I have always been an avid reader, and a fast one, meaning I have always waded through huge piles of novels. Unfortunately, my degree called a temporary halt to that. Yes, I was doing an English literature degree, but there was so much course reading that reading for pleasure just wasn’t an appealing option once I had finished my work each day. Some of the things I read for my course were fantastic, but reading to a deadline, in the knowledge you will have to discuss it in a seminar, changes the reading experience completely.
Now I have graduated, I finally have the hours to get back to reading properly, and so have decided to do mini-reviews on here each time I’ve completed about 4 books. There will be a complete range of novels, from romance to science fiction to award-winners to classics; there is never much logic in my reading lists! I’m always looking for new things to read, so do let me know any suggestions!
Harvesting the Heart, Jodi Picoult
I’m a huge Jodi Picoult fan, especially of her novels featuring court cases on moral issues – her research is just astounding. This offering is about a couple, Paige and Nicholas, and their son, Max. Paige is struggling with motherhood and runs away for a period of months to find her own mother. Meanwhile, Nicholas has to care for their son, and continue his work as a cardiologist whilst addressing his feelings for his wife. The novel, in Picoult’s signature style, is narrated by both Nicholas and Paige, and features chapters reflecting back on their meeting and entire relationship, as well as the developing storyline.
This wasn’t one of my favourite Picoult novels – I far prefer the court case stories – but it was a beautiful look at relationships and the role of each figure within a family. Nicholas in particular was a well-developed character. However, I did find elements, such as the relationship between Paige and her mother, slightly far-fetched, and these ruined the overall impact of the story.
From Essex to Chelsea with Love, Millie Conway
I was looking for total trash here: an easy read, simple characters, and nothing too taxing. That’s definitely what I got. Every cliché from the world of reality television, romance and celebrity is present in abundance, and everyone is a caricature. Talli is working at her mother’s Chelsea events company, planning the wedding of Edwina, who is producer on the hit show Lovin’ Essex. As expected, romantic sparks fly between Talli and Zac, the stereotypical Essex man who is dating Kiki, the diva star of the show.
This couldn’t have been much more predictable, and every name and scene made me cringe a little, but sometimes you do need a read like this for complete silly escapism. There were a couple of elements that suggested they may have become more interesting, such as the fraud and arrival of the drug-dependant mother, but these were simply brushed over and ignored. A great choice if you want simple entertainment without any effort.
The Picture Book, Jo Baker
This book covers one century and four generations, beginning in the First World War, and spans periods of huge social change. It had all the ingredients to be a good read. The chapters open with dates, almost like a journal, but the jump between years still often felt a little awkward, and I found myself having to look back to the start of chapters to check if I was still in the same generation or not. These jumps forward seemed to come at the wrong time, and felt quite stilted. I also have to say that the names were silly and unnecessary: William, Billy, Will and Billie? Variations of one name to prove they’re all related? This was trying to be clever, but instead just looked a bit try-hard.
The first section, with William away at sea during WW1, was brilliant. I empathised with the character, his story was well-developed, and I was hooked. Unfortunately, after this section, the three other generations were only dwelt upon for a short period each. There was no time to get to know those later characters, and there was no reason for their focus to be so short. It felt as if just as the new episode began, the author got bored of that period and decided to jump ahead twenty years to try and be clever. This novel is also written awkwardly in the present tense, which I find only works in very specific styles. It had potential, but I definitely wasn’t a fan!
Americana, Don DeLillo
I read a DeLillo book at university, which I didn’t enjoy, but my tutor urged me to give his work a second chance. That was my mission with this. David Bell works in television, and is the epitomy of the American Dream. The novel follows his journey to understand himself and his country, and it is very, very American. It sums up a real ‘moment’ in American culture, when a new breed of working man was emerging, and features some stunning descriptive passages.
However, sometimes the thoughtfulness went too far. The scenes in David’s workplace were long-winded and featured inane conversations with work colleagues which were incredibly dull and added nothing to the story. These sections bored me, and it got to the point where I really had to force myself to read on. I gave DeLillo a second chance, and his work just isn’t for me.
These weren’t the best four books I’ve read, as you can probably tell. However, I’m already well on my way to being ready for the next post, which has a couple of brilliant new discoveries.
What have you been reading recently?