10 October 2014

Book stuff : We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Books! Everyone told me that I'd never read again having had a baby, and I guess for a short amount of time that was true- with all the broken nights I'm not sure my eyes ever stayed open long enough to read a single page. But I've always loved reading, and my habit has been to read last thing at night, I guess because I've always found it the best way to wind down from the stresses of the day. And reading gave me a bit of an escape from what can be a tiring and- let's be honest- sometimes boring routine of the early days of feeding, nappy changing... um... talking about feeding and nappy changing... thinking about feeding and etc etc. I manage to stay awake a bit longer these days to read (only achievable by being in bed by 9.30pm) and last week decided to try something outside of my usual cycle of crime/ thriller/ post-apocalyptic teen fiction/ vaguely sci-fi, and went all Man-Bookery for We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

First things first: it was an enjoyable, easy read, and not at all the literary, meandering, high-brow book I sometimes live in fear of when it comes to book prizes (but to be fair, very few of the Man Booker nominations I've ever read actually have been like that- my misguided expectations, I suppose). Yes, there are deeper themes to ponder on- how reliable our memories are, how reliable a narrator is (or isn't) and some others that to mention would give too much away- but it's also a funny, sad, interesting and engaging story of a childhood, of growing up, and of families and friends, that leaps backwards and forwards in time. Everyone talks about the great twist but I'm not sure I'd call it that- it's more of a key plot point that the narrator chooses not to mention for a while, which is key in itself- but it takes the story in an unexpected and interesting direction. A gentle, engaging and satisfying read. (I'm no eloquent reviewer- as you might have noticed- so for a better one please have a look at my friend Lonesome Reader's review here.)

I may have made a mistake picking up (aka downloading and clicking on) Rick Yancey's The Fifth Wave straight afterwards, though. Whilst I once really enjoyed this kind of post-apocalyptic fiction I'm not sure I cope with it as well these days. It's fiction, obviously, but I like to get properly caught up in a story and this brings out all kinds of parental fears and nightmares that are still a bit new to me. I'm not very far into it and am already a) wondering how I could ever have been so selfish as to have children in this world, and b) thinking that since I've gone and done it now the only solution is to dive under a duvet with them and never ever go out anywhere ever. So I might put this one on hold for a while until I'm better equipped to cope with it which, given that the raging pregnancy hormones are unlikely to make me feel any less emotional/balanced as due date beckons, might be a very long time in the future.

So the list- perhaps just the last five books I read...

1 : We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

2 : Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes (I bought an ACTUAL, not electronic book! I may even do it again, because it's lovely with it's cover and pages and smell and typography and all that jazz. OK, I haven't really read it, I've flicked through it, but it is more of a reference book with practical beauty advice and has told me things I'm sure I should know already. Not my usual kind of thing but I aspire to one day do more than just slap on some tinted moisturiser and a pair of jeans and go out into the world. One day. Look out.)

3 : Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (took me two attempts- a meandering, bleak story but nonetheless evocative and beautifully written, and I never thought I'd know so much about 19th century rural Iceland or find it so interesting.)

4 : I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (very mixed feelings about this- a great fast-paced terrorist-threatens-the-world thriller, but bleak (see my point about post-apocalyptic fiction above) and frankly just irritating in places with a character who has a very high opinion of himself for reasons I failed to notice. Not sure why I persisted.)

5 : The Bones of Avalon by Phil Rickman (I love Rickman's Merrily Watkins series- mostly crime, a bit supernatural, an unconventional and vulnerable 'heroine' and some great history of the Welsh border area- but this Elizabethan-era mystery left me unconvinced. Well-written, but somehow unsatisfying.)

What have you read recently? Any recommendations?

1 comment:

  1. I agree, Sheena. For all its details about psychology and theories about memory it is very easy to read. Great to read your thoughts about it.

    It was challenging to read Burial Rites just to sound out all those wild Icelandic names in my head. Very bleak too, but a good story.

    I certainly don't blame you for feeling that way about post-apocalyptic fiction when you've got a family!