Read in 2017: March

29.3.17

#16 - FATES AND FURIES // Lauren Groff
"Every story has two sides.
Every relationship has two perspectives.
And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets.
At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but behind closed doors things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed."
This was a book that I knew relatively little about when I went in.  I knew it was about family and married life, but what I wasn't anticipating was the split narrative.  We read the first half from struggling actor turned successful playwright Lotto's perspective and through this I felt like I really got a handle on the different characters, their personalities and their motives.  Then in the second part it flips to Mathilde's side of things.  And woah, turns out I barely recognised some of the characters from the first half.
In truth, Lotto's narrative felt too serious and was a little dull for my liking and it wasn't until the second half that things started to pick up.  By which point I felt compelled to continue reading and raced through to the end.  It's beautifully written throughout, but without seeing things through Mathilde's eyes I think this would have just been a mediocre read.  It definitely saved the book in my opinion and accounts for the high rating!
Rating: ★★★

#17 - A MONSTER CALLS // Patrick Ness
"Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It’s ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. 
Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking tale of mischief, healing and above all, the courage it takes to survive."
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I think most people have heard of this book by now.  Conor's mother has terminal cancer and it's about him coming to terms with this and the effects it has on his home life.  I read it as a book club pick and it was really good for creating discussion as there's lots of meaning, messages and imagery within.  It was an emotional book and I'm on the fence about whether it would help someone in a similar situation or whether it'd be too close to the bone.  Either way it's a touching book and well deserving of winning the Carnegie Medal.
Rating: ★★★

#8 - CUT: ONES WOMAN'S FIGHT AGAINST FGM IN BRITAIN TODAY // Hibo Wardere
"Imagine for a moment that you are 6-years-old and you are woken in the early hours, bathed and then dressed in rags before being led down to an ominous looking tent at the end of your garden. And there, you are subjected to the cruellest cut, ordered by your own mother.
Forced down on a bed, her legs held apart, Hibo Warderewas made to undergo female genital cutting, a process so brutal, she nearly died.
As a teenager she moved to London in the shadow of the Somalian Civil War where she quickly learnt the procedure she had undergone in her home country was not 'normal' in the west. She embarked on a journey to understand FGM and its roots, whilst raising her own family and dealing with the devastating consequences of the cutting in her own life. Today Hibo finds herself working in London as an FGM campaigner, helping young girls whose families plan to take them abroad for the procedure. She has vowed to devote herself to the campaign against FGM.
FGM in the UK has gone undocumented for too long and now that's going to change. Devastating, empowering and informative, this book brings to life a clash of cultures at the heart of contemporary society and shows how female genital mutilation is a very British problem."
This has a huge blurb so I won't elaborate on the basics any more than what's above.  This book left me shocked and with lots to think about.  Despite previously working in a school and receiving "training" about FGM, in reality I knew very little about this horrific practice.  It's not cultural, it's child abuse, and something I always imagine to be happening in far off countries so to see some of the statistics relating to a town just down the road from me was a real eye opener.
Speaking of statistics, this book has got the balance just right between personal experience and facts and figures.  Hibo Wardere writes passionately and accessibly and I'd recommend this book to everyone.
Rating: ★★★

#19 - THE READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND // Katarina Bivald
"Sara has never left Sweden but at the age of 28 she decides it’s time. She cashes in her savings, packs a suitcase full of books and sets off for Broken Wheel, Iowa, a town where she knows nobody.
Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.
With a little help from the locals, Sara sets up Broken Wheel’s first bookstore. The shop might be a little quirky but then again, so is Sara. And as Broken Wheel’s story begins to take shape, there are some surprises in store for Sara too…"
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A book about book shops?  SOLD!  Only....it just didn't work and this is my first DNF (Did Not Finish) of the year.  I tried, I really did, but just couldn't face continuing on with this story.  I found the characters hard to relate to and therefore difficult to keep up with who was who, not to mention the instalove and quite frankly ludicrous plot point of (more or less) forced marriage which nobody seemed to highlight was ridiculous.  If you've read this book and loved it, please tell me what I'm missing?!
Rating: ★

#20 - ANIMAL: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FEMALE BODY // Sara Pascoe
"Women have so much going on, what with boobs and jealousy and menstruating and broodiness and sex and infidelity and pubes and wombs and jobs and memories and emotions and the past and the future and themselves and each other. Here's a book that deals with all of it. Sara Pascoe has joked about feminity and sexuality on stage and screen but now she has a book to talk about it all for a bit longer. Animal combines autobiography and evolutionary history to create a funny, fascinating insight into the forces that mould and affect modern women. Animal is entertaining and informative, personal and universal - silly about lots of things and serious about some. It's a laugh-out-loud investigation to help us understand and forgive our animal urges and insecurities."
Animal is divided into three sections: Love, Bodies and Consent.  The latter two were everything I wanted, but I really struggled to get through the Love portion and seriously wondered whether I'd made a mistake in buying this book.  I'm a big Sara Pascoe fan but it felt too anecdotal and dumbed down which made me really not enjoy it.  Perhaps as I got further through the book I became immune to this writing style, but overall I felt that the quirks calmed down a bit in later chapters and it turned into a book which sparked lots of moments of reflection for me.
Rating: ★★★

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