Hello Book Lover,
It’s been a funny old month January with it’s million days, how long has it felt!? It’s also been a month where I have taken a step back from social media, in particular Instagram. I haven’t posted as much and I have to say I do feel better for spending less hours scrolling through the squares. I have used this time to pick up some fantastic reads. I don’t know if it will be a permanent move or if I just need a few more weeks off to find my posting mojo again. I am still posting my current reads on Twitter (handle is @thelitaddict_ if you fancy coming to say hello) and I have some blog posts planned over the next month too – exciting!
In Janaury I read five physical books, listened to one audio book, started an e-book for a February book tour and missed out on completing my sixth physical read by just a couple of days. So here is what I have been reading –
‘Your House Will Pay’ by Steph Cha. I read this book at the beginning of January and I have to say I devoured it! Once I got into it, I found myself reading it at every opportunity. Although ‘Your House Will Pay’ is a work of fiction, the authors note tells the reader that Steph Cha wrote this book inspired by the Los Angeles riots of 1992 and the shooting of 15 year old Latasha Harlins by a Korean-American shop owner, Soon Ja Du, who whilst later convicted of voluntary manslaughter, served no prison time.
Predominately set in the present day but with flashbacks to rioting in 1992, ‘Your House Will Pay’ centres around two families and two characters in particular, who narrate us through their complex and interwoven lives. Grace Park and Shawn Matthews, both live in Los Angeles, but are from different generations and different communities, however their lives are inextricably linked by a horrendous crime which took place years earlier. This book is powerful; addressing issues such as social politics, racism, deceit, betrayal, intricate family relationships, intergenerational friction, seeking forgiveness and letting go of the past. What struck me most about this book was how authentic it was, how real some of the scenes described were and how Cha’s writing seemed to really emulate and capture the tensions of the time.
Thank you so much to Faber and Faber for sending me a proof of this book. This will appeal to you if you are fans of Celeste Ng, Attica Locke and Angie Thomas. ‘Your house Will Pay’ is out now.
‘Topics of Conversation’ is a debut by Miranda Popkey, published by Serpentstail. Isn’t the cover of this one so dreamy? I noticed recently that the lettering is rippled where the water is running through it – clever no? I enjoyed this book, an un-named author narrates us through conversations which she has with other women over the course of two decades. The main narrative focuses on the experiences of her and the women around her, looking at sexuality, sexual awakening, motherhood, realtionships with friends, lovers, colleagues, gender, gender roles and expectations. This book was searing in parts, honest and bare. I really enjoyed the writing, even if it did make me want to buy a packet of cigarettes and start drinking bourbon. If you like the writing of Debroah Levy and Olivia Laing then ‘Topics of Conversation’ will be right up your street.
‘The Mercies’ by Kiran Milwood Hargrave. This book ticked a lot of my bookish boxes – witches, cold Nordic climate, strong women, I knew that it was going to be a fantastic read and it didnt let me down. My full review will be up on Thursday, but I am telling you now that this is one to put on your 2020 reading list, particularly if you are a fan of ‘Burial Rites’, ‘Wolf Winter’ or ‘The Glass Woman’. ‘The Mercies’ is published by Pan Macmillian and is published on 6th February.
‘Childhood’ by Tove Ditlevsen is part one of the Copenhagen Trilogy which I saw on a fellow bookworms instagram feed last year. I’m intrigued by translated fiction and also childhood, (particularly how those early childhood experinces shape us as adults). It’s an incredible short read, I managed to read all 198 pages in the bath one evening. What struck me about this book was how much Tove struggled in her childhood, grappling with her feelings of fitting in and her sense of self within her family and the wider context of her friendships. It also felt in some respects similar to depictions of Northern England within the 1960’s, I spoke to my mum about this and she could see some of the similarities. I would love to know if there are any of her works of poetry which have been published in English as I really enjoyed the snippets which were dotted within ‘Childhood’. Both ‘Youth’ and ‘Dependancy’ are both very high on my list for next purchases. In October this year ‘The Faces’ is published by Penguin, this novel examines a mother of three who begins to be haunted by diembodied faces and taunting voices, I am really intrigued by the depiction of mental health within fiction and given that Tove Ditlevsen struggled with her own mental health, as well as drug and alcohol depndancy, I am really interested to see where she goes with this one. The Copenhagen Trilogy is published by Penguin Classics and is out now.
‘Girl’ by Edna O’Brien, this was an incredibly difficult book to read, it also led me to ask myself several questions. ‘Girl’ is the story of a young black schoolgirl who gets kidknapped by Boko Haram while she is at school. The book is exquisitley well written and it is clear that a considerable amount of research had been carried out. There was nothing in this book that felt sensationalised or gratuitous, however I began to feel slightly uneasy that a white Irish woman had written about the subject, Edna Obrien has never been one to shy away from difficult and politically driven narratives, having previously written about the violence in Ireland. Although she spent a considerable amount of time in Nigeria, I was left feeling that maybe she wasn’t the best placed person to write this story, that maybe someone with lived experiences would be better placed. It is something which has been debated considerably (and much more eloquently than my hamfisted attempt) recently on Twitter and Instagram, one thing it has made me more aware of is that in future I will do more research to seek out those books which are own voices. I wouldn’t recommend this book to everyone, as I mentioned earlier it is an incredibly difficult book to get through and some may find it incredibly upsetting. ‘Girl’ is out now and is published by Faber and Faber.
I kicked off January with a couple of lovely bookish events already. I met up with some fantastic bookish folk whom I have met through Twitter earlier in January. We went for lunch and a puruse around Waterstones, where I bought three new books most of which were translated fiction. Bookish folk really are the best people and it was lovely to spend the afternoon in the company of Rebecca, Emma, Jules and Rachel, hopefully 2020 will be filled with many more of these meet ups.
I also went to see Emma Jane Unsworth at Waterstones Deansgate for the launch of her new book ‘Adults’. I have read everything that she has written, ‘Animals’ is the book version of having a song that reminds you of someone. It could have been about me and my sister, apart from the jar of MDMA in the flat, that never happended, the boozy nights and long hungover days most definitely did though! I also loved ‘Hungry the Stars and Everything’, which I read with my book club several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed. ‘Adults’ is going to be one of my February reads, I cannot wait to make a start, I love a Northern sense of humour and Emma has it in spades in her writing. ‘Adults’ is out now and is published by Borough Press.
Finally, saving the best until last, this month I listened to ‘Queenie’ on my commute to work, I have wanted to read this for ages but for one reason or another I just hadnt got around to it. When I had a couple of Audible tokens I knew ‘Queenie’ would be where they would be going. If you haven’t read it then I highly recommend the audiobook, Shvorn Marks is amazing, her voices and how she told the story was brilliant. ‘Queenie’ is such a fantastic character, the men are just despicable, I mean groan out loud, scream at the book, bloody awful and what is more depressing is that I found myself thinking “I have met him in a previous life” or “my friend has dated him”. Candice Carty Williams has written about real life, the characterisation, the experiences, the laughter, the pain, the friendships, is written in a relatable way. This book had me laughing and crying in equal measure and I havent stopped recommending it to people. I am gutted that ‘Queenie’ will not be keeping me company on my commute, if ever there was a book to give you a hangover, it is this one. ‘Queenie’ is out now and is published by Trapeze, if you havent already make sure you get a little bit of ‘Queenie’ in your life, you won’t be disappointed.
So, there is my January wrap up, I hope that January has been a fruitful reading month for you too, would love to know what you have been reading.
The Literary Addict x