A wrap up within a week of the end of the month? By my standards this is a pretty big achievement and April was a bumper month in terms of my reading. So many fabulous books came out throughout April – a much needed boost during the first full month of lockdown here in the UK.
With the world currently very unknown and uncertain for me reading has become a sanctuary. And whilst I know that it can be hard to settle down to reading when you are feeling anxious, the books I have read this month have truly transported me away from my own anxieties.
This translated thriller is a great spin on the genre. Part historical account of an enigmatic lion tamer who comes to live in a small French village, stirring up passions and suspicions in equal measure. The second part is the story of a couple, visiting a long abandoned house for a holiday which ends up providing them both with some much needed insight into their lives.
A meditation on modern life, on our reliance upon technology and the benefits of returning to nature, this is a book for this very unique moment in modern history,
There is a slow, creeping sense of dread which pervades the whole of the novel and I guarantee you’ve never read a book like it.
Girl in the Tree
The Girl in the Tree is the story of a young woman caught, like many of us, in a world which seems strange, separate and uncontrollable.
Beautiful, bold and a bit bonkers this novel is pure escapism.
Our unnamed heroine climbs a tree in her local park to escape the civil unrest and political climate of her native Istanbul. More than that she seeks to hide from her memories by removing herself from the present. And so she sets upon the idea that she will live in the highest tree she can find.
As we all know running away and hiding from our troubles rarely provides much of a solution and our heroine is bombarded with memories of those she has lost and the life she cannot return to. Piece by piece she reveals her turmoil to the reader.
The most unusual coming of age novel you’ll ever come across, a unique take on grief and a narrator who will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading.
Mermaid of Black Conch
A beautiful, lyrical and thoroughly modern fairytale. The language is written with the beat of the Caribbean island on which it is set. It is also hypnotic and compelling, the island is vividly drawn and the colours, smells and sights of the island explode from the page.
This short novel is set in St Constance, a tiny Caribbean village on the island of Black Conch, just at the beginning of the raining season. A fisherman sings to himself in his pirogue, waiting for a catch—but attracts a sea-dweller he doesn’t expect.
Aycayia, a beautiful young woman cursed by jealous wives to live as a mermaid, has been swimming the Caribbean Sea for centuries. And she is entranced by this man David and his song. As she comes to live on the land she brings her curse with her.
The Five tells the story of the supposed victims of Jack the Ripper.
The women in the book are real – they are mothers, daughters, sisters, wives. They had lovers and friends. They had lives. Whilst they are victims of one of the most notorious killers in history they were victims first of the society which restricted and then abandoned them. The inevitability of their fates, and how easily it might have been avoided, is the most heartbreaking part of each of their stories.
Rubenhold’s research makes these women real whilst also shining a light on the poverty and appalling conditions in which they lived. This is a very different Victorian England to the one normally found in fiction.
The final chapter provides real food for thought on what the perpetuation of the Ripper legend says about societal views towards women. The notion that these women were classified, and continue to be classified, as prostitutes with little or no evidence makes the story and their fates easier to digest. That somehow they were “asking for it”. It also makes it easier for their stories to be forgotten whilst the Ripper lives on in the public imagination.
This is an absolute must read for any historical fiction or true crime fan.
You Will Be Safe Here
I was delighted to join in with a Tandem readalong of this story of race, class and the reverberations of the social upheaval which has occured in South Africa. Poignant and shocking, it’s a book which will stay with you long after it is finished.
Two timelines are woven together, the first of the wife of a farmer owner during the Boer War whose life is turned upside down after she finds herself in a British run concentration camp. This section is heartbreaking and shines a light on an era of history which is little discussed.
The second timeline surrounds a misunderstood young man sent to a 21st century training camp, inspired by the ideals of the Boer War. I don’t want to say too much about how their stories are connected as I think it’s best to allow you to enjoy Barr’s wonderful storytelling for yourself.
The characters of each timeline are painted empathetically and in vivid detail. Your heart skips beats as Willem and Sarah van der Watt battle, in their own ways, to survive. I was utterly gripped and invested in their fates.
This book will break your heart, make you feel scared and angry. It will also make you feel uplifted.
Where We Belong
Something a little bit different for me, this lighthearted novel tells the story of Cate Morris, who has been left homeless after the breakdown and suicide of her husband. With no choice she and her son Leo move to her husband’s ancestral home, a place he rarely mentioned during his married life, the reason for which has long been a mystery. Can Cate and her son forge a new life living with the ghosts of her husband’s past life?
This is a delight of a novel which deals with some pretty large, and potentially triggering topics, such as mental health, suicide and disability. This adds depth to this well written feel-good novel.
For me the standout element of this novel was the setting – Hatters Museum of the Wide Wide World – a manor house filled with a menagerie of taxidermy animals and unusual characters. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a light read to see you through these times.
Your Ad Could Go Here
This is a quirky collection of short stories which I know I’ll drop in and out of. Like all short stories you’re dropped into action or into the mind of a character. After each story I was left with a sense of wonder and intrigue.
I also read the delightful Dutch House and Conjure Women both of which I have reviewed on here.
Have you read any of these books? How much reading did you manage to do in April?