Happy New Year all! I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas and received tons of good books. Surprisingly, books were a bit of a rare present for me this year but I now do an excellent line in jumpers. Probably one of my highlights of the festive period was my sister in law organising my Monica Geller Book Cupboard of Doom. It now looks beautiful and I can see exactly what is in there!!!!
- Olive Again by Elizabeth Strout. 5 🌟
Olive, Again follows the blunt, contradictory, yet deeply lovable Olive Kitteridge as she grows older, navigating the second half of her life as she comes to terms with the changes-sometimes welcome, sometimes not-in her own existence and in those around her.
Olive adjust to her new life with her second husband, challenges her estranged son and his family to except him, experiences loss and loneliness, witnesses the triumphs and heartbreaks of her friends and neighbours in the small coastal town of Crosby, Maine and, finally, open herself to new lessons about life.￼￼
Its hard to put into words what makes Elizabeth Strout’s writing so utterly perfect. Her books aren’t fireworks and cliff hangers. They are just a perfect parcel of beautifully well-observed characters living their ‘normal’ life.
I think it is often a dangerous thing for an author, actor,director to revisit a character. The age-old problem of a sequel never being quite as good as the original. Not so with Olive Again. I just loved every minute I spent reading about this cantankerous, gruff but completely loveable woman.
There is something comforting about Strout’s writing. Reading Strout is like sitting in a massive, squishy chair with a perfect hot chocolate. All her characters are completely believable and relatable. Olive reminds me of my secondary school English teacher. When we were divided into sets for our lessons, this teacher was the one who no one wanted. Everyone wanted the cool teacher who peppered his sentences with words like ‘shit’ and ‘bollocks.’ We wanted the cool sweary guy to teach us. No one wanted the real life Olive Kitteridge, but this was the teacher we ended up loving…..not someone who suffered fools but ultimately fair and with a heart of gold.
So yes, if you like a book about real people, with real lives, pick this up. Don’t expect twists and turns and exciting plot devices……Strout doesn’t need gimmicks to create a perfect and moving story.
- The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. 4🌟.
Danny Conroy grows up in the Dutch House, a lavish folly in small-town Pennsylvania taken on by his property developer father. Though his father is distant and his mother is absent, Danny has his beloved sister Maeve: Maeve, with her wall of black hair, her delicacy, her brilliant. Life is comfortable and coherent, played out under the watchful eyes of the house’s former owners in the frames of their oil paintings.
Then one day their father brings Andrea home. Her arrival will exact a banishment￼￼: a banishment whose reverberations will echo for the rest of their lives.
As decades pass, Danny and his sister are drawn back time and again to the place they can never enter, knocking in vain on the locked door of the past. For behind the mystery of their own enforced Exile is that of their mother’s self imposed one: an absence more powerful than any presence they have known￼.
One thing I have definitely noticed since starting my maternity leave is how few books I am getting through. BM (before Maisie) I was averaging about 8 books a month. Commuting into work, sitting in the dressing room and reading in bed at night meant I could devour books. Now I am averaging about 1 book a month….not conducive to a book blog. This is going to sound quite melodramatic but I think this lack of reading time massively affects my mental health. Reading is my self-care. It’s my ‘me time.’ It means I can escape into a world where no one is going to ask me for a bottle of milk or to wipe their bottoms. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mum but having some time for myself each day makes me a much better parent. The sense of achievement I feel when I finish a book is immense. The fact The Dutch House took me a whole month to read makes me a little sad. Books are like a good wine….you need to lap them up not sip them for a whole month. 😂. For me, sipping a book leads to a disjointed, unenjoyable read. When I look back on the books I have loved, they are often holiday reads….books that I have been able to immerse myself in for a few lazy days.
Having said all the above, a sipped book which still achieves a 4 🌟 rating must mean it’s a goodun’. This book had all the ingredients of a great read for me….brilliant characters (some I hated, some I loved), a family saga and beautiful writing. The book almost felt like a fairy tale: the idea that the children had to essentially fend for themselves due to the evil stepmother, the death of the father and the absence of the ridiculous mother who chose to travel the world to help others rather than look after and nurture her children. I think I despised Elna more that Andrea. I thought Maeve was a brilliant character. I loved all her decisions and I felt she was utterly relatable. It was also lovely to read about such a strong sibling bond. Really good book and I will definitely be reading more Patchett.
- My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier. 4🌟.
Orphaned at an early age, Philip Ashley is raised by his cousin, Ambrose. Resolutely single, Ambrose delights in making Philip his heir, knowing that he will treasure his beautiful Cornish estate. But Phillip’s world is shattered when Ambrose sets off on a trip to Florence. There he falls in love and marries – and then dies suddenly in suspicious circumstances.
Before long, the new widow-Phillips cousin Rachel-arrives in England. Despite himself, he is drawn to the beautiful, mysterious woman. But could she be￼￼ Ambrose’s killer?
Ooooooh Daphne you are my fave. Rachel is a strong, complicated, worldly and intelligent woman. She may or may not be a murderer but let’s not pick holes in the poor woman shall we?
This was our book club pick for January and I am happy to report that the great Du Maurier definitely challenged people’s preconceptions on classic literature. I think a lot of people were quite daunted by the ‘classic’ connotations of this book and wonderfully, everyone who read it, absolutely loved it.
For me, the book isn’t really a ‘did she, didn’t she?’ story. This book is about sex and the power sex has to manipulate and control. Sadly, I am very unforgiving of women in literature. I’m sure it makes me seem very small minded and unkind but I loathe female characters who are stupid, ridiculous about men, overly girly and vacuous. Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey did my head in. Constant referral to her ‘inner goddess’ and her submission to a man made me HATE her. So, in this novel, I can forgive Rachel for the fact that she may have murdered a man….she is intelligent and she clearly rules the roost. She is interesting….I wanted to know more about her.
Can you actually change a man??? In the spirit of New Year New You I am going to attempt to change my husband. Sex* in 2020 is off the cards as 6 month old Maisie has decided that the only way she will sleep for a 2 hr stretch is if she sleeps between us, so I have just raided the charity shop for some books to entice Ozzie to put the iPhone down. I am fully expecting all these books to be in the same position on the bedside table in June although they will be covered in dust and cobwebs. Come on Ozzie, read a book, you’ll like it.
*Edith, Ceci and Maisie if you ever grow up and read this post, we have only ever had sex 3 times and you guys were the result. It was horrible and awful but we had to do it it create life, to create you. Sometimes it was worth it. 😂
Anyway that is all for this month. Thanks for reading.