And so, with that, another month ends and a new one begins. While ‘lockdown’ trundles on, I’ve been reading a variety of novels to transport my mind somewhere else – here’s a list of some of what I’ve been enjoying throughout the month of April.
Everyone knew Daisy Jones and the Six – a rock band making smash hits, rocketing to fame. But no one knew the reason for the group’s sudden split on the night of their final concert in 1979 . . . until now.
A refreshingly fast paced, easy read to get my head back into books during the early days of quarantine. I really enjoyed rattling through this one – it took me away to another era, another life. It’s not ‘escapist’ in the traditional sense (no beautiful scenery or romantic settings here), but it provided a great distraction from reality by immersing me into a world of rock n’ roll that I’ve never encountered in a novel before.
I’m keen now to read The Seven Wives of Evelyn Hugo, to see if Taylor Jenkins Reid’s other novels can hold my attention in the same way as Daisy Jones. I think it’s her characterisations and pacey writing that I’m craving during this weird state of lockdown. Have you read it? What did you think?
Take a look at my full review of Daisy Jones and the Six.
When Alice Shipley moves to Tangier with her new husband, the last person she expects to see is her estranged friend Lucy. After a horrific accident, the friends haven’t spoken in over a year. Initially, Alice is drawn in by the offer of a rekindled friendship, but when her husband myseteriously disappears, Alice begins to question everything.
I think I’ll keep this review brief (I don’t like giving bad reviews to books that authors dedicate time and energy to writing) – sadly I didn’t enjoy this one at all. I found the representation of repressed female desire and lesbianism incredibly reductive and out-of-touch (an ‘evil’, manipulative woman attempting to corrupt her school friend doesn’t make for a progressive plot line). The backdrop of Tangier is used purely to create an ‘exotic’ and mysterious setting – there seems to be no appreciation for the place itself, its history or its culture (indeed, the only character from Tangier, Youssef, is a hackneyed stereotype). As a thriller, I could forgive some of its papery thin contextualisation, but this novel isn’t suspenseful at all. From the outset, we are under no illusions about what is going on, or who is considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’. It’s due to be made into a flashy star-studded movie – maybe the Hollywood treatment will add some depth.
This is the story of a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who leaves military-ruled Nigeria to study in America. Meanwhile, her first love, Obinze, travels to London. Years later, when they reunite in a newly democratic Nigeria, they must face the past and make difficult decisions about the future.
Americanah is a stunning novel – the characters are rich and whole, the storyline is convoluted and complex, the multiple settings (from Nigeria, to America and London) are explored in great depth and have a real, tangible impact on every part of the plot – I’ll be writing a much more coherent full review soon!
I also recently wrote a snippet about the author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in my weekly round-up.
A famous American opera singer is trapped in a hostage situation when she’s invited to perform for a wealthy Japanese business at an event in South America. All of the guests are detained together and, as tragedy looms large, unlikely relationships begin to form. The novel is based on the hijack of the Japanese embassy in Lima in 1997.
Sadly another slightly disappointing one this month – I just want to caveat, I loved Ann Patchett’s novels Run, Patron St of Liars and Commonwealth, so I had high hopes for her original best seller. But, for me, this just didn’t click.
I wanted more from the characters – their backstories and innermost thoughts facing this terrifying situation – but it felt quite surface level throughout (partly because there seemed to be an endless cast of captives and captors). I also wanted to understand more about why they were being held captive, really getting to grips with the political, financial and ideological motivations of the ‘terrorists’. Perhaps it needs a second reading, but for now I’ll defer to some other (more literary!) reviewers to unpack this novel for me. Summing up what I think to be the best thing about this novel (plus the beautiful, Patchett-style writing), Alex Clark writes
“Like that of her heroine, Patchett’s great talent in Bel Canto is one of range. With bravura confidence and inventiveness she varies her pace to encompass both lightning flashes of brutality and terror and long stretches of incarcerated ennui.”
This is Going to Hurt
Last month, I finally read Adam Kay’s diaries of a junior doctor, titled This is Going to Hurt. A funny series of anecdotes and devastatingly sad episodes – it served as a reminder that our NHS staff deserve every applause, every Thursday, now and forever. You can read my full review of the book for more of my thoughts.
Adding to the general buzz and praise surrounding the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People, I wrote a review of the first few episodes just after they aired on BBC iPlayer. This week, I’ll be reviewing the second half of the series and looking at the impact it’s had on readers and viewers alike.
That’s it for last month’s round-up! What’s the best thing you read in April? I’ve got a large stack of books to wade through in May, so I better get back to my reading.