Monday, 3 February 2014

What I Read in January


I  had already decided that I wanted to read more books this year, so when Laura of Circle of Pine Trees posted launched the  The Year In Books I didn't think twice about joining in as this was just the encouragement I needed to make sure I didn't go back on my resolution.
The first book I read in January was 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn.  The book opens as Amy disappears on her wedding anniversary and pretty soon suspicion falls on her husband. Set in contemporary America, it's a real page turner with lots of unexpected plot twists but ultimately I found the ending unsatisfactory. As it's a thriller, I'll say no more.
The other book I read was 'N W' by Zadie Smith. Smith, of course, is a highly acclaimed young author and I was looking forward to discovering her work. In 'N W' I wasn't disappointed. I loved her adventurous use of language, particularly the streams of consciousness in the first section of the book  which reminded me of the cadence of  rap music.
'N W' tells the story of four people who grew up on a grim working class council estate in the cultural melting pot of  North West London. Three of them, Leah, Keisha (who later calls herself Natalie) and Nathan went to the same school. The two women were among the few to go on to university while Nathan has become a drug addict.  The women keep in touch but their friendship is brittle. Leah, still living in the area where they grew up, is married to a romantic Frenchman who dreams of improving their lot and of having children. Natalie's life seems perfect on the outside - she is a successful barrister, married with a handsome husband and two children, a nanny and beautiful house. But the cost of what it took her to achieve this takes its toll.
The other character is Felix. A one time drug addict, he has but his bad habits behind him. He's in love with his girlfriend, calls to visit his father (the description of his Rasta dad and his overheated apartment is outstanding), seals a deal to buy an old MG car from a yuppie, and calls in on an old girlfriend to seek closure on their relationship.
To say anymore would spoil the story which I would highly recommend if you enjoy a book which challenges and sparkles in equal measure. It might not be perfect, a couple of things jar, but then life isn't perfect either and this is a book that's all about life.
As I've been feeling poorly lately, with a sinus infection which refuses to go away, I've been doing a lot  more reading than usual.
I've read some short stories from the Richard Yates collection 'Eleven Kinds of Loneliness', dipping into perfectly crafted and heart-breaking insights into the lives of 1950s New Yorkers. They're so good that I want to save them, like rationing a box of rich dark chocolate.
And I've even read my first February book, 'Italian Shoes' by Henning Mankell, which I'll review at the end of the month.
What next?  At the moment it's a toss  up between 'A Street Cat Named Bob' as I'm in the mood for some undemanding reading or 'Noctures' by Kazuo Ishiguro.
Of course, now that I've rediscovered my love of reading, there could be even more.
Thanks to Laura again for this great idea to bring readers and bloggers together.


17 comments:

  1. i read this this month and didnt like it at all....but also read the 100 yr old man who climbed out of a window and disappeared...fab. and then ROOM! Oh boy ROOM was superb! here's to more reading in 2014 xxx

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    1. I guess it's not everyone's cup of tea. 'The 100 Year Old Man…' is on my list, perhaps later this month. And 'Room' - I don't know, I know it won loads of prizes but it sounds very depressing.

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  2. Sounds lie a good book, i will keep an eye out for it.

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  3. That sounds like an interesting book. I used to read all the time before I had a blog…I sure miss it.

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    1. Yes, there are so many distractions on the internet but I'm glad to have got back to reading.

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  4. that has been on my reading list for a while. cant wait to get my hands on it.

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  5. Oh, I do hate a book with a disappointing ending (David Nicholls' One Day leaps to mind) - I've never read any Zadie Smith, I'll look forward to hearing what you think!

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    1. Oh, I loved 'One Day', even if I did cry my eyes out!

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  6. I loved White Teeth, then I read another Zadie Smith book (can't remember what it was called) and that sort of put me off reading anything else by her. But perhaps it's time to try again..?

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  7. It's so much fun to hear what others are reading! I especially enjoy reading late in the evening when my husband is sleeping and I have quiet time for myself. Happy reading to you!

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  8. I have just added "N-W" to my reading list and the short stories by Richard Yates, too. I am determined to give short stories a chance this year. I wonder if these stories are similar to those of John Cheever, whose stories are set in a similar period of time, many of them in New York. I am never going to get any house work done if I keep adding books to my list....

    Thank you for starting to follow my blog and welcome, too. Cx

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    1. It's years since I read John Cheever but I loved his stories. I'm guessing they probably are similar. Would also recommend 'Revolutionary Road' and 'Easter Parade' by Yates - going to read everything by him that I can get my hands on (apart from the pledge not to buy any new books until I've already what's on the shelves).

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  9. Hello, I found your blog via The Year in Books. 'Gone Girl' was one of my 'real life' book club reads and all the members agree - the end is so disappointing! But the book is such a page turner isn't it?

    I read 'NW' over the Xmas hols and really enjoyed. I like Zadie Smith's style of writing but it takes getting used to...

    Cheerio, Col

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  10. Thank you for joining in! I haven,t read a Zadie Smith for ages, and this looks like a good one. x

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