A Month in Books: August

For some reason, when I was thinking about what I’d read this month I was under the impression that I hadn’t read that much, but I still managed about a book a week. I will say that I didn’t really read anything that was really brilliant, but here’s what I read anyway.

Winter of the World by Ken Follett (2012, Macmillan)
Winter of the World is the second in Ken Follet’s Century trilogy which is set throughout the 20th century. This novel focuses on the children of the charactersfrom the first novel during the run-up and events of World War Two, crossing the UK, USA, Germany and Russia. Unfortunately, I felt that the characters tended to be quite 2D-either being crazily brave & courageous or awful, with the only character that I really liked being killed off.  Plus, as I’ve studied this period of time both at school and at university, the pages of political developments were a little dull. However, I did like the insight into normal life in Germany, and the fact that Follett didn’t shy away from showing the rising right-wing sentiment in the UK. I’ll be picking up the final installment, mainly because my Mum assured me that it is really good.

Nothing to Envy: Real Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick (2009, Granta)
I’ve heard so much about this book which tells the story of citizens of North Korea, before they defected. Demick does a really good job at collecting individual stories and this is a really fascinating insight into the social structures and politics of a country that we in the West are far too good at dismissing as some kind of eccentric wasteland.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan (2014, Jonathan Cape)
McEwan’s latest novel tells the story of Fiona, a middle-aged successful family law judge, whose husband tells her that he would like to have an affair-no doubt with a younger woman. Whilst reeling from this news she is given the case of a hospital wanting to intervene to give a teenager a blood transfusion-who is resisting due to the fact that he is a Jehovah’s Witness. This is quite a small novel, if anything it’s simply a character study of Fiona, who is a really interesting character. However, the novel does start to stretch reality in a way that I wasn’t fully convinced by. Plus, the writing whilst good was pretty clinical. This was probably intentional due to the legal background of the plot, but it did mean that I felt quite separated from the action.

In the Woods by Tana French (2007, Hodder & Stoughton) 
I’ve heard nothing but good things about this novel across the book internet (here’s Kate’s glowing review), so I went into this crime novel with incredibly high expectations. In the Woods is the story of Adam Ryan, who years earlier was with his friends when they both disappeared. Now Rob Ryan, with an English accent and working in the Dublin murder squad, he is plunged back into the past when a young girl is discovered murdered in his old home town. I loved the relationship between Rob and Cassie Maddox, his partner on the case. Plus, I thought the case itself was pretty interesting. However, I found Rob a little irritating and I’ve read plenty of books featuring antiheroes so he didn’t feel particularly new. Mainly, I think this was just a case of overly high expectations. I think the second in the series focuses on Cassie, so I’ll definitely check that out.

And that’s it! What did you read in August? September seems to be the start of all the major new releases and I’m excited.

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