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 July I read:
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters – A mother and daughter, fallen on hard times between the wars, take in a married couple of a slightly lower class as lodgers. There’s a lot of very intricate class indicators here – life sounded rather suffocating – and I wanted to know more about the daughter’s friend who lives in a FLAT and makes ART and toasts currant cake on a three-bar electric fire and generally lives an exciting bohemian life. The daughter and the wife become friends and things escalate as of course they must.
Simon vs the Homo sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertelli – This is the book that the recent film Love, Simon was based on. It’s fun, I like a teen romcom. It’s odd to read a book after seeing the film, I’m much more accustomed to the other way around.
Carol by Patricia Highsmith – I wanted to watch this film and, as above, prefer to read a book first. This book is very atmospheric and not much happens. Same is true of the film. It is probably very good but not really my thing, and in the book you don’t get the distraction of looking at Cate Blanchett being an elf queen. The choices made in adaptation are interesting, in the book we only see things through Therese’s eyes and so Carol is much more unknowable.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? Well I personally would want to figure out whether this was immutable or would happen no matter what I did. Sibling 1’s cause of death is certainly influenced by him knowing he would die young and so feeling he had to seize the day. If he hadn’t done that, would he have died at the same time of another cause? Another sibling is frankly reckless. This is interesting and frequently had me saying “don’t do THAT” to the characters. People should read more science fiction. It reminded me a bit of the TV show Flash Forward, in which it is conclusively proven that the future can be changed, but people act as if it is inevitable anyway (I don’t want to cheat on my husband but my vision of the future says I am going to so I guess I won’t resist it).
Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman – I’ve know about the existence of this book for ages and I can’t quite figure out why I’ve never read it. The setup in a world where racism is reversed feels like the beginning of a teen dystopia like the Hunger Games or Divergent – but the challenges our characters face are much more grounded and nuanced.
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson – I don’t really know what I was expecting here, it just existed in my head as a book I “should” read. In some ways this felt like the film Lady Bird – there was a story but the story was secondary to the relationship between the main character and her mother, and her church. I feel as if the plot has evaporated out of my brain, and only little bits remain.
Clean by Juno Dawson – I heard Juno on the School For Dumb Women podcast talking about the Spice Girls, and I knew that this was someone who I wanted to hear more from. This is a rehab story about a rich teenager, who could easily have slipped into “too irritating to read about” but whose unlikeability is somehow relatable and well balanced with her vulnerability and humour.
The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes – I love Marian Keyes, and my only complaint here is that that initial usage of the title phrase (from the protagonist’s ex-husband) doesn’t make sense. In what way did she steal his life? She has may messed up his life, firstly by becoming very ill and unable to communicate other than by blinking, leaving him to deal with house and children, secondly by becoming semi-famous for writing a book while in that state and leaving him, but she didn’t “steal” his life because she didn’t take anything.