Welcome to the first part of my new series where I chronicle my year in books.
As a child, I was a a voracious reader, but, as many an insecure teenager before me, I stopped reading for pleasure for many years. When I was a little older, I did rediscover my passion for literature and went on to study English Literature at University. As anyone who has ever seriously studied literature will understand, once I graduated I was unsure if I ever wanted to read an entire book again.
Since around the age of 16, most of my spare time reading material has come from a list I compiled of various books I felt I MUST read. In order to rediscover the joy of reading outwith education, after graduation I started ‘allowing’ myself to stray away from books I felt I had to read and began to discover what contemporary literature has to offer.
Even with all of my experience, I am actually a very slow reader, and can take a long time to get through an entire novel. So, in order to motivate myself to push through to the end of long books, I set myself a goal to read one book per month this year. In order to fit this in around my full time job and other time consuming pastimes (including writing this blog), I have included in this goal both novellas and long novels.
Below are my reviews of January, February and March’s books.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I absolutely can not speak more highly about The Book Thief.
This is one of the best books I have ever read. I was completely engrossed by it and found it emotional, funny, dark, evocative, inspirational…
One of the strengths of this book is its narrator who is a personification of Death. Death is presented as an overworked servant who reminisces about one young girl he came into contact with several times in WW2 Germany. The way in which Death talks about his job, including describing the various colours of the sky, is incredibly creative and stays with you long after you finish the book;
“His soul sat up. It met me. Those kinds of souls always do – the best ones. The ones who rise up and say “I know who you are and I am ready. Not that I want to go, of course, but I will come.”
One problematic thing about the narration is the amount of foreshadowing. I often felt that I did not quite appreciate what was happening at certain points in the novel as I wanted to get to the parts that I knew were going to be coming up, just like when you guiltily skip ahead or look up a spoiler!
The Book Thief has similarities to my March book as both are told from the perspective of innocent children and refigure familiar scenarios from new perspectives.
I would definitely read this again and would also 100% recommend it to anyone.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
I wanted to read this book as Jane Eyre is one of the best books I ever read at University so when I first heard about Wide Sargasso Sea I knew I would find it very interesting.
While it is a bit of a slow starter, you should definitely stick with it and pay attention to what happens at the start, because the story really grows and improves throughout the book.
The last section gets extremely dark and was my favourite part as I love the way in which it reframes Jane Eyre and really enjoy the stream of consciousness style that it is written in.
For any fan of Jane Eyre, I would say that reading this is a must as it forces you to consider how quick we are as readers to believe that Bertha/Antoinette is mad and a criminal just because Rochester says so and how silly Jane is to also believe and forgive him about his wife.
One thing I would say is that the swapping between narrators in the middle section of the book does get quite difficult, but I do think this adds to the general sense of unease and confusion in this section.
I would also link Wide Sargasso Sea to January and March’s books because in each you experience a familiar event (at least if you have read Jane Eyre) through a unique and, in this case, a much sadder and darker perspective.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.
The first time that I visited Bristol, before I had decided to move here, I brought this book with me for the journey and finished it all in less than two days. Although The Curious Incident is marketed as a children’s book, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it has to be, and I don’t see any reason an adult should not read it!
The book is brilliant and completely unlike anything I have ever read before. The inspired writing really gets you into Christopher’s mind, allowing you to sense the world as he hears, sees, tastes and feels it! Simply being able to view the familiar and the local from the perspective of another is, I would say, one of the very special things about reading.
As much as that is an important element, I would say that the novels strength isn’t necessarily all to do with specifically bringing you into the world of someone on the autism spectrum or of someone who is a child. Instead, it is about the way in which Haddon takes things which you think of in a certain, fixed way or don’t even think of at all, e.g. chapter numbering or underground trains, and forces you to consider and reframe them, in a similar way to how the last two books reexamine what is known.
And trust me, you won’t be able to stop reading this book until you find out what happens to that eponymous dog!
That was something a little different, but I hope you enjoyed it. Please do let me know what you are reading now and if you have read any of the above books.
Happy blogging, J 🙂