I’m spending 2018 reading mostly women. Only mostly, because I don’t want to be too restrictive about these things. If I read a book by someone who is not a woman I won’t have “failed”. I’m also trying to read books that are recommended to me, books by people I follow on Twitter, that kind of thing.
In October I read:
A History Of Glitter And Blood by Hannah Moskowitz – A story about fairies and goblins and other creatures, set not in our world or a psuudo-medieval worldbut a different world entirely. I enjoyed the structure of the book, partly “as it happens” and partly looking back just a little way to a war. The heroine shuts down a potential lover quite sensibly with “I am in love with one fucking thing, and that thing is not being at war”, which reminded me of one of my favourite parts of the Hunger Games, where Katniss avoids the issue of the love triangle by saying (something like) “All I can think about since all this started is how scared I am”.
The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp by Sarra Manning – A Vanity Fair rewrite, usefully published around the time of the ITV adaptation, with the protagonist’s first thrust into the spotlight coming courtesy of Big Brother. It is very much set exactly in the 2010s and I love it for that. Becky intends to gorge on fame “as if she was standing in Nando’s with a tapeworm and a black card”.
Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik – A romcom about Muslim dating in 21st century Britain – as recommended by the School For Dumb Women podcast – lots of fun and I felt like I learned a couple of things about the significance of beard lengths. The family are well-drawn and funny too.
The Girl In The Gallery by Alice Castle – This is book #2 in the London Mysteries series, and features a gallery that I HAVE BEEN TO. I even remember the picture brought up in the prologue. Just waiting for Peckham to have a better featuring role in these Dulwich-based stories. A Poisoning in Peckham perhaps? I later read #3 and #4, which were STILL not in Peckham. I think I used the word “cosy murder mystery” in the past – knowledge of local gossip about pets or babysitters is key to solving murders.
Oh My God, What A Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen – Yes I know it’s weird to have a novel written by two people, so weird that they were on both The School For Dumb Women and What Page Are You On talking about it. And I couldn’t possibly say no to a book recommended by both of those podcasts. My favourite quote was “one of those women who’s so effortlessly glam that you assume she’s a thundering bitch” and my favourite moment was Aisling’s sightseeing anorak and boots being approved of by a snooty Berlin nightclub bouncer as “Normcore”.
All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung – Nonfiction this time, about experiences of cross-racial adoption in the US and meeting her family (in particular her sister). I read this all in one go on a long bus journey and enjoyed the reflection on families and what they mean and how you think about them even though my family is completely different. I wish I’d read this before I read Little Fires Everywhere, I’d have been able to think about some of its themes more meaningfully.
What We Pretend We Can’t See – A Harry Potter fanfic in which Harry is 28, the war is over, and he’s been suffering from PTSD (he’s no longer with Ginny, and she’s better off without him really). Oh, and Malfoy has set up a museum to give muggleborn wizard kids a gentler introduction to the wizarding world. There are a good few digs at Dumbledore being a bit of a shite mentor, and a couple at JK for telling us all that he was gay years later without putting it in the books.
The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory – A Princess Diaries type thing, but the fictional nation is in the Low Countries this time rather than the Alps (nearly all of the Christmassy ones are in the Alps as well – maybe because it’s easy to hide small countries there?). “Big Gran” is the Queen and even though she’s definitely not Julie Andrews I of course saw her as Julie Andrews. Revisiting to get the link and it says it’s been optioned for film and I would love for Julie Andrews to just be ALL THE QUEENS.
Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew – A fairytale with an Eastern slant, and an interesting approach to gender. I appreciated that this challenged the assumptions that I didn’t even know I was making about how fairytales “work” – the worldbuilding felt more like scifi than fantasy to me – that might sound like a weird thing to say but it shows how “different” things were and how much we expect them to be “the same”.
That was a lot – I was on holiday for two weeks, which involved three flights and a lot of bus journeys!