Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Recent Reads #8

I've almost forgotten about all the hours spent on trains in the last couple of weeks thanks to a few really great, interesting and novel reads. The perfect escape from academic papers and end of term deadlines. Check them out: 

Are You My Mother? - Louise Voss
After having read, and really enjoyed, Games People Play, I was keen to read something else by Louise Voss. Are You My Mother follows the story of adopted sisters, Emma and Stella, and Emma's quest to find her biological mother. What begins as a story about the importance of parents and knowing where you came from, turns into a realisation of the value of the family we make for ourselves: our siblings (biological or otherwise), our friends, and our partners. Emma is a down-to-earth, really likeable narrator, with whom you relate to, sympathise with and trust throughout. She is the person I felt like I would be, had I experienced her upbringing. As we move through the story with her, experiencing loss, grief, disappointment, loneliness and 'fear of missing out', we see how deserving she is of a happy ending - though perhaps not the one she wants, or you might expect. It's an action-packed warming tale of love and loss - and I would definitely recommend. 
4 / 5

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark - Anna North
Sometimes you finish a book, and you can't stop thinking about it, and that's supposed to be a mark of a good book. That's kind of how I feel about this one, but my confusion is about how I felt about it...and I still don't know. A recommendation in Emma's Duvet Day reads, and a Kindle offer, made me pick up this book in the first place and, all things considered, I'm glad I did. Sophie Stark is a film maker, and the story follows her journey from high school amateur to well respected artist. Sophie Stark is also one of the most unusual, and almost chilling, fictional characters I've ever met; I wanted to give her a hug, offer her some help, and watch her films, but I also wanted to give her a slap...and then run away. The narrative is told by the people closest to her - her girlfriend, her husband, her brother, her school crush - and that, I loved. The reader got to know Sophie from so many different perspectives, whilst still feeling entirely detached from her, and feeling like they never really knew her as she knew herself. The plot was fine, a bit disconnected but that was to be expected from the multiple narrative, and the ending both enchanting and disturbing. So yes, I'm confused. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it but I'm interested in it. I think it was cleverly written, and very different from lots of other contemporary fiction...but I just can't understand why Sophie was so powerful and so captivating to the reader, or the people she consistently hurt. I couldn't really love it. But, it's a book to talk about, definitely. Read it, and tell me what you thought! 
3.5 / 5

The Secret Life of Bees - Sue Monk Kidd 
This book reminded me of The Help, inviting themes of segregation, the Civil Rights Movement and the beautiful, forbidden relationships created between black and white women. I was pretty gripped from start to finish, meeting Lily and accompanying her on her journey away from an oppressive, 'white' world to a 'black' one where she is more free and loved than she has ever been before. What I anticipated to be a story of abuse and repression turned into one about the quest for freedom, for Lily and a whole society of African Americans, for personal, positive freedom and self-belief. Much like Are You My Mother?, this is a story about the family we make for ourselves, and the people that love us despite challenging circumstances of racism, tangled up with escape, fears of 'reality' and forbidden romances. It's a really calm novel, and left me feeling warm and fuzzy, doused in honey, as Lily becomes. It made me want to run away and keep bees and join August's loving family. A really wonderful book, would absolutely recommend. 
5 / 5

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