July/August Summary and Plans for September

I’ve had a very busy summer, spending time with friends and family. I’ve managed to keep up the reading, but haven’t been able to keep this blog up to date. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that now things are getting back to normal.

Over the summer I read two outstanding books: Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Both go on to my list of all-time favourites and I hope that you love them as much as I did.

Books of the Summer:

Shantaram A Little Life

Books Reviewed in July/August:

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts 

All Involved by Ryan Gattis 

The Bridge Over the Drina by Ivo Andric 

Blackass by A Igoni Barrett 

Familiar Wars by Julietta Harvey 

Boy in the Tower by Polly Ho-Yen 

The Loney Andrew Michael Hurley 

Under the Skin by Michel Faber 

Plans for September

I’m a bit behind with reviews. I hope to catch up in the next few weeks, but here are a few words to give you an idea of my thoughts on the books I’ve finished recently:

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh Gripping, but flawed

Swallow This by Joanna Blythman Scary!

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara A masterpiece

Educating Ruby by Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas Insightful

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand Lacking emotion

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson Too long

The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas Too fragmentented

Cafe Europa by Slavenka Drakulic Fascinating, but dated

I haven’t thought about what I’m going to read next as I’m too busy unpacking! I need to have a good look at all the books I have here and try to prioritise them. I’ll update my sidebar as I work through the outstanding reviews.

I hope you all had a great summer and I look forward to catching up with you soon.

6 replies on “July/August Summary and Plans for September”

Sounds like you’ve had a great summer, Jackie! How’s the knee?

I too read ‘A Little Life’ recently and for me it was more of a flawed masterpiece – on the one hand the experience of reading it, of feeling I was there with those characters, is one I won’t soon forget but I found its “heightened” approach a bit much – the abuse piled on abuse, the characters being either saints or the vilest of villains with little in between, the way it so blatantly manipulates the reader’s emotions… I think I ended up loving it in a guilty pleasure way.

My standout novel of the past two months would have to be Jonathan Buckley’s ‘The River is the River’ which was every bit as good and as clever as I’d hoped it would be, jam-packed with ideas about storytelling and language.

Other novels that I really enjoyed:
Stephen Marche’s ‘The Hunger of the Wolf’ is a beautifully written literary novel about ambition, money, the pursuit of wealth and… werewolves (yes, really – I never thought I’d enjoy it but it is so good).
Sara Tilley’s ‘Duke’, a Canadian novel/fictionalised biography about the author’s great grandfather and his life on the Alaskan frontier in the early twentieth century (intriguing fact: the author wore a papier mache mask of her great grandfather’s likeness whilst writing in order to channel his voice!).

Other than that a few so-so novels: Viet Thanh Nguyen’s ‘The Sympathizer’ has had rave reviews in the US but I just couldn’t connect with it; I found Anne Enright’s ‘The Green Road’ preferable to ‘The Gathering’ but couldn’t see it as anything more than very well-written soap opera, and oddly structured too. Neil Smith’s ‘Boo’ is absolutely great fun and very original, but it reads like a YA book and is perhaps a bit disposable. Sarah Mian is being hailed in Canada as a fresh new voice in CanLit, but I found her ‘When the Saints’, although perfectly good, to be like a David Adams Richards novel rewritten by Miriam Toews. And Joan Clarke’s ‘The Birthday Lunch’ was dull fare indeed.

Anyway, good luck with the unpacking (and the inevitable mountain of washing and ironing!). Hope you have a great September 🙂

David, Yes, I had a good summer, thanks! My knee is much better. I still don’t know what happened and still have trouble with a large number of steps, but it is much better than it was 🙂

It’s interesting to see your thoughts on ‘A Little Life’. I don’t agree with your comments on it, but hopefully I’ll be able to explain why when I get around to reviewing it.

Your other reads sound interesting. They are all new to me, except ‘Boo’ (I wasn’t a big fan – it was good in the beginning, but wore a bit thin after a while.)

I especially like the sound of Buckley’s book. I’ve just added it to my wishlist!

I’m not too sure about the idea of wearing a papier mache likeness of someone whilst writing – sounds a bit weird to me! But I guess all we should care about is the quality of the writing and if it worked who am I to question it?!

Hope you have a great month!

Ha, yes, the papier mache mask thing is definitely a bit “out there”! Apparently the mask is adapted from a technique for training clowns that she is an expert in. I’m sure I also read that she wrote some of the book (presumably whilst wearing the mask) in marker pen on big sheets of paper on her office floor… Could you imagine being her window cleaner?

David, LOL! I think I need to get my hands on this book, just to see the writing style she has channelled…although I am more intrigued about her work training clowns. Perhaps she’ll write a book on that one day?!

Oh, I hope you have time at some point to write a full review of A Little Life. Like David, I found it woefully flawed, although the writing was wonderful and there were many wonderful moments in it. I thought the abuse was really sensationalized and irresponsible and that made me mad. :/

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