We’re half way through the year, and Summer is on the horizon. At the time of year where people who are studying (or are still on furlough) have a bit more time on their hands, quite a few people have been turning to reading.
“Where do I start?” My friends ask me. Other than the top left corner of the first page, there is no right or wrong answer (unless your book is in a different language, in that case start wherever is appropriate I guess).
Before I start rambling, I’ve read a good few books this year and here is a list of said books. If you’re looking for some organised words, hopefully this will help? Here goes.
- A Woman is No Man – Etaf Rum – 27th January 2020
I’ve been trying to diversify my reading from the same clichéd YA fiction for a few years, but this year I wanted to explore other cultures and use my love of reading to learn about perspectives beyond my safe white British bubble. Rum describes the lives of conservative Arab women living in America, with two parallel stories depicting Isra’s arranged marriage to the toxic Adam alongside the story of her eldest daughter approaching adulthood and attempting to manifest her own destiny and break free from tradition. There’s depth. There’s sadness. There’s empowerment. An easy 5 stars.
2. Before the Coffee Gets Cold – Toshikazu Kawaguchi, translated into English by Geoffrey Trousselot – 13th February 2020
This is a great book for those who haven’t read in a while and want something fairly short to ease themselves back in. Kawaguchi provides a rich narrative in few words, and I personally love a book where there are multiple characters that all fall into place and link together as the story progresses. Four visitors go to a mysterious cafe, hoping to travel to the past… but they need to fulfil their personal agenda before the coffee gets cold. Fascinating. 5 stars.
3. Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo – 5th April 2020
My reading speed picked up massively during lockdown, and I picked this book up on the way home from work after my last shift. An excellent decision by past Bron. 12 LIVES are seamlessly intertwined, spinning tales of personal journeys and hardships, relationships between the characters and how love and acceptance is not always where you expect it. I was hooked on the writing style despite it not being what I’m used to, and there is definitely a reason why this book has been widely discussed in recent months. 5 big bright stars for this one.
4. The Boy Who Followed His Father into Auschwitz – Jerry Dronfield – 18th May 2020
This book was simultaneously heartwarming and terrifying. Heartwarming: the story of a father and son who somehow manage to have the strength to survive one of the greatest horrors of our past- Auschwitz. Terrifying: that it is, to an extent, easy to come out of this story thinking “what a sweet story”, because you know all along that they survived thanks to the foreword. These concentration camps existed. They still do exist in some countries. You can tell Dronfield did his research, and it really brings to light the sacrifices made, unimaginable struggles, and the fact that it is up to us to remember the past, and not repeat it. 5 stars. Eye-opening.
5. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón – 21st May 2020
My Aunt read this and she loved it. Then my Mum read it and she loved it. Then I read it, and I loved it. The author sadly passed away a few weeks ago aged just 55, but his stories will live on. This novel is set in Barcelona where Daniel is obsessed with Julian Carax’s book, The Shadow of the Wind. When it is discovered that someone is seeking to destroy all of Carax’s books, we along with Daniel are swept up in a journey into the past as our protagonist tries to find out who is behind this and why, and the many dark secrets that come with it. Cinco estrellas.
6. The Other Half of Augusta Hope – Joanna Glen – 1st June 2020
This book has a Spanish twist to it, which is what drew me to it because I did a degree in Spanish that one time. Augusta Hope is one of a twin who has an obsession with words and language, and discovers the country of Burundi. There, a young boy called Parfait successfully escapes the nightmare of Civil War, but at a great cost. Augusta comes with tragedies of her own, and as their lives run in parallel it is almost fated that their stories will intertwine as they both seek to rebuild their destiny in Spain. Both lives were equally intriguing, and it was laughable how Glen accurately portrayed the conservative British ideology in Augusta’s parents. Cinco estrellitas (Can’t deny that Shadow of the Wind is more Spanish than this one).
7. Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams – 10th June 2020
This book was honestly brilliant. It had very strong romantic-comedy vibes while bringing to light issues surrounding casual racism and an issue that is especially prevalent in British culture: individuals who seem to value racism as if it is an opinion they can “agree to disagree on”. It is funny, it is thought-provoking, it is undeniably real, even if it is a work of fiction. There was definitely a valid reason as to why there was a four-way bidding war between publishers. It’s ace. Stars. 5 of them.
8. Q – Christina Dalcher – 28th June 2020
I read her first book, Vox, almost a year ago, and I DEVOURED IT. I found out last week that she had written a second book and ordered it immediately, reading it in a day. Dalcher tells the story of a prestigious teacher who lives in a dystopian society where children are constantly subjected to tests to calculate their ‘Q’, in essence, their intelligence. When Elena’s younger daughter doesn’t get a good enough score, the story almost implodes as Elena unravels the past in order to save her family and prevent even more sinister consequences. I started it thinking it was going to have a similar vibe to her first book, but that thought fizzled out a few pages in. Explosive. Enlightening. 5 Qs- I mean, stars.
Recommendations are always welcome, and anyone who wants to nose at my Goodreads – it’s here.