The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (Penguin, 2013)
Jojo Moyes is my go-to ‘women’s fiction’ writer. Her books are moving and well written, and leave you with the warm fuzzies (or ugly crying in the case of Me Before You). The One Plus One is the story of Jess, who is working two jobs whilst caring for her teenage stepson who is being bullied and her daughter who is potentially a maths genius. Her path crosses that of Ed Nicholls, a disgraced technology businessman, and when he offers to help transport the family to a maths competition, the plot really starts. This is just a really nice book, with enough emotional punch to keep it grounded. I am so, so looking forward to the sequel to Me Before You coming out soon.
The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Fourth Estate, 2009)
I really enjoyed Americanah, the last of Adichie’s novels that I read and so I was excited to check out this collection of her short stories. Each story explores race and gender in Nigeria and America; I especially enjoyed ‘A Private Experience’ where agaisnt the backdrop of war a Muslim woman and a Christian woman shelter together, ‘Jumping Money Creek’ where African writers have their work critiqued by a white man and ‘On Monday of Last Week’ about a young woman’s experience being a nanny in America. My main issue with this collection was the fact that for the most part there wasn’t much of a divergence in narrative voice. However, if you haven’t read any of her novels yet I would recommend checking out her short stories to see if her style works for you.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel (Jonathan Cape, 2006)
I was very excited to read this as the musical adaptation has been kind of a big thing (more on that here). This graphic novel tells the story of Alison’s discovery of her own sexuality in the wake of her father’s death, after which it is suggested that he may well have been gay. In terms of art, Fun Home is a really great experience with Bechdel weaving through all sorts of ‘artefacts’ in her story. My personal interest in the musical adaptation meant that many of the emotional plot points were not new to me, so if you don’t know that much about the story of Bechdel’s life and you are interested in LGBTQ issues I would very much recommend this.
Enduring Love by Ian McEwan (Vintage, 1997)
This was my favourite read of the month. The novel opens with the description of a ballooning accident which ends in tragedy. When Joe, picnicking with his girlfriend Clarissa, meets Jed in the aftermath, the latter develops an obsession. As this deepens, Joe himself begins to become more unhinged. McEwan’s writing is excellent, and this is essentially a really solid literary thriller. I really recommend this; I think McEwan has a reputation for being ‘difficult’ but he really isn’t.
Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld (Black Swan, 2013)
One of Sittenfeld’s previous novels American Wife, a look at the life of a fictional first lady, is one of my favourites and I also enjoyed Prep. However, I found Sisterland pretty disappointing. It’s the story of twins Daisy and Violet who happen to genuinely have physic abilities. However, despite being identical twins they live very different lives. Daisy changes her name to Kate, abandons her gift and settles into a normal suburban life. Violet, on the other half, embraces her gift and lives a far more unconventional life. The novel starts with Violet predicting an earthquake and that’s pretty much all that happens. The novel looks back at the twins’ life, but we see this through the eyes of Kate who is pretty dull. Sittenfeld is good at developing a sense of place, and some of the side characters, but being stuck in Kate’s head really made the reading experience difficult.
That’s all for June. I’m currently making my way through the chunkster that is The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, and it’s so good so far. If you’d like to see longer reviews of any of these books, follow my Goodreads link below.