Monday, 3 September 2012

What I did on my Holidays (or what I read during my month away from Twitter!)

Okay, so the previous blog post talks about how I managed to do loads of reading during August as a result of not being on Twitter - and of having a week's holiday in the Yorkshire Dales, and breaking my ankle two days after we got back.  Forced immobility is good for some things!

 So, if you're interested, during August I read:

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes (I was halfway through this at the beginning of the month) This was recommended by a friend, and when I saw the cover and read the first few pages, I thought it was going to be a light and fluffy love story. I have nothing against light and fluffy love stories, but wasn't really in the mood for one. Anyway, it turned out to be far more than that. A love story, yes,  but it was deeply moving and affecting, and with some much bigger themes to think about.

The Leftovers, by Tom Perrota What happens to those left behind after  millions of people disappear in an event that may well be 'The Rapture'?  Loved the premise, loved the book. Well-written, unusual, and thought-provoking.

Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction by Sue Townsend  Like most people, I read the first two Adrian Mole books when they first came out. But now Adrian is in his late thirties and is still full of angst. Not about the WMD, though; his trust in 'Mr Blair' is implicit. I'd forgotten just what a clever writer Sue Townsend is.  I now plan to go back to book 1 and read the whole lot in sequence.

The Untold Story by Monica Ali  What if the Princess of Wales had faked her own death? I wasn't convinced by the premise - how on earth could a loving mother watch her sons attend her funeral? But Monica Ali has painted such a believable portrait of the troubled Diana ('Lydia' as she's now called), and of her complicit and slightly besotted private secretary, that by the end of the novel, I was totally convinced. Lydia's intense loneliness and sense of hopelessness comes across well, but this is a 'warts and all' representation, and that makes her a very real character. There's sadness in this novel, but Lydia does manage to wring SOME happiness from her new life.

Archipelago, by Monique Roffey  I'd say this was the highlight of my summer reading. A man is left to care for his 6-year-old daughter after a devastating flood sweeps though their home in Trinidad. The book deals with love and grief and loss,  and with terrible destructive power of nature, as well as its sheer and utter joy.  Sobbed my heart out.  A beautiful book. (full review coming soon)

In the Kitchen, by Monica Ali  This novel appealed to me because the story centres around a chef and a hotel kitchen - having been a chef myself, I loved this aspect,  and the observations are spot on. It was immediately clear that Monica Ali had done her research (in fact, I looked it up, and she said research took a year and she 'chopped a lot of onions'!)  The novel's scope is wide, possibly too wide, in that she attempts to tackle themes around immigration, slavery, identity, the world of work, family relationships, mental breakdown, human trafficking and more. I did enjoy this novel, but at 550 pages,  I felt it could have been shorter.

Even the Dogs, by Jon McGregor  I loved Jon McGregor's first two novels, but wasn't sure I was going to like this one, which is about addiction and homelessness, and is undoubtedly bleak. The story, which opens with the discovery of a decomposing body, is disturbing and distressing, but it's so cleverly written that I quickly became closely engaged with the lives of the characters. This novel shows how easy it is to make judgements and assumptions about drug users and alcoholics; it also shows how precarious our ordered lives are and how easy it could be to lose everything. I was left with a powerful sense of 'there, but for the grace of God...' 


  1. Oh joy - all that reading!

    1. susan elliot wright5 September 2012 at 09:45

      It was a real treat, I can tell you!

  2. What a diverse selection. I've also read Even the Dogs and found it a thought provoking read and sad. Like you, I felt it really highlighted the hidden stories of people who're often invisible and forgotten. And like you too I was put off by the 'chick lit' cover of Me Before You but decided to give it a go as I'd read so many good things about it. I've just started it and I'm already totally engaged with the characters- a classic case of never judge a book by its cover!

    1. susan elliot wright5 September 2012 at 09:50

      It is a bit diverse, isn't it? Yes, the cover thing is a problem, I think, because we DO judge a book by its cover, and in this case, I thought it was very misleading. I really loved Me Before You. You might be interested to know that the real life story that inspired this novel also inspired Patrick Gale to write A Perfectly Good Man, which is also a great read. Not sure where I heard that!