What I’ve Been Reading

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Normal People - Sally Rooney

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I absolutely loved this book - at face value the premise suggests a potential 'One Day' theme of two heavily connected characters who can never quite make it work. But Rooney's writing goes far deeper into the darkness of human emotions, social anxiety, class differences, parental neglect, personal identity, loneliness, isolation and depression. It cuts to the core and whilst the character can be frustrating and somewhat dislikable at times you can't help but identify with them and feel their pain and turmoil, a credit to Rooney's precise writing style which doesn't try to do anything but simply represent the truth of youth and experience. The TV adaptation that has just aired is equally poignant and does the most incredible job of bringing Connell and Marianne's intoxicating relationship to life on screen, given that the majority of the book takes place in the intense thoughts and feelings of the two protagonists, its a real triumph to have succeeded in capturing and portraying so beautifully everything that goes unspoken between the characters.

Where The Crawdads Sing - Delia Owens

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Wow. This book really blew me away. It tells the story of Kya, a mysteriously reclusive girl that lives in the marshes on the outskirts of a town in South Carolina. After being abandoned by both society and her family, instead of diminishing, Kya looks to Mother nature and her own resilience and resourcefulness to keep her alive. Owens draws the reader into Kya's world and you see her blossom and discover herself within the wild nature that cradles her, the detailed description of the marshes is so evocative you can almost feel the wind in your hair and saltness of the sea on your skin as you read.

Its a tale of survival, hope, love, loss, loneliness, desperation, prejudice, determination and above all, strength.  Although defined as a thriller, the writing is sculpted by such a delicate hand that builds the story up in a way that by the end I was left feeling completely overwhelmed by how emotionally breathtaking the whole book is. Couldn't recommend it more.

Expectations - Anna Hope

★ ★ ★ ★

Expectations is a thoughtful, compelling story of friendship and navigating happiness whilst juggling the weight of societal pressure and thwarted ambition. I think Hope does a really good job of developing highly believable characters with which a generation of women can identify with; the expectation on them to do it all, have it all and with each of her protagonists the weight of expectation has them truly believing that they have somehow failed.  The book is set in and around London, spanning from the mid-90s to present day, I loved the descriptions of heady, halcyon summer days living in London fresh out of University, with the world at your feet and high expectations about the future. I found it realistic and thought-provoking, but what let it down for me was the ending. It felt a bit rushed and i didn't feel like the character dynamics were properly resolved, but still highly recommend it.

Adults - Emma Jane Unsworth

★ ★ ★ ★

Adults has a fleabag edge to it; brutally honest in an almost offensive and often cringeworthy way but ultimate very human and tender. When I started reading this the main character Jenny really grated on me, I found her obsession with social media and digital culture overdone and slightly satirical but as you read on you realise that the author exaggerates Jenny to make a direct and necessary point about our generations addiction to social media, its pressures, its pitfalls and its repercussions. Its a relevant read of which i enjoyed many parts of, it provides an insightful look at mother and daughter relationships, the damage that social media addiction can do and what happens when you neglect real life, and the people who matter.

Educated - Tara Westover

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

One of the most incredible books i've ever read. Hard to read and impossible to put down, this is the memoir of Tara Westover who is brought up in a fundamentalist, survivalist Mormon family, in rural Idaho. Its hard to even describe this book as it's like nothing i've ever read, i'm not normally drawn to memoirs but picked this up because i'd heard so much good stuff about it. The way she writes her story is never cruel even though we are not spared any of the ugly details - it's an honest recollection of her life, her personal strength and her journey of self-discovery - its a must-read for everyone in my opinion.

Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Stroud

★ ★ ★

I really didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. The book is made up of a collection of story all centred around a small time in Maine, the main character Olive weaves into each story in someway thus connecting all of them together. The writing is really beautiful but the stories themselves didn't really interest or engage me as I thought they would, whilst I enjoyed some of them towards the end I found myself looking forward to it being over so I could move onto something else.

An American Marriage - Tayari Jones

★ ★ ★ ★

Really enjoyed this book, its a story about how one act of injustice can forever change the lives of not only the persecuted person but all those connected to him. It also highlights the injustice of the American judicial system, especially as a young black man. Even though the reader feels the pain of the discrimination the author doesn't dwell on the court case itself but instead focuses on the lives of the main characters and how time and circumstances ultimately change a person and no matter how much you wish to return to your old life, sometimes the journey back is just too hard. Its a refreshingly written book, the characters are both realistic and relatable in their actions, it's a depiction of the reality of marriage as modern day couple and questions how far loyalty goes.

Calypso - David Sedaris

★ ★ ★ ★

Such a brilliant book. This was my first experience of Sedaris's work and I loved every second of it. His darkly funny collection of autobiographical short stories had me laughing out load one second and choked up the next. He has the unique ability to write humour, make it good but also make it incredibly emotionally rich, he's the type of writer that you want to be friend with after reading his work. A must-read.

Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys - Viv Albertine

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This book deserves all the stars. This memoir spans the incredible life of Viv Albertine, guitarist in the seminal all-girl punk bank The Slits, the book takes you on a rollercoaster of events told in two parts. The first part talks about her childhood, hanging with musicians from Mick Jones to Sid Vicious to forming an all female band and forging a path for themselves in the music world, a place openly hostile to women, its full of amazing stories of the music world and what it was to be a women in that scene at the time. The later part is a contemplative one, it deals with sacrifice, the pain of fertility treatment and suppressing her own creative impulses. Its a truly remarkable book written by an extremely talented writer, can't recommend this one enough.

 

More to come soon and let me know your thoughts and any recommendations in the comments below!

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