I wasn’t working for most of March, which definitely had its downsides, but it meant I managed to get through 11 books. I would actually recommend most of these, I’ve had a really good reading month. The standouts, looking back, are The Gustav Sonata, The Mothers, and Do Not Say We Have Nothing.
Berlin by Rory MacLean
This is a history of Berlin told through the stories of various individuals, some well-known, some not, who lived there. It’s missing from the pile because I’ve leant it to my boyfriend. I started it pretty shortly after my trip to Berlin last month, and found it somewhat inconsistent. It’s worth reading for the chapter on Bowie alone, but MacLean sometimes does experimental things with form which make it pretty frustrating to read. My primary complaint was the chapter on Brecht, which is written in the form of a letter from a young actor recently arrived in Berlin, who thinks that Brecht is shite. This means that there is virtually no actual information about Brecht’s life or his relationship with the city, which is just annoying.
The Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain
I’ve already put up a review of this, so I’ll keep this brief – this is a moving look at frustrated ambition and desire, and I’m really rooting for it to be on the shortlist for the Bailey’s this year.
Dubliners by James Joyce
I’m half Irish, and I want to start reading more Irish fiction, so this was my hopeful way into Joyce’s work, as the shadow that looms over all Irish literature and a favourite writer and close friend of my personal fave, Samuel Beckett. Unfortunately, I had forgotten that I don’t really understand or enjoy short stories…
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
This seems to be E V E R Y W H E R E at the moment and I haven’t seen a single negative review. The absence of negativity is surprising to me because I thought it was bland and took the usual level of YA implausibility to a ridiculous level.
Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
Bloody brilliant. This book moved me in an unexpected way, I was just going along with it, interested and engaged by this family’s story, and then suddenly I was absolutely wrecked.
Autumn by Ali Smith
I love Ali Smith’s writing, but I honestly don’t really remember what this is about, or what I thought Smith was trying to get her reader to take from it. I definitely liked it at the time but it hasn’t made a lasting impression on me.
The Unaccompanied by Simon Armitage
Simon Armitage’s response to economic difficulty and social division didn’t quite hit the mark for me, I think because I am not remotely well versed in classics, so the references he’s making fell flat for me.
Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I found this more effective than We Should All Be Feminists, I think because I have more to learn from these themes than I did those of the earlier book. This took about half an hour to read, and I would definitely recommend it.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett
I feel like this is a book which I am very much still processing. It’s about secrets and motherhood and the relationships between three young people who are all connected to Upper Room, a black church in Southern California. I’m hoping to review this soon, once I can organise my thoughts a little.
The Nix by Nathan Hill
This is a tough book to summarise: it’s about family and protest and the choices we make. Again, I’m struggling to form a clear impression of this, which I think is in part due to the enormous scope of the story Hill is trying to tell.
They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story of Black Lives Matter by Wesley Lowery
Lowery is a Washington Post journalist who has been covering the Black Lives Matter movement since Ferguson, and this chronicles the events which happened in the following couple of years. It’s incredibly well researched and definitely helped me better understand the events, but it doesn’t give you a strong connection to any of the protesters he interviews. This is probably a result of the wide scope of a book which comes in at around 230 pages, so I would say this is a starting point on understanding the movement.