Reading plans

What I’m Reading : Episode 35, June 2021 – from Ghana to France. Or maybe Tasmania

This month’s episode of What I’m Reading gives me a chance to do an update on my progress for the #20booksofsummer challenge which started on June 1 and runs for three months.

So far from my list I’ve read five books (including The Only Wife:) and abandoned one.

The Spire by William Golding: fabulous psychological depth in this tale of a cathedral dean who is determined, against all advice, to erect a spire on top of the cathedral

Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor: started off well as an exploration of a disintegrating marriage in a newly independent South Africa but seemed to lose its way and try to cover too many issues. I’m puzzled why this was shortlisted for the Booker Prize

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny: it may be summer in the northern hemisphere but I can still enjoy a novel set in wintry Quebec.

The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena by Elsa Joubert: this has been classed as one of the most significant novels to come out of Africa but though it deals with the key issue of apartheid, I found it almost unreadable and gave up on it half way through.

What I just finished reading

I finished The Only Wife by Peace Adzo Medie last night. It’s her debut novel, set in Ghana where she grew up having moved there from Liberia as a child. This wasn’t actually on my original #20booksofsummer reading list but I’d just had a disappointing experience with two novels that were on the list and I wanted to stay in Africa for my next choice.

The Only Wife is a tale of an arranged marriage between a young, attractive girl from a poor family and a charismatic wealthy entreprenneur. When I saw if mentioned in a Financial Times list of “2021 novels to watch out for” I got the impression this book would be more thought-provoking than turned out to be the case. It has a coming of age flavour and though enjoyable to some extent, it had too much of a romantic element to be fully satisfying.

What I’m reading now

Now that gyms have re-opened I’ve returned to my practice of listening to audio books. I’m deep in sixteenth century England where unrest about enclosures of land and rising prices result in an uprising by serfs and agricultural labourers in Norfolk. Tombland is the latest of the series by C J Sansom which features the lawyer Matthew Shardlake and as with all his previous books in this series, Sansom does a fantastic job of bringing the history, smells and sights of this period to life.

I’ve stalled once more on my non fiction read: The War Doctor by David Nott, a memoir about his experience of volunteering as a doctor in war zones. After two months I’m still only on chapter 3.

I’ll be starting a new book tonight and all I can say for definite is that it will be one of my 20booksofsummer choices.

I’m desperately hoping that my next book is more engrossing than The Long Journey. I’m weighing up a few options but won’t know until the last minute which I’ll choose from the following:

The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott:  I do enjoy novels set during World War 1 and this was recommended to me by another novel. The main character is Harry who takes photographs of the graves of the dead soldiers from World War 1 to send to families, so that they can see where their loved ones lie.

Family Album by Penelope Lively: snapshots from the lives of a large upper-middle class family growing up in their somewhat ramshackle home

Dangerous Women by Hope Adams: a work of historical fiction based on the real-life experience of 180 female convicts sentenced in 1841 to transportation to Van Diemen’s Island (now called Tasmania).

What are your reading plans for the next few weeks? If you’ve read any of the books on my “reading next” list you can help me make a decision.



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

18 thoughts on “What I’m Reading : Episode 35, June 2021 – from Ghana to France. Or maybe Tasmania

  • Great lists, Karen – I hope you’re enjoying your latest reads. Penelope Lively has been a favourite of mine since childhood – fantastic writer. Enjoy!

    • I’ve barely started the Lively (got sidetracked with a collection of short stories) so a little early to guage Sara but so far it’s fine.

  • I’m afraid I have read none of those on your list. I am currently reading Chekhov’s short stories, after which I will revert to rereading Dickens

    • Somewhere at the back of the bookcase I have a Chekhov short story collection – its likely to stay there for a long time though because I’m not a huge fan of short stories no matter how good the author

  • I have a couple of Lively titles somewhere and I rather fancy that Family Album is one of them, but can’t tell you anything more than what the blurb says. What a fabulous idea though, to listen to an audio book at the gym—intellectual stimulation without having to listen to pounding beats, machinery or inane chat shows on the telly! Without recourse to the gym (not my thing really, unless there’s a pool attached) I’ve managed to notch up five and a half books so far and should reach my goal of fifteen books by 1st September fairly comfortably.

    • The audio books keep me sane – I hate loud music chosen by other people.
      I knew you’d have no problem with your 20 books challenge….

    • It does have that feel about it. Easy to read but it lacked depth

  • I have several books around me but not started any of them. Just finished a Graham Swift book that I really enjoyed called Here We Are for book group. I’ve not heard of these, not eve Dangerous Women! The Lost Photographer appeals. 🐧🎈

    • I’ve read only one Graham Swift – Last Orders – which I really enjoyed and always meant to read more by him but you know how things disappear into good intensions land?

  • Not read the Lively but I do like her. In the middle of a book by Rose Macaulay’s biographer here, and may well be reading more of her soon! 😀

    • I have limited experience with Lively so it is going to be interesting what I make of this one

  • I do enjoy a Matthew Shardlake novel, but I remember reading the hardback and it was a BIG book, it made my hands ache. I like the sound of The Photographer of the Lost.

    • Each one in the series seems to be longer than the last one.


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