February reading

A short month but not bad for reading.

The Good Muslim – Tahmima Anam

I read Anam’s debut years ago as part of the judging group for the Guardian First book Award and then had the pleasure of talking to her at a publisher’s dinner a few months later. She was a lovely, very neat person – I remember thinking how ‘together’ she was considering the whirlwind that her first book had been for her. Having made such an impression on me, I completely didn’t realise that this was a sequel until halfway through. Like the first, this features a strong Bangladeshi woman as the main character, this time Rehana’s daughter Maya. I really enjoyed this despite knowing nothing about the politics and history it described (a quick stop in Wikipedia needed). Maya and Rehana are very realistic characters, likeable but flawed, rushing into mistakes and meaning well. I’ve just bought the third book in the series and am looking forward to seeing what happens to them all next.

What a Way to Go – Julia Forster

A lovely trip back to the Eighties for us kids who grew up about the same time. I recognised a lot of the references and a couple of them had me going “oh my god yes!” in sympathy (hint: French toilets.) The story is a little rambling but charming and the protagonist – 12-year old Harper – is such a sweetie that you want to spend a lot of time with her. The story concerns her parents’ divorce and subsequent relationship and financial woes – so far, so run of the mill perhaps but the writing and the point of view is what makes the difference here. Really enjoyable read.

The Ballroom – Anna Hope

Oh this is an amazing book. I’d heard good things about it and there it was on my bookshelf when the reading group suggested we read it. The story of three people – two inmates and a doctor – in a Yorkshire asylum in the early years of the Twentieth Century, this is beautiful. I don’t want to write too much in case I give anything away so instead, please know I could easily gush over it till you’re all bored .

We All Begin as Strangers – Harriet Cummings

I got a free review copy of this from NetGalley and therefore feel quite bad about not really enjoying very much. It has an intriguing premise but I felt the execution was lacking. Each part of the book is narrated by a different character and the idea is that we examine how well we can ever really know our neighbours. And that’s all fine, except the point of view of the secret protagonist only came in at the end and was the most interesting, so a little bit wasted. In my eyes anyway.

Postcards From the Edge – Carrie Fisher

I bought this while still mourning, and am pretty sure that I’d read it before but I remembered nothing. How I enjoyed it. Such bitchy voices! Such insecurity! So many digs that probably went way over my head!¬†Suzanne Vale is a great protagonist – really flawed and occasionally dislikeable but you really root for her, certainly by the end. I loved it.

Eat Sweat Play – Anna Kessel

My vow to read one non-fiction book per month continues with this and I’ve barely finished reading it before I press it on my husband so he has an idea of ‘what we have to put up with.’ Kessel’s book is an examination of women in sport – how we should do it more, what we have to gain, the media, the male atmosphere of sport, the negative comments, images and attitudes of sporting bodies that have hampered women’s sporting achievements and participation for decades. It’s both eye opening and depressingly familiar – I read several bits nodding my head in recognition and welled up with anger at my PE teachers, midwives, acquaintances and any number of people when I realised the extent of prejudice, the size of the barriers we’re facing. Read it if you’re a parent, if you watch a spot of tennis in June, if you’re a hardcore fan and even if you couldn’t give a shit about sport – it gives a fascinating insight into a wider society issue.

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