I’ve been on uni holidays this month so I was able to prioritise reading in a way I’ve neglected for a while. It’s been lovely being able to read without the pressure of assignments, and to read books of choice as well as books for next trimester. I finished nine books this month.
Three of those books were nonfiction, and each offered me something I needed at the time. Levels of Life (Julian Barnes) is a personal essay about grief after his wife dies. The first two parts (of three) tell stories of hot air ballooning, while the third part is an insightful, heartbreaking, beautiful look into grief and what life is like when someone you love is absent. The hot air ballooning confused me to begin with, but ties in well with the third part and makes the book even more unique and lovable. A well-deserved 5 of 5 stars.
The other two nonfiction books were Christian. Defiant Joy (Stasi Eldredge), which I gave 5 of 5 stars, and Without Rival (Lisa Bevere), which was a reread and stayed at a 4 of 5 stars. Defiant Joy captures the heart of life’s hardships and our ultimate call to joy, and I was challenged and encouraged in every chapter. Without Rival was a reread and a good reminder that God is unlike any other, and that we were all created without needing to compete with one another, as we all have our own purpose.
While visiting my family for a week I reread two novels that my Mum owns, each being old favourites of mine. The Nightingale (Agnes Sligh Turnball) and Strait is the Gate (Marjorie Buckingham), both 5 of 5 stars and a perfect balance of lovely characters, spiritual insight, and captivating plots. Both are older stories set in small towns; cosy books for a winter’s day.
I also completed three novels for university, Five Bells (Gail Jones), Girl With a Monkey (Thea Astley), and The Town (Shaun Prescott). Five Bells tells the story of five strangers as they wander around Sydney Harbour for a day, with flashbacks about their pasts, and an intriguing connection that only comes to light towards the end. I gave this novel 3 of 5 stars for the fact this connection came too late and wasn’t focused upon; I wish it had been given more attention, as the build and backstory weren’t worth the ending. Felt almost like a waste.
Girl With the Monkey was a 4 of 5 stars, maybe because it was shorter and easier to get through. Again, the story tells of our protagonist on her last day in a small town before moving for work as she tries to avoid her creepy ex, with flashbacks telling of how they met and of her life leading to this point. While this sounds like a badly written Netflix movie, it was written in 1958 which gives it an interesting flavor.
The Town I gave 3 of 5 stars. It began with high potential; the characters were mundane and quirky, the town was odd and intriguing. The main character had a somewhat dry humour that I appreciated. But about halfway through, things became too unrealistic, as the town (it doesn’t have a name) begins to literally disappear. These holes just appear out of nowhere, sucking the town, and some people, into the unknown. The book got even worse when the narrator and friend decide to leave the town and drive to the city, where nothing happens but their own demise.
On top of these I also read the incredibly popular Normal People (Sally Rooney), which I gave 4 of 5 stars. I’ve pretty much given up on contemporary fiction because I’ve spent too much money in the past on books that are barely worth reading once. I gave this one a chance, however, and did end up liking it. Told in third person, the story follows Connell and Marianne from high school to university. It skips time in large chunks, only giving flashbacks to the moments important to their odd relationship. Think on-again off-again, miscommunication, and lots of hurt. While I didn’t love the plot, I did love the blunt writing (no purple prose here) and dive into relationships that work even when they shouldn’t and don’t work when they should. I can see why it was made into a tv series, but I can’t see myself leaping to watch it.
What a satisfying reading month. I do wish I was better at reading during trimesters, but it’s hard to be motivated and to find the brain power to take in a book. Still, that’s what holidays are for and I enjoyed mine immensely.