September Reading Summary

Once again, I am jumping the gun a little with my September reading summary, as I don’t think I’ll have time to squeeze anything more in that isn’t intended for next month.

My reading got a little aimless and desultory during September, after a few really good months with very high-quality books. I struggled to really immerse myself in these books, which might explain why I’ve judged them more harshly than usual. There were two that really stood out for me, however, and for very different reasons. Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year was stark, gripping and revelatory, while Alison Anderson’s The Summer Guest was wistful, dreamy and transported me to a better time and place.

On paper, I have read ten books, but two of those were very short indeed: a children’s book (Little Old Mrs Pepperpot, which I’m reading for the #1956Club) and a book of cartoons about the challenges of wearing a hijab in a Western country Yes, I’m Hot in This by Huda Fahmy. So, in reality, I have read eight books, of which two in translation. The Englightenment of the Greengage Tree by Shokoofeh Azar was interesting in its ‘stories within stories’ structure and truly beautifully written in parts, but rather hard reading in terms of subject matter. Also, I’ve never been a huge fan of magical realism, but I can certainly see the point of it to describe – and make bearable – the atrocities perpetuated here. Book burning, rape, torture, death and ghosts everywhere you look.

I was searching for comfort reads this month above all, but in truth found even the tried and tested categories of crime/suspense fiction a bit hard to click with. Stina Jackson’s The Silver Road seemed to howl with dreary loneliness and isolation. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters had far too many pages about that boring English class system to make up for the few genuine moments of ghostly frisson. Even Doug Johnstone, who’s proved a reliable writer for me in the past, did not quite win me over with A Dark Matter – probably because I was expecting it to be black comedy in the style of Antti Tuomainen. While I enjoyed Amanda Craig’s The Lie of the Land probably far more than Jonathan Coe’s Middle England as a depiction of current English society (it was stuffed to the gills with sharp, witty observations of gender relations and family tensions), it did all go unnecessarily bonkers towards the end with the murder mystery part of it.

So that leaves Leonard and Hungry Paul by Ronan Hession, which so many assured me was the perfect sweet, gentle book for these troubled times. I have to admit I was reading it the weekend Barney died, and it was probably the only book I could possibly have read during that time. It was indeed a placid, even-tempered book with decent characters and touching interactions, people being kind and helpful, or at the very least apologising when they get things wrong. A little too sweet for my taste, perhaps, as I was constantly expecting someone to go amok, commit fraud or murder someone, but I liked its humour and the non-judgemental relationship between the two friends. It almost makes you believe in a nicer world – and don’t we all need a hope like that?

So I apologise for my general grumpiness this month. It’s been a very busy one at work, an emotionally gruelling one, an anxious one with the boys going back to school and no seeming respite from grim news worldwide. Next month, with Penelope Fitzgerald and Romain Gary to steady my ship, I hope to have a more pleasant tale to tell.



9 thoughts on “September Reading Summary”

  1. Am loving your appreciation for The Summer Guest, and looking forward to your thoughts on any Penelope Fitzgerald you are reading. I always enjoy your sharing of thoughts.

  2. I was the only one in our reading group who loathed Leonard and Hungry Paul, finding it smug and stilted and irritating. But like you, I got a lot out of The Lie of the Land. The rest I haven’t read, but A Journal of the Plague Year is on the list!

  3. I’ve been on the waiting list at the library for Leonard and Hungry Paul for almost a year – apparently everyone in my city wants to read it! I love a gentle kind book about friendship, though I have to be in the right mood for it or I get irritated – so your comments make me the more eager to pick it up.

  4. The Summer Guest might make a good winter read for me, brightening up the dark nights a bit. I’m glad you felt the same abaout Jonathan Coe as I did. Amazed it baggfed a Costa!

  5. I’ve been wanting to read The Summer Guest, Marina Sofia. Thanks for reminding me that that one is on my list. And about A Dark Matter, I have to agree with you. I haven’t been drawn into it the way I hoped I would be. Perhaps it’s just the sort of month September has been. At any rate, I’m glad you found a few things that really engaged you.

  6. I’m sorry you’ve not had a great reading month – sometimes we don’t engage, and I’ve struggled at times too this month with a couple of skim reads (most unusual for me). I think the mojo has come back, though – hope you have a better October!

  7. Oh, Marina Sofia, I’m so sorry to hear that Barney died. His time with you may have been short but it was obvious he’d wormed his way into your heart. So hard when we lose one of our loved companions.

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