What I read in January

Some January books

First, the fiction I’ve read in January.

Sister – Rosamund Lupton – 4.5/5     Beatrice’s sister goes missing and she vows to find out what has happened to her.  I found this an extremely well-written and cleverly executed novel.  The reader is provided with snippets of information and then has to wait patiently for events to be revealed, leading up to a break-taking conclusion.

The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd – 3/5     Aged 14, Lily runs away from home with her black servant, who had been punished for exercising her right to register to vote.  They are taken in by a group of sisters and Lily begins her journey of understanding. This is an enjoyable novel with some beautiful writing.  The events are unpredictable, which makes it interesting. 

Timbuktu – Paul Auster – 4/5     Mr Bones, the dog, has travelled around America for several years with his owner, Willy G Christmas, but his master is ill and he must learn to survive on his own.  This is a thoroughly believable novel and Mr Bones is a very charming character.  I would definitely give him a home! 

The Birth House – Ami McKay – 2.5/5     Dora Rare takes over the role of ‘midwife’ in her community but the medical profession is hostile towards her traditional methods.  This novel explores the impact of wider developments, such as war, technology and electricity, on a close-knit Canadian community.  I couldn’t really engage with this novel and although I found parts of it interesting, I felt ambivalent towards the characters and their lives. 

The Blasphemer – Nigel Farndale – 4.5/5     Daniel has always been afraid of flying, then one day this fear becomes a reality.  One hundred years earlier, his great-grandfather is lost in no-man’s-land.  ‘How will any of us behave when we are pushed to extremes?’  I can’t recommend this highly enough.  It is an incredibly captivating and intriguing novel with interesting turns and events. 

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy     I’m not great at reading the classics.  Although the desire is there, I just prefer reading contemporary fiction.  So I’ve challenged myself to read Anna Karenina this year.  I’m reading a chapter a night to make it manageable and I’m enjoying it.  Perhaps this is the start of a new me.

And a few non-fiction, although with these I tend to dip in and out, rather than read from cover to cover. 

Take Ten for Writers – Bonnie Neubauer     This is a book containing a thousand unusual exercises to prompt your creative writing.   I borrowed this from the library but liked it so much that I bought it.  Now I just need some time!

The Women of Muriel Spark – Judy Sproxton     As the title says, a critical analysis of the women of Muriel Spark’s novels.  Having re-read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, I wanted some critical insight into her character, which this book provided.   

I Think, Therefore I am: all the philosophy you need to know     A concise and accessible explanation of the thoughts of philosophers from Thales (approx 600 years BC) to Derrida (d.2004).  It contains some wise words from their works to get you thinking, such as ‘Doubt is not a pleasant condition.  But certainty is an absurd one.’ (Voltaire). 

Contradictionary: an a-z of confusables, lookalikes and soundalikes     This is fascinating if you’re interested in language or get confused with words such as affect/effect or no-one/no one or bevy/bevvy.

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