What We've Been Reading

What We've Been Reading - The Willoughby Book Club

It's June already! With the mid-point of the year reached, we've been gradually ticking off our Willoughby reading goals for the year.

As we all read quite different books here, we've always got plenty of interesting and diverse titles to discuss in the office. Read on to find out a little more about the books we've been reading and loving recently.

 

The Heart in Winter by Kevin Barry

Set in October, 1891, in Butte, Montana, The Heart in Winter takes us to a city rapidly becoming rich on mining, which is rampant with debauched, hard-scrabble immigrant lives. We meet Tom Rourke, shameless poet, balladeer and photographer's assistant rattling around from bar to bar. As settler men's lives become more established, they send letters East for brides to come and join them. This is how Polly Gillespie arrives in town to marry the devout, ascetic mine captain Long Anthony Harrington. Just a day after her arrival she poses for wedding photos, and her life collides with Tom's. As they fall headlong into love, they steal a horse and head West in the hopes of beginning a new life together, but are soon pursued by Cornish gunmen hired by the Captain.

I somersaulted straight into this novel, and didn't emerge until it was finished. It is a glorious, poetic romp of a tale, with two deeply flawed heroes in Polly and Tom. I loved the gorgeous, drink-sodden writing and was completely hooked on the love story, the escape, and the chase. This is a book that you'll devour and want to re-read straight away. It is clear that the writing is built on serious research about the time and place, but this is worn so lightly. I can't believe I haven't read any Kevin Barry titles until now. I'll be hunting down everything I can find after this exhilarating read, and I'll be harassing everyone to read this so I've got people to talk about it with!

Marianne

 

Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad

Enter Ghost by Isabella Hammad is a very timely novel, following the British-Palestinian protagonist Sonia, an actor reeling from the end of an affair, as she returns to Palestine to visit her sister, Haneen. The two sisters have been living very different lives, with Sonia very much living a 'British' life in London and Haneen living in Haifa, while teaching in Tel Aviv. Sonia is soon befriended by charismatic theatre director, Mariam, who wrangles Sonia into her West Bank production of Hamlet. 

It's a book that grapples with ghosts and memory,  Sonia's personal reckoning with her family history, the push and pull of living in the diaspora, as well as how art functions in a society where voices are routinely suppressed.

It's such a clever book, with a fully realised cast of characters that would even interest the Bard of Avon. If you are after a book that explores contemporary life in Palestine, or even just interesting books that delve into the world of theatre, you'll love this one. 

Olivia

 

Sociopath: A Memoir by Patric Gagne

I’ve just finished Sociopath: A Memoir by Patric Gagne. I don’t usually read non-fiction, especially memoirs, but I saw this in a bookshop and thought it sounded interesting!

The book is written by Patric, who was diagnosed as a sociopath at university. It’s a blisteringly honest account of her life growing up knowing she was different but not understanding exactly why. She describes the struggles she faced attempting to fit in and how she learnt to mimic other people's behaviour, the long fight of getting a diagnosis and the assistance she sought once she was finally diagnosed.

I had obviously heard the term ‘sociopath’ before but didn’t know much about it before reading this book. A really interesting and insightful read!

 Chloe

Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson

When I finished Small Worlds, I immediately wanted to re-read it or find books that were very similar to it and fall in love with them too.

I was already a fan of Caleb Azumah Nelson, having read Open Water a couple of years ago and I knew straight away I was reading a treat of a book. And, reader, it really didn’t disappoint!

The writing is beautiful and it created such a tranquil space in my mind while I was reading it- I really didn’t want it to end.

Set over the course of three summers, we follow Stephen from London to Ghana and back, as he learns, grows and falls in love. Stephen’s world is music and it’s the way he knows best to communicate with his family and friends. So, what happens when Stephen can feel his musical ability fading and is struggling with his worth and faces struggles at home?

Small Worlds is all about the multiple worlds we create for ourselves, to feel safe, to feel love and to live. Read it!

Alisha

 

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff

I really enjoyed this dark, funny revenge drama set in rural Gujarat.

Geeta's life is more bearable as a widow, despite everyone in her village assuming that she murdered her husband. Her reputation causes another wife who is the victim of a drunk abusive husband to seek her help in ridding her of him. Soon other wives also fancy life as a widow, and she finds herself caught in a web of lies as the bodies pile up.

This is pacy and very dark, but with warmth, humour and fierce feminism underlying the storyline. I liked the Phoolan Devi inspiration that was threaded through the story, and really enjoyed the author's nuanced depiction of female friendship. This is a fun read that will also make you think.

Marianne

 

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

I had a few days off work, so I wanted a really engrossing book to read, and this certainly delivered!

Maya is a troubled young woman haunted by the death of her best friend who was killed aged only seventeen. Her memories of the event and of that summer are fragmented, but she knows who killed her friend. If only she can get people to believe her.

Another girl from her hometown dies in similar circumstances, and as Maya's life begins to spiral she knows she must return to the cabin in the woods that is at the heart of her memories, and her trauma.

This is pacy, atmospheric and sinister, and I really enjoyed it. You'll have to read it fast to get to the conclusion.

Nicola


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