Saturday, 1 September 2012

Reading round-up: August

49. The Chemistry of Tears by Peter Carey - 6/10 (full review). This felt like a very typical literary novel: a study of grief, told through a split narrative as the protagonist restores an automaton and, at the same time, discovers the journals of its original owner. Beautifully written but, apart from the emotional impact of the main character's loss, it left me cold.
50. In Her Shadow by Louise Douglas - 7/10 (full review). A daft but extremely fun and readable mystery, told mainly through flashbacks. Very fluffy but highly enjoyable - it would make a great holiday read!
51. The Quiddity of Will Self by Sam Mills - 3/10 (full review). An experimental piece of metafiction based on the work of Will Self, this started out as something really different and interesting, then quickly deteriorated and I lost all interest. Not very well written either.
52. Broken Harbour by Tana French - 8/10 (full review). I wasn't expecting too much from this mystery, the fourth in a series, but it really grabbed my attention. There were some superfluous bits, but it had a truly dark heart and made much more of an impression on me than I'd anticipated.
53. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayil - 10/10 (full review). This lyrical and often very surreal novel (loosely) follows a group of opium addicts in 1970s Bombay. It won't appeal to everyone, but I absolutely loved the dreamlike atmosphere created by the non-linear, rambling narrative.
54. Landed by Tim Pears - 7/10 (full review). The story of Owen, a man who appears to have lost everything - told first through a series of accounts from others, then through a more straightforward narrative as he attempts to reconnect with his children. Bleak, but extremely well-crafted.
55. The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton - 9/10. No review yet as this was an ARC which I was very lucky and very happy to have the opportunity to read! It's due out officially in October and will be a must-read for all fans of her previous books.
56. HHhH by Laurent Binet - 6/10 (full review). This is an account of the true story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich - but it's also the author's own take on the difficulties inherent in fictionalising real events. A really interesting idea, but I found the execution uninspiring.
57. Communion Town by Sam Thompson - 10/10 (full review in the process of being written!) As the subtitle says, this is 'a city in ten chapters': a series of interconnected short stories all set in the same unnamed city. With elements of fantasy and inexplicably strange details, I found this absolutely fascinating and the variety of narratives thrilling.
58. The Colony by F.G. Cottam - 9/10 (full review). Another exciting, spooky adventure from Cottam, this time focused on a remote Scottish island which was famously the site of a whole community 'disappearing'. I always love the author's books and this didn't disappoint, with a great cast of characters and plenty of atmosphere.

I've had a really good month for reading. Not only have I got through lots of books, but I've read FOUR of my favourites of the year (so far!) during August. These were Narcopolis, The Secret Keeper, Communion Town and The Colony. All VERY different books, but all excellent in their own ways. Narcopolis and Communion Town particularly stood out as excellent reads, perhaps because the authors were new to me, and also because the books were brought to my attention by this year's Man Booker Prize longlist. I'm not one of those people who makes a habit of reading everything that's nominated, and there are some novels on there that don't appeal to me whatsoever, but I'm really pleased I discovered these two fantastic debuts through the longlist.

I also read a couple of books which were 'light' but nevertheless excellent - In Her Shadow and, in particular, The Secret Keeper. There were also a few disappointments, of course. I wasn't expecting much from The Quiddity of Will Self, which I wouldn't have bought if it hadn't been 99p in the Kindle sale, but it really was quite poor. The Chemistry of Tears was mediocre and HHhH, which I'd been looking forward to for ages, was just a bit boring, which was absolutely the last thing I expected from it.

I hope I can keep up the same pace during September. It really frustrates me having a long 'to-read' list, but at the same time I'm constantly adding to it. I've just got round to picking up Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, which I've been meaning to read for years - I was inspired because numerous reviewers have compared Communion Town to it, and with a film version coming out soon, the timing seemed just right. What have you enjoyed reading this month? Are there any new releases you're looking forward to in September?


  1. I've just finished reading Cloud Atlas and though I didn't think it was *quite* as good as some people made out, I really enjoyed it! :)

  2. Communion Town sounds really interesting. I can always rely on your recommendations to be good ones!