Throughout April, I managed to finish a total of 10 books (5 novels, 3 non-fiction books, a short story collection and a poetry anthology), bringing me up to 42 books for the year so far.
It was a really strong month overall, with two particular stand-out reads. Some of you probably won’t be too surprised to hear that one of them was a Daphne du Maurier book; Frenchman’s Creek. The way she sets the scene and creates atmosphere is masterful, and I loved that this, as with the other works I’ve read by her thus far, defies being pigeonholed into any one genre. It’s part rip-roaring adventure story, part love story and part literary fiction, with interesting commentary on gender roles and the struggle of freedom vs. responsibility as we follow Dona, a sarcastic and headstrong woman bored of her aristocratic life who ends up in league with a crew of pirates.
The other stand-out read was Shelter by Jung Yun. In this we follow a young man and his wife and son as they are forced to take in his parents after they are victim to a horrendous crime, even though there are deep tensions and underlying problems from their difficult past. It cleverly poses questions about the extent to which we owe our family respect and support, even if they haven’t necessarily earned it, whilst touching on themes that include class, gender, religion, violence and recovery.
I read a couple of books that could both be easily described as important and timely: Asking for it by Louise O’Neill, which explores the culture of slut- shaming and victim blaming; and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which was inspired by the problems of police brutality and racial tension in America. Both highlighted their central themes well and struck me as being good book club books, sure to get people talking about these controversial yet pressing topics.
I was a little disappointed by Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, which I felt got a little problematic and messy towards the end, which was a shame, and whilst I loved the title story and enjoyed a couple of others, The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter ultimately left me feeling a little lukewarm, though I accept that this was perhaps due in part to my own very high expectations, since theoretically this book should have been everything I love in fiction.
I enjoyed revisiting some of Warsan Shire’ poetry and trying a couple of new-to-me poets in the third in Penguin’s Modern Poets series, whilst Emer O’Toole’s approachable non-fiction exploration of gender constructs in Girls Will be Girls made for interesting reading. Last but not least, I chuckled (and nearly teared up a few times) throughout Sue Perkins’ memoir, Spectacles, and was delighted as ever by Hannah Dale’s beautiful artwork and charming facts about animals in another of her books, Flying the Nest; this one featuring portraits of native British species when they are babies.
Here’s hoping May can be as strong a reading month as this one was. I look forward to seeing what tales come my way.
What was your favourite read in April?