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 February I read:
Lady Catherine’s Necklace by Joan Aiken – a Pride and Prejudice sequel. Lady Catherine de Bourgh of course. A slightly odd choice made to have her daughter, Anne de Bourgh, be only 14 or so during the events of P&P (and so far too young for Mr Darcy, who was 28), but this helps ease us into the idea that she was a shy teenager, bullied by her overbearing mother, and she does in fact have a personality if she is allowed to. Charlotte Lucas (now Collins) has two children and is pregnant again, poor thing, and her sister Maria comes to visit. Mrs Jennings pops in from Sense and Sensibility to tell us “There’s more things in a girl’s life than husbands” and this does seem to be held up by the story.
Eat Up by Ruby Tandoh – you may remember Ruby from Bake Off a few years ago as a student who looked like she could be a model. Since then she’s written recipes for the Guardian, a recipe book called Flavour, and been outspoken on eating disorders and the dangers of the “clean eating” movement. This book is about loving food. It’s not a story book but also not a recipe book (even though it does contain some stories and some recipes). It is lovely and cosy and pleasant to read.
Stiff Lips by Anne Billson – I don’t usually go in for ghost stories but I’d read Suckers by the same author and liked her style. Her London of 1996 is vividly described and the main character wants to be in Notting Hill where creative people are, talking about creative things and drinking cappuccinos. 1996 was the last time that drinking coffee really was an indicator of poshness.
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K Le Guin – You may have heard of this author because she recently died, or perhaps because you watched The Jane Austen Book Club on Netflix and the geeky guy kept recommending her. Both of these apply to me, so I thought I’d give her a try. Rather than starting on an epic tale, I let my local library choose a one-off scifi story set in the near future (written in the 70s, so the near future is actually our past) after population expansion has taken the world to a shocking 7 billion and global warming has left us in a bit of an unpleasant state. A man believes that his dreams affect reality, and his psychiatrist believes that he can direct these dreams to make the world a better place. Guess what – it’s harder than it sounds!
Start but not finished:
Making use of the “mostly” tag:
The Last Romeo by Justin Myers – Justin writes as The Guyliner and is the creator of the fantastic Guardian Blind Dates review blog. This is a novel that would be called chick-lit if it were by and about a woman, but is in fact by and about a gay man. He escapes a crap relationship (yay!), starts an online dating blog (yay!), gets into some scrapes (yay?), alienates his friends and coworkers (not so yay) and you can guess whether it turns out OK because look he’s right here writing a book about the whole thing. They say that women authors are particularly plagued by people expecting that their characters are autobiographical, and perhaps this applies to gay men as well, but in this case I feel it’s justified. It’s always interesting when you read a book by a writer whose shorter work you enjoy – will they sustain your interest for the whole length of a book? – and in this case the answer was a definite yes.