I read four contemporary novels this month, which is unlike me but I enjoyed most of them immensely!
The first, Conversations with Friends (Sally Rooney), I gave 5 of 5 stars. This is Sally Rooney’s debut; I read Normal People in June, which I reviewed here. Surprisingly, I enjoyed this one much more, hence the high rating. The characters weren’t all likeable, and I didn’t understand most of their actions, but something about the protagonist and her experiences really impacted me. I felt very connected to her and cried in some chapters. I didn’t agree with everything she did but was still very moved. I also love the author’s writing style; bare, without much expansion. I also gave The Two Lives of Lydia Bird (Josie Silver) 5 stars; it did start slow and I struggled to get into it, but after the first quarter I couldn’t put it down. I loved how gentle the ending was, and the realistic time frame for Lydia processing her grief towards losing her long-term boyfriend, Freddie. Such an enjoyable, emotional read full of heart.
The third 5 star book was Everything I Never Told You (Celeste Ng). This is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. It was also one of the most interesting foundations; racial insights and pressures, a mystery surrounding a girl who looks fine from the outside, and a family struggling when their daughter is found dead. I appreciated how this book was focused on the family and what their grief and past look like rather than focusing solely on the girl who died; pieces fell into place as the mystery unravels and shows itself through the grief and past of the family.
Sadly, A Lonely Girl is a Dangerous Thing (Jessie Tu) I gave 2 stars. I’m sorry, but I did not get it at all. About a young woman addicted to sex to fill the void in her life, nothing about this book was enjoyable. But it’s not even the focus on sex; it’s that all the characters were selfish, dislikeable, and had zero character development. I could forgive a character if they slept around a little bit and had decent growth, but nothing changes for Jena, the protagonist. She doesn’t make an effort to care for those around her, she just continually uses all of them and ignores them when she doesn’t need them anymore. There were interesting snippets; I would have loved to know more about Olivia and her mum, or Val. These characters had promise but no depth.
I read two poetry books, both I gave 3 of 5 stars. Lili Reinhart’s Swimming Lessons and Rupi Kaur’s Homebody. I don’t want to be rude, because Lili Reinhart’s was often quite pretty or clearly meaningful to the author, but it’s just not what I would call poetry, nor original. It could have been written by anyone and most poems didn’t hold much weight with me. Similarly, Home Body didn’t live up to my expectations of the title. I’m impressed by how Rupi Kaur has built a platform and gained a large audience, especially starting as a self-published author, but this poetry just isn’t poetry to me. Most of it wasn’t outstanding or new.
Finally, I read autobiographies. Greenlights (Matthew McConaughey), which I gave 4 of 5 stars was particularly enjoyable. As well as a great actor he’s a great storyteller, and I read his book as often as I could. Honest, refreshing, entertaining. Also, I did love his list of goals at the end of the book; very motivating. And Group (Christie Tate) which I also gave 4 stars, follows the story of Christie as she starts going to a group therapy session. There are no secrets amongst the members and they can share as much as they want with outsiders. I found the premise intriguing and was drawn in immediately. Parts of the book are quite confrontational, as she discusses eating disorders and other traumatic events in her life, and yes, some of these stories made me feel uncomfortable. But I appreciated the honesty and openness and loved this book.