A Sussex based blogger sharing a candid tale of 20-something humanness

Friday, 1 February 2019

Reading round up: January 2019

I want to read more this year. It's something I simply love to do: really, is there anything better than curling up with a cuppa and losing hours to a bloody good book? Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, I adore the entire reading experience: the opportunity to explore life from different perspectives, the familiarity and genuine compassion - or opposite - you feel for characters when you're invested in their story, the unexpected plot twist. The perfectly articulated sentiment that gives words to something you couldn't, too, or the line you come across that you end up quoting or coming back to over and over again because holy shit, that particular string of vowels and consonants is a MASTERPIECE.

This year, I'll be documenting my reading adventures on here, writing round ups at the end of the month sharing my thoughts on the books I've been reading. Here's the first in the series; I got through a pretty diverse selection of four in January.

Books I've read this month

Conversations with friends, by Sally Rooney

Sally Rooney's debut novel is, in my opinion, a haunting, poetic and striking portrait of emotional vulnerability and modern relationships. It follows 21 year old aspiring writer, Frances, who, alongside best friend, Bobbi, performs spoken word gigs in Dublin. The pair are interviewed and then befriended by Melissa, a well known journalist who is married to Nick, an actor, and enter a fascinating world of raucous dinner parties, luxurious holidays in Brittanny, and in Frances' case, sleeping with somebody else's husband.

I'll be honest, knowing little about Sally Rooney when I picked this up, I was worried that a plot of this nature might become a bit cliche and piss me off. There are so many chick-lit novels where infidelity is presented lightly - as a thrill - and I'm not here for that. But this isn't chick-lit. The story is deliciously nuanced, with Frances' emotional vulnerabilities and the messy, overlapping relationships between the four fascinating characters taking centre stage. It's gritty, uncomfortable reading at times, painfully honest and laugh out loud funny.

The tattoist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris

Based on the powerful true story of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, this extraordinary book follows him as he is imprisoned in Auschwitz in 1942 and given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival - scratching numbers into his fellow victims' arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust. One day, looking upon the line of people waiting to be tattooed, he notices Gita, and is immediately struck by her beauty. As the pair grow closer and embark upon a dangerous romance, Lale is determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this wonderful woman does too. 

I recommend this life-affirming book unreservedly. If, like me, you're interested in the human stories of the Holocaust, you will find this totally absorbing and an unforgettable read. It tells a story of devastation and brutality, and in parts, as you'd expect, it is painful reading. But it's important, necessary reading, and it is also a story of the triumph of love, even in the darkest of times, and of hope and selflessness and courage.

My thoughts exactly, by Lily Allen

I've been a fan of Lily Allen since she burst onto the musical scene with 'Smile' back in 2006. I was 15, and I remember thoroughly enjoying chanting the lyrics about my first ever ex boyfriend from the year above, who had left me for big boob Bianca after three weeks. We saw each other about twice during our relationship and both encounters were painfully awkward on my part, because 'omg, boys', but still, Lily Allen put words to the narrative of my all consuming heartbreak and subsequent fury, and she became one my favourite musicians immediately.

If you're familiar with Lily's lyrics, you'll know she doesn't shy away from sharing her truth. 'My thoughts exactly' is an extension of this song-writing prowess, documenting in personal memoir her young life, her thrusting into the limelight and the damaging reality of constant press attention/persona warping, her addictions, her sex life, her grief, her fuck ups, and her continued relationship with music. With the candid, courageous voice you'd expect, and framed by her own compelling experiences, she also explores wider themes such as mental health, privilege, misogyny and fame. 

I've always liked Lily Allen, but having read this book, I respect her as an artist - as a human - even moreso. It's bold and brave and uncomfortable and fierce in all of those things. It's a woman, who has been scathed moreso than anyone would deserve, reclaiming her story and identity and telling the world who she really is and what she's been through. It's her life, on her terms, at last. And I loved it.

ROAR, by Cecilia Ahern

ROAR is a collection of 30 short stories about different women. The women in this book are - apparently - all of us: the women who befriend us, the women who encourage us, the women who make us brave. Described as witty, tender and surprising, and as a collection of tales that will speak to us all, the book has been written to capture that moment of power when we all want to roar.

I really, really wanted to like this book. Of course I recognise that the themes within it are prevalent and important and empowering, and I applaud Cecilia Ahern for writing about them: for celebrating femininity and equality in this way and challenging some of the difficulties a vagina brings about in modern society. But for me, the stories were just a little too... Literal? The woman who was kept on the shelf for example, is about a woman sitting on an actual shelf watching her husband lose interest and her life pass her by. I get what it's trying to achieve, but personally I found it hard to connect with and warm to the characters and felt - through the bizarre literal interpretations - it simplified complex issues a little too much.

1 comment

  1. Wow, The tattooist of Auschwitz sounds really incredible. I hadn't heard of it yet, but it sounds right up my alley. I will be sure to check it out next time I buy some new books. I first need to make my way through the massive pile of books besides my bed first, haha.


Thanks so much for reading. I'd love to hear your thoughts. Don't forget to leave a link to some of your own writing; I'm always on the look out for more reading material.

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