end of this book, all you feel is warmth and happiness for the characters.
I’ve always loved reading myths and this book really didn’t disappoint. The myths come from all different places around the world, such as Nigeria, China and Lesotho.
It was really refreshing to read mainly about characters that are not as well known/or even known in the western world. Representation really does matter in everything.
From reading the author notes at the end of the book, I found it quite interesting to see her thought process. Especially, with the more misogynistic and heavily patriarchal themed myths and how she flipped them to let the female characters shine. All in all, it was a very entertaining read, you get attached and invested into the characters lives. You want the best for them and for them to receive the love they deserve.
Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales
While I don’t think it quite lived up to Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli, I really enjoyed it! The storyline is certainly Grease inspired. Ollie meets Will on vacation in North Carolina and a whirlwind summer romance follows. Then, Ollie is shocked to discover that he’ll be moving to North Carolina for the foreseeable future so his family can be closer to his sick Aunt. He’s thrilled to let Will know, but is met by radio silence, only to find out that they attend the same school on his first day!
Both Ollie and Will were lovely characters. Ollie was great a narrator – funny, sweet and relatable. Will was a great multifaceted character and his struggle with his sexuality was sensitively handled. I was left just wanting to throw my arms around the pair of them and tell them that everything was going to be okay.
I loved how both boys had a great relationship with their parents and wider family, as well as their friends. I ended up really liking Lily, the Rizzo inspired character! Overall, it was a really fun read which I have already recommended to others!