Monday, April 20, 2015

What I Read: March 2015

  • Fingersmith - Sarah Waters: Thieves! Victoriana! Lesbian love affairs! Backstabbing! I'm not sure why I never got around to reading Sarah Waters before but I am officially on board. Her writing is fun and elegant and clever and I enjoyed this a lot. Next up: The Paying Guests.
  • To the Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf: Inspired by Janet Malcolm in January I am on something of a Bloomsbury binge. To the Lighthouse had been sitting on my bookshelf for years and I finally dug it up as part of my attempt to put everything Woolf ever touched into my face. I need to decide between Mrs Dalloway and The Waves next. TTL blurs the line between elegy and novel and it was especially interesting in the context of Bloomsbury history. It's probably not starter-Woolf but it is thoughtful and poetic and lovely.
  • Bloomsbury - Quentin Bell: See above. This slim biography of the Bloomsbury group/movement was written by Vanessa Bell's (née Stephens, sister of Virginia Woolf, painter in her own right and, arguably, heart/hearth of the group) son and he combines a unique position with a very calm and reasonable writing style. I'm not sure that I learnt much I didn't know from this book but it was a pleasure to read.
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms - N. K. Jemisin: This is Book 1 of a YA/fantasy trilogy that I read on the recommendation of a couple of internet folks. It turned out to be too high-fantasy for my taste but if that is your bag then maybe check it out? It is very straight-faced but it has a POC heroine which yey. I didn't particularly enjoy this but I don't really have anything bad to say about it either? I don't know.
  • Yes Please - Amy Poehler: Things I Love: Amy Poehler, Parks & Rec, smart ladies. I was the target market for Yes Please and I was so ready to love it but, and I take no pleasure saying this, I was disappointed. Yes, Amy is awesome and she comes across as an intelligent and competent human in this book and, no, it isn't a disaster but there isn't much to love here. Yes Please isn't as funny as Bossypants or as open or well written as Not That Kind of Girl (N.B. I don't think either of those books are perfect but they are two distinct styles in the Funny Lady Memoir Thing category); it is neither one thing nor another. The book isn't that funny and the Smart Girls at a Party advice thing (which I totally support!) is rather condescending in print. Clearly Poehler wants to protect her privacy and I get that, I don't need her to spill the gory details on her personal life, but without jokes and without some more meaningful emotional honesty there isn't much to take away from the book besides a more in-depth career history than I could have found on Wikipedia. 
  • HP 1-3 - J. K. Rowling: We had many, many hours of driving in California and an excellent friend generously sent me the full HP audio collection. I had a couple of other adult/unfamiliar audiobooks with me but new cars/giant American freeways/no functioning GPS or maps are all quite stressful and we needed something more comfortable. Stephen Fry's voice is relaxing and the Potter plots are fun but not complicated or distracting. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person on the internet/Tumblr who isn't an HP-superfan and I hadn't revisited Books 2 or 3 since the 90s (had a miniature freakout when I found out how old they were and, hence, how old I am) or seen the films so it was quite interesting to go back and coo over Baby Draco.
  • Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: This is another book that I should have read sooner. I think I avoided it because CNA is too young and too talented and also because I assumed that it was going to be super serious? Americanah isn't a laugh riot and it has a lot of Big Themes but it isn't dry or impenetrable either. The writing is luminous and politics are handled so sharply and almost effortlessly and I raced through it. Also, in unusual synchronisation, my Pop read this over Easter and loved it too and you can't ignore a recommendation from Chuck Snr. I would enthusiastically second that recommendation - there is no good reason for anyone not to read this.

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