My Month in Books: January 2020

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger

This juicy page-turner observes the impact of the opening of a school for gifted children amongst a group of parents in an affluent American suburb. Perfect for fans of Big Little Lies.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

You might remember Chanel Miller better as ‘Emily Doe’, the young woman whose powerful victim impact statement went massively viral after she was raped by Brock Turner. Miller has now waived her right to anonymity and has written a memoir detailing the aftermath of her assault, her experience with the justice system and her journey to begin move past her trauma. Chanel is an incredibly gifted writer and I sincerely hope I’ll have the chance to read many more books by her.

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Telling you Beloved is amazing is basically like telling you that water is wet and the sky is blue, but just in case anyone hasn’t already heard, I’ll reiterate that Beloved is amazing. Truly Toni Morrison’s masterpiece (and that’s saying something), it is both devastating and beautiful all at once and is rightly considered a classic.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

Described as Bridget Jones’s Diary meets Americanah, Queenie tells the story of Queenie Jenkins, a 25 year old British-Jamaican women fresh off a brutal break up who starts searching for self-worth in all the wrong places (generally in the trousers of men who don’t deserve her). The novel recounts how, with the help of her friends, family and not a small amount of therapy, Queenie starts to build back her self-esteem and love herself. Hilarious and heartwarming.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

In the Dream House is an experimental and wildly creative memoir that recounts Machado’s experience of an abusive same-sex relationship. Frustrated by the absence of any story like hers from the literary canon, Machado has sought to insert herself into the archive by telling each chapter of her story through the lens of a different genre, ranging from stoner comedy to erotica to choose your own adventure. It pushes the boundaries of what I thought a memoir could be and was utterly gripping from start to finish.

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir

Anyone who knows me will know I’m a sucker for historical fiction and that this goes double if it’s anything to do with the Tudors. Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession is the second book in Alison Weir’s Six Tudor Queens series, in which she presents fictionalised first person accounts of the lives of each of the wives of King Henry VIII. Weir has masterful control over her material and manages to make a story that has been told countless times feel fresh and new. I’m already looking forward to seeing what she does with Jane Seymour.

In At The Deep End by Kate Davies

I do hate saying this, as I don’t like spending my time writing negative things, but I did not enjoy this book at all. In At The Deep End tells the story of Julia, a young twenty something living in London who realises she’s a lesbian and embarks on a great gay sexual Odyssey. This was a book club pick and I really wanted to like it but unfortunately I just found so much of it to be unfunny, unsexy and utterly disconnected from reality that I couldn’t enjoy it. It’s unfortunate that I read this so shortly after Queenie which did ‘young woman living in London undergoes major upheaval, has a tonne of ill-advised sex, gets some therapy and then discovers her self-worth’ with lashings more warmth and humour and In The Dream House which handled topics of lesbian identity and abusive and controlling queer relationships with significantly more nuance and thought.

The Guest House for Young Widows: Among the Women of Isis by Azadeh Moaveni

The Guest House for Young Widows is a gripping non-fiction account of thirteen different women who sought to join ISIS and live in the Islamic State. From British schoolgirls to Syrian university students to German housewives, Moaveni examines the different reasons that women around the world chose to collaborate with a terrorist regime. As someone who felt deeply uncomfortable with the conversation that surrounded Shamima Begum’s attempt to return to her home in the United Kingdom, I loved that this book thoughtfully tackled the thorny questions of how the women of Isis should be treated and what governments can do to break the cycle of conflict in the Middle East.

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