Bookish Discussions

July Reading Wrap-up:

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July has been and gone, and with it comes my reading wrap-up. Around this month’s reading, I have managed to squeeze in graduating from LJMU with a First Class Honours in English, and accepting my offer to study a Masters in Victorian Literature at the Uni of Liverpool! A crazy, albeit small, whirlwind of a month.

This month I’ve managed to read 11 books. I made it my mission this month to read the books that have been gathering dust on my shelf for years. As usual, there will be a review for most of the following books (and they’ll be linked in blue or green if they’re already published). Enjoy!


Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters | 5 stars:

Gaskell’s last and unfinished novel is centred on Molly Gibson, and how her life is thrown off course when her father remarries. With this marriage comes a vain and manipulative stepmother, and a glamourous new stepsister. Molly quickly finds herself as a go-between for her sister’s love affairs, risking her own reputation and the man she loves with it.

I loved everything about this: the small community, the host of characters, the slow and subtle plot, and the setting. Despite it being long, and despite it being unfinished, I couldn’t get enough of this story. A delightful tale, and one that now firmly sits on my favourites shelf.


D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover | 3.5 stars:

Lady Constance Chatterley is not content. She is trapped in a marriage to a severely injured ex-soldier who cannot provide her with any pleasure. She slowly becomes drawn to Oliver Mellors. the estate’s gamekeeper. ‘They embark on a sexually-charged affair that allows them a sense of enlightenment and physical fulfilment’ (Roads Classics).

This was just average for me. It started off great, exploring class struggles and gender dynamics in an interest manner, but it did start to disinterest me. I found Mellors quite a frustrating character, and didn’t like the way he discussed women. I did, however, really like Connie. She was a breath of fresh air, and was the guiding force of the novel.


 Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus | 1 star:

The Night Circus arrives without warning. One day its there, and the next it’s gone. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose. They unexpectedly tumble headfirst in love, but only one can survive the game.

really wanted to enjoy this; it’s beloved by the book community. I just couldn’t get on board with the fragmented narrative, I didn’t like any of the characters, and I really didn’t understand the competition that guided the narrative. However, the writing was enchanting, seductive almost, but it just wasn’t for me.


Jane Austen’s Emma | 2.5 stars:

Back in December I vowed to read all the remaining Jane Austen books I had left to read, so I picked up Emma this month. Emma Woodhouse is a rich and charming girl, adamant on remaining a spinster. But that doesn’t mean she can’t find partners for her budding friends. Her plans for the matrimonial success of her friend, however, leads her into complications that test her own detachment from the world of romance.

…I didn’t really enjoy this one, and I’m annoyed because I love Austen. I found the plot occasionally dragged, and I wasn’t really interested in any of the characters. I did, however, appreciate how refreshing Emma was. She defied contemporary convention by advocating her own spinsterhood – it was not made her sole purpose in life.


Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace | 5 stars:

I watched the Netflix series of this back in November and fell completely in love with the story. Grace Marks is convicted of a murder she cannot remember – that of her employer and his housekeeper. An up-and-coming expert in the field of mental illness is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek to pardon Grace. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories?

I loved this just as much as I expected. Atwood’s writing style was beautiful, and pulled me right in. She explored important topics, like womanhood and class struggles, very sensitively. Grace’s characterisation was superb – I didn’t know whether to trust her or not, but I liked her regardless. A must read!


Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird | 1 stars:

A black man is charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s.

I tried to read this about six years ago but didn’t like it. I didn’t really like it this time either. I just don’t really like American classics. The trial of Tom Robinson, the main storyline, wasn’t featured that much. I felt like the surrounding material was just waffle. Not a fan, unfortunately!


Jane Austen’s ‘The History of England’ | 4 stars:

This was an interesting little book written by Austen just before she turned sixteen. From a ‘partial, prejudiced and ignorant’ historian’s point of view, Austen gives us her thoughts and opinions on the monarchy, spanning from Henry IV to Charles I.

I found this very witty and funny, and I especially liked her little rant on Elizabeth. I would definitely recommend this to those who are a fan of Austen’s works – her juvenilia is always such a pleasure to read.


Phyllis Richardson’s House of Fiction | 2 stars:

House of Fiction is dedicated to various novels with houses at the centre of their narrative. Richardson tries to tie together how the house plays a fundamental role in both the narrative and the author’s life.

The nature of this made reading it a little dull, so I eventually gave up and only read the ones I was interested in (such as Austen, Brontë, Christie, du Maurier, Dickens, Hardy & Forester). Those that I did read, however, I really liked. Richardson definitely researched into each novel and each author, which was nice to see.


Poems of the Great War: 1914-1918 | 3.5 stars:

This selection of poetry is intended to be an introduction to the great wealth of World War One poetry, including the likes of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Ivor Gurney, and so on. There’s only two female poets included.

These poems were hauntingly beautiful – some were sarcastic, some witty, some brutal, and some just downright sad. Nevertheless, they were a pleasure to read. They each captured such a turbulent time in such beautiful writing and prose. I rated it down for two reasons: 1) I sped through them, thus not fully appreciating some and 2) not all of them were memorable.


Daphne du Maurier’s The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë | 4 stars:

As a devoted Brontë fan, du Maurier set out to write a biography solely dedicated to Branwell – the neglected one when it comes to non-fiction writing. Spanning from his early childhood to his death, du Maurier tries to make sense of this enigmatic man.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this account of Branwell’s life. There were only minor things that irritated me, such as the occasional flighty writing style and the unnecessary comment about Anne being the ‘less talented’ sibling. Du Maurier put across an interesting argument of how Branwell’s juvenilia, his ‘infernal world’, stayed with him his entire life.


William Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor | 3 stars:

I hadn’t read a Shakespeare play in well over a year, so I decided to finally make my way through his complete works. First up was The Merry Wives of Windsor. The fat and foolish Falstaff is in need of some money, and so devises a scheme to seduce two married women in order to steal their husbands’ wealth. The wives soon discover his plan and begin to plot their own revenge.

I enjoyed this more than I expected. Falstaff was relentlessly funny, bringing stupidity and humour to the play. The two wives, Mistress Page and Mistress Ford, were my favourite characters – they were so calculated, and brought some rationality to the play.


July was a month of intense reading. I finally got to books that had been sitting on my shelf for years, and I also got to some very unexpected reads (aka Shakespeare who, at random, I decided I must read more of two days before August begins). My favourite reads were, undoubtedly, Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters and Atwood’s Alias Grace.

What was your favourite read of the month? I’d love to know, maybe I can add it to my never-ending TBR…

Thanks for reading, Lauren X

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