And just like that only one month remains of 2019. In November I kicked off one of my new year goals early; read books I already own and steer clear from the allure of shiny new releases. Although it’s tough, I’m determined to stick to my book-buying ban until I at least make a dent in the ridiculous amount of unread books I already own. With that in mind, as well as a few more required readings for university, I’ve dedicated this month to the books kindly granted by publishers over the past few months which were slowly but surely starting to accumulate.
I read a total of 11 books during November, recovering from my previous lacklustre reading months and regaining my bookish mojo with a couple of new five-star reads. As always, you can find my longer reviews over on my Goodreads. Without further ado, here’s my November reading wrap-up!
The Poppy War is one of my favourite books this year so, suffice to say I was nervous going into this. However, after a mere two chapters in, Kuang unfounded my concern and her prose captivated me once again.
You thought The Poppy War was dark? The Dragon Republic is on a whole new level. Following the catastrophic conclusion of the first book, we’re reunited with Rin who is now riddled with guilt, regret and anger, all while struggling with opium-addiction. The highlight of this series is its rich, 20th-century Chinese history incorporated in an intricate world of gods and beasts. Kuang’s portrayal of the political system, the magic, the military strategy is so well-executed. Full of darkness, tactics and shifting allegiances, she expands on her skilfully crafted world and continues to vividly depict the horrors of war.
While it’s brutal and is comprised of many incidents which some readers may find distressing, it’s also an illustrious portrayal of war, friendship and sacrifice. Overall, this series has not yet failed to leave me speechless. The book ended on a monumental cliff-hanger, laying out the pieces for what I can only anticipate will be an unforgettable conclusion of the series.
I don’t tend to read much poetry, but this was a short collection on the reading list for one of my university modules. Miller employs island patois and slang, Rastafarian images and language, alongside standard English in his poems, fusing to form a representation of two different ways of knowing; one rational and calculating, representing an imperialistic perspective. Meanwhile the other is mystical and musical, representing a local resistance.
Entanglement is a quirky yet heartfelt story with a sci-fi twist bubbling with humour and engaging characters that you can read my full review for here.
‘Olive, Again’ reunites us with the blunt, yet deeply loveable Oliver Kitteridge as she grows older, more self-aware, and comes to terms with the changes within herself and in those around her. Returning to Crosby, Maine, Strout skilfully weaves separate stories together, with Olive as the thread, as she explores the profound depths of human nature. Each story is built of quiet melancholy and epiphanies in which characters discover something new about themselves and the people around them. Oh, how strange our feelings are. How temperamental they can be.
Although Olive is as contentious as ever, she undergoes a steady transformation into a wry elderly woman who is more conscious and accepting. Yes, she’s cantankerous and contradictory, but she cares. She undertakes a journey of self-awareness, even succumbing to the idea of wearing the detestable Depend underwear as she grows into her eighties. It is with this that Strout exhibits her incredible storytelling, eloquently expressing the indignities of old age with quiet acceptance.
Few writers can pack so much emotion into mere sentences; her realistic characters provoking both tears and laughter. It was such a joy to follow their transformations, especially our controversial Olive. The most heart-warming moments were those in which she connected with people who she had previously dismissed, ultimately finding solace in female friendship. Within each character vignette, be it focused on sorrow, joy or longing, Strout brilliantly captures the human experience.
This is an absolute gem of a book that everyone can fall in love with.
A barbaric romance amid a post-apocalyptic nightmare; Marianne is bored of monotonous life in the town of the Professors and at 16, exempts herself by running off with her brother’s killer, a Barbarian named Jewel. Carter blurs binaries as Marianne falls in love with the illiterate brute who rapes her into marriage, and the runaway girl is a stranger to her own needs and desires. It’s strange, unnerving and unpleasant to read to the extent that I felt weary. Overall, it was a wild ride, but ideas were thrown about willy-nilly and there is an abundance of unanswered questions that remain unexplored.
‘Interpreter of Maladies’ is a Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of touching short stories largely about the Indian Diaspora in America, characters navigating cultural clashes and the resulting feelings of loss, loneliness and love. Characters range between innocent children to a 103-year-old woman, some stagnated by diaspora as they cling onto their customs, while others assimilate into their new world, celebrating an embracing a new cultural hybridity.
I don’t think I’m capable of describing the magnificence of this collection. Each story is beautifully written, permeated with quiet melancholy and transforms the subtle into something immensely captivating. Lahiri writes with such grace and allure; you know a book is something special if multiple short stories can make you well up and provoke such profound emotion. The final story, The Third and Final Continent, in which an unnamed protagonist recalls his first days in America thirty years later, left me stunned.
This book is even more fascinating the second time around. Having read the entire trilogy, it was interesting to see events and aspects of ‘The Year of the Flood’ and ‘MaddAddam’ weaved throughout the plot; from the hippy-dippy God’s Gardeners to the intelligent, secret group of biotech experts, code-named MaddAddam. Atwood has truly triumphed in presenting a world that is helplessly ravaged by humans’ failure to respond to the threat of anthropogenic climate change.
With the recent release of ‘Darkdawn’, readers seem to be rhapsodising about this book series everywhere I look. I never anticipated it to be quite so dark. Following Mia on a mission to avenge those responsible for her father’s execution, we watch her undergo brutal training to become a skilled assassin in the Red Church.
Oh, how flowery the language was with its profusion of overwrought metaphors and similes. Although, it did provide impressive world-building; I love any story with training and school drama.
Unfortunately, the audio ruined my reading experience; with many of the characters having similar accents it was difficult to distinguish who was talking; the relentless action was difficult to keep up with; Mr Kindly’s eerie whispering was straight-up irritating, and I struggled to differentiate between the past and present. That being said, the last few chapters were a whirlwind leaving me unsure as to what’s to come. Although I didn’t love this first book, I’m intrigued to read the following two books in the trilogy. Maybe I’ll steer clear of the audio next time…
This book’s premise alone was enough to captivate me and still, it was so much more than I anticipated. Now, this is not an easy read. Pretty soon I realised that rather than a quick thriller, it was an emotional, heartbreaking literary suspense novel. Moore explores a profound sororal bond, drug addiction and forgiveness all with such grace.
Mickey is an officer patrolling the streets of Kensington Avenue, Philadelphia, notorious for its opioid crisis. While on duty, she always has one eye on the lookout for her impetuous sister, Kacey, who has fallen victim to the very thing that killed their mother and many others in the neighbourhood. Then, when several street girls are found murdered, questions about Kacey’s whereabouts arise and Mickey is desperate to uncover the mystery.
Long Bright River unravels slowly, rife with plot twists and unexpected revelations about the girls’ relationships and difficult upbringing. My only complaint would be that the police investigation fizzles out. Nonetheless, Moore has created an intricate character study and an even more tangible setting. Her prose is so emotionally charged that I sympathised with Mickey throughout the entirety of her journey, shedding a tear or two as the book came to a close.
I’m in the minority of those who haven’t seen the movie starring legendary actress, Audrey Hepburn, so upon choosing this for my monthly classic I didn’t know what to expect. But what a charming novella it was. Holly Golightly is an alluring café society girl who makes ends meet by dining and receiving favours from wealthy men in eclectic New York City. She’s an enigma of sorts; she flaunts a blasé attitude however, beneath this façade is a fragile, naïve young woman who evades sharing much about her past. I fell under Holly’s charm just as much as our unnamed narrator did. Loved it!
I closed the month off with more required reading, this time a chilling novel of great moral complexity. 52-year-old David Lurie is accused of sexual misconduct. However, in his mind, he has committed no offence; he prefers to get fired and suffer disgrace than endure a politically correct process of rehabilitation. I found this difficult to read, but Coetzee skilfully delineates post-apartheid South Africa and the wider legacy of colonialism.
Have you read any of these books? What are you hoping to get to before the end of the year?
Thanks for reading!
*Kindly sent for free via publishers and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.