Now the clocks have changed I’m going into full on hibernation mode. All I’ll say is it’s a good job we have a dog as I could quite easily not leave the house again until March to wait out the dark and gloomy autumn and winter months. Yes, you’ll all know that this isn’t my favourite time of year but in the age old “if you can’t beat it, join it” I’m embracing reading, Netflix and even found some vegan marshmallows from M&S which are EPIC!
Its been a little while since I last did a book recommendation round up and I’ve read some crackers in the meantime. So if like me you want to stay inside and need some distractions, here’s what I’ve read and loved lately
Where The Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
Straight in with the big-hitter, this is still the best book I’ve read this year and probably the best book I’ve read in the last 5 years. Set in North Carolina in and around the 1960s, it tells the story of strange and ethereal marsh girl Kya, at one with her beloved landscape and feared by those who misunderstand her. It’s a coming of age novel, a love story, a murder mystery and a true ode to the beauty of the nature that surround us. I couldn’t put it down, didn’t want it to end and the final page “twist” will leave you in awe.
I’ve raved about this book to everyone – my Mum read it and then made her book group read it. It devours you as much as you devour it and it’s the one book that I wouldn’t be able to comprehend someone not loving.
The Nightingale – Kristin Hannah
This is another book I read after seeing so many people rave about it and once again, it didn’t disappoint. In fact this comes second to Where The Crawdads Sing only because it’s subject matter isn’t quite as unique. Told retrospectively but set in France in WWII, it tells the interwoven stories of sisters Vianne and Isabelle Mauriac and their very different experiences of life during the war. Vianne has to look after her young family whilst her husband goes off to fight as well as coping with occupation and the threat to her Jewish friends; Isabelle risks everything to be a member of the Resistance.
This novel is so evocatively written and the only book I can remember in a very long time that has made me cry.
Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams
Winner of the British Book Awards Book of the Year and Debut Book of the Year 2020, Queenie is funny, emotional and thought-provoking. Set in contemporary Britain, the novel centres around Queenie as she navigates work, friendships, family complications and a faltering love life. Written with such warmth, it will make you wish Queenie was your best friend with her self-deprecating humour and ability to tell a brilliant story.
But Queenie’s originality lies in addressing what it means to be a black woman from a Jamaican British background. As much of it made me laugh, it also made me outraged on Queenie’s behalf as she is dismissed, patronised, belittled by her colleagues, friends, family and lovers. An incredible breath of fresh air that gives an incredible insight into life as a modern black woman in this country.
The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
As someone who studied American Studies at university, I didn’t question too much at the time the perspective of the subjects I was taught. It’s only recently that I’ve realised just how important it is to do my own balanced learning on issues like slavery. Set in the southeastern USA in the 19th century, The Underground Railroad is a beautifully written but at times very harrowing read giving an imaginative slant on the titular subject, depicting it as an actual railroad which carried escaped slaves to freedom.
The story centres around Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia who with the help of another slave Caesar, makes a bid for freedom. Relentlessly tracked by ruthless slave catcher Ridgeway, the novel tells an incredibly important story from an angle we don’t learn about in history lessons – what it means to be a slave and how that strive for freedom can end up being a life’s journey.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo – Christy Lefteri
My Mum gave me this book and I read about half of it in one day, it’s such a captivating read. Funnily enough when I said last year that I’d really enjoyed The Tatooist of Auschwitz, so many people asked if I’d read The Beekeeper of Aleppo and I definitely see similarities in terms of how absorbing they are. The story is about Nuri, a beekeeper and his wife Afra, an artist and alternates between their life in Aleppo and their current attempt to seek asylum in UK, via their perilous journey and the people they meet along the way as they navigate from country to country.
My overriding feeling from reading this book is that it should be compulsory reading for everyone, especially in light of our horrendous propaganda-fuelled news outlets. How anyone can think that people would honestly choose to make such a journey if they weren’t absolutely forced to is beyond me. Similarly though to The Underground Railroad, The Beekeeper of Aleppo speaks to the determination of the human spirit to survive.
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo
Another book that on starting to read it, I devoured it so fast I had to stop for a little while because I didn’t want it to end. Set in Britain, it tells the story of 12 different women across generations and classes, with clever interlinking of their stories so much so that as you’re reading you’re trying to work out how the story links to one of the previous ones you’ve read. It’s vibrant, colourful, dynamic – each of the stories evoking such imagery that you can imagine you’re there.
Winner of The Booker Prize 2019 it’s so easy to see why – a novel that could just as easily be short stories (which don’t normally enthral me in the way a regular book does) but that also makes me think about what it would be like to dine at a glorious 12 course banquet where not a single detail is overlooked. From relationships to sexuality to gender identity and politics, definitely something for everyone.
I’d love to hear what you’ve read lately, whether you’ve read any of the above or have new recommendations for me. If you need me, I’ll have my nose in a book!