Book Reviews | June 2017

As some of you may know, I’m currently doing a reading challenge to read 40 books in a year, after falling way short of my 52 books target last year. To be honest this year is going pretty abysmally too – at the halfway point of the year I’ve read 14 books, about 6 behind schedule, so I have some catching up to do if I’m going to make it to 40 by the end of the year.

In the meantime, this is my 6-month mark review of the best books I’ve read in the last three months (yes I know it’s a bit late – I’ve been busy!). And what I have lacked in quantity, I have certainly made up for in quality…

The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro

The Buried Giant was not what I expected at all, even though I’m not sure what I was expecting. Set in a mythical version of medieval England, the novel reads very much like a fairytale, full of knights and dragons and humble underdogs determined to fulfil a quest. But underneath the hero tale is a beautiful allegory about memory – about whether we would be best off without or worst memories, or whether losing them would diminish our sense of self. Like Never Let Me Go it’s slow moving at times but beautifully written, and I’m still not sure what to think of the ending. If you have any opinions on it, let me know.

The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides

The tone of this book puts me in mind of The Catcher in the Rye – even though the subject of the title are the five Lisbon sisters, the book is really about the group of men recalling their teen years who provide the plural narration of the novel. The boys are painfully predictable, romanticising the sisters as mysterious, ethereal beings who they lust after from a distance. Through the novel they seem to be wrestling with the mystery of why the sisters killed themselves, but the conclusion I took is that the reasons are as complicated as the girls themselves, who the boys never took the time to know.

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

I re-read this book literally on the road, flying along Cuban highways in dilapidated retro cars squashed in next to strangers who just happened to be going the same way. I’ve always found On The Road strangely therapeutic; it’s fast-paced, rambling, nonsensical at times, and yet like most Beat literature it is these very qualities that make reading it kind of magical. The characters might be irresponsible, self-indulgent narcissists, but at its core this book captures what it’s like to be young and disillusioned and directionless, and to throw yourself into life regardless.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernières

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin has been one of my favourite books ever since I read it for my A-Levels and fell completely in love with it. I hate the blurb of my copy as it undersells the book as some soppy, clichéd story of star-crossed lovers that you’ve heard a million times before, whereas in reality it is so much more. Corelli and Pelagia’s romance is intertwined with the atrocities of the Second World War, hilariously quick-witted jibes at the political figures of the time, and Carlo, one of the most beautifully tragic characters you will ever come across. Seriously, his character introduction is one of the most moving pieces of prose ever written.

The Coma – Alex Garland

I picked this novel by Alex Garland up cheap on Amazon, a couple of years after reading The Beach and loving it. The Coma by comparison is a short story, but packs a lot in to what becomes a seriously trippy novel. The novel begins with the protagonist getting attacked on the tube and beaten into a coma, and we spend the rest of the story following him around his consciousness as he tries to wake up, only ever half-sure if what we are reading is reality or imagination.

Oh, and a little-known fact? The ‘random words’ he screams in his head aren’t really random. Read the first letters of each word…

What have you been reading recently? Let me know in the comments, and follow me on Goodreads.

Book Reviews | March 2017

After last year’s failed attempt at reading 52 books in a year, I’ve scaled 2017’s challenge back to 40; a more manageable target that so far I am still managing to lag behind on. I have a preference for pretty, lyrical prose that demands I take time to appreciate, which usually means I take longer than average to finish a really good book. The usual distractions of social media, Netflix and blog browsing also take their toll, but reading has such a calming influence on my mind that I am trying to cut down on my screen time and reach for books instead. Here are the books I’ve enjoyed most in the first few months of 2017. Continue reading