Saturday, 10 March 2012

Reading round-up: February

(I am giving myself a slap on the wrist for not having done this earlier!)


7. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin - 7/10 (full review). I liked the themes and setting of this character study set in the New York art world, but found the narrative style a bit frustrating and the protagonist hard to believe in.
8. Cold Earth by Sarah Moss - 7/10 (full review). A creepy, effective thriller with a great premise - a group of archaeologists in Greenland are cut off from the world as a pandemic spreads - this was ruined by a really awful main character.
9. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey - 7/10 (full review). This is the memoir of a woman incapacitated by illness who becomes fascinated by her 'pet' snail. Beautifully written, but I would have liked to know more about the author herself rather than the snail.
10. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - 8/10 (full review). Set in the Alaskan wilderness in 1920, this fairytale-like story charts the experiences of an ageing couple without children who encounter a 'snow girl'; is she a magical being or a real, nomadic child? Evocative, timeless and touching, if not quite as memorable as it might be.
11. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray - 5/10 (full review). A tale of adolescent boys at a Dublin boarding school, whose fates are intertwined with those of their teachers as well as a group of girls from the school next door. Murray's narrative is excellent but for whatever reason, I could not get into this - the story never quite grabbed me and I hated the adult characters.
12. Purgatory by Tomás Eloy Martínez - 8/10 (full review). An evocative and educational read, this relates the recent history of Argentina - specifically the Dirty War and 'the disappeared' - via the story of a woman whose missing husband reappears, exactly as he was, thirty years later. Recommended to fans of Paul Auster.
13. Alys, Always by Harriet Lane - 10/10 (full review). I absolutely devoured this first novel about a lonely woman who latches on to a high-profile literary family after she witnesses the death of their matriarch in a car accident. Fast-paced, beguiling, and subtly sinister - an excellent debut from an author I am keen to follow in future.
14. Waterline by Ross Raisin - 8/10 (full review). Harrowing and emotionally exhausting, Raisin's second novel is about a man wracked by grief who descends into alcoholism and poverty after the death of his wife. It's brilliant, devastating and compelling - I read it in one sitting - but a very difficult read.
15. The Bellwether Revivals by Benjamin Wood - 8/10 (full review). Another one of those 'inspired by The Secret History' books, this time following a group of friends in Cambridge led by an eccentric student who believes he can cure the sick. Worth reading, but lacking in emotional punch.
16. The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore - 7/10 (full review). This is a well-written, atmospheric little ghost story with a sympathetic protagonist, but I was left very frustrated by the inconclusive ending!

February was the month I got my reading mojo back! I managed to get through ten books and felt something other than ambivalence about most of them - a stark contrast to last month, thankfully. Alys, Always was the best of the month, and has made the leap onto my all-time-favourites list. I was also really impressed by the incredibly powerful Waterline - I can't believe this wasn't nominated for last year's Booker, especially given some of the rubbish that got onto the shortlist...

I'm sorry to say I haven't read ANYTHING in March so far - I've been so busy, I've barely had time. However, I did just manage to (finally!) get my hands on a copy of Amanda Coe's What They Do in the Dark, which seems great so far. I doubt I'll quite manage ten more books in March, but watch this space!

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