Bookendsworld literature

Bookends #9 Sept 2018

For once I am not racing to get the Bookends post done before the weekend disappears. Maybe it’s the Indian summer we are currently experiencing in the UK that has stimulated my productivity?

This week I bring you an article about one woman’s bid to read 200 female writers by 2020, how to tackle the challenge of reading challenging books and a novel

Book: Ash by Alys Einin..

AshMy book choice today comes from Honno, an independent women’s press based in Wales. This is the second novel by Alys Einon who somehow finds the time to write in between her work as an associate professor in midwifery and women’s health and a part-time lecturer for the Open University.

Ash is the story of a woman who runs away from an abusive marriage in Saudi Arabia with her four sons and infant daughter, Aisha. She finds sanctuary with a community of women at Blossom House but is always fearful that her husband will come looking for his children.

It’s a while since I read anything by Honno but this is a good opportunity to make up for lost time.



Blog Post: Unhappy experiences reading assigned books

CurlyGeek has been making good progress with a ReadHarder challenge this year but the latest requirement, to revisit a classic that she hated, has her thinking back to other unhappy experiences with classics.  In her latest update she names Jane Eyre as her nemesis but also still bears scars from being made to read Crime and Punishment, The Grapes of Wrath and The Scarlet Letter.

I bet everyone has their own bête noires from their time in the education system.

Mine would be:

Comus by John Milton. Can you imagine anything more unlikely to interest a bunch of hormone-charged sixteen-year-olds than a 17th century masque in honour of chastity? I have no recollection about the plot or the characters – I simply remember it as being deadly dull.

Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev. This was something to do with a student and the gulf of understanding between him and his father. I had my usual difficulty with Russian novels – the way that characters seem to have more than one name, making it doubly hard to keep track of who each person is.

The Rover by Aphra Behn. This was a set text on an Open University literature course, selected I strongly suspect because it was felt there should be a recognition of women writers. Even seeing a production starring Daniel Craig (many many years before he became famous as James Bond) did nothing to increase my enjoyment of this text.

Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I know that for some people, my inclusion of this novel is tantamount to heresy. Sorry everyone but I just don’t get what all the fuss is about. It’s ok but nothing more. I’ve read it three times and get the same reaction each time.

What would be on your list??

Article: 200 books by women writers

Sophie Baggott was shocked to learn that male authors account for two thirds of the translated fiction market. Three months ago she set out to change her own reading habits by embarking on a project to read 200 books by women authors from around the world by the year 2020.

Her starting point she says was ” a realisation that anglocentric and male-dominated reading habits were blinkering my worldview.”

She’s now 10% of the way to achieving her goal and has put a list together of books she has read so far, and the countries she has yet to visit. The Guardian article in which she explains her project  is here.  She has also created a blog where she lists the books she has read and the countries she has yet to visit.  I’m going to watch this with interest because in my own world of literature project (one that is considerably more modest in scale than Sophie’s) I have struggled to find authors from some countries and I wasn’t giving myself the added hurdle of only reading female authors.

And so that’s a wrap for this episode of Bookends. Have you found anything new exciting and to read this week that might entice me?


What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

26 thoughts on “Bookends #9 Sept 2018

  • I feel that sometimes, assigned books are not appropriate for the age. For example, reading Catcher in The Rye was a great read in high school, but who picked For Whom The Bell Tolls for 15 year olds? Can they relate to war? Or any of the other adult themes in that novel? As for me, I would have to agree with you on The Great Gatsby. I find that novel completely overrated. Interesting, yes. The Great American Novel? Not really.

    • For Whom the Bell Tolls – I pity the poor mites that ended up with that one. So dull…… Of Mice and Men seems to have been around on the curriculum forever

  • Sorry to see you are still anti-Gatsby – such a clever novel. My list would include Moby Dick – so much irrelevant stuff about whaling procedures – and Emma – hated it at the time, but came round to Austen in the end. Mainly I was lucky with assigned texts, but have come across plenty I loathe since!!

    • Once I heard that a large part of Moby Dick is about the feeding habits of whales I decided it was not for me. I can just read the encylopedia entry for that info

  • Judy Krueger

    I hardly remember any books I was assigned to read in school. So I guess that pretty much says it all! My lament on assigned books in the last decade comes from reading groups. Mostly I enjoy the books my groups pick and that is why I stay, but anything by Jodi Picoult is like fingernails on a blackboard. I like some Russian lit but I read Dead Souls by Gogol at the urging of a book club member and it was, for me, awful.
    As far as reading women goes, including women from countries other than my own, I am doing pretty well. Do you know of the book The World Between Two Covers by Ann Morgan? She is a Brit and the book is about her project to read a book from each country in the world in one year with a reading list. I get lots of ideas from that.

  • Good on the woman who is reading all the books by female authors. I know some people think that this is a patronizing thing to do, but I tend to think of it is literally patronizing, as in giving money to female authors when there is a disparity by gender between who gets published and reviewed. Also, can I just say that I never read The Great Gatsby? I can’t even get myself past the boring plot synopsis! I think the book that I’ve always had a hard time getting through would be Pride and Prejudice. I still haven’t finished it, but I love the BBC version.

    • Interesting to hear that some people might think her project patronising (in a negative sense). I tend to think of it as exposing writers who – usually for want of financial support from publishers etc – don’t get the attention they deserve.

      Pity you struggle with Pride and Prejudice, is that the only Austen novel you don’t care for or is it her work in general that doesn’t light your fire?

      • I read Northanger Abbey this year and found all the “high society” stuff rather boring, but I loved the main character’s interactions with the man she ends up marrying. Quite funny!

  • Sarah

    ‘The Great Gatsby’ is one of my favourite novels but I think the fact that we all find different things in what we read is part of the magic of literature so I wouldn’t dream of arguing with you! 🙂

    • Absolutely, reading is a very individual experience….

  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Ugh. I keep meaning to read Simon Armitage’s translation to see if he can change my mind!

  • Cider With Rosie. Read it twice for school and loved it first time, hated it the second and have never been able to re-read. Tried again recently and just couldn’t. Fortunately Orwell survived being taught in school and I developed an abiding love of him, so maybe it depends on the author!

    • It didn’t do very much for me – didn’t dislike it strongly but also didn’t relate very much to it either. Agree with you that our reactions do very much depend on the author but i also think the teacher is hugely influential. The best of them can help us see value in a text that initially left us cold. I have a teacher to thank for getting me to appreciate Paradise Lost

  • Baggott’s project reminds me of the book Reading the World by Ann Morgan. She spent a year reading one book from each country of the world and then wrote a book about the politics of what gets translated and what doesn’t.

    • I made the same connection. What I’m not clear about is whether Sophie Baggott is planning to read something from every country in the world, or just from 200 countries (my geography is so bad that I couldn’t tell you if there are more than 200 countries in the world!). Either way I suppose its a big challenge because for some smaller countries there is virtually zero available in English

  • Villette, my mosted hated A Level text. Unfortunately, I can remember more of it than I would wish.

    • I struggled so much with that one. These people who come up with set text lists are just plain mean….

  • Comus is on my list too – it was one of my A-level texts. All I can remember is that it was a masque and seemed rather odd. I wasn’t keen on Cranford as a 14 year old – but read it a few years ago and liked it much more.

    • You’re the only person I have ever come across since school days that even knows what I am talking about with Comus!

  • Paradise Lost is my classics killer. It was a required reading book for a class but I still never finished it. Also Gulliver’s Travels is another required book that I never finished.

    • i struggled through Gullivers Travels too (had forgotten about that one), Paradise Lost I liked in part – meant to read it again but of course it disappeared into the land of good intentions

  • The Scarlet Letter was one of my O-level texts. I cannot remember a single word of it!


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