Another month, another wrap up. Throughout June I read 10 books (bringing my total for the year so far up to 62). Here are some thoughts on each of them, in the order I read them.
Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey
[ ⭐ ⭐ ] One of my most anticipated releases of the year, this novel had a fantastic concept and was indeed very readable, with a decent amount of intrigue to keep the pages turning. I found, however, that the book lost its way by trying to be too many things at once. What could have been a great character study about the bond between mothers and daughters, and recovery from trauma, was hampered by a mediocre mystery with very little plot progression, out of place flirtation with the supernatural, and a very underwhelming outcome.
Partners in Crime by Agatha Christie
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] I love Tommy and Tuppence. The dynamic between them is fantastic, and their snappy dialogue is some of the best around. I adored the whole structure and concept of this book. It’s technically a series of short stories, with each one focussing on its own case, as the sleuths seek to build a reputation for their new agency and hone their skills. The stories are, however, joined very nicely by a couple of threads that run throughout. Some are sinister, some are downright fun, but all are as clever and well thought-out as you’d expect from the Queen of Mystery. It’s also playfully meta, with the sleuths being big fans of crime fiction, and drawing on the styles of famous detectives for inspiration (including Poirot himself!).
Postal Volume 3 by Bryan Hill
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] It had been a while since I read volumes 1 & 2 of this graphic novel series, but I got drawn back into the dark and twisted world of Eden right away. I’m still loving how interesting and well developed the characters are, and the general direction the series is going.
The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] In this reimagining of The Little Mermaid, O’Neill sticks very closely to the original Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, but reframes it with a feminist slant. It highlights the toxicity of patriarchy; the importance of being heard within society; the danger of trying to change yourself to appease others; and the frivolity of a culture that is obsessed with physical beauty. There’s enough that is familiar for it to feel nostalgic, and yet enough that is new to bring a whole new dimension to a tale we’ve all grown up with. The simplicity of the prose reflects the timeless quality of fairy tales, with real-world references and a breathless conclusion both very well-pitched.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] I studied a few Shakespeare plays back in the day, but this is the first time I’ve picked one up purely for pleasure – and I loved it! The richness of the language and playfulness of the rhythm are, of course, wonderful. The story is lots of fun too, and though the final act didn’t engage me quite as much, I could tell the humour of the scene would translate much better on stage. I’m excited to explore more Shakespeare now!
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] The concept of this book is fantastic: Three sisters have been raised in isolation by their parents, taught to fear men and a toxicity that plagues the outside world, exposure to which would mean certain death. It has a wonderfully unsettling and ethereal atmosphere throughout, and I admired that Mackintosh held back from handing us all the answers, reflecting the limited scope of knowledge afforded to the sisters, and establishing a tense, claustrophobic feeling, full of doubt and mystery. The water motif running throughout the imagery is well implemented, and I loved its exploration of family, loyalty, manipulation, and sisterhood; being, to me, a battle cry for women to resist the status quo.
The Skeleton’s Holiday by Leonora Carrington
[ ⭐ ⭐ ] I’m a big fan of Carrington’s surrealist artwork, but it seems surrealist writing simply doesn’t work quite as well for me. The first story, White Rabbits, was brilliantly creepy, and The Debutante very striking in its sinister absurdity, but the other 5 stories did nothing for me, sadly, and I don’t think they’ll stay with me.
The History of Bees by Maja Lunde
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This is an incredibly ambitious novel that manages to be an intimate tale of family, whilst also looking outwards to comment on the future of humanity at large, by weaving together three different narratives set in different times and locations. This means it is at once historical fiction, contemporary, and a futuristic dystopian; and yet somehow, Lunde deftly brings everything together into one coherent narrative that comments on our vital bond with nature. She draws parallels between humans and bees in particular, with each of the three protagonists invested heavily in the processes of beekeeping and pollination. In doing so, she reminds us that, as with the best hives, we must work for the collective good if we are to survive.
The Victorian Chaise-Longue by Marghanita Laski
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This was a brilliantly ambiguous and claustrophobic little read. For me, it threw up fascinating ideas about the fine line between ecstasy and ruin, the toxicity of being supressed, and the frivolousness of time; how in one era, a woman’s actions could be her making, but in another, they could spell her very ruin. With subtlety, Laski also shrewdly questions just how much progress women had made in gaining autonomy over their bodies, minds and actions by the time of the book’s writing in the 1950s, despite comparative improvements over the past; a theme still relevant to this day.
My Girls: A Lifetime with Carrie and Debbie by Todd Fisher
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This is the memoir of Todd Fisher; brother of Carrie Fisher, and son of Debbie Reynolds. He recounts his family’s stranger-than-fiction life in a personable, anecdotal manner that is very endearing. It’s full of fun and warmth, though doesn’t shy away from the darkness that visited their lives, also touching on Carrie’s struggles with bipolar and addiction; Debbie’s ailing health, and repeated betrayals at the hands of men; and his own heartache and grief, culminating, tragically, in the deaths of both his ‘girls’ just a day apart in 2016. It offers a real, bittersweet insight into a uniquely bizarre Hollywood upbringing, and shares, with fervour and honesty, the love he had for his sister and mother.
It was a very good reading month overall, with quite the run of four star reads, which isn’t really something to complain about!
What was your favourite read in June?