What I’m Reading: Summer 2019

How can it be the end of September already? We’ve barely blinked and we’re into the last 3 months of the year. Gulp. It was only yesterday that I stepped back into my apartment, and now there are another 12 months under my wing. Another summer is gone. 

I’m writing this at home while the first Autumn Sunday rolls by. It’s a classic miserable London day. It poured all morning and the light is a reminder that the dark winter months are just around the corner. So to say goodbye to another summer, here are four snappy book reviews for you.

My summer reading has been around two coincidental themes: female writers and human relationships. From the heartstrings-tugging stories by Anne Griffin to the underlying sexual tension of Virginia Woolf and feelings of overcoming adversity told by my good friend Carolina and my new favourite author, Gail Honeyman, these books have opened my eyes to the psychology of simply being human.

We’re all weird, and selfish, and we make bad choices. But that doesn’t make us bad people. If you’re feeling insecure, alone or lost, pick up one of these books from a library or your local bookstore (or Kindle).

Bad/Tender, When All is Said, To The Lighthouse and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Bad/Tender, When All is Said, To The Lighthouse and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine give insight into the most poignant aspects of being human.

When All is Said (2019)

Anne Griffin

I can’t quite remember when I bought this book. It was an impulse buy and I’m so glad it ended in my hands. 

When All is Said is the story of an old Irish farmer, giving a toast to the five most important people in his life. As you get drunker with Maurice, the protagonist, you get to discover the different layers of his life and the ramifications of his past decisions.

I was sobbing by the end of the first page. This book made me wish for true love and family, but it left me longing for more. 

[Slight spoilers ahead]

While Maurice’s wife is positioned as the most important person in his life, the book barely touches on her as a person. We get to experience almost everyone else from many different angles except her. In a similar way to what romantic movies do to Manic Pixie Dream Girls, her character’s purpose felt to be solely for the development of good old Maurice. There were other female characters that were developed fully, so this is the only part that left me wanting.

[End of spoilers]

All in all, this is one of my favourite books this year. Griffin’s voice is hard to ignore and will stay with you for long after you’ve finished reading. It reminded me of Cecelia Ahern, one of the leading romance writers when I was a teen, so it was an absolute pleasure to reintroduce Irish literature to my shelf.

To The Lighthouse (1927)

Virginia Woolf

A classic. This is the first and only book I’ve read by Virginia Woolf. I know, I’m a terrible feminist. 

I acquired this copy, by Vintage, many years ago with the intention of becoming a well-versed reader in female literature. Perhaps because the language, grammar and syntax are a little convoluted for a non-native English speaker, I just couldn’t get into it. This year I had to try again.

So with 9 flights ahead of me (I haven’t counted the hours, but quite possibly over 36), I grabbed this book as my sole entertainment for my summer trip with the determination of an LSE MSc Gender and Media alumna (that’s me!). I am glad I gave it a second chance.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book. I’ll have to admit that I chose this novel due to the title. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you’ll know I’m obsessed with the sea, and that’s the main reason I leaned towards it. I stuck to it because I was curious.

To The Lighthouse follows the Ramsays as they receive their guests into their stately home in Skye. The novel is the perfect mix of family tensions, tragedy and comedy. 

It was a tough read, I’m not gonna lie, but I never imagined Woolf’s literature to be as sexy as this. I’ll be reading more of Woolf’s work soon, I’m hooked!

Bad/Tender (2018)

Carolina Are

Carolina, the brains behind Blogger on Pole, self-published this book in 2018 after years of mulling it over and pitching it to agents. When the book came up, Carolina and I were still only acquaintances and I’d been thirsting after her social media accounts for longer than I will admit (sorry, love, I’ve admitted to this at a party…). When I saw that she’d taken a leap of faith with self-publishing, my jaw dropped with jealousy. I had to read it at some point.

Bad/Tender is the story of Chiara – an Italian student starting her adult life in London – when she meets the man that will be her undoing. Reading this book was hard for me; first, now the author and I ARE friends, so I could understand it on a deeply personal level, and second, it helped me look back into my own problematic ex-boyfriend from my early twenties. At the age Chiara met the mysterious L, I was getting out of a 5-year long emotional ordeal.

This debut novel is impressive for a young writer. It touches upon themes that plague young women in this day and age – leaving university, finding one’s passion, losing friends, loneliness, depression, etc. – with elegance and rawness. Carolina’s writing is easy to follow yet gripping. It made me wonder how further she can go with the help of an agent and an editor and I can’t wait for her next book.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (2018)

Gail Honeyman

I’m going to go ahead and call this the book of the decade. Of course, I’d seen bookstagrammers rave about it online. I’d read review after review and seen its cover displayed with pride in almost every single bookstore in the UK.

I finally purchased my own copy just before I boarded the flight back into London. And WOW. This should be review enough. Just, wow. 

Eleanor Oliphant is a perfectly ordinary woman living a perfectly ordinary life in perfectly ordinary Scotland. She’s got her routine planned to the second, but everything falls apart when she meets her soulmate: a bad-boy type lead singer of a local band. Witty, heartbreaking and a mirror to Britain’s social care system – Honeyman’s also debut novel has taken the world by a storm.

It’s easy to see why. The story is original and the narrator unique. We can find characters struggling with mental health illnesses and social awkwardness but hardly ever from their point of view. Eleanor’s innocence and matter-of-fact worldview will be a breath of fresh air. The twists and turns will take you on an emotional journey into compassion. A must-read. 

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