Reading round-up June 2018

The heron and the Mastaba

My stack of books that I have read and not reviewed is threatening to topple over and crush me, I am so behind. But we have been getting out and about. I love how summery it’s been for so long already now. Even if the sun is really not good for me, I can’t help but enjoy the blue skies, the long light evenings, the urge to get out and do things.

Speaking of which, this month we have been to London (again) to see Hamilton – which we loved enough that I now have a new album to play on rotation with Janelle Monáe (with whom I have been obsessed all this year). We also went to the Forest of Dean to visit my Dad and Grandad on Father’s Day. We visited Tim’s family on their farm – which is bountiful with food at this time of year. We saw art and we hung out in parks.

My favourite read this month – by some way – was The Radium Girls, a disturbing true story recounted expertly by Kate Moore. But I did read a lot this month and a lot of it was great. Roll on July!

Books read

The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
This Japanese modern classic is a sweet love story about a pair of young lovers who are separated by their differing social standings in a small fishing community. It beautifully evokes their island home and is honest about life, emotions and desire.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron
Ephron’s only novel, which is famously based on her own life at the turbulent point when she and her second husband split up, is a hilarious, angry read. I don’t think I could love Ephron’s writing more, even though there’s a chance I would not have got on with her in person.

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans
I was impressed by this novel about a suffragette in 1928 who is still trying to fight the good fight while most of her former allies are happy to accept the limited voting rights they won in 1918. It’s a combination of gentle comedy and bittersweet sadness about ageing, with some wider politics thrown in for good measure.

Visiting the Minotaur by Claire Williamson
I’ve seen Claire perform her poetry live a few times and I always enjoy her combination of frank reality and mythical metaphor. This is her latest collection and it’s as good as ever.

Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson
I figured literal midsummer was an appropriate time to read this book. Interestingly, it’s not about the heat of summer, it’s about a flood. The extended Moomin family have to abandon their house and find a new temporary home, which brings with it new challenges and new friends. This is as ever a sweet, odd story with a message about acceptance.

Shatila Stories – a collaborative novel from Peirene Press
This novel is the outcome of a series of writing workshops that Peirene editors held at the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon. Writers honed their own stories, which the editors helped them to weave together into a single narrative. The outcome is a piece of fiction that gives a true flavour of life as a Palestinian refugee.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore
The story of women who painted dials onto watches with radium paint and the pain and suffering that resulted from radium companies’ denial of the dangers of the material. This is a truly amazing, upsetting, brilliantly told book.

Princesses Behaving Badly by Linda Rodriguez McRobbie
This is a collection of short biographies of real-life princesses who were in some way remarkable. Some of them were great warriors, some canny rulers, some wild partiers, some were crazy and/or serial liars. There are plenty of interesting tidbits here, and McRobbie tells stories well, but I did chafe a little at the logic behind some of the choices made.

In Her Shambles by Elizabeth Parker
Lizzie is a friend of mine from way back when, so I couldn’t be prouder of her for publishing her first full collection of poetry. And I’m prouder still that it’s such a good book. Her poems are darkly evocative, full of a love of nature and a history of heartache.