And so, we reach the end of March, AKA attempting-to-read-as-many-books-from-the-Women’s-Prize-longlist-as-possible-month. I finished 11 books in all, bringing my total for the year so far up to 32. Here are some very brief thoughts on each, with links to my full reviews if you’d like to know more.
Milkman by Anna Burns
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] An intelligent, shrewdly observant, and original reading experience that captures the atmosphere of institutionalized violence and oppression that reigned during the Troubles. Its stream of consciousness style can be frustrating at times, but the effort was certainly worthwhile.
The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] As gripping to read as it is thought-provoking, this quiet dystopian about the spread of a mysterious sleep sickness puts the emphasis on its characters, and poses big questions about the nature of time, and the wonder of dreams.
Paradise by Edna O’Brien
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This was a nice little taster of O’Brien’s fiction, with lovely prose, a quietly off-kilter tone, and some striking imagery. To me, it spoke of how mentally destructive it is to try and change yourself to appease others, as well as the self-serving, toxic brand of pride that can arise when the wealthy try to ‘help’ those beneath them on the social ladder.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] A sort-of-thriller meets a character study, this explores the bond of sisterhood, and the limits of familial loyalty, when a woman is called upon to help her sister get away with murder. There’s a satirical edge, and some subtle social commentary, but above all, it serves as a fun, fast read.
Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Whilst I admired the message McFadden aimed to impart, I found the execution of this one frustrating. It educates about a forgotten part of African history, and draws parallels with the current day, but a distant narrative voice, and clumsy handling of several plot points let it down.
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] A lesson in reading outside your comfort zone; I ended up loving this strange gem of a book, which is driven by its bold, unsentimental, singular narrative voice, and its look at sexuality, loneliness, and longing in the modern era.
Circe by Madeline Miller
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Whilst I appreciated the agency and emotional depth that Miller granted Circe, I wish she had deviated a little more from the core myth, allowing for greater freedom in the narrative’s otherwise linear, repetitive structure.
Dinosaurs on Other Planets by Danielle McLaughlin
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] A solid collection of short stories that captures an overall tone of melancholy, and the ache of longing, from various different perspectives. The individual stories didn’t wow me, but I appreciated the feel of the collection as a whole.
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
[ ⭐ ⭐ ] A good set-up and some nice prose sadly weren’t enough to win me round with this one. The meandering pace, a jarring supernatural element, and a failure to capitalise on the potential of its themes left me feeling underwhelmed. Still, it offers an introspective snapshot of modern relationships.
Bottled Goods by Sophie van Llewyn
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] A wholly unique reading experience, this novella-in-flash is a tapestry of moments that explores 1970s communist Romania, with a flair of something decidedly magical.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] A brilliantly perceptive exploration of love, friendship, miscommunication, and the need to be needed. Everything about this felt wonderfully authentic, and I adored it.
There we have it! If any of the books I mentioned caught your attention, you can find them with free shipping over on Book Depository by clicking here, or on the image below.
My favourite read this month was Normal People, but I also loved The Dreamers and The Pisces. What was your favourite?