April 2017

Spring is finally here!

1.The Tidal Zone – Sarah Moss

Although I started this book in March, I finished it in the first couple of days of April. This had been sitting on my shelf for a few months but after I continued to hear rave reviews about it I thought it was about time to give it a go. The main part of the story is told from the perspective of a stay-at-home Dad following the collapse of his eldest daughter Miriam at school. As well as this, the story is also interwoven with stories about his parent’s lives and also about the history of Coventry, which is the city where the book is set. I really enjoyed the way that the novel moved about, but I didn’t give this 5 stars for two reasons – I felt that it didn’t quite live up to the hype, but I also found the character of Miriam to be utterly unlikeable. Overall I thought it was very cleverly done, and I would like to read more from Sarah Moss.

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

2. A Woman’s Work – Harriet Harman

I picked Harriet Harman’s newly published memoir up on a whim, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It largely focuses on her life in politics during the 80s, 90s and 00s, but is written with a feminist slant as Harman was a large part of the women’s movement throughout this time. I particularly enjoyed reading her perspective into the Blair/Brown years, as that was when I was growing up and first becoming aware of politics and my own political views. I found some of the heavy politics a little dry, but I found it to be an interesting read and will be passing this onto my Dad, who is a Harman fan!

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

3. Jamaica Inn –  Daphne Du Maurier

For my classic read for the month I decided to pick up another Du Maurier, having thoroughly enjoyed Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel. Jamaica Inn is another of her more famous works, again set in Cornwall but this time in the nineteenth century – if you liked Poldark, you will certainly like this! The story’s main character is Mary Yellan, who goes to stay in her aunt and uncle’s inn but it is not all it seems. Classic of Du Maurier, there are richly developed characters and twists and turns at every point – my next Du Maurier to-read has to be Frenchman’s Creek!

Goodreads rating: 4 stars

4. The Dark Circle – Linda Grant

After seeing the books shortlisted for the Bailey’s Prize, I was drawn to them all but decided to go for this one first. I haven’t read anything by Linda Grant, although I know that she is an established author so I might check out some of her other books after enjoying The Dark Circle so much. Most of the story takes place in post-war London/Kent of late 1940s and is set in a sanatorium, where twin Jewish Londoners are sent to recover from TB and meet an interesting group of people. Although I enjoyed this part of the story, my favourite part was actually the ending, and this was the reason I gave it 5 stars in the end. I loved how she wrote about nostalgia and longing for a different time, even if it was a worse time. I also loved the characters and felt they really came alive. I can’t wait to read some of the others on the shortlist!

Goodreads rating: 5 stars

5. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet – Becky Chambers

Although I rated this book 3 stars on Goodreads, it was more like 3.5 stars for me. I picked this up as I wanted to try and read something out of my comfort zone, and science fiction is rarely a genre I gravitate towards (excuse the pun). The book is set in the distant future, after Earth has been destroyed and humans have been forced to move to other planets and live amongst different species – the book is about a multi-species crew who travel space. Although I enjoyed the way that the author described the different species, I found it to be a little bit far-fetched – but this is probably because I’m used to reading realist fiction! I enjoyed the book, but I think I prefer dystopian books like Station Eleven and The Girl With All The Gifts rather than straight science fiction.

Goodreads rating: 3 stars

6. Stay With Me – Ayobami Adebayo

This was the second book I decided to read as part of the Bailey’s prize shortlist, but after having heard that it was great as an audiobook I downloaded it using this month’s Audible credit. The story is set in Nigeria and focuses on one woman’s struggle to have children, and the consequences of this. The book greatly reminded me of something which Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie could have written, due to the setting and the plot, and I think this was one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. I’m also glad I listened as an audiobook as the experience was definitely enhanced by the singing and storytelling aspects of the book.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

7. Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien

Although I rated this book 3 stars, again it was more like 3.5 stars for me (why can you not rate a book 3.5 on Goodreads?!) The story opens in Vancouver in the 1990s, when a family friend comes to stay with a young girl, Ma-Li, and her mother. Most of the story, however, is set in China from the 1950s-1990s, and tells the tale of how the two families are intertwined. I think for me there were two main things which lessened my enjoyment of the story.  The first was that my knowledge of China under Chairman Mao is extremely limited (which I have tried to rectify by ordering Out of Mao’s Shadow!) and that my knowledge of classical music is also limited. Because of this, I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I could have as I was reading as an outsider in terms of my prior knowledge.

Goodreads Rating: 3 stars

Film, TV and Theatre –

Film – I didn’t go to see any films at the cinema this month, but enjoyed two films at home – first Fantastic Beasts was released so I need I say any more about that? I also saw Moana for the first time and although some of it was a bit weird, it was a fun Disney film all round.

TV – Lots of April TV was great – I loved the series finale of Broadchurch (although I was sad that there won’t be any more) enjoyed the BBC adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall starring Jack Whitehall, and watched the new series of Car Share with Peter Kay back to back in one day!

Theatre – I went to the theatre on the very first day on this month (which feels like a long time ago now!) to see Beyond the Barricade for my Nana’s 80th birthday present. It was a compilation of songs from the musicals, but she and I both enjoyed Les Mis the most!

See you in May! Happy reading, Beth

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