January 2021 reading round-up

Beckett and a book

This post is delayed because my laptop once again almost died. Tim saved my sanity and my wallet by fixing it, but I suspect I will need to budget for a replacement in the next year or so.

I read six books in January, which isn’t bad at all for someone who was constantly sleep-deprived. My favourites were Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo and Arabella by Georgette Heyer, which I guess were also written in the most straightforward style, so maybe I shouldn’t be attempting anything too experimental at the moment.

In other book-related cultural stuff, I watched the TV series Bridgerton (as apparently did half the planet), which is delightful frothy fun, and The Luminaries, which I enjoyed more than the book. I am also really enjoying Pose (currently on season one so no spoilers in the comments please!).

Top films I saw last month have to be Do The Right Thing (yes, I have only just watched it for the first time; I am trying to plug some of the gaps in my film education) and Good Vibrations, which is a wonderful celebration of the power of music.

I know we’re already a week in, but I hope you have a fab February. Or at least a non-awful one.

Books read

To Leave With the Reindeer by Olivia Rosenthal
A second-person narrative describes a woman from early childhood, trying to break free from her mother’s stronghold. This story is interspersed with first-person accounts of the minutiae of working with animals, from vets and scientists topeople who work in zoos, circuses and even abattoirs.I found this experimental format interesting, occasionally gruesome and a little tough to follow.

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
This novel is told by 12 narrators in turn. It starts and ends with Amma, a playwright who, after years of struggling to make ends meet while making gay, feminist art, is finally on the brink of success. Subsequent narrators include her daughter, mother and closest friends, as well as people who seem to be unconnected at first. I loved this book and flew through it.

Cook Korean! A Comic Book with Recipes by Robin Ha
The title says it all really. This is a sweet, fun format for a recipe book with a little bit of biographical colour. I enjoyed the read but haven’t yet been able to get hold of enough of the Korean ingredients to test the recipes. I will report back.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
A late-night read on my Kindle while Beckett was going through a post-Christmas phase of waking up at intervals and barking noisily until Tim or I sat with her, I was not able to give this novel the attention it deserved. It’s the story of a man who was sent to a reform school for boys, a particularly cruel, violent place to be – especially for its black inhabitants. I wasn’t as gripped as I was for The Underground Railroad, but I’m pretty sure that’s the fault of late nights, not Whitehead’s writing.

The Sea by John Banville
In many ways this is the classic “literary” novel. A middle-aged man in mourning for his wife goes to the small seaside town where he once spent a childhood summer. Very little happens aside from his reminiscences, but there is one major event from the past that the novel builds up to. I think Banville’s sentences are beautiful but I was a little bored. The big event in the past, plus one or two other details that are withheld until the final 5 or 10 pages, are so clearly telegraphed that I was annoyed by the long, slow build-up. And the narrator is pretty irritating.

Arabella by Georgette Heyer
Oh my gosh I loved this so much. How have I not read Heyer before now? I am so happy that there are another 53 of her books for me to enjoy. This is a regency romance, lent to me by a friend after we had discussed watching Bridgerton. I can see that the writer of the Bridgerton novels may well have been inspired by Heyer as this has a lot in common with The Duke and I. Arabella, a pastor’s daughter, the oldest girl of 8 children, must secure a good marriage during the London season. She and fabulously rich Mr Beaumaris lead each other a merry dance of witty repartee and withheld secrets. It’s fun and funny, sharply observed while still managing to be warm about its characters.