My reading took more of a hit then it ever has in my whole life when Fliss was born. Sheer exhaustion took over and only one book was finished between November and the end of the year. Things are gradually getting better now, and if anyone can give me any tips for getting enough light at night feeds to read one handed they’d be most appreciated!
The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard. I’m bunching five books in this series together here; The Light Years, Marking Time, Confusion, Casting Off and All Change. I was not expecting to love these as much as I did; I remember a TV adaption from a few years ago which was enjoyable but not astonishing. It was such a nice surprise to discover just how good these books are. They follow the upper middle class Cazelet family from their gilded life pre-war right the way through to austerity Britain of the 1950s. Howard has stated she wanted to explore the huge changes in British women’s lives wrought during these years with these books. She does this admirably and it is one of the great strengths of this series and why I loved them so much. The female characters are more varied and well drawn than in any novel I can remember for quite some time. The final book is perhaps the weakest – it was published a long time after the others – but it still ties up loose ends nicely.
Walking Away by Simon Armitage. I loved the first incarnation of this book – Walking Home – about poet Simon Armitage’s walk along the penine way as a modern day troubadour, relying on poetry readings to earn his bread and board. I was hugely excited to see he’d done a follow up walking the south west coast path as this is the long distance walk I have actually done bits of (not much though I confess). It’s a mixture of autobiography and travelogue with the odd poem thrown in. Armitage is always a good companion as he’s laugh out loud funny and his meditations on the different characters of the northern and southern landscapes are gorgeous. I saved this to read on holiday in Cornwall this summer (appropriately enough), and even thinking about takes me straight back to sunshine and Cornish beaches.
Love, Nina: Despatches From Family Life by Nina Stibbe. I can’t remember where I first heard about this book, as on the surface it’s possibly not the most obvious subject for a good read. It’s the collection of letters that the author wrote to her sister during the 80s when working as an au pair for the editor of the London Review of Books. It includes regular accounts of Alan Bennett coming round for tea. It’s a funny and sweet read with touches of the Adrian Mole (a huge compliment).
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. It has been suggested I am a little like the central character of The Mindy Project by my dear husband. Being a fan of this and the American Office I was keen to read this autobiography, part of a bit of spate of books by US female comedians. Kaling is incredibly good company and I gobbled this up, and I would really like to hang out with Mindy Kaling was the main thing confirmed by this book.
The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. This seems to be one of the books you see everywhere at the moment. It looks at the different ways two lives could go depending on how their first meeting went. Their loves, their children and their careers take completely different paths as a result, with the different worlds being explored in alternate chapters. I was moderately enjoying it all the way through, but couldn’t really see what the fuss was about. The end absolutely transformed it for me into a book that I thoroughly enjoyed (and made me sob which is always a good sign that you’ve truly connected with a book).
The Almost Nearly Perfect People: The Truth About the Nordic Miracle by Michael Booth. I had been wanting to read this book for ages until I came across it in one of my favourite second-hand bookshops. How serendipitous is that for a reasonably obscure book? I wanted to learn more about Scandinavia after reading A Year of Living Danishly earlier in the year. This is a less rose-tinted version of Scandinavia (and it does cover all five Scandinavian countries: Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland), but it is still fascinating. The author is a little bit biased though as he is obviously very anti the high level of taxation he has to pay in Scandinavia and this is always viewed as a negative – he doesn’t explore what people are getting for their taxes at all – and frankly he comes across as a bit whingey.
The Road to Little Dribbling: More Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson. I thoroughly enjoyed this follow up to Notes on a Small Island twenty years later. Bryson again travels round the UK, both to obvious tourist hotspots and some more unusual locations. I love travelling in the UK and enjoyed Bryson’s old man rants a little bit more than I should at my age.
Close Encounters of the Furred Kind by Tom Cox. I’m always a fan of Tom Cox’s writing about his coterie of cats, most famously ‘Why my cat is sad’ star The Bear. I had to read the newest installment as soon as it came out, and it is a very enjoyable read as ever. It was also the only book my poor brain could take after a few too many sleepless nights with a newborn!