November Reads – Part I

I am in a serious reading mode right now. My book wishlist on my phone is about twenty books deep at the moment (yes, I keep a book wishlist on my phone – is that weird?). In light of that fact, I thought that I would try to do a monthly round up of the books that I’ve read and what I thought of them. Maybe I’ll go back to stand alone reviews every once in a while but I think that writing these kind of posts will be more fun. So, here we go!

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

god-of-small-things

This book has been on my periphery for a long time – I think it was an option for my GCSE English Literature coursework but I ended up doing a different book instead. For some reason it always stayed in the back of my mind as a potential read someday.

The book centers on a family in India and, in particular, twins Estha and Rahel. When their cousin, Sophie Mol, comes to visit from England, a chain of events is set in motion that changes the lives of everyone around them. I don’t really want to say too much more than that as I don’t want to spoil the story but I will say that the book touches on some really interesting themes. It deals with the caste system, intricate family dynamics and, most significantly, with the way that small actions – the small things, like impetuous decisions or careless words – can have a deep  and lasting impact on our lives.

One word of warning about this book. It is very interesting and I was definitely intrigued by the story and the themes but it is very slow. Roy’s writing is very detailed  and, as the story takes place over just a few days, the plot moves along in small increments. It is the sort of book that you need to read slowly in order to truly appreciate it, whereas I powered through it because I was so keen to know what was going to happen.

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult  

sing-you-home

To me, Jodi Picoult’s books are always good easy reads that will still give me something to think about. I have read quite a few books by her over the years but I hadn’t read one in a while – enter Sing You Home.

Sing You Home is about a lesbian couple, Zoe and Vanessa, who are seeking permission to use the fertilized eggs that Zoe created with her now ex-husband, Max. However, Max has since become an evangelical Christian and opposes the action on moral grounds. The narration switches between Zoe, Vanessa and Max so you get the story from each of their perspectives – particularly helpful in humanizing Max (not an easy task – which Picoult miraculously achieves). Even though I was firmly decided as to who’s side I was on (Zoe and Vanessa’s) from the word go, Picoult manages to create a genuinely interesting read full of complex characters.

I pretty much always enjoy Picoult’s writing. She writes simply whilst tackling an interesting and current topic. It’s a good combo for times when I want to read something good (which is always) but I don’t want to read anything too complicated or difficult.

For the record, Zoe and Vanessa’s relationship is adorable. My new favourite romance quote comes from Vanessa – “I want ten thousand ordinary days with her…”

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert 

the-signature-of-all-things

Don’t ask me how Elizabeth Gilbert managed to write the brilliance of Eat, Pray, Love and still be an incredible fiction writer. I am a huge admirer of her literary talents.

The Signature of All Things is, basically, part historical novel and part character development story. It follows the life of Alma Whittaker, a highly educated botanist from a wealthy and eccentric family. Throughout her life she witnesses a lot of change and development in the world. The nineteenth century was a BIG century with abolition, the American Civil War and Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to name just a few things. Gilbert manages, however, to keep the story focused on Alma and her personal development and how the environment of the nineteenth century affected her. For example, if a woman had access to resources and a connected male family member, she could be educated and have some sort of a career (something of a step forward). However, Alma is still restricted in some senses, such as within her sexuality.

It is definitely worth knowing a little bit about the period before you dive in – I found it very helpful and that little bit of background information made the novel much more interesting. Even if you just watch an interview with Liz Gilbert about the book you will get a better sense of what the nineteenth century could mean for (certain) women and what kinds of big questions were coming up in this time of rapid change.


 

This post is getting really long so I think I am going to have to do a part two if I want to get through everything!

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