I know, I know, it’s late. There’s been a lot going on ok? But I’m here now, only 6 days into November and this is what I read last month:
A Song for the Dark Times – Ian Rankin
What is there to say about a new Rankin that we haven’t already said? This is the 23rd Rebus novel, and the cantankerous bastard is still out there getting in everyone’s way. Well retired and labouring under illness, Rebus is nevertheless able to do what he does so well – annoy people, solve crimes and alienate friends and family. As ever, a reliable and enjoyable read and a nice cliffhanger at the end.
On Chapel Sands – Laura Cumming
This was everywhere at one point, well reviewed and pushed at every corner so I was quite disappointed at how little it contained. There was little mystery, and in some ways, little curiosity in unearthing the truth about some of the major players. A strange book.
In the Kitchen – various
This, on the other hand, was glorious. A collection of essays about kitchens, cooking and a whole bunch of related stuff published by Daunt Books, who also brought the book about Hampstead Ladies Pond. I really hope this is the start of a series. The essay by Joel Golby about buffets is worth the cover price alone, but there are a lot of really thoughtful and inspiring pieces in here.
Girl, Woman, Other – Bernadine Evaristo
And again, about a year after everyone else. I found this a little hard to get into for the start but by the second section I was won over. Even before reading this, I did wonder if the Booker judges had made a HUGE mistake in the joint award and now I’ve read it, I can say they definitely did. Atwood is fan fic, good enough, but this is better.
The Flying Troutmans – Miriam Toews
Miriam Toews often writes of mental ill health and the last book I read by her, All My Puny Sorrows, is a heartbreaking look at this in depth. It’s examined here less, and instead The Flying Troutmans has a more comic focus, while still being able to discuss serious issues. When her sister is hospitalised with serious mental illness, Hattie has to fly home from a failed love affair in Paris and look after her niece and nephew. They decide to drive across America in a battered old van to find the children’s father and on the journey discover more about themselves and how to heal. A classic set up but a satisfying read.
Elisabeth’s Lists – Luah Ellender
I saw this recommended on social media and misunderstood a little about it. Luah Ellender inherits her grandmother’s list book, something she has used to organise her entire life (like a bullet journal these days), and she writes the story of her grandmother’s life just as her own mother is dying. I thought this was a story of ‘ordinary’ people so was a little disappointed to find they were quite wealthy and Elisabeth is the daughter of an ambassador who marries another ambassador so has the chance to travel a lot. But there is a lot of change and sad moments of grief to deal with in her lifetime, one that was cut quite tragically short, and I loved the idea of this one book helping her organise her mind and her life to satisfaction.
To Obama – Jeanne Marie Laskas
President Obama read 10 letters a day from citizens across the US during his time in office, carefully curated by a team of staff, often quite young people, who used the letters as a chance to allow the president to hear from the people and especially those who disagreed with him. This book is the story of some of the families behind the letters, and the team who read them. It highlights the many problems our US cousins faced, and still face, and is perhaps a useful way to understand why there is still so much division over there. What we do need, and have not had a for a while, is a return to the humanity that came from his time in the White House.
There’s Only One Place This Road Ever Ends Up – David Biskoll
I read two graphic novels this month and this is a new genre to me but both of them are perfect in this format and I don’t think would work as well in any other way. There’s Only One Place is the story of David and his girlfriend when she is diagnosed with a debilitating illness that leaves her disabled. It is about how they managed, the things people said to him, their changing hopes and dreams and small moments of joy. It’s quite lovely.
Flake – Matthew Dooley
The other graphic novel was this, a very British comedy set in the North of England and featuring the rivalry between two brothers who own ice cream van businesses. The humour is very dry and the pictures quite monochrome, so the setting is bleak enough to allow the characters to come into their own. This was apparently a sensation when published and this is the second printing, it deserves to be widely recognised.
Daisy Jones and the Six – Taylor Jenkins-Reid
I enjoyed this but it is a light read (I read it in a single sitting one evening when everyone else had gone to bed). The story of a band and their charismatic singer, the book is written as a series of in depth interviews as you would read in Rolling Stone or similar. It takes you through the founding of the band, their rise to stardom and their inevitable bust up, following the usual excesses of sex, drugs, rock and roll. A compelling and fun read.
Dear Reader – Cathy Rentzenbrink
Cathy Rentzenbrink, registered book worm, takes us through a journey of her life, how books have helped her through some of the changes she’s has experienced and provides some themed recommendations. This takes a while to get into and I found the autobiographical parts much more compelling than the recommends (partly because she, like I, worked at Waterstones and found a husband on the staff). But by the end I was thinking of my own version, and wanting to write my own lists. (Potential blog content! Aha! Watch this space!) This also looks beautiful, it’s got a gorgeous cover and is the perfect Christmas gift for the book lover in your life.