July/August Reads

Hello all. I have been in two minds about posting this month. I feel the last 6 months of covid have caught up with me and I am just feeling really low. The family are all well and fine but I am just exhausted. My husband is working every hour to prove his worth in the light of future redundancies. I am exhausted with looking after the kids. I haven’t worked now since March 2019 and I just feel like I have lost a huge chunk of who I am. Even reading has become a bit of a chore so I apologies that this post is a little lacklustre.

Finally back to work and singing again in the next few weeks. Doing a Boheme and so excited to feel like me again.

Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo – until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape.

Afra has lost her sight, and so they embark on a perilous journey towards an uncertain future in Britain. As they travel, Nuri is sustained by the knowledge that waiting for them is his beekeeper cousin Mustafa, who is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees.

Nuri and Afra have to set off through a broken world, on a dangerous journey in which they will confront the pain of their unfathomable loss, and in doing so find a way back to each other again.

I remember so clearly the front page of the newspaper with the devastating image of Alan Kurdi. Alan was a 3 year old boy who drowned when his family tried to flee Syria and reach Europe. In 2015, Alan was 1 year older than my daughter and I couldn’t help but imagine what Alan went through in days leading up to his death. At that time, the Syrian crisis dominated the headlines. Now it is nowhere to be seen. However, people are still displaced. Lefteri says:

 It still exists, those people have still been displaced, they’re still trying to settle, they’re still traumatised. Where is everything now?”

In 2016, Lefteri spend two months working on Athens at a centre for women and children who had been displaced by war. She was inspired by the people she met and the stories she heard. On her return to England she started to plan the novel. She decided that she wanted Nuri to be a beekeeper so she contacted Dr Ryan Alsous who had set up the Damascus University Beekeeping programme. He and his family had settled in Huddersfield having fled Syria in 2013.

This was our book club choice this month and surprisingly it caused some division in the ranks. Myself and another girl really enjoyed the book but three members didn’t agree – “too easy” and “it was almost like Syria for dummies.” I think there can often be a lot of snobbery surrounding book club choices. Chicklit and page turners are often looked down upon. Maybe people think that the more high brow the book, the more impressive people’s opinions are. Book snobbery is definitely something I have been guilty of and I am proud to stay that I am reformed. I bloody loved Grown Ups last months having previously relegated Marion Keyes to the Chick Lit Sin Bin. I think it’s needs to be recognised that writing a page turner is an incredible skill. Any author that manages to keep the majority of the social media, Netflix obsessed masses turning pages is a bit of a magician in my opinion.

This was a brilliant book and it was great to read more personal stories of the individuals who are affected when fleeing a country. This was also a story about grief and PTSD which I think is rarely written about. A beautiful book.

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood. 5⭐️.

‘Our time together is about to begin, my reader. Possibly you will view these pages of mine as a fragile treasure box, to be opened with the upmost care. Possibly you will tear them apart, or burn them: that often happens with words.’

You hold in your hands a dangerous weapon loaded with the secrets of three women from Gilead. They are risking their lives for you. For all of us.

Before you enter the world, you might want to arm yourself with these thoughts:

Knowledge is power

and

History does not repeat itself, but it rhymes.

The Handmaid’s Tale was my A Level set text. I adored it. Really adored it. That and Goodnight Mister Tom are probably the only two books I have read more than once.

Loving a book so ferociously often means that nothing can live up to it. Sequels usually disappoint but not in this instance. Cleverly, Atwood doesn’t pick up where she left off….although Offred is always at the back of my mind. Fifteen years have passed and now Atwood is more concerned with the lives of the Aunts. I think this fresh perspective is really sensible….Atwood isn’t trying to recreate Offred’s story. Aunt Lydia is the main subject in this sequal and I really enjoyed seeing how she became an Aunt and fitted into the Totalitarian regimes. I didn’t find the book as dark as the original….maybe I am now used to to idea of Gilead but also this novel is much more plot led than character led. A brilliant read.

  • Gotta Get Theroux This by Louis Theroux. 4⭐️.

Gawky and socially awkward, Louis Theroux might be an unlikely television star, but his award-winning documentaries have won him millions of fans around the world. Now he turns his questioning eye on himself and wonders, why do people tattoo his face on their body and would it be wrong for him to encourage them? And are the same qualities that make him good at documentaries also making him bad at life?

Insightful and funny, Gotta Get Theroux This takes us from Louis’ anxiety prone childhood to an unexpectedly successful career that has seen him immersed in the weird world of paranoid US militias and secretive pro wrestlers, get under the skin of celebrities and take his life in his hands investigating American prisons.

Has Louis woos his beautiful wife Nancy and learns how to be a father, he also dares to take on the powerful Church of Scientology. Just as challenging is the revelation that one of his old subjects, Jimmy Savile was a secret sexual predator, prompting him to reflect on the nature of evil he has spent decades and uncovering.

I have loved Louis for a long time. I have memories watching his documentaries with my now husband and I was also lucky enough to watch his film about Scientology at the Royal Festival Hall. I think I picked the book up, wanting to discover more delicious tidbits about his subjects. I have to say that the book did deliver this but only after the first 25%. No offence Louis, but I’m not particularly interested in your au pairs and schooling, I want to get to the good stuff.

I was particularly moved by Louis’s writing about Jimmy Savile. I hope for Louis, writing this book was cathartic. Louis clearly questions himself in the whole affair….was he blind, should he have pushed Savile more on the subject, should he have delved deeper? Quite rightly, Savile is clearly a subject that keeps Louis up at night and this book does go some of the way into addressing how much of the predator Louis chose to see.

  • The Corset by Laura Purcell. 4 ⭐️.

Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she finds herself drawn to Ruth, a teenage seamstress – and self-confessed murderess – who nurses a dark and uncanny secret. A secret that is leading her straight to the gallows. As Ruth reveals her disturbing past to Dorothea the fates of these two women entwine and with every revelation, a new layer of doubt is cast….

As a teenager, I read a lot of historical fiction. Phillips Gregory and Sarah Waters were firm favourites. It’s a genre that I don’t revisit often but when I do, I always find it very comforting. Maybe it’s the imagery of candlelight, the rustling of skirts or maybe it’s the fact that whatever bogeymen I find within the pages, they are bogeymen from the past.

I really enjoyed this book. Told in Dorothea and Ruth’s voices, it was easy to be transported to the grey, dank and depressing streets of working class Victorian England. My only gripe would be the end of the novel. Purcell chose to add a supernatural element which I think was unnecessary and for me, it too away the starkness and emotion of the ending.

Thank you for reading. I hope you are all safe and well.

Els x

2 thoughts on “July/August Reads

  1. I’ve been meaning to read The Testaments, and after reading this post, I might actually stop delaying and do just that. The Handmaid’s Tale series was pretty damn awesome too, which was surprising, seeing how TV usually doesn’t do justice to the books. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

    1. Hi Stuart. Thanks for commenting on my pretty lame post. I really enjoyed it and to be honest I am probably a hard person to please because I loved the first book so much!!

      Like

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