I’m back again with another month of lots of reading. I’ve completed my first week at my new job in Saigon so reading will be slowing down from now, but I still managed 8.5 books in February which I’m very chuffed with.
I’m completely devouring books right now, and I’ve managed a real mix this month; modern classics, poetry, Japanese literature and a Swedish novel. I’m hoping and praying that, even with work, I’ll still manage to devour books in the coming months. We shall see!
Here’s my Goodreads link, you should add me as a friend: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/41050660-jenny-benson
Anyway, here’s what I read this month, along with my brief thoughts on the book…
1. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro
4/5: This was a very bizarre book but I really enjoyed it. It had been on my list since Ishiguro won a nobel prize and I was introduced to Japanese literature through Murakami by my sister last year. Even though Ishiguro is British, he was born in Japan and has very clearly been influenced by Japanese literature since it feels very Japanese. The book is very simply written, is easy to read, and set in a semi-dystopian Britain. You never really know what’s going to happen because it’s such a bizarre era in Brtiain that’s been created.
2. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race – Reni Eddo-Lodge
5/5: This should be a must-read for absolutely everyone! It’s a non-fiction book about Reni’s struggles in talking to white people about race, and why she sweared off it in 2014. It was an extremely eye-opening read for me, and parts of it were extremely uncomfortable for me to read. Up until I read this book, I didn’t realise that black history in Britain has been so awful very recently, assuming a lot of racism just happens in America. I’d completely shut off racism in Britain because I’m not (deliberately) racist. The chapter on feminism was particularly interesting, and uncomfortable, for me to read.
3. The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden
3/5: This is the first ‘fantasy’ book I’ve ever read as an adult and I really enjoyed it. The reason why it got 3 stars for me is simply because fantasy is just not my thing. I get hooked on the stories but it doesn’t feel as rewarding to read as other genres for me. However, it was a beautiful book and I definitely got very involved in the world. I would like to continue this series in the coming months.
4. Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
5/5: More of an essay than a book really, this was another excellent read from Chimamanda. I absolutely adore this woman and the way she expresses feminism and makes it accessible to read is incredible. My favourite quote: “We have a world full of women who are unable to exhale fully because they have for so long been conditioned to fold themselves into shapes to make themselves likeable.”
5. 1984 – George Orwell
5/5: My Goodreads review of this one was basically “wow”. Being a modern classic, reading this has been on my mind for quite a while. Scrolling through social media, I stumbled across a satirical article about books everyone should read whilst under Trump’s presidency and this one was on the list, which gave me the final push to read it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite it being slightly scary and depressing.
6. The Sun and her Flowers – Rupi Kaur
5/5: This book of poetry is my life. It completely sums up my life and I was almost in shock reading it I related to it and felt the poetry so much. Rupi Kaur talks about so many things that I can, and also can’t, relate to and almost every single poem was so beautiful I read it twice. For me, it sums up womanhood, rape, struggling, coming to terms with life and death, and more womanhood. Absolutely loved it and once I’m settled in a home with a bookshelf, this will be one of my first buys.
7. Beartown – Frederik Backman
5/5: This book surprised me in a lot of different ways, mainly how much I adored it! Beartown is a book about a lot of different things all in one. It is beautiful, heartbreaking and so honest. Some points the writer makes are very obvious, and some more subtle. The book, in my eyes, is in two parts. The second part made my heart wrench with sadness and cry with happiness. It was so beautifully sad, and my heart was filled with so much hope that the wrong would be made right. We met a lot of different characters, and I found them surprisingly easy to follow and keep track of. The way the writer switches between characters so frequently was confusing at first but I really enjoyed this writing style. We got glimpses of the similarities between seemingly very different ones.
I think the way the characters were built and portrayed are what makes the book special. Yes, sometimes they were a bit cliché, but they were all relatable. They were so vivid in my mind and I loved almost all of them for different reasons. I particularly loved Ramona and how strong a character she is. She’s a strong-minded woman who sticks up for what she believes in and protects what needs protecting even when it goes against everyone else.
Beartown is a book that explains a lot of different things. For me, it reminded me of the following; we’re all human and we all have problems, people can be disgusting, and finally that life isn’t fair, but it’s what you make of it. This might be going into my favourites.
8. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
5/5: I don’t think I’ve cried so much for a book – ever (the only other book that comes close is All the Light We Cannot See)! I couldn’t put this down once I got into the story. My eyes were glued to the page, even my 2am sleepy eyes.
Even though I knew to expect sadness, the story was so beautifully woven that when the sadness came, it completely overwhelmed me. All of the characters were so loveable, especially Leisel. I particularly loved her relationship with Isla – it saved them both. There’s so much I could say about this book but I find it hard to sum up my feelings on it because I just loved it so much. Everyone should read this.
8.5. The Piano Teacher – Elfriede Jelinek
1/5: Ok so I read 35% of the Piano Teacher and I gave up, I hated reading it! I found that my mind kept wandering because what she says barely makes any sense or is completely irrelevant to everything.
I read up on it before I started so I knew it was going to be disgusting but it was just vile. It’s supposed to be making us think about misogyny but it only perpetuates the idea of men sexualising women as ok, and women as weak, evil and crazy – in other words, women are to be avoided (or just raped because they’re so weak they’re never going to be able to defend themselves). From what I read and from what I’ve now read online about what happens, she does not help women in literature. The characters are messed up and weak. The sexual discourse is also just uncomfortable and doesn’t seem fit for the purpose that the 5 star reviews say it’s for. She didn’t make me think about any of the issues she was supposed to at all, I just felt consistently repulsed and uncomfortable whilst trying to focus on the horrifically written sentences.
So, this month I had the pleasure of reading a lot of excellent novels, some of which I’ll remember for a long time and may end up in my favourites.. All in all, a great month and I can’t wait for more reading!
À bientôt !