September 2020 Round Up

So life’s been slightly crazy and I may have been a little absent for the last month but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading so here’s another monthly round up.

Grown Ups (Audiobook)

  • Author: Marian Keyes
  • Publisher: Michael Joseph, 2020
  • Summary: The Casey’s are a glamourous family that spend a lot of time together. And they’re a happy family…at least on the surface. But when Cara, Ed Casey’s wife, bumps her head and can’t keep her mouth shut, the many family secrets start to unravel.
  • Rating: 3/5

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race (Audiobook)

  • Author: Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Circus, 2017
  • Summary: Awar-winning jouranlist, Reni Eddo-Lodge, offers an illuminating and necessary exploration of what it is to be black in Britain today.
  • Rating: 4/5

My Dark Vanessa

  • Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate, 2020
  • Summary: In this original novel, a 15-year-old girl has what she understand as a loving, sexually awakening relationship with her teacher. However, years later, in a post-Me-too era, she is 32 and he has been accused of sexually abusing another former student, forcing Vanessa to confront it for what it was, and redefine what she thought was a great love story as abuse.
  • Rating: 4/5

The Graduate

  • Author: Charles Webb
  • Publisher: Penguin Books, 1999
  • Summary: The iconic novel of how college graduate, Benjamine Braddock, returns home feeling disillusioned with his future and starts an affair with his parents’ friend; Mrs Robinson.
  • Rating: 3/5

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

  • Author: Maggie O’Farrell
  • Publisher: Headline Review, 2013
  • Summary: In the middle of tending to her vintage clothing shop and avoiding her married boyfriend, Iris Lockhart receives a phone call informing her that a great-aunt, Esme Lennox, whom she’s never heard of, is being released from Cauldstone Psychiatric Hospital, where she’s spent the last 60 years of her life.
  • Rating: 5/5

Why be Happy when you can be Normal?

Jeannette Winterson

Jeannette Winterson is a favourite author of mine, having first read Oranges are not the only Fruit as a queer teenager, and so I’ve been meaning to read her memoir for quite a while know. I ended up buying it on a whim when recently browsing books and I am so glad that I did.

Winterson’s memoir is something of a companion novel to Oranges, which Winterson refers to as ‘the story I could live with at the time’ with the reality being a far bleaker tale. Winterson writes with a desperation for the reader to understand her experience of being beaten or left to sit on the doorstep all night. However, despite this the memoir is filled with enough quirky little eccentricities that you never get beaten down, left unable to finish. Instead there is a desire to understand how this impressive author made it to Oxford and went on to live the life she did.

Winterson perfectly walks the line between revealing what her life has been like and choosing to hold back so as to remain a level of privacy. Although there are certain things Winterson chooses not to share, as is clear from her choice to unapologetically jump 25 years into the future, at no point do you feel entitled to the information as it simply seems too personal or too difficult to be shared. You are very aware that you are only privy to exactly what Winterson has chosen to share and that’s how you feel most comfortable reading about some of the lowest points in her life.

However, what is truly remarkable about this memoir is the absence of anger found in it, which is unexpected given the treatment of Winterson as a child. Winterson’s adoptive parents are never presented as objects of fury but mere products of the ill-treatment they themselves were on the receiving end of. Given everything you read about the treatment of Winterson by her adoptive parents this is an incredible feat as you would expect anyone to feel resentful or frustrated at the childhood they had to endure, yet Winterson’s memoir presents as a mere tragedy of circumstances. Whilst there is no justifying how Mr and Mrs Winterson treated Jeannette, there is also an absence blame through there being explanations for their behaviour. They had difficult lives and parented the only way they knew how.

I would absolutely recommend this moving piece of writing to anyone who is a fan of a memoir or Winterson’s writing. It is deeply tragic but incredibly interesting and should not be skipped over.

April 2020 Round Up

The one upside to being in lockdown, if there even is one, is that I’ve had plenty of time to read this month.

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

  • Author: Cho Nam-Joo
  • Publisher: 14th October 2016, Minumsa
  • Summary: The novel depicts the everyday sexism experienced by Kim Jiyoung from being a young girl to becoming a housewife and stay-at-home mother.
  • Rating: 5/5

Girl, Woman, Other

  • Author: Bernardine Evaristo
  • Publisher: 1998, Vintage
  • Summary: Follows the lives of twelve different characters, most of whom are women, most of whom are people of colour.
  • Rating: 5/5

Queenie

  • Author: Candice Carty-Williams
  • Publisher: 19th March 2019, Orion Publishing
  • Summary: Queenie Jenkins is a young Jamaican British woman living in London and trying to cope after a messy break up with her long-term white boyfriend.
  • Rating: 4/5

The Night Circus

  • Author: Erin Morgenstern
  • Publisher:2012, Vintage
  • Summary: The Night Circus arrives without any warning and disappears as though it was never there to begin with. Visitors marvel at the wonders inside but they know little of the true secrets of the circus.
  • Rating: 5/5

Normal People (Novel)

  • Author: Sally Rooney
  • Publisher: August 2018, Faber and Faber
  • Summary: Marianne and Connell try to maintain their relationship in the face of class differences whilst transition from high school to university.
  • Rating: 4/5

Normal People (BBC TV Adaptation)

  • Network: BBC One
  • Original Novel: Normal People by Sally Rooney
  • Synopsis: See above summary.
  • Rating: 4/5

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

  • Author: Matthew Walker
  • Publisher: 3rd October 2017, Penguin Random House
  • Summary: A popular science book about the science behind why we sleep.
  • Rating: 3/5

Thanks for reading, keep an eye out for my reviews of Normal People and The Night Circus over the next week, or follow the blog to receive email alerts!

Why we Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

Matthew Walker

I recently listened to this book as an audio book and it was fascinating, not just because of what I found out behind the science behind sleep but because of how much I found out we still don’t know about sleep. Matthew Walker is a professor of neuroscience and psychology and director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California and so he is more than qualified to write this book.

At the start of the book, Walker tells the reader that they are more than welcome to pick and choose the chapters they read and when they read them, and I would definitely recommend this approach to the book. As an individual without any scientific background beyond GCSE level, I found that attempting to read the book cover to cover was slightly overwhelming and instead much preferred to dip in and out of the book. This was also one of the reasons why I chose to listen to it as an audio book, because I remained more engaged in a topic I am less well versed in than if I had been reading it.

The book is divided into four sections, each made up of four or five chapters, covering everything from why we sleep the amount we do, the impact jet lag has on our sleep and how sleeping pills work. This means that Walker successfully interweaves his advice for healthier sleep habits with the science of why we sleep.

A favourite chapter of mine was about how we sleep and why we need to sleep for the recommended 8-9 hours a night. The chapter explores the differences between REM and non-REM sleep, and compares how our sleep patterns differ across different species and why this is the case. I also particularly enjoyed finding out about how sleeping pills work and why they may not be the solution to insomnia that they are often thought of.