I think I’m going to be the last person on earth to embrace the e-reader. Few things give me as much pleasure as seeing all my books exploding out of my shelves. Thankfully my love of overflowing bookshelves comes along with a love of reading. It’s been one of the joys of finishing uni and starting full-time work that I have time to read books that don’t include the words “evidence”, “intellectual property” or “contract” in the title (though there’s still a lot of that too).
Writing lengthy book reviews isn’t something I’m very good at but I do love receiving book recommendations from friends so I thought I’d share just a few of the books I’ve enjoyed recently and ask for recommendations in return (please do share!).
This was the very first book my new book club decided to read. It’s a fictional story based on the life of Agnes Magnusdottir, the last woman to be executed in Iceland. She was executed for her part in the death of two men, including a farmer called Natan, her lover and employer. There are aspects of this novel that are imperfectly formed (for example, the relationships between Agnes and some of the members of the family with which she lives while she is waiting to be executed) but we all enjoyed the book and I would definitely recommend it. For me, it highlighted how terrible it would have been to be a poor women during this period. Without financial resources, marriage wasn’t even an option, let alone education, so you lived totally at the whim of whatever man was prepared to hire you as a maid. Does that excuse murder? I’m not sure, but I suppose it’s that question that makes the book so interesting. In any case, the way in which Kent draws out the oppressive yet spectacular Icelandic landscape alone makes it worth it.
The Reverend still does not come. But winter has. Autumn has been pushed aside by a wind driving flurries of snow up against the croft, and the air as thin as paper. Each breath hangs in front of me like a ghost, and mists drop down from the mountains to swarm on the frozen ground. The dark comes; it has settled down in these parts like a bruise in the flesh of the earth; but the Reverend does not.
This is one of my favourite books of all time. I recommend it so often I think my friends are sick of hearing about it. The plot twists and turns across decades and continents (Europe, New York and so on) so I won’t try and describe it in detail. It’s enough so say that this book is elegant and intelligent and will make your heart hurt the characters are so flawed/stubborn/loveable (Once upon a time there was a boy who lived across the field from a girl who no longer exists. They made up a thousand games. She was Queen and he was King. In the autumn light, her hair shone like a crown. They collected the world in small handfuls. When the sky grew dark they parted with leaves in their hair).
As I made my way through the first few pages of this book, I doubted that I’d make it though the violence that seemed to fill every page. It’s about a North Korean orphan who is dumped into the army during the horrifying famines of the nineties and gradually makes his way through a serious of assignments, only to end up on a spy mission to Texas. Despite the violence (maybe I’m too chicken for this kind of stuff), I really enjoyed this. It’s an incredible insight into North Korea (large parts of it seem to pretty realistic depictions) and despite the fact that the hero, Jun Do, has done some unbelievably violent things, I surprised myself by how much I was rooting for him.
The only Nora Ephron movie I’ve seen is Julie and Julia so I’m not sure why I even thought this looked appealing but it did. So I read it. Devoured really, over just a couple days. It’s a very funny, sad but touching story about a woman who finds out that her husband is having an affair when she is seven months pregnant. The main character, Rachel, is a food writer so there’s lots of food talk and recipes thrown in for good measure.
I have friends who begin with pasta, and friends who begin with rice, but whenever I fall in love, I begin with potatoes. Sometimes meat and potatoes and sometimes fish and potatoes, but always potatoes. I have made a lot of mistakes falling in love, and regretted most of them, but never the potatoes that went with them.