A few days early, as I am off to Amsterdam this afternoon for a long weekend, and who knows whether I’ll be in any fit state to post anything on Monday…
Books read in February:
I’m really pleased with the progress I’m making on my Classics Club list, which until the start of this year was languishing a bit unloved following its creation in November 2014. I’ve slowed down a bit towards the end of the month (life, plus a less gripping read), but I still think that I should have finished my eighth book of the month by the end of February. My eight are:
- Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier – LOVED this. Review here . I also had the pleasure of recommending this to a new-to-classics friend, and watching her fall in love with it too. ****
- We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – I recently read that this had been given free to all 16 year olds in Sweden, and I can only applaud the Swedes for their foresight. Short enough to hold the attention, and forceful without being angry, I consider this a must-read. ****
- Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – I have been waiting for two weeks to be ready to review this, and I’m not yet. Soon, I hope. It contains multitudes. ****
- The Ramblers, by Aidan Donnelley Rowley – It’s not that this was bad, exactly, but it seemed pretty facile compared to the other books I’ve been reading – like a debutante in a room full of Nobel laureates. The sense of place (New York) was good, and it jogged along at a decent pace; I found the story and characters, though, to be sadly lacking. **
- The Noise of Time, by Julian Barnes – Interesting, and with big stuff to say, but at times more like an essay than a novel. Review here ***
- Mrs Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf – I can see this being a novel I go back and back and back to. The descriptions of London, the stream of consciousness, the incredibly modern picture of what war can do to a psyche – I liked this a lot, and I think I will like it even better on a second reading. ****
- Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys – This was a re-read, although it’s been more than ten years since I read it for the first time. I was sent back to WSS by Rebecca, as another reaction to Jane Eyre (which I am also planning to revisit, later this year I hope). I got significantly more out of it this time around. Another novel with a strong sense of place and a compelling portrait of colonial doom, I found this to be tiny (124 pages, in my copy) but perfectly formed. ****
- The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers – The jury’s still out on this one. I’m about halfway through, and hoping to finish it today or over the weekend. It has had its moments, but I’m not quite sold on it just yet.
Best book of the month: It was a tightly run thing this month, but the award ultimately goes to Rebecca, with a strong second place for Americanah, and Mrs Dalloway and Wide Sargasso Sea sharing the final spot on the podium. I realise this is fully half of the books I read this month, but they really were all that good.
Which sort of brings me onto a bit of a dilemma. Most of my books so far this year have been four-star reads. I’ve thought long and hard about each one of those ratings, and concluded that they’re the right ones, but it is starting to dilute the value of the ratings system – sort of like giving everyone an A. I don’t want to read bad books just to prop up the bell curve, and I don’t want to be unduly harsh to some incredible pieces of writing. I’m still mulling it over.
My other highlight of the month was discovering the great #AW80books challenge – I’m already plotting a fictional trip to Amsterdam to match my real one, lining up what I think should be a bit of a lighter read – The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton.
Reading goals for March: Keep it up, really; life is set to get busier as spring arrives, and I’d like to try to keep up both the quality and volume of my reading from the first couple of months of the year. And I’m giving myself permission to put my classics list aside and focus on diversity for a while – #AW80books should help with that. Of course, given how bad I am at sticking to plans, I will probably read nothing but Dickens or something for the next three months…