As I mentioned in my June monthly round-up, I have abandoned a few recent reads despite getting the best part of halfway through them. I don’t actually think they’re bad books, so I thought it still worth writing a few words about them.
Cairo: My City, Our Revolution
by Ahdaf Soueif
I loved Soueif’s first novel The Map of Love and I enjoy her journalism on the Guardian, so I was excited to read this, her account of the Egyptian revolution of 2011. She combines adrenaline-filled, first-hand, written-at-the-time stories of Cairo mid-revolution with calmer, more reflective chapters written eight-plus months later. It’s a passionate, well-written book but I had to put it down because it was making me sad. The enthusiastic excitement of Soueif, her family and friends mid-revolution is suddenly brutally tempered by the reality of months later, where Egypt is in a fragile state still and statistics have been gathered about the number of revolutionaries who died. I will come back to this when I am emotionally ready for it.
Published 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing.
Source: Christmas present from one of my parents.
I’m familiar with both these authors from their journalism but I had somehow not come across their blog The Vagenda. It and this spin-off book are, in their words, “a big ‘we call bullshit’ on the mainstream women’s press”, which sounds fun but I haven’t bought a women’s magazine since I was…17? And I have never, as far as I can remember, bought a gossip/celeb mag. Just doesn’t appeal to me. I occasionally flip through one at the hairdresser and am reminded how much I dislike them. So I don’t really need to read a whole book detailing how anti-women, pro-making-us-buy-stuff they are. I’m not wholly against preaching to the converted, but for me a chapter or essay on the subject would have been plenty. I did like that, because the authors seem to be of a similar age to me, their teenage reads were the same as mine and they drop in lots of 90s cultural references. Plus they are astute, funny women. If you do read the odd women’s mag, or if you’re a man, this might be an eye-opening read – and a very entertaining way to have your eyes opened.
Published 2014 by Square Peg.
Source: Borrowed from a friend.
Men Without Women
by Ernest Hemingway
I may have gone into this book prejudiced against it, thanks to the blurb: “Hemingway’s men are bullfighters and boxers, hired hands and hard drinkers, gangsters and gunmen. Each of their stories deals with masculine toughness unsoftened by woman’s hand.” Not really destined to appeal to me. But I have liked two of the three Hemingway books I’ve read before. Interestingly, the last one I wasn’t keen on was also short stories. Perhaps it’s the extra curtness, the feeling that in paring these stories down to be so minimal, some nuance has been lost. But mostly, let’s face it, it’s the subject matter. These are not characters I am interested in. It’s going to take some serious work to get me to enjoy stories about bullfighting, hunting or fishing, but I’m not wholly prejudiced. I didn’t really like the stories about men chinwagging in bars either. There are some beautiful sentences, but not enough to persuade me to go back to the stories I’d skipped.
Published 1928 by Jonathan Cape.
Source: Book swap at my old book club.