The Enchanted April – Elizabeth Von Arnim
Oh I loved this. Two duty bound, dull women trapped in boring and possibly loveless marriages decide on a whim to rent out a villa in Italy for a month. They invite two other women to come with them and they all have to learn to get along. But it’s not a cat fest, it’s charming and gentle and funny and observant and sweet. Von Arnim sounds rather interesting by all accounts, and her writing is sharp. It made me long for summer (despite hating it in real life) and to do something crazy and spontaneous. I did at least book a holiday, though not to Italy.
Mornings in Jenin – Susan Abulhawa
This will difficult to review. Written in response to a perceived lack of narrative coming out of Palestine, Abulhawa has been incredibly ambitious. It’s the story of several generations of one Palestinian family, starting in 1948 where they are forced off their land and following them to Jenin, a refugee camp that became a permanent home for many forced off their lands following the creation of Israel. But there’s more. In the chaos of moving to Jenin, Dalia ‘s six-month son is snatched from her and grows up in an Israeli family. The family’s life is narrated by Amal, the daughter who grows up in Jenin and eventually moves to the US, trying to make sense of the violence, repression and confusion that her country has become. Abulhawa has a patchy writing style and perhaps tries to do too much in one book, wanting to shoehorn history and some scholarly work into the fiction. Perhaps this makes sense – if you feel there is little narrative about your country, you want to tell as much as possible, but the writing suffers as a result. Nevertheless, this is a powerful and heartbreaking story. Read it.
The Man of Property – John Galsworthy
This is the first book of the Forsyte Saga, this month’s reading group choice. I tried to like it. I realise he was satirising the Forsytes and their world view, but did he have to do it like this? I found this incredibly dull for the most part and was very annoyed about how two dimensional the female characters were. The only part I enjoyed was the interlude right at the end where finally got round to giving Irene some personality. Before then she was a series of impressions.
The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith
I don’t read crime much these days, having got too sick of the gratuitous violence against women, but I picked this up a while back on a whim. It’s the second of the Cormoran Strike books (I haven’t read the first) and is perhaps Rowling getting into her stride. I loved the relationship between private detective Strike and his increasingly frustrated assistant – while both acknowledge to themselves an attraction, it’s a professional relationship and he allows her to develop her skills. She has to confront him, and her fiance instead of taking the lazy writers’ way out of dumping the sulky boyfriend and running off with Strike instead. The crime itself seemed ridiculous but daft plots are in, I think, and I was prepared to overlook it because I got into the characters so quickly.
I shall look out for book 3.