When In French by Lauren Collins
This is a memoir about Lauren Collins’s experience of learning French, which she undertook because she was married to a French man and living in Geneva. She uses these experiences kind of as a jumping off point to talk about attitudes to language, the way language and personality intersect and to look at linguistics a little. I loved this, although I think you won’t necessarily get as much out of it if you don’t speak French, because so much of what I loved was to do with her observations on the little, irritating, stupid things which are the best and the worst part of learning French.
Trumpet by Jackie Kay
I’ve been meaning to read this forever, and I did really like it. Jackie Kay is primarily a poet, and that really shines through in the writing of this moving look at grief, gender, race and family. I will say, I thought this would be a book which would really stay with me and in all honesty it hasn’t, but I would still highly recommend it.
Dart by Alice Oswald
This is a single poem, made up of multiple voices, inspired by people who live and work on the river Dart. I really liked it, but I actually started it almost a year ago, put it down and only got around to picking it up again in May, which meant that a lot of the impact was lost.
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This is my second of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels, and I was floored by it. I’m amazed by her consistency as a novelist – I can’t think of many others who can consistently put out work at this high a standard. It’s a coming of age story about Kambili, who lives in an awful, oppressive house with her abusive, yet deeply religious father. She and her brother, Jaja, go to stay with their Auntie and cousins, and are exposed to what family can mean. It’s wonderful and I absolutely recommend it to everyone.
Heartburn by Nora Ephron
I listened to the audiobook of this, read by Meryl Streep herself, because I was beginning to struggle with The Sport of KIngs and needed some light relief. I did enjoy it and found myself laughing out loud at this comedic story of a woman who discovers her husband is having an affair while she is nine months pregnant, but it’s not a particular favourite.
The Sport of Kings by C.E. Morgan
I have a slightly complicated opinion on this book – on the one hand, I think it is brilliantly clever and wonderfully written, but on the other, it was hard, hard work. I would recommend it, but only if you’re up for a challenge.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This is f a n t a s t i c. It’s a YA novel inspired by the events which led to the Black Lives Matter movement. I was concerned that it being for a teenage audience would mean it was toned down in some way, but Thomas absolutely doesn’t shy away from the grim reality of her subject matter, while providing insight into the sort of place where these shootings happen and the range of responses inside and outside the community. Read it read it read it.
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
This was a fun, light read about an elderly couple and their neighbour, and what happens when the wife decides to walk 2000 miles across Canada to the sea. I enjoyed it, but I wouldn’t say you need to go racing out to buy it.
The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami
By contrast, you actually should go racing out to buy this. It’s a collection of moments within normal lives, piecing together the story of the people who work at this funny little thrift shop in Tokyo. It’s understated but compelling, and is held together by a really heartwarming love story and a fun, interesting group of characters.