June 2019 reading round-up

Cornwall beach read

Time just keeps on passing, huh? This month I’ve been to Lincolnshire and Cornwall, and next week I’ll be in Manchester (to see Janelle Monáe! I’m so excited!). Those trips afforded plenty of time for reading, though not as much as my overambitious packing had allowed for (four books in four days and tourist stuff? Not likely).

My favourite this month was one of the tiny Penguin Mini Classics: Of Dogs and Walls by Yuko Tsushima, a collection of short stories that has definitely got me adding more books by this Japanese author to my wishlist.

How was your June?

Books read

Next World Novella by Matthias Politycki
translated from German by Anthea Bell
A man wakes up one morning to find his wife dead at her desk. Rather than call a doctor or undertaker, he decides he must read the papers she had been working on, as a goodbye gesture. So begins a process of memory, re-evaluation and inter-textual analysis that’s sweet and creepy. And the ending is either disappointing or indecipherable…maybe both.

The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas
translated from French by Siân Reynolds
This is the first in a series of novels following Commissaire Jean-Baptiste Adamsberg. New to Paris and the 5th arrondissement, he is not trying particularly hard to fit into his new team. He’s quiet, contemplative, often seeming to ignore his colleagues. Someone has been drawing large circles in blue chalk around discarded items on Paris streets. What begins as a curiosity turns into a murder mystery with lots of twists and turns.

Of Dogs and Walls by Yuko Tsushima
translated from Japanese by Geraldine Harcourt
These two short stories – “The watery realm” and “Of dogs and walls” – centre women and everyday life. They are beautiful, conveying emotion and interior lives in language that is both simple and whimsical. There is an air of magic even though the stories are completely grounded. I loved them.

Galileo’s Middle Finger: Heretics, Activists and the Search for Justice in Science by Alice Dreger
I’m still struggling with my reaction to this book more than a week later, which would normally be a positive thing, but… Dreger’s investigations into how science and activism interact did not always sit comfortably with me, though I agree with her overall thesis that both should be evidence-based.

The Problem That has No Name by Betty Friedan
This is an excerpt from Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and, as I expected, it is well written and has made me want to read the full version.

Mary Anne by Daphne du Maurier
This is a fictionalised account of the life of du Maurier’s own great great grandmother. Mary Anne Clarke worked with pamphleteers and tabloid newspapers, married at 16 to a drunkard and became the mistress of the king’s son. It’s a highly entertaining story that empathises with a woman who did what she had to to escape a terrible marriage and feed her children.