Apologies in advance for the length of this post! The beginning of maternity leave, quieter days and a few very compelling books already had March off to a strong reading start – but since isolation and Coronavirus lockdown have been upon us, books have become one of my lifelines and I just haven’t been able to get enough of them. They’ve provided such a wonderful escapism in an uncertain time and I’ve so enjoyed everything I’ve read this month, which has been a real variety; so have written at least a little about each one just the same, just in case they’re any inspiration to anyone else coping with this crisis in the same way as me!
Letters on Motherhood – Giovanna Fletcher
This month started with an evening out on the 1st with my lovely friend, to the big city for a rare child-free drink, dinner, catch-up and then to Giovanna Fletcher’s launch of her beautiful new book, Letters on Motherhood. It was a wonderful night, and a privilege to hear her talk with warmth and humour about parenthood in general and about this book in particular. I thoroughly enjoyed both our night and reading the book afterwards.
Unashamedly sentimental, this is a collection of thoughts and essays gathered in letter form, mostly to Giovanna’s three sons and husband, but to many others too, from her own parents, to another struggling mum in a waiting room, to her body itself as its role has changed over time; touching on so many aspects of life as a parent and writing with warmth, honesty and tenderness about each one.
Killing Floor – Lee Child
Despite having always loved crime fiction, I had never actually read a Jack Reacher novel before – although had been meaning to such a long time as my dad and grandad are both big fans and have read every one. For my last birthday my dad had given me this book, the very first in the series, published back in 1997, and I’d been really looking forward to finding time to read it.
Killing Floor was action-packed, pacy and full of twists I didn’t see coming that had me swinging from one chapter to the next without pausing to take a breath: – and Jack Reacher is a character I’m very glad to have met and can imagine would really grow from book to book. I did struggle a little with some of the more violent parts (I realise I make myself a very tricky customer for the genre because I love all the thriller aspects so much but struggle sometimes when it gets a bit grittier!) but I really enjoyed the style (despite Child being English a very American one that reminded me a lot of Karin Slaughter, one of my longest-standing favourites); and as a long-awaited introduction to one of crime fiction’s biggest characters, I really enjoyed it.
Bookworm – A Memoir of Childhood Reading – Lucy Mangan
A truly special book and one I can’t express how much I loved, Bookworm is a beautifully written and heartfelt tribute to the books of Lucy Mangan’s childhood – and of mine. Leant to me by my mum, who knew as soon as she read it how much I’d enjoy it, I felt reading it as if it could have been written just for me – or in fact even by me, as so very many of the books she’d chosen to highlight were those that had defined my own growing-up years.
The great achievement of this book might be that somehow Mangan has achieved this for most of her readers, and has done so with such passion and such vivid nostalgia that this is a book that cannot help but be read with the same drive and the same child-like abandon that all those classics she covered were once read with. It’s no exaggeration to say that this book transported me back not just to all the wonderful novels it reminicses over but also to what it is to really, single-mindedly and devotedly read. I honestly could not have enjoyed this more and would recommend to anyone who grew up loving books.
Mostly, the titles Mangan looks at are those I’ve never forgotten, still on my shelf and in many cases still frequently re-read; but even more special were those that came up that I’d all-but forgotten – and definitely won’t again, having been given this wonderful reminder of what it is to really and truly love the books that shaped us.
A few well-loved favourites from my own shelf that cropped up in Lucy Mangan’s memories too
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
I went straight from Bookworm to one of the many wonderful books it covered – Little Women, which I hadn’t actually re-read since childhood, and had been very keen to, especially since watching Greta Gerwig’s beautiful and fresh 2019 film adaption of it a few months back. Returning to it now, I found it everything I’d remembered and more, and I so enjoyed reading such a sustaining and inspiring novel of perseverence and dignity just as our world took an unsteadying jolt. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are both comforting and inspiring company, and I plan to read through the other books in the series – actually for the first time, having realised I’ve never got beyond this first volume before – in the coming months too.
My Sister, The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
This was my library book club book for this month, and is a quirky, captivating and fast-paced novel encompassing family, crime and loyalty – set in Nigeria with a strong sense of culture and place. I really enjoyed it, powered through it very quickly, and really look forward to getting into discussing it in our now online book club “meet up” at the beginning of April.
This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor – Adam Kay
Another book I’d heard and read so much about and had been looking forward to reading for a while, Adam Kay’s poignant but funny memoir lived up to its reputation for being utterly full of both humour and heartbreak, giving a very real no-holds-barred insight into life as junior doctor – a book that is as important and relevant as it is engaging, and one I’d definitely recommend.
A Modern Family – Helga Flatland
A Modern Family is a resonant and sensitively-written portrayal of a very ordinary family caught in what becomes a moment of great personal change for all of them, collectively and individually. Reflective and considered, its insight into the minds and lives of the different characters is subtle and moving, and its descriptions of family dynamics so startlingly on point. Translated from Norwegian by Rosie Hedger, its painting of the Norway in which it is set, as well as rural Italy where the novel opens, are also beautifully written and add to this intricate and captivating novel.
Anne of Avonlea – L.M. Montgomery
I have ended the month and gratefully begun a new one at last in the company of one of my truly all-time favourite characters – and kindred spirit ❤️ – Anne Shirley; breathing in the world of Avonlea once more, smiling at the gossip of Rachel Lynde, falling a little more in love with Gilbert Blythe in every scene, taking solace in the rough warmth of Marilla Cuthbert and gazing in wonder with Anne at the shining, glittering scenery of Prince Edward Island. Returning to this series, one of my most beloved of all (and of course one covered at length in Bookworm too, as it would naturally have to be ❤️) was such a wonderfully comforting retreat in this dystopian world, and can definitely see myself working my way through this series again over the next little while.
Hope this finds you all safe and well, take care all. Xx