April Summary and Plans for May

Being alone for the Easter holidays had its upside: I got a LOT of reading done this month. Sadly, the (poetry and novel) writing is still missing in action, but I’m dipping my toes into the warm, friendly waters of blogging once more.


Here are some stats for the fans. A total of 20 books, although there was one I abandoned after about 45 pages. 7 books were either in another language or in translation; 11 were written by women (and one was an anthology, so I suppose you could count 12). An unusually high number of non-fiction reads for me: 4. One of them was a radio play, or what I’ve chosen to call an audio book. Above all, an unusually high number of reviews. I reviewed three for the #1965Club, which was really enjoyable: Ion Vinea’s Lunatics, Margaret Forster’s Georgy Girl and Arkady and Boris Strugatsky’s Monday Starts on Saturday. [I reviewed one that I’d finished much earlier for the #EU27Project, but that shouldn’t be counted.] And I very briefly mentioned and reviewed seven of this month’s books in this post.

However, that still leaves the following to review: Patrick Delperdange’s Si Tous les dieux nous abandonnent (for Belgium for #EU27Project) and Paris Babylon by Rupert Christiansen, The Paris Commune by Donny Gluckstein and Guy Gunaratne’s In Our Mad and Furious City for my special project in May (see below).

I won’t be reviewing several books that I read for sheer fun, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy them. Island of the Mad is set in Venice in the early Mussolini years, and is Laurie R. King’s latest instalment in the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, which I used to adore a few years back, but have grown out of the habit of reading. As an expat and cultural anthropologist, of course I was amused by Sarah Moss’ account of a year of living in Iceland in Names for the Sea. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips is a hilarious reimagining of the Greek gods living in a scruffy shared house in present-day London and trying to maintain some kind of control over their powers. Finally, Bats in the Belfry by ECR Lorac is a typical Golden Age crime novel, with some great humour and atmospheric scenes, although somewhat too convoluted to be 100% enjoyable.

Book Hauls

I have also conveniently ‘forgotten’ about my book buying ban this month. Not only did I stop and browse and buy at The Second Shelf, I also ordered online the Strugatsky brothers’ book and a book by Swiss author of Romanian origin Raluca Antonescu (who will be appearing at a literary festival in Lausanne – if I can’t be there, at least I can vicariously partake in her fame). Of course, I also made the mistake of looking at those nasty little shelves of remainders and second-hand books that Waterstones Gower Street puts out on the pavement for people to stumble over… and came away with just two small purchases: Meike Ziervogel’s Clara’s Daughter and one of my favourite YA books (although it appeared before YA became a well-established genre): Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle. I also borrowed a few books from the library: a volume of plays by Botho Strauss, one of the books in the Patrick Melrose cycle (I haven’t ever read any nor seen the latest series starring Benedict Cumberbatch) and a non-fiction historical title that I have high hopes for: Hallie Rubenhold’s well-researched untold stories of the five victims of Jack the Ripper.

Since I will be going to Newcastle Noir next week (albeit briefly – Friday afternoon and Saturday morning only) and Bristol Crimefest the week after, I don’t have high hopes that I will escape with my wallet unscathed and my bookshelves unencumbered.

Plans for May

My main reading goal for the following month is reading and reviewing books about the Paris Commune (which was mercilessly crushed in May 1871). In addition to the non-fiction I’ve already read in preparation, I am also reading two fictional accounts of the events: Jean Vautrin’s Le Cri du peuple, which I believe started life as a series of graphic novels (BD) but is now available in novel format; and Émile Zola’s The Debacle, penultimate novel in his Rougon-Macquart series and his bestselling one of the series during his lifetime (probably because of the proximity to the events described, although he published it at a safe distance of 21 years). I will be reading the latter together with Emma from Book Around the Corner, who will also be posting her review towards the end of May. I’ll be reading it in French, which will slow me down considerably (hence I’m leaving a whole month for it), but as you can see from the picture, it is easily available in English, if you want to join in with us!

19 thoughts on “April Summary and Plans for May”

    1. Write something soon about what? My own writing? Well, I’m doing a bit of an accountability challenge this month to write something every day. But whether it will be any productive ‘something’, who knows?

  1. The Five is absolutely fantastic – I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The Zola looks fun (having just finished Trollope’s Barsetshire Chronicles, I am casting about for another ridiculously long classic series and am eyeing up the Rougon-Macquart novels). And Gods Behaving Badly sounds like a good thing for me to send those of my customers who love comic fiction!

    1. Ah, but if you start with the entire Zola, you will probably not want to read The Debacle out of order. I’ve read a couple of others in the series, but I don’t care about continuity.

      1. I found a clever little suggested reading order (Zola’s own!) online – starting with The Fortune of the Rougons seems like a good idea.

    1. There are some advantages to being divorced and alone for the Easter holidays. I don’t understand people who claim to feel lonely – I was just really happy to be able to rest and get plenty of reading done!

  2. I’m so glad you had time to yourself, and time to read, Marina Sofia. It sounds as though the reading was enjoyable, too, which is even better. That #1965 Club does sound like fun; perhaps there’ll be another year of interest?

  3. Le Monde had an article recently about a study by the CNL – Centre National du Livre, according to which the “grands lecteurs/grandes lectrices” are those people that read 20 or more books … per year! Glad you had such a fruitful Easter weekend.

    1. Well, it was an exceptional month – not likely to be repeated any time soon. Yes, I find it hard to believe there are people who read fewer than 10 books a year… But I guess they read lots of online things and probably watch lots of telly!

  4. I love I Capture the Castle, I have read it twice. I am mightily impressed with 20 books, I think I have done 10, I need to check. My usual monthly round up will be a day late this time, as I am having this evening off, so will do it tomorrow and post on Thursday instead. ☺️

  5. Fab reading – quite a month! I am tempted by the Zola but I’ve still to read any of his works so this might not be the best place to drop in – what do you think? I’m not sure if I’ll *ever* get to reading them e.g. in order, but would this one make sense completely out of context or do you need to have knowledge of other books/events?

    1. Since it’s virtually the last book in the series, I was a bit worried about that too. However, I’m a few chapters in and, to be honest, haven’t found anything there yet to cast a cloud over my enjoyment of it (I say enjoy, but it’s actually very poignant).

  6. I am so impressed by your reading feat in April: 20 books. I also read over the Easter/Passover holiday and this past weekend. I did read Galbraith/Rowling’s 647-page doorstop “Lethal White,” of which I have mixed minds, and some other books in April. But quantity isn’t my strong point. And I’m not the best at culling out books I’m not into.
    I’ll look up some of your reads as I haven’t heard of many of the titles. Maybe living on different continents does that.
    I do watch TV and read a lot of blogs and now I’m watching a TV series online.

  7. I don’t think you’ll escape with your wallet intact after going to those book festivals. Too tempting.

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