Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak (1957, Vintage)
I wanted to love this book so much. I love Russian history, Anna Karenina is one of my favourite books and I’ve been told repeatedly how amazing the film of this novel is. The final kicker for me to pick this book up (as it’s been sat on my shelf for an embarrassingly long time) was its adaption into a musical by the team that wrote the musicalisation of The Secret Garden which I love. But something was just missing from this novel for me. Pasternak’s evocation of the Russian civil war is brilliant, but I didn’t really feel that much of a connection to any of the main protagonists.
How the World Works by Noam Chomsky (2011, Hamish Hamilton)
Noam Chomsky is one of the better known political scientists still writing, and I originally bought this book as a handy go-to during my degree. It’s an edited collection of his best-known books and articles, which does mean that an awful lot of the book is pretty dated; with references to international organisations that no longer exist. Also, a publishing issue that I had is that the book doesn’t have any kind of bibliography for further reading/fact checking which bothered me. If you are totally unfamiliar with Chomsky then this is an excellent, readable introduction but it didn’t really offer anything new to me.
A Dance with Dragons: Dreams & Dust and A Dance with Dragons: After the Feast by George R.R. Martin (2011, Harper Voyager)
This is the fifth installment of the Song of Ice & Fire series by George R.R. Martin which is the basis of Game of Thrones. I won’t go too much into the plot, but maaan the ending of this makes me want to hunt Martin down and force him to finish the next bloody book. I’m also extra excited for the new series.
The Flavours of Love by Dorothy Koomson (2013, Quercus)
This book came recommended by Mum and I quite liked it. Saffron’s husband was murdered some months prior to the beginning to the novel, and she’s struggling to deal with this when she finds out her 14-year-old daughter is pregnant. And then she begins to receive letters from her husband’s killer. This was pretty compelling although a little tooo neatly tied up for my liking. It was also refreshing to read an entire novel about people of colour.
Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey (2014, Penguin)
I’ve owned this for a while, and it’s nomination finally triggered me to read this. The novel follows Maud, an elderly lady suffering with dementia and who is convinced that her friend Elizabeth has disappeared. Her attempts to find her also links back to the disappearance of her sister Sukey after World War Two. Healey excellently, and heartbreakingly, depict’s Maud’s struggles with her mental health; which is probably the novel’s strongest point. The novel’s mysteries are probably a little more obvious, although the final twist is well executed.
The Bees by Laline Paull (2014, Fourth Estate)
The Bees is perhaps the scariest book that I read this month. It follows Flora 717, who is a sanitation bee, the lowest rank in the hive. Through various plot twists, Flora expands her knowledge of the hive and the political and religious problem at its heart. Listening to this interview with Paull pushed me to read this, and if the events depicted within the book are an accurate representation of bee life, then I just can’t look at bees in the same way.
When I Lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant (2000, Granta)
I picked up this book for cheap on my Kindle, as it has been a Baileys/Orange prize winner. It tells the story of Evelyn, who moves to Israel before the state is properly created-in the last days of the British mandate. It was interesting in the sense that my knowledge about life in Israel before it was Israel was pretty limited, especially regarding the amount of people who were inspired by Soviet Russia. Grant also really brilliantly created a sense of place. However, I just didn’t feel that connected to the action and I struggled to feel that sympathetic with many of the characters.
The Silkworm by J.K Rowling (as Robert Galbraith, 2014, Sphere)
I was really pleasantly surprised by the first part of Rowling’s thriller series The Cuckoo’s Calling and when my Nan leant me this I was super excited to read it. The Silkworm follows Cormoran Strike’s attempts to solve the disappearance of an eccentric author who was just written a novel slandering almost the entirety of the literary establishment. I will admit that I wasn’t that into the plot until the final third, where it really picked up. Rowling remains excellent at characterisation, though the relationship between Cormoran, Robin (his assistant) and Matthew (her fiance) was getting a little irritating. However, I’m excited to see what else Rowling has up her sleeve for this series.
So, a pretty good month! I think it’s between Things Fall Apart and The Bees in terms of favourite reads this time around. What have you read lately?