I HAVEN’T written about books in my column in quite some time so I have a few contenders that are worthy of mention.
I haven’t read much over the last month, I believe that hours in the day disappear into a vortex when the children return to school. I do love reading though as a way to wind down after a hectic day, I am only managing a few pages lately but that is OKok too.
I found myself with a bit of a reader’s block for a few weeks as I started a book I just couldn’t warm to, and I find there is a sort of a process I have to go through when I hit a book I don’t like. I used to persist until I finished but I found all too often, if a book is hard to read by the halfway point, they rarely improve, so I have gotten into more of a habit of leaving a book in the middle and walking away.
In case anyone is curious as to what caused the reader’s block it was a book calledby Kiran Millwood Hargrave. It is based on a true story set in the 1600s in Norway and had the makings of a good book centred around a group of fearless and independent women who have to fend for themselves after all their husbands are killed in a storm as they are fishing. But the setting was so bleak and cold, I couldn’t warm to the book (pardon the pun).
Anyway, onto the great reads. First up was an unusual book that I absolutely loved and actually the setting of it is also very bleak but fascinating. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world in New Zealand where two unlikely strangers take shelter from an atomic bomb in the mouth of a dead whale. What follows then is their time as some of the last humans on earth, living on a beach for the rest of their lives. It is a story of survival, friendship and love in unlikely circumstances. The book flashes back to shed light on the two main characters’ personalities and it felt oddly fascinating reading it in the middle of a pandemic, not that the two are related but there was a strange sense of understanding it a bit better than I might have some years ago.
Speaking of pandemics, the latest book by Cork-based Catherine Ryan Howard is another fantastic thriller by the author whose last book,, was simply fantastic. is set at the beginning of the pandemic in Dublin and is a very clever thriller around two interesting characters who have both endured a lot of personal trauma. It had some great twists that I for one didn’t see coming!
Here’s another Irish book that I read recently, and although it was short it was absolutely beautiful and tragic in equal parts.by Fiona Scarlett is set in inner-city Dublin against a backdrop of drugs, poverty and illness. From the beginning, you are brought along a journey to what you know is an inevitable ending but you spend the book laughing and crying, rooting for the two brothers, hoping that life won’t be as cruel as you expect it to be. A wonderful, wonderful book.
by Gill Paul is a great dive back in history and follows the lives of Jackie Kennedy, best known for her fashion and famous husbands, and Maria Callas, one of the most famous opera singers of the 20th century. A fascinating read into the lives of the wealthy, how they lived and operated, it is a relatively light-hearted read about a group of extremely wealthy individuals I had heard of but knew little about.
My parents-in-law are in a book club at home in England and when they finally got to visit us this summer, they both highly recommendedby Abi Dare. A brilliant book of resilience, it follows the journey of Adunni, a 14-year-old girl in a small Nigerian village who is initially sold off to be married, but ‘escapes’ to become a servant in Lagos. Despite all the hardships she faces, Adunni never loses sight of her goal to get an education. The book is written as if Adunni was telling it so the narrative is very different to most books and really puts you inside the character, the culture and the country.
Those were the highlights from my summer of reading, a few other books I read that were also good but not as good as the above includedby Clare Pooley, by Taylor Jenkins Reed and by Brit Bennett. Enjoy!