July Reads 2014

The Poisoning Angel by Jean Teule (Novel – French in translation)

This is a kind of black comedy set in 1800s France. I found it a bit repetitive and couldn’t get into Teule’s style. Full review here.

life after lifeLife After Life by Kate Atkinson (Novel)

I really like Kate Atkinson’s writing style. She’s incredibly visual and I’m always left with a full sense of the setting and the characters, and this book was no exception. I wasn’t a fan of the end section, but I think that’s because I read the book in a ‘Sliding Doors’ way (rather than in a ‘multiple lives building on top of each other’ way) so it didn’t make sense to me when Ursula gains some insight into things (I’m trying my best to be spoiler-free, so hopefully that makes sense if you’ve read it!). Still a good read though.

with a zero at its heart charles lambertWith a Zero at its Heart by Charles Lambert (Novel)

I loved this. It’s a short novella about the things that make up a life. It’s beautifully written and tender, playful and melancholy all at once. Full review here.

an untamed stateAn Untamed State by Roxane Gay (Novel)

This is a fast-paced and compelling read, but the ending was too neat for me. The novel did a good job of showing messy and difficult trauma and aftermath, so I think a looser ending would have worked better. But there are lots of things in this that I think are really important. Like showing how a person might deal with sexual violence by physically fighting back and/or seemingly complying in order to survive (and the compliance not being the same thing as consent). Like showing the aftermath of trauma and sexual violence, not just the ‘rescue’ being the happy ending. Like how difficult it can be for people around the person to know how best to help them, but, importantly, it’s not that person’s job to teach them as they’re using everything they’ve got just to hold themself together.

Roxane Gay is my current favourite essayist, and I do prefer her non-fiction writing as this felt like a good debut novel rather than a fully-formed/honed one, partly due to the too-neat ending but also because many of the characters didn’t feel completely three-dimensional. But I will definitely pick up her next fiction book (and her essay collection, Bad Feminist, which is due out in August).

the virgin suicidesThe Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides (Novel)

I wanted to like this more than I did because I’d heard such amazing things about it. It’s quite an odd, quiet book, which is no bad thing, and I liked its kind of hazy, dreamy quality. I also liked that, as a reader, you’re also on the outside of the Lisbon sisters as it’s narrated by one or more boys who used to watch them from afar (though finding out exactly when the boys are narrating adds an element of weird creepiness). But for some reason I just didn’t connect with the book, or find it as beautiful, as everyone told me I would. Maybe a case of off-balance expectations? I quite fancy checking out the film now though, as the haziness of the book had a real filmic feel to it.

hangsamanHangsaman by Shirley Jackson (Novel)

This is about a girl with an overbearing family going away to college, not really fitting in, and struggling with her identity. But, because it’s Shirley Jackson, there are also moments of odd, dark, weirdness. Natalie, the main character, is extremely imaginative, though it’s fairly easy to work out what’s real and what’s just in her head (except the end, I still can’t quite decide!). I am a bit of a sucker for a good campus-set novel, and this one has all the coming-of-age type stuff, but also Shirley Jackson, which makes it stand out as different from many others. I didn’t like it as much as We Have Always Lived in the Castle, but still worth checking out.

 

State of the TBR: 60 books (Yes, this is more than last month. I’d missed a couple of books when sorting my shelves and accidentally bought a couple (I was at a reading and & found my new author crush. It’s all Kerry Hudson’s fault I swear)).

*I haven’t been blogging as much over the past couple of months due to an illness blip, but will be back properly in August. So many exciting books coming up (and hopefully a lower TBR number next time!).*

 

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