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It’s summertime, though looking out of my window as I write this you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise, and for me that means it’s time to catch up on the great books I haven’t had a chance to read this year for one reason or another.
The process of picking out a new book is, à mon avis, almost as enjoyable as actually reading it. I usually start with the ‘must-read’ lists and then I make a short-list and read several reviews to get an idea of what people are saying. I like to read the preview pages on Amazon for a sense of the style of writing and whether I really want to invest hours or even days of my life into a book when I could be… okay, probably not doing anything that important but you get what I mean. The point is, I’ve been burned before and excitedly bought a new book that totally seemed like my-type-on-paper only to discover that we’re actually not compatible at all and then begrudgingly read most of it anyway because I’m not about to waste £12.99.
After much deliberation and deleting and adding things to my cart several times, I took the plunge and pressed the little orange ‘Buy Now’ button on the Amazon website.
The next day, thanks to my oft-abused Amazon Prime membership, a cardboard box arrived on my door-step containing the following:
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
I know there’s been a lot of buzz around this book for a while and when I first heard about it I was both intrigued by the promise of a young black, British female protagonist and turned-off by synopses that labelled it a ‘black Bridget Jones’. I did a little more digging and found that literary critics were contesting this summary as trivialising the contents of the book which were both timely and humorous. Comparisons with Bridget Jones rob the book of its depth and fail to account for the focus on race-relations and the black experience at the heart of the novel which in a lot of ways are the point rather than a ‘nice little twist’. I really appreciate Carty-Williams’ writing style and the use of text message and email conversations are cleverly taken advantage of to reveal more about the characters and add realism to the story without stunting its flow. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve found myself invested in a character and their universe, I’ve read 223 pages of it in less than two days and I’ll be sad when it’s over. Would highly recommend.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
So, I haven’t started this one but I’ve heard very good things. As, the winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 and chosen by Barack Obama for one of his summer reads of 2018, this novel comes with a lot of hype. Critics praise Jones’ masterful storytelling and readers claim to have been moved to both tears and laughter while reading.
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of the American Dream. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. Until one day they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit.
Devastated and unmoored, Celestial finds herself struggling to hold on to the love that has been her centre, taking comfort in Andre, their closest friend. When Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, he returns home ready to resume their life together.
Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
I came across this book in a fairly strange way. I was researching the history of feminist erotica and arrived at My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday, a collection of true sexual fantasies collected from women and presented as a collective by Friday in the early 1970s. The book was revolutionary as it presented women as sexually autonomous beings with their own ‘transgressive’ desires, often kept strictly secret from their husbands and sometimes, boyfriends. Through my research of this book I came across Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, a 2019 publication also concerned with the sexuality, frustrations and experiences of real women. The book has received considerable critical success and is being hailed as a supremely insightful and provocative ‘deep dive into the psychology of women and sex’. In it, Taddeo follows the real life stories of three very different women, collecting information through interviews, court officials and social media and retells them in a compelling way. I’m really excited to read this.
and Mastery by Robert Greene
This will be the third book I’ve read by Robert Greene. His books are among the very few non-fiction works I actually enjoy reading, it’s probably because of the historical anecdotes he includes, I find them so interesting. I’ve read the well-known 48 Laws of Power, and also Seduction. I know some find his machiavellian approach to be jarring, I find it refreshing and I doubt many of us would take his tips and transfer them onto our lives without a great deal of customisation first. I enjoyed the books and found parts of them memorable. I’m looking forward to reading Mastery which is about identifying your vocation and carving out a path to greatness in it by following the examples of the likes of Einstein, Darwin and the nine contemporary Masters interviews by Greene for his book.
Now, back to my book for me, this screen is giving me a headache.