September was an odd month for me. For much of it, I felt as excited as ever about the many great books I want to get to, and yet strangely demotivated whenever I actually sat down to read. A mild slump, or a general feeling of apathy due to a succession of good but not fantastic reads throughout much of the year, who can say? I’m pleased to say the month ended on a high, however, and hope that some suitably gothic and creepy reads (which are right up my street) in October will get me back on track.
But in the meantime, here are some brief thoughts on each of the 10 books I read throughout September, with links to my full reviews if you’d like to know more.
Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Complaining about a lacklustre reading month, then kicking things off with a five-star review: I am a contradiction. Winterson combines past, present, and future to great effect in this thematically rich riff on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Gender and identity, the role of AI, and the intersection of consciousness and biological matter are all explored here in a truly singular reading experience that was as enthralling as it was thought-provoking.
Turbulence by David Szalay
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Stronger in concept than in execution, this series of loosely interconnected short stories looks at the universal struggles of being human, as strangers cross paths in a succession of journeys across the globe. The prose and use of structure as a means of storytelling were solid, but the time spent with each character was so fleeting that the book suffered slightly from a repeated lack of resolution.
The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien (translated from the French by Adriana Hunter)
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This stranger than fiction memoir details Julien’s harrowing childhood under the tyrannical rule of her physically and emotionally abusive father, who sought to create a new kind of ‘superhuman’ via extreme training and conditioning. Morbidly compelling, the book is testament to human resilience, but I felt it could have been even more powerful had it offered greater insight into Julien’s adulthood, post-escape.
La beauté sans vertu by Genevieve Valentine
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] An unsettling, satirical swipe at beauty standards and the hidden cruelties of the fashion world. I loved the haunting concept of this brief offering that blends speculative sci-fi and body horror, but felt the ending needed a little more oomph.
The Inner Room by Robert Aickman
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Drawing on horror conventions, this novella builds atmosphere well as we move towards the climax’s arresting tableau, with imagery that lingers in the mind to great effect. That said, I felt things fizzled out somewhat; that final twist or gut-punch sadly lacking. A worthwhile little read, nonetheless.
A Murder Is Announced by Agatha Christie
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This is arguably one of Christie’s better-known titles, but certainly not one of her best based on my experience. The hallmarks of the golden era of crime are still present, it captures the tense atmosphere of post-war Britain well, and she remained one step ahead as per usual. However, there were a number of implausible coincidences that flirted with farce, leading to an unexpected but not wholly believable ending. Still, Christie is always fun!
No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This book collects a number of speeches by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old, headline-grabbing climate activist. Since they were delivered over a span of months to a number of different audiences, there is an element of repetition in her phrasing and statistics, but the core of her arguments is always accessible, eloquent, and laudable. Long may she speak out, and long may the world listen.
The New Testament by Jericho Brown
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This collection of poetry combines the deeply personal with the powerfully political to explore themes of queerness, race, masculinity, and family. Brown draws on mythology, fairy tale, and Bible stories to create striking imagery, his use of language bold yet beautiful. I’m excited to explore more of his work.
A Spell of Winter by Helen Dunmore
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Dark, gothic, and incredibly evocative, this was just the read I was in the mood for. Dunmore creates a quietly sinister atmosphere, and I was greatly impressed by the balance of readability and deeper themes; the book making interesting commentary on the likes of forbidden love, female autonomy, and the struggle to escape familial inheritance. A slight shift away from the gothic in the final third was all that held me back from a 5 star rating, but I really did love this.
The Victim by P. D. James
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Another of the Faber Stories range, this strangely serene yet disquieting insight into the mind of a scorned lover as he plots his revenge is a great little read. There’s a clever twist at the end that shines new light on the story’s title and true meaning, which in turn poses interesting questions about obsession and power.
My total number of reads in 2019 now stands at 94, so I’m optimistic about hitting my 100 book goal for the year within the next month! What was your favourite read in September?