Bookish Discussions

January Reading Wrap-up:


…so, January didn’t last that long, did it? I mean, most of my month was taken up with writing, editing and submitting my essays. Nevertheless, I did manage to read ten books, which is quite a shocker. Many are short, many are plays, but a few of them are quite chunky books, so I think it’s been a decent reading month.

As usual, I will have a review for *most* of the following. Those already published will be linked (in green or blue, depending on where you’re reading this), and the rest will follow next month. Let’s get into it…

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas | 3.5 stars:

Book 3.1 in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series. I think Maas’s intention was to provide full closure to Rhys and Feyre’s story. It was completely unnecessary, let me tell you, but it was also a fun and light read.

I always find myself drawn into Maas’s writing – her books are always so entertaining to read. I know she’s pretty problematic – and continues to be so – but I like to get lost in the complex and compelling worlds she creates. I love Feyre and Rhys, so I liked having this closure. It had zero plot, though, for those of you who like plot-based books!

‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’ translated by Simon Armitage | 4 stars:

Poetry? That I liked? Who knew that was possible? This poem, an Arthurian tale by an unknown author, but nicely translated by Armitage, is about Sir Gawain and his quest to fight the Green Knight.

This was sooo entertaining. I love narrative poems because they tell a story I can follow and engage with. Armitage’s translation was so fun; he tried to stay true to the original poem and relied on all those conventions that make reading poetry fun. It helped lift the story and make it pleasurable. I didn’t want it to stop.

How To be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman | 4.5 stars:

Probably my favourite book of the month is Goodman’s non-fiction book on the Victorians. She took us on a whistle stop tour of a Victorian’s average life, starting at dawn and ending at dusk. She covered all perspectives (namely class and gender).

Goodman was so passionate and enthusiastic in her writing; you can tell she is fascinated by the Victorians, which made it fun to read. It didn’t feel like you were reading a 440 page non-fiction book. It didn’t feel like you were being fed constant facts, not because it was written like fiction, but because it was written with so much warmth.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry | 1 star:

Ugh, what a bore. Seriously. I find this quite hard to summarise but let’s try. Melmoth is sent to wander Earth, bearing witness to those who are lonely and sinful, as a punishment for lying about Christ’s resurrection. Helen Franklin is hiding something. A strange manuscript is passed onto her. It all goes downhill from there.

I was constantly thrown back and forth between people’s histories, which, in my opinion, didn’t add anything whatsoever to the story. Some of the characters were so pointless, and the constant manuscripts made the story difficult to follow. It felt disjointed. Also, Helen was one of the worst protagonists ever. Perry continues to disappoint me…

The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles | 3 stars:

Ah, yes, possibly the best postmodern novel ever? It’s about Charles Smithson, a respectable and engaged middle-class man, falls in love with Sarah Woodruff – the French Lieutenant’s Woman. Sarah is a fallen woman in her own right, staring out to sea, waiting for her man to return. Their love defies Victorian expectations.

I love postmodern novels; they’re so aware, so playful, and so intrusive. Fowles would break narrative to give us a history lesson on Victorian sexuality, or how he isn’t a god of his creation. It was so much fun. I also thought it was a brilliant neo-Victorian novel. It felt very authentic – very reminiscent of the likes of Eliot. He was able to explore things that Victorian writers couldn’t, but it stays true to the style he was imitating. It was just a little too long for my liking.

‘Till September Petronella’ by Jean Rhys | 3.5 stars:

In stories that span the course of a lifetime – from childhood in the Caribbean to adolescent modelling in Paris; and from lonely adulthood to old age and beyond – here are women adrift, at sea, down but not quite out.

I found some short stories I actually enjoyed reading! I also didn’t mind the lack of plot, either! What is happening? I think Rhys has such a lovely writing style – I can’t quite place my finger on what it is. I felt like there was a lot of hope to be found in these stories of hopeless women. It was really lovely to read. As someone who is feeling a little lost myself at the minute, I found some comfort in these.

‘On Liberty’ by John Stuart Mill | 1 star:

This is actually from a collection of two essays, the other being ‘The Subjection of Women’, but I found Mill so boring that I had to DNF the other. I might pick it up at a later date, but I’m going to stay clear of him for now. ‘On Liberty’, as you might have guessed, is an essay about how people should have freedom (of speak, of action, of anything, as long as it doesn’t cause pain).

Honestly, essays are so boring. Mill didn’t have to make his writing so stuffy or nitty. He could have used ordinary language and short sentences, which would have made the essay more engaging and fun to read. I had to start skim reading it because it was Boring Me To Death. Not a fan and probably won’t be reaching for more any time soon!

New Grub Street by George Gissing | 4 stars:

A really entertaining read about Victorian writers/journalists fighting to get stuff published during the rise of mass communication, universal education and popular journalism.

I thought the characters were really quite interesting; they each represented a side of an issue that was evidently a cause for concern with contemporary writers, specifically journalists. All the characters were incredibly dull, except Marian, who was the Real Hero of the novel. It sucks that she got treated so awfully by a (in my opinion) FAILED writer. I’m still fuming. But good book. I’m eager to read more of Gissing!

Lady Windermere’s Fan by Oscar Wilde | 3 stars:

My first Wilde play and it didn’t disappoint, despite what my rating might suggest. Lady Windermere is convinced that her husband is being unfaithful and acts utterly irrationally because of it.

Wilde’s writing is something that I could never grow bored of. It’s filled with such wit and wisdom that I’m constantly drawn in. I loved the story (such scandal and decadence on every page), and the characters were all really interesting in their own way. I think he dealt with some issues of the late 19th century in an extremely entertaining way. It really made me think. Couldn’t rate it higher just because it was so short and to the point.

Mrs Warren’s Profession by Bernard Shaw | 2 stars:

A brilliant play that attacks everything that Victorian society stood for, such as gender roles (mainly concerned with prostitution) and the institution of marriage.

I did, however, find it quite boring in places. I really hated Vivie, for example, who was the main character. She was so rude and obnoxious to her mother, all because she brought her up with money that was made in an “immoral” and unconventional way. I know that this was probably Shaw’s intention but it didn’t make it any more enjoyable to read.

…and there you have it. All the books I read this month. I don’t quite know how I managed it when I’ve had one of the worst months of my life. Anyway… my favourites were definitely How to be a Victorian and New Grub Street!

What was your favourite book of the month? I’d love to know – I could mayybeee add it to my TBR?

Thanks for reading, Lauren X


3 thoughts on “January Reading Wrap-up:

  1. ‘How To Be A Victorian’ sounds interesting and I’m always up for more Arthurian Legend’s so may check out ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’. When you mentioned ‘On Liberty’ I remembered Shami Chakrabarti’s book of the same name, it’s very accessible and you may like it.


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