Put the Book Back on the Shelf

 

Part of my plan for this year is to read 50 books. When I set this number, I thought one a week sounded ambitious but reasonable and achievable – turns out that it’s now the 14th January and I’m already halfway through my 12th book of the year. So far, I’ve managed to choose new (to me, at least) books, although there’s a few which I’ve read already on my list to read in the future. As you might have guessed, I’m quite a fast reader, but I also have a lot of time for reading! I’m trying to divide that time between reading, attempting to learn Swedish, doing crafts and eating, with the occasional board game or Age of Empires in between.

So, here’s a few of the thoughts I have about some of the things I’ve been reading lately:

The first book of the year was Ruth Jones’ Never Greener. She’s one of the writers of the sitcom Gavin and Stacey, and plays Nessa in that. I think this coloured my expectations a bit – I was expecting better characters, more fully fleshed out and I also expected it to be funnier. I didn’t find many of the characters to be engaging at all, and one of the ‘reveals’ in particular seemed like a convenient plot device rather than an actual ‘thing’ – I was also annoyed by the completely inaccurate Scottish school system, but that might be more me! I did enjoy most of it though, and I think I would have enjoyed it more had my expectations been different.

Emma Donaghue’s The Wonder is probably my favourite of the books I’ve read so far in 2019, and at least in the top three. It’s set in Ireland and an English nurse is sent to a family who claim their daughter is surviving on prayer alone- that is, she isn’t eating any food and only drinking a tiny amount of water. I found the commentary on the role of religion really interesting, although there were several points where I wanted the book to go further than it did.

I really didn’t like Lincoln in the Bardo – I thought from other reviews I’ve read of it and from the accolades it has gained that it would be much better but I found the writing style virtually impossible – this may be more down to me than to the book, but it was a struggle to finish it. It seemed like an Important Work, more concerned with how clever it was than with any actual or real response from the readers.

I think I featured this picture book in my photo blog so I won’t say much, but I absolutely loved it! Thanks to my dad for buying it for me!

I really enjoyed the Song of Hild – for those who don’t know, Hild was a seventh century abbess and the focal point of my undergraduate dissertation. She’s also one of the women I look at in my PhD. While Vasbo imagines a very different life for her than the one I do, this was well written and well researched- it was also a good translation (originally, it was written in Danish) and although quite long, readable and engaging. Sometimes reading about things that you know about is just frustrating because it is easy to get bogged down in inaccuracies (I hated Credo for this reason!) but I didn’t find that to be the case with the Song of Hild.

I’ve read a lot of books in 2018 which were modern retellings of Shakespeare or well known mythology or stories. The Children of Jocasta is a retelling of the Oedipus myth and despite broadly knowing what happens, I found it really gripping with engaging characters, even when I didn’t really like them – they felt real and their motivations and actions made sense.

That may of course be because the myth is so well known that the characters feel real even when improbable things happen!Generally though, I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it, especially people who want more myths with women at their centre.

Finally, A History of Wolves was also, I thought, great. Some bits were better than others and some storylines kept my attention better but generally I was hooked from very near the beginning.

I’ve read a few other books so far this year, all of which are listed on my goodreads account(https://www.goodreads.com/user_challenges/14577266) – though I may need to up the target from 50 books at this rate. As always, if anyone has any recommendations please let me know!

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