October wasn’t such a successful reading month, I’m not sure why but I just didn’t find myself picking up a book automatically at the end of the evening; a fact that towards the end of the month could definitely be blamed on the highly addictive How to Get Away with Murder landing on UK Netflix. However whilst the first two books I read were okay, the final (which I steamrolled through on Halloween) was actually pretty fantastic. Also I’ve officially completed my 50 Books challenge which makes me very happy.
The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford (1945, Penguin)
I’ve always been a little interested by the Mitford sisters, just because their actual lives sounds like the stuff of costume dramas. This is the first of Nancy Mitford’s collection of novels following the lives of an extended family. It tells the story of Linda, a privileged young woman desperate to find true love; marrying first a Conservative MP, then running away with a Communist before meeting an enigmatic Frenchman. This was generally a pretty fun ride, with larger than life characters-especially Uncle Matthew and Aunt Sadie-Linda’s parents. The former is hugely bombastic and his default setting is angry, whilst Sadie seems generally slightly detached from the life she’s living. Mitford is excellent at skewering politics across the spectrum, with some lines making me literally laugh out loud. There is a rather jarring use of the n-word partway through the novel, the character’s aren’t wildly developed (the story is told from the perspective of Fanny, Linda’s slightly more straightlaced cousin which is a shame) and the ending takes a sudden dark turn. However, I’d recommend it if you’d like to branch out into classics, and fancy something a little light.
Daring Greatly by Brene Brown (2012, Penguin)
is one of those wildly popular books that I just felt I kind of missed the boat on. Brene Brown’s TED talks
on this topic is really interesting, and the book’s focus-on allowing yourself to be ‘vulnerable’ and the positive impact that can have on all areas of your life was one that I found particularly interesting. Whilst Brown, a ‘shame researcher’ is very good at talking about anecdotes and pointing to the problems that refusing to be vulnerable can create in our day-to-day lives (I found the parts that discussed men and shame particularly interesting) her apparent solutions just didn’t really jive with me. They mostly involved some kind of mantra or stopping in the middle of a sentence to tell everyone that you’re feeling anxious and I just can’t ever imagine a situation where I can be on board with that (perhaps it’s just my stiff-upper-lip Brit coming out). It’s also written in that kind of cheesy style that seems to be a trademark of empowering American self-help books which can definitely take a while to get into. I would recommend it, and I am keeping my copy because I think it could be an interesting one to lend out, but perhaps lower your expectations if you’ve heard a few too many “life-changing” reviews (or pick up Quiet
Slade House by David Mitchell (2015, Sceptre)
I really love David Mitchell and really liked his last novel The Bone Clocks, so I was eagerly awaiting Slade House‘s release. Slade House is set in the same world as The Bone Clocks, so uses the same fantasy structure, but I feel like you can definitely read this if you haven’t read the previous book-you’d just miss out on some of the references to characters in that novel, but this also means that the tension would really last right through the final chapter, whereas if you’ve read the previous novel it’s pretty clear what is coming. Slade House is seriously creepy; not much can be said about the plot without totally spoiling it, but it is essentially the story of a house that appears every 9 years and people who visit it are never seen again. As with most Mitchell, he creates really distinctive characters and voices and I was just totally sucked into this. I really, really recommend it.
I am currently reading this year’s Man Booker winner A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James which is really engaging with excellent character voices; but is also massively violent so I keep having to take little breaks from it!
How was your reading month?