November Wrap Up: What We’ve Been Reading

How have you been keeping this month, and what have you been reading?

I have been thinking a lot recently about fallow periods, and times of gathering-in and hibernating. This may have been forced upon us this year due to the lockdown, but there is a value in a time of quietitude and reflection. Sometimes if you sit with the silence, creativity and ideas may begin to flow again. As is so often the case, Tove Jannson can expresses this so beautifully in Moominvalley in November, a book I often turn to at this time of year:

“The quiet transition from autumn to winter is not a bad time at all. It’s a time for protecting and securing things and for making sure you’ve got in as many supplies as you can. It’s nice to gather together everything you possess as close to you as possible, to store up your warmth and your thoughts and burrow yourself into a deep hole inside, a core of safety where you can defend what is important and precious and your very own. Then the cold and the storms and the darkness can do their worst. They can grope their way up the walls looking for a way in, but they won’t find one, everything is shut, and you sit inside, laughing in your warmth and your solitude, for you have had foresight.”

I can certainly claim foresight in gathering in a nice collection of books to dip into in the coming weeks anyway…

Here’s what the Willoughby team have been enjoying recently:

The Heart’s invisible Furies by John Boyne

Finishing John Boyne’s ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ was a bittersweet moment, torn between wanting to reach the conclusion of this epic tale while also never wanting it to end. This novel has so many elements to it; a social history of Ireland, family dynamics and friendships forged and lost, sexuality, the AIDS crisis, love, passion, deceit, humour… all the ingredients for a story that will reel you in and steal your heart.

Boyne shines a light in every crevice of human nature, at times I felt so much sympathy and empathy for the main protagonist Cyril, then at other times I wanted to slap him and shake him and tell him not to be so selfish/foolish/irresponsible. Either way I’d like to sit and drink a pint of Guinness with him!


I urge everyone to read this book, it’s definitely a contender for my favourite read of 2020.

The Beekepper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri

I actually picked this book up a few months ago but something put me off at the time. But I’m so glad I picked it up again this week.

It’s a story of Nuri, his blind wife Afra and the harrowing journey to escape their war-torn home in Aleppo to seek safety in the UK. We learn of the dangers of night time sea-crossings, the refugee camps and the people they meet along the way, and of the struggles of seeking Asylum once they finally make it to Britain.

Although this is a fiction book, the author herself was a volunteer at a refugee camp ,and its horrifying to think that this is the reality for thousands of people.

A very moving & powerful story. If you want a read that leaves an impression, I definitely recommend this book.


Sadie by Courtney Summers

I devoured this whilst working and cross stitching. If you have the opportunity, you should definitely listen to rather than read this title. It was fantastically produced and I have a feeling Courtney Summers has listened to a lot of investigative true crime podcasts because ‘The Girl’ felt so authentic.

Wes, with his compassion and dedication, reminded me of the host of CBC’s Someone Knows Something and everything, down to the way the interviews were edited and the intro music, made it feel real.

Sadie’s chapters were raw and fraught with emotion. It was, at times, a hard listen, considering the subject matter and incredibly moving. I cannot fault the pacing of this novel. Despite it’s heaviness, I was desperate to keep listening, to find out what was going to happen next. Loved it!


After the Silence by Louise O’Neill

I was waiting for the perfect opportunity to get stuck into this book, and when I had a weekend to myself I devoured it.

Ten years after the death of Nessa Crowley on an island off the coast of West Cork, a documentary crew arrive, seeking new insight into the unsolved case. Will they uncover anything new?

This is a dark, compelling and claustrophobic, and will keep you hooked until the end. The island setting works well from a ‘closed room’ point of view, but the sense of place and history is strong throughout this novel. Its themes of physical and psychological domestic violence and coercive control will stay with you for a long time.

I always enjoy Louise O’Neill’s books and her incisive columns, and in this difficult, ambiguous story she’s at her best.


The Woman in the Dark by Vanessa Savage

Hoping for a fresh start, Patrick, his wife Sarah and their two teenage children move back to Patrick’s childhood home which has recently come up for sale. The only problem is this house has been known as the Murder House for the last 15 years after the previous family were found slaughtered inside. Believing they can pour love into the house and make it a home, Sarah starts to notice things that are wrong. Or is she imagining things such as people watching her from outside? Strange writing on the walls? And presents being left by the front door? What happens when you turn to the one person you trust, your husband, and they don’t believe you?

This book is SO creepy and really had me on the edge of my seat. The writing oozes tension and creates such a chilling atmosphere. I am looking forward to trying her second book The Woods.


Sister of my Heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

This is about two cousins who are born into an all female household on the same day their fathers die. Set in 80’s India, these two girls grow up as sisters. Their close relationship is tested and strengthened through the ups and downs of life, such as a family secret, serious illness and arranged marriages.

At times, the two main characters, Anju and Sudha would frustrate me with their thoughts and actions, but I still wanted the best for them.

Throughout this story, Anju and Sudha are made to feel guilty/shame for things that are out of their control.

Coming from an Indian family myself and growing up with many Asian peers, I could recognise this guilt and pressure that are put on to girls (from Asian families) from a very young age. Being Asian isn’t bad, just that the misogynistic values and traditions that are still surround us should be put to rest.


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