Recent Reads #10
It's honestly been so long since either of us has posted on here! Our last post was a December round up of restaurants so that was six months ago. We have been pretty active on Instagram (both me and Ashley) so maybe you've been following us there but still, a six months gap on blog posts is almost too long! Uni work has been SO CRAZY and Ashley has been so busy with her new job but better late than never, right? Lots of things have changed and I'm currently writing up a catch up post but in the meantime, thought it'd be good to start things off with a Recent Reads post so here it is!
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
I have had this book on my bookshelf for so long that at one point I was convinced that I had already read it. But thinking back on it, I think I have always put off reading this book, even though I really like David Mitchell, because of the reviews. Firstly, it seems like people either love or hate this book and I really wanted to be on the love side since I love the author. Secondly, a lot of the reviews talked about how this was a challenging read and people needed to devote time and energy to read it. Of course, any book deserves time and energy but having read it, I can say that this book is on the challenging side. There are multiple narratives with hugely different styles spanning a couple of hundred years. The structure will probably be familiar to those who have heard of Cloud Atlas before but it has five half chapters with the sixth acting as some kind of a mirror, followed by the remaining half chapters of the previous five (did that make any sense at all?) Essentially they are short stories but it's kind of more than that because the stories connect and the characters' lives are intertwined with each other and lots of similar themes creep up in each chapter. To those who are put off by the length and the challenging aspect of this book, I'd say don't be and start reading!
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
I tried to avoid all reviews for this book before picking it up because I'd already read about the "different" writing style George Saunders employed in his book and didn't want to know more about it before I got a chance to read it myself. I was so surprised at how much I loved this book. I read it so quickly because of the writing style (don't worry I won't spoil it for you) but I really thought it was so clever. It's a work of fiction, of course, but it's based on a historical fact that Abraham Lincoln visited his son's crpyt to hold his body after he had died. The story happens within a few days in the bardo which is an in between place between life and death. Lincoln's son is in this bardo surrounded by other spirits and the book contains the events that follow. It's highly moving yet entertaining to read and I can't wait to hear Geroge Saunders' thought process next week at the Man Booker 50 event in London.
Autumn by Ali Smith
This was another difficult read because it's kind of plotless and mostly driven by Ali Smith's writing style. This was the first book I've picked up from Ali Smith and her writing is so beautiful, moving, and very clever. Yet, I've found it hard to talk about this book because even though I got the whole way through, I'm not sure what I read. I'm still not sure what kind of novel this was. It had a friendship between a girl and an old neighbour, some thoughts on Brexit, and scandals. That's really simplifying it cause there was so much more. Maybe that's why this book did so well because it was so original and had so much in it but to me, it wasn't coherent enough to really understand or really love it. It jumps between different time periods and normally I really love that in novels but it felt like there were so many gaps left unfilled. If you've read it, one of my favourite parts was the post office scenes!
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
I absolutely loved this book. This relatively short book contains the narrative of 14 different people, spanning seven generations of those who were affected by the slave trade. It starts off with two half sisters who never meet. One gets sold into slavery in America and the other becomes a slave trader's wife in Ghana. After that comes the stories from their descendants and as this book spans hundreds of years, we really begin to get a sense of different and changing attitudes and events in both Ghana and America. The parts in America was particularly interesting to me as I was reading this while doing two modules on the American South. I would be learning about the Fugitive Slave Act one week and reading a fiction work about it the next.
One thing you would know if you read my brief review on A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is that I really don't gravitate towards books with extreme violence. That's one of the reasons why I hesitated before picking up this book because as a historical fiction, I thought it might be too graphic. It's a fine balance between an honest portrayal and gratuitous violence and of course I don't mean to say that we shouldn't remember the unpleasant parts of history but I think Yaa Gyasi did a good job in tackling a difficult subject without overdoing the violent and hard to read aspects of it.
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
I really wanted to love this book but I just didn't get on well with it. I admire Jonathan Franzen as an author but this is the second book of his that I didn't really enjoy. I think when you pick up a book hugely determines if you'll enjoy it or not. When I don't have a lot of time, I tend to stick to less complex books that involve a smaller number of characters or a relatively straightforward storyline. Maybe my mistake was starting The Corrections when I knew I couldn't devote too much time to it. My reading sessions for this book was so sporadic that I found it hard to understand it and found myself constantly flipping back (or scrolling back, I read this on my iPad) to refresh my memory on what had happened before. It's a family drama based mainly in America with so many distracting events based all across the country and even Eastern Europe. I didn't like any of the characters in such a character-filled novel and (I know it sounds bad) kept wishing for the worse for them!
I forgot how much I love writing these posts on here. It really helps me organise my thoughts and hope you guys enjoy them too! I do have a goodreads account and I think I'll be doing more detailed reviews there once I get more familiar with it but will let you know if I do! Thank you for reading x