I seem to finally be catching up with my wrap ups, although I’ve failed to review anything in months and I’ve probably half forgotten most of the books I’ve read in that time. Oops!
August was a month dominated by His Dark Materials; I wanted to reread the original trilogy before the release of the first part of The Book of Dust (although during the process of rereading them, I was forced to conclude that I did not in fact get to the end the first time around) and was scheduled to chair the discussion group we were holding at work, so I raced through the three novels.
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
I 100% get the hype with this. It absolutely delivers on both all the praise I’ve heard about it over the years and my own memory of what it was like over a decade ago when I first read it. It is a brilliant, innovative, magical adventure and I was as addicted to it this time as I was the first time.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Over the last year or so, I feel like my feminism has become a more passive thing. It’s just a constant in my life, and my only real engagement with it, intellectually speaking, is listening to The Guilty Feminist. I want to learn more about feminism and examine the way I think about gender and sexism properly. To that end, I finally bought a copy of Bad Feminist. While I didn’t necessarily agree with every point that she makes, I think it was really valuable to me to read about someone whose experience of being female is so entirely different from mine.
The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman
I have to admit that I didn’t love this as much as I loved Northern Lights, but there is still a lot of good in there. It just lacks structure, and it feels like our protagonists spend most of the book walking with no particular reason for them to be doing so. I do really like Will though, so I was glad to be reading about him again (although I am 100% sure that I stopped reading around two thirds of the way through because the end of the book was a complete surprise to me).
The Gender Games by Juno Dawson
I read this in advance of the Banging Book Club event in London, where they were talking to Juno about the book. My friend Laura and I both said after the event that we liked the book more having heard her talk about it. I think it just helped us understand her voice and the way specifically that she talks about gender: the book is very much written as she would speak. It’s informative and interesting, but I would maybe suggest listening to the audiobook because I found that the tone didn’t translate super well.
Emma by Jane Austen
This was yet another Jane Austen reread via audiobook, and as much as I love Emma and therefore had fun listening to it, I didn’t love Anna Bentinck’s narration – specifically the nasal, snooty voice she does for Mr Knightley. (That said, I’ve since listened to her narrating Mansfield Park, and she does the same voice for Edmund and it works pretty well for his uptight, lecturing priggishness.) (I don’t like Edmund.)
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
This book is a damn mess. I loved it, actually more than The Subtle Knife, but I have pretty much no idea what happened. Something I learnt at the discussion group is that apparently Philip Pullman doesn’t really plan, he writes like an investigation, uncovering how things work
Longbourn by Jo Baker
Because I am a snob, I had it in my head that this was going to be pretty lightweight, but it turned out to be really great, and very well written. I’m a massive Austen fan, particularly of Pride and Prejudice, so in some ways I’m hesitant to read different takes on that story (I was badly burned by Death Comes to Pemberley) because the characters just read as wrong to me. But because this comes from the point of view of the servants, the differences in the original protagonists are totally understandable, because they are different with the servants than they are with their equals.
Lyra’s Oxford by Philip Pullman
This is one of two short stories Pullman has published set in Lyra’s world, and it was a fun, quick read but I could not tell you what happened. It involved some kind of alchemist and a witch?