I’m currently sat in bed watching my boyfriend and his best mate play Call of Duty non-stop. It’s been like this for the past couple of nights. Why do I subject myself to this, you may ask? Good question. It’s because I have the flu and I want company, and this is the only way to get it.
However, being ill has given me time to think back over the books I read last month. Granted, most of them have been for university, so I’m actually excited to share some oldies but goodies with you guys that you might not have previously heard of. The list ranges from YA to 1930s prose, so there’s something for everyone. Let’s get started…
Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell
My Rating: 4/5
Genre: New Adult
Synopsis: Amid the harsh landscape of the Ozark Hills, sixteen-year-old Ree is taking care of her mother and two brothers. Her father has put their house up as bail and if he doesn’t show up at court it’ll be sold from under them. To save her family she needs to track him down but in a community riven with long-running feuds getting answers isn’t easy.
Why I loved it: I’d watched the film adaptation of Winter’s Bone a few years ago, but surprisingly had never thought of reading the book. Then it turned out I needed to read the novel for my ‘The Girl in the Book’ course. I actually really loved the novel much more than the film. Whilst the film was good, it missed out some of the raw emotions that the book was fraught with. It’s a harrowing read, but Ree is the epitome of a strong, female lead and the dynamics between the men and women of the novel is an interesting one in terms of feminism and misogyny.
The Years by Virginia Woolf
My Rating: 5/5
Synopsis: As the Pargiters, a middle-class English family, move from the oppressive confines of the Victorian home of the 1880s to the `present day’ of the 1930s, they are weighed down by the pressures of war, the social strictures of patriarchy, capitalism and Empire, and the rise of Fascism. Engaging with a painful struggle between utopian hopefulness and crippled with despair, the novel is a savage indictment of Virginia Woolf’s society, but its bitter sadness is relieved by the longing for some better way of life, where `freedom and justice’ might really be possible.
Why I loved it: I am a huge huge HUGE fan of Virginia Woolf. She is the master of character over plot, showing the literary world that all you need are some fleshed-out, spirited characters and emotional writing to produce a truly good novel. This was Woolf’s most popular novel in her lifetime, and her biggest, so newbies to Woolf might prefer to start with Woolf’s shorter (but no less popular works) of Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse. But for me, The Years trumped them both in terms of its cast of characters and its lyricism.
Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth
My Rating: 5/5
Genre: Contemporary (somewhat YA)
Synopsis: Goodbye, Columbus is the story of Neil Klugman and pretty, spirited Brenda Patimkin, he of poor Newark, she of suburban Short Hills, who meet one summer break and dive into an affair that is as much about social class and suspicion as it is about love.
Why I loved it: I read Goodbye, Columbus as part of ‘The Great American Novella’ half-unit and everyone in my seminar, me included, absolutely loved it. Roth is brilliant at making the words on the page seem effortless. The story itself is a somewhat YA contemporary novella set in the 50s with exceedingly interesting characters, yet it doesn’t feel dated in the least. Both Neil and Brenda are heavily flawed but very likeable. Heart-breaking and life-affirming, it’s a really enjoyable and easy read.
Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton
My Rating: 4/5
Genre: Modernist, Thriller
Synopsis: London, 1939, and in the grimy publands of Earls Court, George Harvey Bone is pursuing a helpless infatuation. Netta is cool, contemptuous and hopelessly desirable to George. George is adrift in a drunken hell, except in his ‘dead’ moments, when something goes click in his head and he realizes, without a doubt, that he must kill her. In the darkly comic Hangover Square Patrick Hamilton brilliantly evokes a seedy, fog-bound world of saloon bars, lodging houses and boozing philosophers, immortalising the slang and conversational tone of a whole generation and capturing the premonitions of doom that pervaded London life in the months before the war.
Why I loved it: If I had to describe this novel in one word, it would be: WEIRD. This novel is so weird but so interesting. Like how intriguing is that synopsis? Man absolutely infatuated with a heartless girl, until he blanks out and carries on with his plan to murder her. The novel takes a little while to get into, but once it gets going you’ll most probably be awkwardly finding yourself rooting for George in his ‘dead’ moments like ‘FOR GOD’S SAKE GEORGE JUST KILL HER’. Whirlwind read with the unsettling backdrop of the encroaching Second World War.
Let me know what you enjoyed reading this month! I’m currently still trekking through The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. It was a daunting read to begin with, but now I’m really into it. Review coming soon.
Thanks for reading!