One month down, 11 more to go! How's 2024 treating everyone? Read any good books lately? My January reading roundup is below.
This ended up being a month of unexpected historical fiction (are books set in the 1950s-1980s considered historical fiction? If so, I now feel very old.) I didn't set out to read non-contemporary books, but that's how it ended up. Here are my thoughts.
In Parenthesis by David Jones
I'll be honest, I didn't know what to expect with this one, and the two introductions made it sound intimidating. More intimidating than the book actually is, thankfully. This was written in the 1930s by a World War I vet, and it covers about half a year's worth of his experience, from travelling to France to settling in to the horrors of trench warfare. The style is experimental, to say the least - a mixture of poetry and prose, no particular characters you follow for any length of time - but it's beautiful (if one can say that about anything involving the war). It captures the cameraderie and the chaos of the men who served, the devastation of the surrounding countryside, the make-the-best-of-it-ness that so often marks the British persona. I loved it. It's not something I normally would have picked up (I received it as part of my Ninja Book Box advent calendar) but I'm really glad I gave it a go.
Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín
I will confess: I saw the movie first. And I liked it, so when I saw this in my local secondhand bookshop, I picked it up. It's sat on my end table for months and now I've finally gotten around to reading it and my reaction is... eh.
Don't get me wrong: it's beautifully written, but the main character, Eilis, bored and annoyed me in equal measure. She's one of those people who things happen to, she doesn't seem to take any control of her life at all. She just goes along with things, which is fine, I guess, but I personally find that sort of person a bit dull to follow for 300+ pages. So, not my favourite.
Orpheus Builds a Girl by Heather Parry
Another one I've been meaning to get around to for a while, mostly because:
a. It has a great title and I like the cover
b. I kind of know Heather - she was my maternity leave cover while I was off having my first baby (the Edinburgh literary world is a small one!)
Honestly, I would have read this no matter what the story, but the story description itself intrigued me. And it is, indeed, intriguing: it reminded me of Hernan Diaz's 'Trust', in that it's the story of a woman, told by people who are not her. There's the man who puts her on a pedestal and shapes her (in his mind) to suit his own needs, and another observer who paints a very different picture (in this case, it's the woman's older sister, Gabriela). What's the truth? Something somewhere in between. Throw in a dash of Frankenstein and true-crime horror (this was apparently inspired by an actual case, which... yeesh.) mixed with gorgeous prose and you have an excellent read! A word of warning, though: this one has a fair bit of body horror and a few other themes that you might want to check before reading if you're sensitive.