June has been a slightly slow reading month for me – I only managed to finish 5 books, and one was an audiobook. However, I had three 5-star reads so what I did read I was definitely impressed with! Here are my June reviews:
1.The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
I wanted to begin my reading for the month with my classic read, although The Handmaid’s Tale can definitely be considered a modern as opposed to a true classic. After I read The Power last month, I was keen to know where the author had drawn her inspiration from as the books discuss similar themes. I think it is also important to note that the book has regained popularity in our current political climate, especially so in the US where reproductive rights of women are under attack. The story itself is set in a postmodern world, where fertility is low and so wealthy families are given a ‘handmaid’ in order to give them children. I found the book to be exceptional in terms of language, character and world building. One quote which particularly struck me was: It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the President and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time. For a novel first published thirty years ago, the parallels with today’s society are alarmingly familiar.
Goodreads Rating: 5 stars
2. Commonwealth – Ann Patchett
I’ve been waiting a while for the paperback of this book to come out, so when it finally did I picked it up immediately. The story is what I would call a family saga, leading from the point when both families become intertwined following a single event at a christening, and how their lives and the lives of their children are connected for years to come. The story is beautifully written and really evokes a sense of nostalgia, and although it jumps between multiple characters and their increasingly separate lives as time goes on, it is held together by the commonality of their childhood. The book also follows another strand and becomes a story about itself, in which a writer compiles their family story into a book called Commonwealth. I’m still unsure how the title of the book links to the story itself, but in the end it didn’t bother me. It was slow and fast-paced at the same time, and a real delight of a book.
Goodreads Rating: 5 stars
3. The Gustav Sonata – Rose Tremain
This book has been on my TBR pile for a few months now after it was longlisted for the Bailey’s Prize, so in an effort to reduce my to-be-read books I picked it up. It is set in Switzerland across two time periods, the 1950s and the 1990s, and follows two boys, Gustav and Anton, through their friendship in childhood through to being adults. I enjoyed the earlier part of the book more as I found the second time period to be a little rushed, although I liked how it delved a little deeper into the relationship between Gustav’s parents. I also found the setting interesting as Switzerland is a country I don’t know a great deal about, and was also interested by the theme about Jews seeking refuge there during WW2. I know that Rose Tremain is a writer with quite a large back catalogue – I would definitely look into her other books after reading this.
Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
4. The Gender Games: The Problem with Men and Women, from Someone Who Has Been Both – Juno Dawson
I bought this book using my Audible credit pretty much as soon as it was released, and was especially keen when I saw that Juno read the audiobook herself (you can’t beat it when the audiobook is read by the actual author!) Much like last month’s audiobook Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O’Toole, The Gender Games is a discussion on all things regarding gender, feminism and the like but with more of a memoir feel as it also documents Juno’s transition from male to female. I thought the book was moving, thought-provoking and also hilarious, and it definitely opened my eyes to trans issues in a way I hadn’t ever really thought about before. I would love to read more by Juno Dawson in the future, in particular her book about mental health called Mind Your Head.
Goodreads Rating: 5 stars
5. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America – Thomas King
Although The Gender Games was non-fiction, I chose The Inconvenient Indian as my true physical non-fiction read for June. As an American Studies graduate, I have a solid understanding of American history, particularly in the 20th century, however my understanding of the history of Native Americans is less developed. I found the comparisons between the Native Americans in the USA and First Nations people in Canada interesting, and I was also intrigued by the sections about Native Americans in the modern day. I think enjoyment for the book is not the right word as I felt like the text was pretty dense and it took me longer than usual to read, but I did feel like I learned more about Native Americans, particularly so in the 21st century.
Goodreads Rating: 3 stars
Film, TV and Theatre:
I didn’t see any live shows in June, and the only film I saw at the cinema was Pirates of the Caribbean – Salazar’s Revenge, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. TV-wise, once again I have been sucked into Love Island – need I say more?
Happy July reading! Beth