Need some book recommendations? This April I have channelled the inner bookworm and dove deep into reading again. Books have always been my guardian angel, and yet again, they prove to be a fabulous escape from the lockdown reality. Who else is with me?
I love getting book recommendations from friends. I often trust their word without even reading the blurbs first. Then I thought, “Hey, why don’t I give back and keep the sharing going.”
So here are mine. These are the books I’ve read and grown from this April, as every book is a learning experience. Each book in their way has been an ideal read for the current global situation. They have allowed me to to take away thoughts and reflections from each of them to place in my own life.
I’ll do my best to not give away too many spoilers!
I have been on a Margaret Atwood marathon this year starting with, The Handmaiden’s Tale, Alias Grace, and On Writers and Writing, which then brought me to The Blind Assassin. I believe that the more of Atwood I read, the more of her talent I will absorb like a sponge.
Follow the story of Iris Chase, an older woman recording her story in memoirs for her close friend with the hope of being understood and ultimately revealing truths. She carefully finds a path to illuminate her past in a gripping story. Going down memory lane with Iris shows the struggles of marriage with no love, affairs with questionable people, and family secrets finally revealed. Despite Iris’s prickly nature, you quickly see past this and grow fond of her towards the end of the novel.
The Blind Assassin is a novel full of fancy footwork for literary writing. It’s a narrative, within a narrative, inside the novel which also includes other literary forms of newspapers and letters. Atwood did outdo herself with this one. This is a fantastic example for writers to study.
What struck me most with this book was the references to the Art of Writing woven throughout. It was as if this book was talking to me as a writer, not a reader.
“The words roll smoothly and soundlessly enough across the page; it’s getting them to flow down the arm, it’s squeezing them out through the fingers, that is so difficult.”
This is by no means a quick and easy read. Clues are hidden throughout, constantly hinting to the truth, leaving the reader desperately trying to work it out. Iris drip-feeds information and plays with the knowledge that she has.
You can tell The Blind Assassin is going to be considered a classic in 50 or so years. They will use this in English Lit university syllabuses. It’s a true work of art that everyone who is into books and writing should read.
From time to time, I find myself reaching for a light-hearted romance and a quick read. What I like to call a ‘classic-holiday-beach-book’. The Flat Share was just that. It’s a perfect choice to take out while sunbathing poolside and escape the world, ideal for right now. I stumbled across this book from a recommendation from @bethsbookclub_ on Instagram – thanks girl!
A classic London setting but with not the regular typecast characters. O’Leary does a good job of sweeping you up in this light-hearted romantic comedy. The two main characters, Leon and Tiffy, find themselves in a unique situation of being flatmates of a 1-bedroom flat, sharing the bed, but having never met each other. It is obvious how this story is going to pan out from early on in the book. However, it is a fun read to follow and get lost in. You will be eagerly turning page after page, and possibly secretly planning how to follow suit to find your very own flatshare scenario to fall into. I fell straight into this rom-com trap.
The Flat Share‘s love story has an epicentre of the art of notes and writing. I love this detail, being an advocate for handwritten notes and letter writing. One character even acknowledges this in his dialogue, pointing out the fundamental aspects of romance and falling in love.
“The art of letter writing. A profoundly… intimate thing, a letter, isn’t it?”
Intimacy. SPOILER ALERT: this is exactly what the use of notes and letters in the book leads to. As the overseeing viewer of this story, you will be rooting for Leon and Tiffy, just like every other chick-flick. However, O’Leary does manage to give this a slightly different spark to the rest.
The Flat Share is a good read while in this lockdown period. Allow yourself to get carried away for the few days it will take to get through it. It lives up to being the classic easy-read book, but there is something a little bit fresher in here to enjoy.
Wow, where do I even start with this one? I honestly could not put this down. I say that about a lot of books, but with Three Women I truly mean it. The cover shows that Caitlin Moran thought similarly saying she will probably re-read it every year of her life.
Three Women is about three different women who are living with unmet needs, unspoken thoughts, disappointments, hopes, and unrelenting obsessions. Taddeo’s journalistic and highly factual style writing pulls you in right from the first page. The stories are true from all three real women. Taddeo researched journals, messages, and real accounts to keep the narrative as close to the truth as possible.
SMALL SPOILER ALERT: Lina is in a loveless marriage and pines over a past romance; Maggie was manipulated by her teacher and dropped like she was nothing; Sloane’s marriage is not just with her husband as she becomes a sexual object for men.
WARNING: there is a lot of sex. A lot. But not the 50 Shades of Grey kind. Some unsettling themes are explored like eating disorders, anxiety, depression, abuse, and manipulation.
As I read this book, I began to recognise and relate to these women to a certain extent. The details are so raw and real that you can imagine yourself staring at the mirror examining flawed skin, obsessing over the length of time between messages, or wanting to be admired.
“Women shouldn’t judge one another’s lives, if we haven’t been through one another’s fires.”
This book is for women, written by women. The raw reality is a reminder of the hardships we have to go through (traditionally) as women. It highlights that this could be happening to anyone despite what appears on the surface.
I love my friend for recommending Three Women to me. I highly recommend this book. It finishes quickly, I want to know more about these women and how their stories end. But the sudden ending reflects life. These women are still living out their stories – this isn’t just made up fiction, this is true.
Another non-fiction title included in my recommendations. I started reading this after talking to my Grandad about books and how he only likes facts, and I quote, “none of that made up romance fantasy BS”. Thanks Grandad for pretty much debunking my University degree in one video call! But I do understand what he means, given the right non-fiction book, so it doesn’t read like a history textbook.
This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor is fantastic, hilarious and raw. The book is in a journal-style with included footnotes to assist any non-medic people in understanding situations. The collection of entries is from Kay’s medical training from 2004 to 2010. It gives an insight into the NHS and a doctors life that most of us have probably never considered before. Even if you are not so medically inclined, this book is eye-opening to the reality of Britain’s backbone.
It was only when I moved to Indonesia that I truly realised and appreciated how amazing the NHS is. They are incredible. Kay’s diary will reconfirm that to you while showing how undervalued and understaffed our healthcare service is.
“Crash call to a labour ward room. The husband was dicking around on a birthing ball and fell off, cracking his skull on the ground.”
As Stephen Fry said, the book is “painfully funny”. I was laughing out loud and cringing in grimace all in one page.
WARNING: this is not a book to read over lunch or dinner. I made that mistake and almost lost my nasi goreng. Learn from my mistake.
This is Going to Hurt is a good read during the current global pandemic. Give it a try, thank our health heroes not only for their work in lockdown but also every day before and after.
Maybe even a 4.5/5 rating… I read The Water Cure sometime last year. However, I had to include it as a bonus recommendation. This was without a doubt the best book I read in 2019.
Imagine living on an abandoned island, in a desolated hotel, surrounded by a poisoned ocean. Grace, Lia and Sky stay here as a protection against the world beyond the water and contaminated men. But one day strangers arrive washed ashore – men who bring trouble.
This feminist fable is otherworldly, brutal and poetic all at the same time. I was hooked by the gripping and sinister plotline that leads you to more and more questions. Why didn’t King come himself? Why take the young boy to the island? Where did the men even come from? What do the sisters do at the end?
“Step always with caution. The body is the purest sort of alarm. If something feels wrong, it probably is.”
You will get lost and immersed in Mackintosh’s fluid narrative. I often turn to the ocean for my writing. The Water Cure is exemplary in using the water as a muse.
My friend and I came to the conclusion that this would make an excellent dark thriller and suspense movie. Perhaps take that into consideration while reading it yourself.
Mackintosh has a new title set to be released this coming May, The Blue Ticket. I will be sure to add this to my reading list for next month!
I have recently been using an e-book much to my despair. The Kindle has been nestled in between books on the shelf for months, but I was too reluctant to use it. I am always a strong advocate for a physical book. However, the joy of a Kindle is, you can pick up any title at the click of a button instantly. It is so easy and perfect for not leaving the house while in self-isolation.
I hope you enjoyed my quick book reviews and give one of my book recommendations a try. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!