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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.


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