Throughout June I finished a total of 10 books (5 novels, a short story collection, a poetry magazine, a graphic novel, a Little Black Classic and an art book). This took my total for the year so far up to 63.
The standout read amongst them was definitely Donal Ryan’s All We Shall Know. It opens with a woman pregnant to a man other than her husband and a secret from her past that continues to poison her life. It’s a powerful, harrowing exploration of guilt and forgiveness told in beautiful prose, and packed full of twists, emotion and wonderfully realised, flawed characters.
I also thoroughly enjoyed The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, a compulsively readable classic of the sci-fi genre that is something of a cautionary tale about pushing science too far and the responsibility that comes with power. It was, as is so often the case with Wells’ books, way ahead of its time, and stands up as a compelling, relevant and thought-provoking read to this day.
The art book was Museum of Hidden Beings by Arngrimur Sigutdsson which I picked up on my most recent trip to Iceland. It contains paintings that are the artist’s interpretation of various weird and wonderful creatures from Icelandic Folk Tales. Though I found the accompanying descriptions and excerpts from stories featuring the beasts a bit clunky in their translation and lacking context at times, it was worth it for the dark, whimsical artwork alone.
The biggest disappointment of the month was sadly The Small Hand by Susan Hill, a ghost story that simply wasn’t very ghostly. Lacking the creep factor and any emotional impact, I found it very underwhelming, which is a shame as I have enjoyed some of Hill’s work in the past.
Other enjoyable reads however included Daphne du Maurier’s atmospheric tale of switched identities, The Scapegoat; Emma Flint’s fascinating character study, Little Deaths, in which a woman accused of murdering her own children has her character assassinated by the police and the media to orchestrate her downfall; The second volume of Postal, which centres around a town that harbours former criminals and a whole lot of secrets; and There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbour’s Baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, a collection of fairy tale-esque short stories that, whilst admittedly a mixed bag, did contain a few gems.
A Hippo Banquet by Mary Kingsley was also a very worthwhile read, and another reason why I enjoy the Little Black Classics series, as it introduced me to a fascinating historical figure I may otherwise never have encountered. This extract from Kingsley’s travel diary documents her experiences living, travelling and studying the nature and indigenous life of Africa as a Victorian Englishwoman, shunning social norms in search of adventure.
I look forward to seeing what books July will bring my way.
What was your favourite read in June?