This rather late booklist is brought to you by a freezing autumn morning, wrapped in a scarf, cosied up on the train on my way to the city.
Last month was just the beginning of the ways in which Covid-19 would affect us here in Perth. Libraries closed, I lost all of my work (being a casual) and the kids started online learning. This month our restrictions have started lifting, following other places across the globe. I’m looking forward to finally eating and reading and having a coffee at a cafe sometime soon, some are re-opening cautiously this week.
This month I was lucky enough to score a short term contract with our State Library.
So, this month, I’ve become a daily commuter to the city, and I’ve eaten bagels with crunchy autumn leaves at my feet, surrounded by architecture.
This month, I was prescribed reading glasses—I’m uni for all the time I’ve had to spend in front of a computer screen. But also, the glasses make reading books a bit easier, fancy that. Still not sure about the look of them, but at 35, I’ve found myself a little bit past caring too much about how I look.
Anyway, train rides are short, so here’s my list of April reads and some short reviews:
The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Sometimes I feel a bit rebellious, and refuse to read popular fiction. If I see it too much across our library shelves, if there are too many reserves placed on our copies, I turn my nose up a little. And the hype surrounding Me Before You (I didn’t read the book, gasp, I watched the movie, and didn’t love it) turned me off Jojo Moyes. But for some reason or another, maybe it was the cover or the title, this one made it’s way onto my Kindle. I’d never even read the blurb. YOU GUYS IT’S ABOUT A TRAVELLING LIBRARY IN THE 1930’S. Yes I’m shouting! Why hadn’t I read this sooner?! I loved it. I loved the concept, I loved that it was based on a real band of women who took books to families in rural areas on horseback—horseback librarians! Yes! I love the camaraderie, and the little library, and the system devised to record who had which book, and the era… Apologies to Jojo Moyes for my hasty judgements. Your books are popular for a reason!
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
This is one that has been on my radar for years. I love love love books set in New York. Williamsburg, Brooklyn in the early 1900’s comes alive in this novel. It’s sweet and observant and harsh and confronting. I loved seeing Francie grow up. I loved the book’s insight. I love that classics such as this one capture life in that time period yes, but also capture the universal truths of love and family and parenting and getting by and living.
It’s a beautiful book. Slow at times, painfully detailed at others, but poetic and descriptive and profound. I’m so glad I finally read it!
The Animals at Lockwood Manor by Jane Healy
I reserve books from the library a lot. When I come across one on Instagram, or someone recommends a title, I quickly jump on my phone and go to the library catalogue, and place a reserve. Then, a notification: the book you’ve reserved is ready for collection.
This one was the first of mine to collect from our library’s click-and-collect service during lockdown. I picked it up and looked at it quizzically, and for the life of me couldn’t remember why I’d reserved it. Oh well, I shrugged, you’re coming home with me. (Oh, you don’t talk to your books?) I read this after I’d finished a huge assignment and needed a breather. It reminds me of afternoon sunlight, a bed with extra blankets strewn across it, sourdough toast and almond milk coffees. I read it in two days. I loved the concept of a story set amidst the moving museum artefacts to safety from London in the Second World War. It’s gothic and almost creepy (kind of fails on the gothic front, if I’m honest). I wasn’t a fan of the love story, I feel like the women’s friendship would have been stronger and their story more powerful had they not moved to being lovers. But Lockwood Manor itself was the star. Who doesn’t want to imagine a large gothic manor full of museum taxidermy?!
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
This was the joint Man Booker prize winner last year. It’s 12 different stories, really. Each told by a different woman, somewhat interwoven from the previous. It’s contemporary, yet follows some of the woman back into their memories of the past. These women are British, and (mostly) black. And I felt like I was better for having read it. Which is why I love reading so much. Because our ability to empathise with others can only happen when we connect with their stories. And these stories are powerful, and we can identify with facets of each of the women. Evaristo doesn’t shy away from the hard stuff, she’s relentless, and the book sings from front to back, we are here, this is us, our collective experience and our individual stories, our mess and our hurt and our triumph, this is all of us.
Some of it is painful to read. Some of it is political. All of it is a feminist fist punch—some of it was too overtly political, and feminist-fist-punchy for my liking, I would have rather had the stories speak for themselves. That being said though… the last lines of this novel sum up its entirety:
this is about being
Quite a motley bunch, my April reads, but I was delighted to have gotten through that many. I didn’t realise how much I’d read last month until I looked back.
This month has been a bit of a dry reading month. I’m glaring at YOU, dumb assignments.
Have you been able to read lately? I ebb and flow, but I’m starting to flow again after the crazy Corona stuff kept me distracted and not super productive.