March has been a very weird month for reasons I don’t need to explain, but I did still manage to get quite a bit of reading done, which is nice. I read 9 books in all, with the majority of them being titles from the Women’s Prize longlist, bringing my total for the year so far up to 29. Here are some thoughts on each of them, with links to full reviews if you’d like to know more.
The Rib Joint by Julia Koets
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] These personal essays explore Koets’ experiences growing up as a closeted queer woman in a conservative, religious community in the American South. She explores the murky intersection between friendship and love, desire and self-loathing, and freedom and suppression with clarity and self-reflection.
Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Brodesser-Akner’s flawed, frustrating characters are used to examine gender stereotypes, and the unique brand of delusional, self-inflicted struggles that can affect the middle and upper classes. I found it surprisingly nuanced and readable, but felt it suffered from needlessly convoluted narrative framing.
Girl by Edna O’Brien
[ ⭐ ⭐ ] This is inspired by the real-life kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls at the hands of the terrorist organization Boko Haram in Nigeria, 2014. Despite the succession of brutal, harrowing details, there’s a bizarre sense of emotional disconnect that left the whole thing feeling flat. Pacing issues, untapped thematic potential, matter-of-fact prose, and potentially problematic authorship did little to elevate things.
A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This retells the story of the Trojan War from an entirely female perspective, attempting to reframe beloved mythology from a more feminist angle, and to show the myriad ways to fight a war. It’s very readable and I admire its intention, but it offers little that we haven’t seen from prior retellings, with some of its many perspectives feeling shoehorned in.
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This follows three young friends in an Indian slum naively attempting to solve the mystery behind a string of disappearances. Anappara pulls off a convincing child narrator, and weaves in lots of clever social commentary on everything from gender roles, poverty, and education, to religious tension and fear of the unknown. It’s a very readable yet intelligently subtle dissection of modern Indian society.
Marguerite by Marina Kemp
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] Full review to come for BookBrowse.
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
[ ⭐ ⭐ ] Sadly, I found this look at the immigrant experience derivative and lacking in nuance, with several stereotypes going unchallenged. The prose itself is very approachable on a technical level, but on the whole, I found it clumsy and overblown.
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] This family saga is at its best when it examines the unique hybrid of love and rivalry that can exist between siblings, and the established idea that money cannot buy happiness. There’s some interesting (if not fully capitalised on) commentary on the disconnectedness of the upper classes, but at more than 500 pages, it does feel needlessly bloated at times; some of its potential impact hindered by a meandering pace and extraneous detail.
Weather by Jenny Offill
[ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ] I found this look at the experience of trying to balance the mundanities of modern life with the knowledge that mankind is slowly killing the planet – and the constant, low-level anxiety this brings – more compelling in concept than execution. A lack of drive in plot or character progression left me feeling largely lukewarm, but it does capture the atmosphere of contemporary society with some flair.
There we have it! My favourite reads of the month were Marguerite and Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line. What was your favourite read in March?