Another year and another year where I didn’t manage to hit my 50 book challenge. However, December was a pretty good reading month even if I did have far too high expectations for how much reading I’d get done in Vegas.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (2005, Vintage)
The only book that I managed to read whilst I was in the States, I was glad to finally read this as its been languishing on my Kindle for years. In case you also have never read it or seen either the Swedish or American adaptations, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo follows Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who is facing some time away from work after a minor scandal, and Lisbeth Salander, the eponymous girl, who is an excellent hacker. They are thrown together whilst investigating the disappearance of a Swedish business tycoon’s sister many years before. This is a slow-burn of a thriller but when it gets going, it really gets going. I also appreciated Larsson’s clear messaging about violence against women and girls in the country. I did have some problems with the descriptions of Lisbeth, and could have done without the age gap relationship, but I did find this to be very enjoyable.
The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss (2016, Granta)
I’d heard so many good things about this book over the last year, and it is so worth the hype. Adam is a part-time academic and stay-at-home Dad, currently working on the tour guides to Coventry Cathedral. Then, one day, he is called to his eldest daughter Miriam’s school, as she has stopped breathing. The novel follows the fall-out from this day, flicking over Adam’s past and present, and the story of Coventry Cathedral. Whilst aspects of Adam’s character irritated me; I loved what Moss did with gender roles, how our pasts influence our present and the fear of loss. I also liked Miriam, who reminded me a little bit of myself when I was going through my embarrassing pretentious teen stage.
My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal (2016, Penguin)
This is another book that I’ve been meaning to read for ages. My Name is Leon is the story of Leon, who lives with his baby brother Jake and his Mum. However, when his Mum is unable to cope with raising her children Leon and Jake are taken into care. It’s 1981, Jake is white and Leon is not, and soon Leon is living alone with his foster carer. De Waal has experience of the care system, and she brings to life the struggle of Leon, Maureen (his carer) and his Mum so brilliantly and without judgement. The placement of this story against this tumultuous period of history also means that the novel is an interesting history lesson in race-relations in the UK (which isn’t often discussed). The trope of nature helping someone find themselves is used again in this, which is a tad overdone, but this is a really touching story which I really enjoyed and I really felt Leon’s happiness, sadness and anger at his position.
The Big Year: 2016 by Royal Shakespeare Company (2017, RSC Enterprise Ltd)
I was bought this as a pretty excellent Secret Santa present. The book covers 2016 in the life of the Royal Shakespeare Company; a ‘big year’ as it was the centenary of his death. Including essays from directors, cast members and crew, it looks at the behind the scenes of the 2016 season of shows; particularly interesting was the behind the scenes of the organisation of the events on the 23rd April including Shakespeare Live; and the tour they took to China.