As predicted, the new year is flying by, with the time for the first monthly wrap up of 2019 already upon us! Throughout January I finished 10 books. Here are some very brief thoughts on each of them, with links to my full reviews.
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Incisive, resonant, elegantly written, and still depressingly relevant, The Awakening is a subtly powerful exploration of a woman unfulfilled by the conformity of marriage and motherhood. Though not quite as radical a fight for agency as I’d set my hopes on, I still greatly admired it.
Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] A darkly funny look at the road to recovery in the wake of addiction and rehab, and a satirical lambasting of Hollywood culture. Surprisingly experimental, and painfully honest, what shines through most is Fisher’s ability to suffuse even the darkest, most absurd situations with wit, wisdom, and humour.
The Chrysalids by John Wyndham
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This classic has all the gripping readability and thematic relevance to have been written yesterday. An unsettling allegory about intolerance, othering, the embracing of change, and the importance of community, I found it tense, exciting, and evocative.
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Cleverly using the neutral perspective of an animal to recount the harrowing conditions of war, and thus avoiding the traps of a typical us-vs-them war story, this is a moving look at the best and worst that humanity is capable of in times of conflict.
XX by Angela Chadwick
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Speculative fiction that explores the ideas of science vs nature, parenthood, the role of the media, and class divides. For all the big questions it poses, it’s a surprisingly insular look at one couple’s relationship, and their search for a sense of family.
Mr Salary by Sally Rooney
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Short but brilliant. This is a deceptively simple yet shrewdly observant look at the balance of power between two characters, and the blinding effect of being in the grips of love and grief.
The Twisted Tree by Rachel Burge
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] A book with lots of potential that sadly isn’t capitalised on, this is still a fun, fast read with some creepy moments and a heavy influence from mythology. Though pitched as ‘part ghost story, part Nordic thriller’, there was, for me, too much focus placed on an angsty romance subplot that felt tonally jarring.
Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Two cleverly interwoven stories, told 50 years apart; one in text, and one in illustration. It’s a wholly unique reading experience with great disability representation.
The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] A thought-provoking and unsentimental look at the US prison system, which uses the gaze of a morally complex anti-heroine to explore the often fine line between victim and criminal.
The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Well researched fact combined with beautiful writing, this nature non-fiction explores native owl species, and their complex relationship with man. I found the end somewhat jarring tonally, but it was a pleasant overview of a fascinating creature.
There we have it! If any of the books I mentioned caught your attention, you can find them on Book Depository with free international shipping.
My reading year is off to a pretty great start! My favourite reads of the month were The Chrysalids and Mr Salary. What were yours?