Bookish Discussions

May Reading Wrap-up:


Well, May has finally ended. It was simultaneously a long yet slow month. It consisted of: finishing my undergraduate degree, finding accommodation for my postgraduate degree, moving home for summer, and lots of reading. I also saw a production of Othello at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre. I loved how Othello was played by a woman, and they kept the relationship between two women. It was such an interesting take on Shakespeare’s play. I would highly recommend!

Today, though, I’m only focusing on the reading.

I managed to read 8 books this month. I didn’t read too much compared to the previous months of 2018, but that’s okay. Sometimes you don’t want to read all the time (but, sometimes you do). As usual, there will be reviews for the majority of the books mentioned. They’ll be highlighted in red (or blue, depending on where you’re reading this) if they’re already published. Enjoy!

Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology |5 out of 5 stars:

In February, if you remember, I read Kevin Crossley-Holland’s The Penguin Book of Norse Mythology. I didn’t like the way he executed his re-tellings, and so I was reluctant to read Gaiman’s account. However, I was pleasantly surprised. This consisted of 16 re-tellings of Norse myths, concerning Odin, Thor and Loki.

Gaiman elongated the myths, making them engaging and less ridiculous. The imagery was beautiful, and the language flowed so smoothly. I loved the characterisation of the characters, specifically Loki who I struggled with in CH’s re-imagining. I would definitely recommend this!

Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl | 5 out of 5 stars:

I think this may be my favourite read of the month, and will no doubt be a favourite of the year. After wanting to read Frank’s diary for so long, I finally bit the bullet. I’m annoyed at myself for taking so long to read it, but it was well worth the read. It recounts Anne’s life from a month prior to hiding up until three days before she’s found.

Although it speaks explicitly of the war, I find this diary is more about Anne’s life as a girl. She explores her sexuality, her gender, her education, her relationships with the people in hiding, and her lost experiences. It was very much a battle, and she confided in her diary. It was a bittersweet read – sometimes making me laugh, sometimes making me teary. Please read if you haven’t already!

Daisy Goodwin’s Victoria | 4.5 out of 5 stars:

I absolutely adore the ITV show Victoria, so I purchased this immediately when I found out there was novelisation of the first four episodes. It’s concerned with Victoria’s ascension to the throne, her coping with the pressure of being Queen at eighteen, in addition to her relationship with family and men.

I couldn’t help but give this a near five stars. I love the characterisation of some of my favourite people, specifically Victoria and Albert. As I already watched the show, I could vividly imagine everything which made the experience all the more fun. The one thing I disliked about this was the lack of Prince Albert (he made an appearance for roughly 100 pages, which isn’t enough for my liking). If you’re a fan of the show, definitely consider this!

Favourite Poems of the Countryside edited by Samuel Carr | 2 out of 5 stars:

Unlike an Ode to Flowers, I wasn’t impressed by this collection. Samuel Carr has collated a variety of poems celebrating the countryside, whether that be working and living in the country, the seasonal changes, the animals that frequent the landscape, and the types of landscapes that you can find in the country.

There was little-to-no women included in this collection, nor anyone of an ethnic background. All you found were popular, white, middle-class men from the Victorian period. This collection had the potential to celebrate lesser-known poets, but failed to deliver. Not only this, but the majority of the poems weren’t that memorable. Not a favourite!

Stella Gibbons’ Westwood | 3 out of 5 stars:

Westwood is a tale of lust and longing. Set in wartime London, it follows Margaret’s daily life. One day she finds a ration book on Hampstead Heath, and thus enters the pompous playwright Gerard Challis. Margaret slavishly adores him, but he idolises her best friend Hilda. However, Hilda finds him a nuisance.

Although I liked the array of characters and beautiful language, I didn’t like the lack of plot, the passivity of some characters, and the absence of the war (which the novel is set during). I felt like there was no development with the plot, and instead it was just a 450 page novel full of observations. I had high expectations for this one, but unfortunately it let me down!

Charlotte Brontë’s Emma (a fragment) | 4 out of 5 stars:

Charlotte began writing this novel in 1853, but her marriage a year later resulted in this being pushed to the side. Only two chapters were written, but they detail the arrival of a young, wealthy Matilda Fitzgibbon at a private school. However, the school’s directress, Mrs Chalfont, finds out that no Matilda Fitzgibbon exists. We’re left wondering who Matilda really is.

This has everything you’d expect from a Brontë novel: direct address to the reader, the mysterious atmosphere, young characters without parents, and the exploration of class. I just know that Emma would have been brilliant if Charlotte managed to complete it before dying. It seems like an intense, melodramatic novel.

John Sutherland’s The Brontësaurus: An A-Z of Charlotte, Emily & Anne Brontë (& Branwell) | 3 out of 5 stars:

As guessed by the title, this is a sort of thesaurus dedicated to the Brontës. Sutherland takes certain phrases, themes and concepts from the family and their work in order to A) make sense of them or B) introduce new arguments. For the most part, this was a decent read. I will definitely look at certain aspects of their work in a new light.

I also had a lot of issues with this. Firstly, the snobbery. It was Sutherland’s reading or nothing. He didn’t allow room for speculation or disagreement. Secondly, he simplified a lot of complex concepts. The entries didn’t need to be so short, and could have provided a variety of readings. Thirdly, I didn’t like his treatment of Branwell and Anne. Why is Branwell’s name in brackets? Is he not that important? Not worthy? Also, why was Anne only given two/three entries? She is destined to be the forgotten one, apparently. Interesting read, but not my favourite!

Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca | 4 out of 5 stars:

I’ve finally read it! Rebecca follows an unnamed narrator who meets the dashingly handsome and mysterious Maxim de Winter whilst in Monte Carlo. One thing leads to another, and she finds herself married to him in a few weeks times. Whisked away to his Cornish estate, Manderley, she begins to realise that she doesn’t know her husband at all. His late wife haunts the estate, hiding in every corner.

I went into this with such high expectations (I mean, everyone has read and loved it), which I think this was my downfall. I knew that major stuff was going to happen, and so when they did occur I wasn’t all that surprised. Despite this, it was a really good read. Beautifully written, and structured so interestingly. I liked how this novel was made up of a lot of little plots. I would definitely recommend!

…and there you have it. These were all the books I read in May. How are we nearly half way through the year already? Crazy.

My favourite books of the month were Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl and Charlotte Brontë’s Emma.

What was your favourite book of May? I’d love to know!

Thanks for reading, Lauren X


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