May was a slightly more successful month, reading wise, and not just in terms of numbers (four in May vs two in April). I really, really enjoyed all four books that I finished last month, and I’m using two of them as a jumping off point to restart proper book reviews on Is That You Darling.
High Rise by J.G. Ballard
I reserved High Rise months and months ago, because I had seen the trailer for the film at the cinema, and had the vague idea that I would read the book before seeing the film. Then, the book took an age to arrive at the library, and I missed the film at the cinema. Despite not having seen the film, I had seen the trailer enough that Robert Laing was Tom Hiddlestone in my head while I was reading it.
It’s the first Ballard I’ve read, and I have to confess that it was almost a little too strange for me. It’s an expertly written book, but it’s so dense that it took me a long time to get through it. If you know nothing about it, it’s the story of a high rise building, populated by residents on a sliding scale of affluence (though no lower class people live here, it’s a tale of middle and upper class people). The residents’ lives gradually descend into chaos as violent breaks out throughout the building, and social conventions begin to break down. I think its absolute genius lies in the fact that it doesn’t feel as though it’s a book that was written in the 1970s – it is completely timeless.
Freya by Anthony Quinn
I have a real soft spot for historical fiction that is set in the 20th century, and that’s what initially drew me to Freya. It starts on VE Day, and follows Freya, and her best friend Nancy, as they navigate life as women in the 40s, 50s and 60s. Both are aspiring writers; Nancy writes novels and Freya wants to be a journalist. We follow their friendship as they meet on a day of celebration, through Oxford colleges and post-university life, with life inevitably complicated by a man. Freya is a modern heroine, eschewing marriage and children in favour of working hard to try and get a foothold on a career that is dominated by men. Ultimately it’s just a really entertaining story with a complex and interesting central character at its heart.
Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi *
A full review of Nina is Not OK will follow, as it’s a book that I really enjoyed, almost despite myself. It really reminded me, in the beginning, of a book that I read earlier in the year called The #1 Rule for Girls. This wasn’t a favourable comparison, as that was a really unimaginative YA novel that didn’t do anything for me. But ultimately, Nina is Not OK crawled out from that similarity, and established itself as a really, really interesting look at a teenager struggling with alcoholism. I’ll talk more in my review about why I enjoyed it so much; for now I’ll just say that it’s out next month, and it’s well worth a read!
Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan
Hot on the heels of many, many other so-called ‘grip lit’ books comes Dear Amy, a debut novel by Helen Callaghan. Amy is actually Margot, teacher and agony aunt for her local paper, who receives a letter one day claiming to be from a young girl who went missing twenty years ago, never to be found. Although at first the police laugh it off as a prank, eventually it becomes clear that something sinister is at work, and Margot has to confront some of her own demons in order to work out what is happening. There’s a full review of Dear Amy to follow on the blog very soon.
Books in 2016 – 20