What I’m Reading: November ’14

It’s been quite a long while since I filled you in on what I was reading, and I’ve churned through quite a few bits and pieces since then. Of course, most of what I’ve read has been for Uni so there have been a lot of plays (The Good Person of Szechuan, Waiting for Godot, A Raisin in the Sun and Who’s Afraid of the Working Class have been my faves), a lot of articles about modern European political history (I’ve become fascinated by the Soviet Union, the GDR and Thatcherism) and my Sociology textbook (Susie Scott’s Making Sense of Everyday Life; I can highly recommend it). I’ve started collecting a stash of books to read over summer too, but perhaps that will constitute a whole separate post..?
Anyway, here are my thoughts on some of the books I’ve recently read in my (very limited) spare time. I won’t give any plot overviews because I figure they’re easy enough to find on the interwebs anyway; I’ll just give you my perspective.

The First Week – Margaret Merilees
the first week
To be honest, it took me a long time to warm to this one. It took me two attempts to get on a roll and even then, I wasn’t a big fan of any of the characters. What kept me reading was the intrigue of what Marian’s son had done and Merilees’s vivid descriptions of the rural Western Australian landscape – particularly because the book was based on some of her own experiences. I think it’s important to support local writers, and Merilees is certainly a very good one. My persistence did ultimately pay off because the story stayed with me for quite a while after I turned the final page, however I wouldn’t recommend this novel to everyone.

N-W – Zadie Smith
n-w
This is another one that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with – I know, not off to a great start, am I? I think that most people are either pro-London or pro-New York when it comes to a big city setting, and I’m definitely on London’s side. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been there twice and so some of the places are more familiar to me. Perhaps it’s because I get excited butterflies in my tummy at the thought of going to live in London, but New York seems far bigger and scarier and gives me heart palpitations of the scared variety. In any case, the setting of this novel and Smith’s unique style of writing initially drew me in; I was inspired by both. Unfortunately, I haven’t stayed in that captivated state. My interest has ebbed and flowed and even though I’m almost at the end, I don’t think I’ve really learnt anything. The only revelations I’ve had have been of style rather than content (particularly the numbered, episodic middle section). I haven’t really found myself rooting for any of the characters. I shall persist mostly out of stubbornness rather than interest, and I’m hoping the ending will be more satisfying than the rest has been so far.

Dear Fatty – Dawn French
dear fatty
By golly, French is hilarious! I mean, I already knew that but this autobiography reaffirmed my belief. This is such an enjoyable read; easy to smash out in one burst or dip in and out of, whichever method is more your thang. I could relate to so many of her reflections on the absurdity of acting and drama school; her tales of famous friendships and adventure through London’s comedy scene less so, but they were just as fascinating to me. French tells her story in her typically unapologetic, unabashed, unafraid style, making Dear Fatty a heck of a lot of fun as well as seriously touching.

Not That Kind of Girl – Lena Dunham
Not That Kind of Girl
I was actually really impressed with Lena Dunham’s writing style. I love her TV show, Girls, but it can get a bit whiny at times. Despite critics saying the same of Not That Kind of Girl, I actually found it far less grating and far more engaging. It’s the sort of memoir I wish I had had at the age of sixteen or seventeen; it probably would have been far more revelatory and engaging. In saying that, still found the book extremely engaging and I found a lot of reassurance in some of the chapters. Dunham presents her story in a similarly unapologetic way as French, and I think that’s why I ended up enjoying it so much and why I would recommend it to other young women. I think it’s important for everyone to be at peace with their own stories and Not That Kind of Girl has helped me appreciate certain aspects of my own.

Womankind Magazine
womankind
Womankind may be on the more expensive end of the mag spectrum, but I reckon it’s worth it as a substitute for your average mainstream lady’s mags. Not only is Womankind without advertisements (YAY!), it features stunning artwork rather than airbrushed stock images of the ‘lady laughs whilst eating salad’, ‘lady laughs in bikini’ and ‘lady looks longingly into the distance at the reminder of how single and alone she is’ varieties. Womankind’s content is smart, well-considered and focused on ‘big ideas’. For example, this month’s Cosmo includes riveting articles like ’17 signs its #forrealsies’, ‘Manthropology: Decode his emojis’ and ‘Hide a big arse pimple’. Whilst they’re all probably questions I’ll ponder from time to time, reading about ‘the packaged self’, conservationist Rachel Carson and the artform of high reading gives me a far greater sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Most of all, Womankind has taught me that there is always more to learn and more to explore about oneself, those around us, the world. And that’s kinda exciting to me!

Next up on my reading list: Yes Please by Amy Poehler (continuing with the funny lady memoir theme), The Wife Drought by Annabel Crabb (I love her a little bit), Backstage Politics by Phillip Adams, Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (amongst others).

It’s a good thing I’m in the process of wrapping up my last lot of Uni work for the year, because it looks like I’m going to need a lot more time on my hands to get through all those books! I’ll keep you posted on my progress, but in the meantime, what are you reading at the moment? Do you have any books sidelined ready for summer? Do you have any recommendations for me? I’d love to hear from you!

Lxx

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