I’m now nine months into my ‘read 52 books in 52 weeks’ challenge, and I’m still a million miles behind reaching my target but I am so happy that it’s pushed me to dedicate more of my spare time to reading. I’m also really pleased with the book choices I made in the past three months; in my 6-month review I felt like I struggled to find even five books to talk about that I’d really enjoyed, but recently I’ve loved almost everything I’ve picked up. Here are my thoughts on some of my favourite books from the past three months.
Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I went into Half of a Yellow Sun fairly blind, having only heard about Adichie via a TED Talk and choosing the book based it being the cheapest of her highly-rated books on Amazon. I was also ignorant on the subject matter of the Biafran War, although hopefully slightly less so after Googling my way through the main political events of the book. The story had such a unique balance to it – some people criticise it for having too much melodrama, but I think the affairs, jealousy and family squabbles contrast well against the enormity of the war. Not only do they humanise the characters, we’re reminded how soon these petty issues fall away in the face of something bigger.
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
Life After Life is a real mind-bender; the premise is that the main character, Ursula, keeps living her life over and over, with small changes each time causing her life to unfold slightly differently until her next death lands her back at the start. Each time she dies the reader is thrown back in time to whatever moment Atkinson chooses to pick her story back up again, so it can get pretty disorientating. However I found the story just as rich and absorbing as God In Ruins – Atkinson clearly does her research and the attention to detail is incredible. I did enjoy God In Ruins slightly more, but this is still a fantastic read.
(Sidenote: does anyone else think that Sylvie also possesses the power to re-live her life? I have to know!)
The Opposite of Loneliness – Marina Keegan
I already wrote a long post about some of my thoughts on this book – specifically about whether this book of essays became famous because the young author died, and whether that’s ok. My personal opinion is that this is a writer who was still very much developing her craft, and it’s a horrible shame that she didn’t get the chance to reach her full potential because The Opposite of Loneliness is a great first collection of work. Stand outs for me were ‘Cold Pastoral’, a story about a girl trying to navigate the death of her not-quite-boyfriend, ‘The Ingenue’, about a small incident that wakes a woman up to her boyfriend’s flaws, and the essay ‘Even Artichokes Have Doubts’.
Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay
I absolutely loved this collection of essays by Roxane Gay – she covers all manner of race and gender issues in essays that are both personal and political, in a way that reminds us how multi-faceted feminism is. In the introduction she talks about how feminism is inevitably flawed because people are flawed, and yet we expect ‘professional feminists’ to be perfect and knock them (and feminism as a whole) down when they’re not. Gay embraces the fact that she falls short of the ideal, that she is a bad feminist but a feminist nonetheless, and this idea sets the tone for her essays – intelligent yet unpretentious, certain of some things but unsure of others. And her essay on Fifty Shades of Grey, ‘The Trouble With Prince Charming, or He Who Trespassed Against Us’ is laugh out loud funny.
Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
I threw this book into my Amazon basket on a whim in order to qualify for free delivery, but I was pleasantly surprised by it. On the cover it’s compared to The Lovely Bones, but I found it far more compelling and a much richer story that examines both race and gender. As the narrative skips between pre- and post-death and zooms in on different characters, we see how parents James and Marilyn both want the best for their daughter Lydia, for her to have the opportunities and success that both felt were denied them due to their race and gender, and this book describes in heartbreaking detail the crushing effects of prejudice in 1970s America.