I love getting lost in a good book. In fact, in May’s 31 days, I got lost in 6 books. So, I decided to pen a few thoughts on each of these books. If you’re in the mood for some reading recommendations, then keep reading!
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
It’s 1940 and Vivian Morris has been kicked out of Vassar College and been sent to live with her arty aunt Peg in New York. While she lends a hand at her aunt’s theatre company, she meets an array of colourful characters from actors to showgirls and back to script writers, Vivian meets them all. Now, aged 95, Vivian reflects on her whirlwind time in the Big Apple and how it shaped her life.
Gilbert’s X novel is a rip roaring success. The glamour, the hedonism, and the characters are intoxicating. Gilbert’s light-hearted prose is reminiscent of a warm hug. This is thanks to the novel’s narrative structure, the entirety of which is written as a letter from Vivian to a younger woman.
At the very beginning of the novel, Vivian sees a world (on the brink or already at war) through rose-tinted spectacles. She’s a 19-year-old girl living frivolously on her parent’s allowance. In the big apple, she discovers her sex, desire and want. She meets many a male suitor but soon her casual hook ups become her downfall. For the latter half of the novel, Vivian must repair her reputation and fix the pieces of her broken life.
The novel itself is certainly split into two halves, a factor that I lived. As a reader, you’re there at the heigh of her fun and during her demise. Her demise is a feminist issue. Her love life is judged by those around her and when the couple are shamed, she’s the one to suffer the consequences – not her male partner. As a young girl, she’s swept up in the loss of her life. But as a older narrator, she’s aware of the injustice.
This book will make you think, feel and question the world around you.
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John Le Carre
It’s hailed as the greatest spy novel of all time and it’s easy to see why. It’s fast-paced, quick moving and simply hypnotising. From the very first page, I was hooked. I’m typing carefully because I don’t want to let the spy secrets slip. If you’ve never read a spy novel before, this one is the gateway. I’ve got my eyes firmly set on Le Carre’s back catalogue.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith
I’ve already reviewed Swing Time, so read all my thoughts here. If you’re new to Smith’s writing, then I’d recommend starting with Swing Time. The characters are compelling and real. There’s a deep sense of authenticity to their lives, which kept me turning the page.
Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
At the very start of the year, I set myself a few reading goals. One of them was to read some Virginia Woolf. I spend a lot of my time reading contemporary fiction and felt like I was missing out on some classics. I’d never read any Woolf before and knew this needed to be rectified. So, for Christmas my mum bought me some of Woolf’s works. With a few books to chose from, I wasn’t sure where to start. But then, I found this handy article from Penguin that guides readers through an author’s back catalogue. So, I followed their advice and went with Mrs Dalloway.
The plot of the novel is simple, Clarissa Dalloway is throwing a party. The novel takes place over the course of one day, and builds up towards the party. The novel is written through the perspective of several characters, which gives the reader a great deal of insight into this small section of society. While the literary devices should be heralded, I just didn’t get on with the novel myself. I found it slow to move and sluggish. I realise its meant to be lazy and free but I felt impatient. I wanted more action and less inner monologues. While it wasn’t my cup of tea, I can completely understand why others adore Mrs Dalloway. That being said, I’m not giving up on Woolf! I will be following that Penguin guide and reading To the Lighthouse next.
Surfacing by Margaret Atwood
I’m a big of Atwood, her philosophy, her writing tips and of course her works of literature. Atwood’s second novel is part-detective and part-psychological thriller. We fellow an unnamed narrator as she drives with her boyfriend and another couple to her father’s cabin. Her father has mysteriously disappeared and our narrator goes on a quest to find him. As she arrives at her father’s remote cabin in Canada, she begins her search for clues. However, her sanity slowly starts to unravel in the wilderness. She is confronted by her past and her present relationship with her boyfriend Joe. As our narrator grows more erratic, more questions need to be answered. There is a mystery to be solved but you start second guessing our narrator. Is she unreliable? Insane? Or, justified? Atwood’s brilliant storytelling is rich. It’s filled with insights into marriage, contemporary life and womanhood.
What books did you all read in May?
Let me know in the comments!