Words on Wednesday: recent reading

The month of February was a dire month for reading. I started a book I didn’t like and couldn’t finish. Thanks to some light reading in terms of Sandi Toksvig’s memoirs, I got back in the mood again. So to what I have read recently. Starting from the bottom of the pile in the picture below and working up, A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing by Australian writer Jessie Tu is the tale of a young violinist, who had been a child prodigy, before having a break down. As a young adult, she uses men as an escape from her loneliness and the void left by her previous fame. It was an interesting exploration of a young woman coming to terms with who she is, but it won’t be for everyone – read this review to find out why.

The Glass House by Emily St John Mandel was the book I choose for this month’s work book club. The theme this was ‘a book set in two countries’ and this fitted the bill perfectly, being set on Vancouver Island and in New York. Part thriller, part mystery, it is the story of…well a failed Ponzi scheme, success and failure, the lives of a young woman who meets a rich man, her half-brother, and many important incidental characters. I quite enjoyed it, particular the unexpected moments, and would recommend it as a different sort of read. Some of you may have read here previous novel, Station Eleven, about a pandemic, which I haven’t done, and not sure if I want to in 2021!

Then we come to a problematic book. I had loved Curtis Sittenfeld’s most recent book Rodham, so had gone back to this earlier work of hers, Eligible, which is a modern take on Pride and Prejudice. I read that it was actually part of a series of the retelling of Austen’s tales, which this review thought pointless. I’m not sure that is fair, but while Eligible is well written and observed, I found the ‘prejudice’ elements far too many and far too obvious. It was almost as if she thought ‘how many modern prejudices can I get into one book?’. A pity as I so enjoyed the other book of hers, and have another one in my pile, as well as the short stories in the featured image (I’ve read one – about prejudice again). If you have read this book, what did you think?

And so we come to Lilian Jackson Braun’s The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers – whilst maybe not the best in the series, always perfect comfort reading for a Sunday afternoon.

In the non-fiction spot, I dipped in and out of The Best American Food Writing. These annual anthologies are always quite interesting, though sometimes I have a complete lack of cultural references with the collection being so US oriented. Still, it is good to learn! One of my favourite podcasts is 99% Invisible, so when I heard there was a book coming out, I had to get it. I managed to find a copy a few weeks ago (books are one of the things suffering under Covid supply chain issues), and it is a lovely book to browse with so many interesting stories stemming the podcast.

Finally, I have been enjoying reading this month’s Cuisine magazine, and have re-read Peter Gordon’s Savour for inspiration as summer ends and autumn approaches.

Have you read anything good recently?

You can find Thistles and Kiwis on Facebook, and also on Instagram@thistleandkiwis.  As for Twitter….am totally inactive these days.  If you want to get in touch, email me on thistlesandkiwis@gmail.com

16 Comments

  1. Here is my take on “Eligible.” It was a good modern retelling of “Pride and Prejudice,” but it didn’t have the power of the original because the stakes for all the female protagonists were nonexistent. In “Pride and Prejudice, if Elizabeth and Jane had not married well, then the consequences would have been dire for them for the rest of their lives. (For a time, Jane Austen, her mother, and sister were essentially homeless, bouncing from relative to relative to relative.) None of the characters in “Eligible” were in that situation at all. If they hadn’t married, they would have been fine.

    I just finished reading Colson Whitehead’s “The Nickel Boys.” What a terrific book! Highly recommend it. Set in the early 1960s in the U.S.’s Jim Crow South, it’s about two black kids who get sent to an abusive reform school called Nickel Academy. Harrowing to read, and I ached for the boys.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eligible – I hadn’t thought about that – excellent point. Of course, there is still a bit of a stigma about non married women, and childless women. It is surprising where these prejudices turn up too!

      Oh the book you have just finished sounds too harrowing for me but what an interesting read.

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      1. I think poor women also have it harder, but the women in Eligible seemed as though they would be fine no matter how things turned out for them romantically. Yes, The Nickel Boys is indeed harrowing but so very good.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Well, I have turned to historical fiction lately. Last book was Claudius the God by Robert Graves, the sequel to I, Claudius. Currently I am reading A Place of Greater Safety, a novel of the French Revolution by Hilary Mantel. Both are fascinating and entertaining, but frequently grim if not downright horrifying.

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  3. Interesting to read your opinion of ‘The Glass House’ as I recently read ‘Station Eleven’ which is not as harrowing as other dystopian novels I’ve read, and very well written. A good read.

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  4. I’m struggling with fiction at the moment; I think most of my energy is going into reading as research (lots of old recipes books, stuff on fibre art and Freda Stark!). I did finally get a copy of The Midnight Library and really enjoyed that.

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    1. I have to say that recent fiction has left me quite neutral and not at all ‘excited’! I had to look up Freda Stark – gosh she sounds like a fantastic person to research! I gave The Midnight Library to a friend but haven’t read it myself. Might give it a go.

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      1. I feel the same way.

        I should have explained the Freda Stark reference. I’m planning a post on her for my Headstones and Hidden Histories series, and have become totally caught up in her life, and in the trials of the man convicted of killing her lover. Fascinating look at NZ in the 1930s!

        Have you read Becky Manawatu’s Aue? I struggled and have put it aside, and would be interested in your thoughts.

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  5. I’ve been reading some non-fiction this week, one book was a true story about a mongrel mob’s life then conversion to Christianity, I couldn’t put it down.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I just finished The Library Book by Susan Orleans. A non-fiction account of a 1980s massive (but overlooked) fire in the Los Angeles Central Library that destroyed millions of books, The Library Book weaves history, mini biographies, reflections and “who done it” with engaging prose. I want to read it again!

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