My reading year has got off to a very good start by my standards, so I’m wrapping up the books that I finished in the first two months of 2022.
The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
I have had this book on my wishlist for an age, so was delighted to finally get it as a Christmas gift. In contrast to the other two du Maurier books I have read, this plot focused on time travel, which was delightfully unexpected. It it still set in Cornwall though and the dark, misty setting brings that du Maurier foreboding with it. The plotlines of the characters who lived in the past were a tad convoluted and I learnt to accept that I would never quite understand wwhat was going on. Du Maurier’s prose is lovely to read and I enjoyed how much I hated our self-obsessed narrator (and how much I loved his poor wife). The darkness seeps insidiously into the pages until the book is quite overcome with it. A gripping adventure once it got going!
Medea and Other Plays by Euripides (translated by John Davie)
This collection contains four of Euripides tragedies and I’d only read Hippolytus and Alcestis before. Each play focuses on a central human figure, with the gods taking more of a backseat role. Here are the thoughts I had on Goodreads immediately after finishing each play:
* Alcestis: I simply would not sacrifice my wife so that I could live. rip to Admetus but I’m different.
* Medea: I’m not saying that killing your children is the correct course of action when your husband marries another woman and exiles you. I’m just saying that Jason is a rotten piece of old chewing gum on the underside of a desk.
* The Children of Heracles: Is there a play about Heracles that’s actually interesting? Anyway, justice for the unnamed daughter who sacrifices herself. I’d have let everyone else die.
* Hippolytus: If Hippolytus was an AITA thread on reddit, the result would be ESH.
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
A modern classic that I knew nothing about except for my assumption that there would be a picnic at a place called Hanging Rock. I was correct. This was a slow-burn mystery filled with unease. Whilst it did not have any characters that particularly affected me, or anything that made it stand out as a favourite read, it kept me intrigued and had some fun gay subtext.
The Doll by Ismail Kadare (translated by John Hodgson)
I picked this off the library shelf at random. It might be a good book, but I think you have to know something about the culture and history of Albania and/or Ismail Kadare himself. I don’t have that knowledge so I didn’t get it. But if you know about those things then perhaps you’ll enjoy it.
You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce
This was a delightfully disturbing fairytale. A missing author has written an account of her life, which has two different interpretations. In one version, a young girl creates a fantasyland in order to escape from the horrors of her real life. In another version, she is visited by and lives amongst the fairies. After a slow start, the story unfolds with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming and which kept me coming back for more.
Rest and Be Thankful by Emma Glass
This novella follows a young nurse as she copes with the gruelling work that she does in an intensive care unit for babies. Whilst I appreciate what this book was trying to do and it was an interesting take on what our care workers experience and the emotional impact this has on them, the writing let it down for me. Whilst at times it was effective and impactful, at others it was unnecessarily flowery, with the metaphors trying too hard to impress yet only succeeding in dragging the reader away from the events of the story.
Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala
This was a novel about many things. It is a coming-of-age story about a boy who struggles coming to terms with his sexuality in a strictly conservative and Christian household. It is a story about being black and an immigrant in America and the struggles that this comes with. It is about parental expectations and pressure. It is about police brutality against young black men. By covering so many things in such a small number of pages (207), Iweala doesn’t manage to explore any of them with the depth that I wanted. It’s not often that I wish for a book to be longer, but in this case it needed more space to breathe. However, in spite of this it was a devastatingly effective read and well worth your time.
An Island by Karen Jennings
This is a book that benefits from its reader going into it having scant knowledge about what is to come. We open on an island. On this island lives one man and one man only, but one morning a body washes up on the shore and this changes everything. Jennings crafts a dark story that unfurls ever so slowly and even though I did not anticipate the events that followed, each one seemed inevitable by the time it occurred. It is not a book that will stay with me for a long time, as it missed a certain something for me, but I’m delighted that I picked it off the library shelf.