Book Reviews

Summer Reading 2019: It’s A Wrap

Summer reading

Clearly I am a fan of taking things to the wire.

I finished book 13 from my #summer reading list with five minutes to spare before the end of the deadline. But if September 3 had come and gone and I still had a few pages left to read, I don’t imagine anything disastrous would have befallen me.

I’m pretty chuffed that I managed to read 13 books. . I know plenty of other bloggers reached the heights of 20 but that was never going to happen for me.

If I was being disingenuous I would also count the three books that I started but abandoned half way. But somehow saying that I read 14.5 books doesn’t have much of a ring about it!

My original summer reading list had 15 titles. They were all designed to take me on a virtual summer holiday around the world. The original list and the list of what I actually read are somewhat different however.

Passport Stamps Collected

I never did get to India and my journey to Asia wasn’t very successful but I did still manage to visit Wales (twice) ; Austria; Croatia; Canada; US; Jamaica; Australia, England (three times) and Rwanda.

The books from the list that I finished were :

Wales: Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin

USABreakfast at Tiffanys by Truman Capote

AustriaA Whole Life by Robert Seethaler

Croatia: Hotel Tito by  Ivana Simić Bodrožić.

Jamaica: The Long Song by Andrea Levy

Canada: The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny

AustraliaShell by Kristina Olsson

Journeys Abandoned

I got about half way through these books but it was a struggle. The Midwife was about the weakest.

FinlandThe Midwife by Katja Kettu. This was one of those novels that assumes readers are deeply interested in the historical background of the story. While a certain amount of that can be interesting and helpful, with this book it was confusing and dull.

IndonesiaTwilight in Djakarta by Mochtar Lubis. This started well, focusing on a desperately poor man who is eking out a living as a rubbish collector. But then the whole book got bogged down in a discussion about Communist. If I wanted to know that much about Marxist theory I cold just have bought a pool on political ideology.

Malaysia: Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. This was on the reading list for a MOOC course on historical fiction although I never got around to reading it at the time. It’s based on traditional beliefs about death and the afterlife held by the Chinese population of Malaysia. I enjoyed reading that element but then the book turned into some odd story about a girl who tries to solve a murder in the spirit world. Weird…

Unplanned Detours

South Africa: A Dry White Season by Andre Brink

When I put that summer reading I overlooked four books I had committed to review. This is what took me off course and kept me in the UK for longer than expected.

EnglandA Single Thread  by Tracy Chevalier

England : Sanditon by Jane Austen

England: Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Wales: The Jeweller by Carys Lewis

Rwanda: The Barefoot Woman by Scholastique Mukasonga. This was a replacement for one of the books I abandoned.

New Tickets Needed

These are the books I never got around to reading. All except for the Kate Duigan have been in my ‘owned but unread’ shelves for several years.

Summer Reading

IndiaA Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry

South Africa: A Dry White Season by Andre Brink

New Zealand: Ships by Fiona Duigan

China: Frog Music by Mo Yan

GermanyAlone in Berlin by Hans Fallada

I might squeeze in one or two before the year is out. Given my lack of success with the two Asian authors on my summer reading list, I might try the Mo Yan. Have any of you read it? Would you recommend this book?


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

32 thoughts on “Summer Reading 2019: It’s A Wrap

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  • Great that you read so many and collected stamps from so many countries- awesome you made a detour to England as well 😉

  • Judy Krueger

    OK, now I have seen the actual list. I think you did great!

    • Thanks Judy, I think I did better this year than in previous years.Choosing quite a few novellas really helped

  • Your journey sounds like it took you to many interesting places, Karen!

  • I Have not read Mo Yan. I just read a new post on Sandition by Book Snob a minute ago. The only book on your summer list I’ve read is A Whole Life which I loved. You did well to read so many books. I’m such a plodder of a reader I don’t think I would have managed it. 🤠🐧

  • Yay, well done. I love the way you organised your reading by countries, fabulous idea. A Fine Balance is a wonderful novel, I have recommended it to so many people over the years.

  • But 13 books is still a nice achievement. So many interesting titles. I was actually thinking of you yesterday. I was going to ask you for recommendations of Welsh women writers. I hope you liked the Seethaler more than I did.

    • I’m sure I can come up with some Welsh women writers. What kind of thing would interest you Caroline so I can find something suitable. Historical fiction?Thriller? Mystical?

      • Actually, rather something more literary but mystical might be interesting. I’d love to know who you like a lot. Any personal recommendation is fine. Historical fiction isn’t my thing. Of course, I like thrillers.

        • The absolute best thriller I’ve read in a long time is The Woman in the Dark by Vanessa Savage. She’s from South Wales and it’s her debut novel but I predict she will be someone we will hear a lot of in future years. It’s a psychologically dark tale of a family in crisis.

          Literary and mystical – you could try A_Glastonbury_Romance by John Cowper Powys.
          Literary – one of my favourites is On the Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin

        • Thanks so much for the recommendations. I’ll look up Vanessa Savage immediately. I’ve read Bruce Chatwin and found it excellent. I’ll look into Powys. I’ve been to Glastonbury, so that might be interesting. Thanks again.

        • Hope they work out for you Caroline

  • You did well and it sounds a great idea to travel around the world from your armchair. Interesting to see A Fine Balance getting a lot of support. I’ve had that waiting to be read for years.

  • A well travelled literary summer! I’d like to put in a word for A Fine Balance which would make an excellent winter read. I know it’s a chunkster but it’s also a page-turner.

    • The size of the book was one reason why I never got to it. I was running out of time so knew I wouldn’t finish it….

  • I’ve not read the Mo Yan, but please get round to A Fine Balance. It is a brilliant book.

    • Instructions received and will be followed (at some point….)

  • A Fine Balance is extremely good. I managed 10 books off my 20 Books list, although I read 24 books in the time period. So I’m calling that as some sort of a twisted win …

  • You have read an impressive number of books over the summer. I am a bit jealous:) Keeping track of your world reading locations is neat. I should try something similar.

    • Well I made sure I had a few shortish books and novellas so I could more quickly read those, I did enjoy visiting all those authors countries…

  • Well done – thirteen is definitely lucky for some! Oh dear, I’m sorry you didn’t get on with The Ghost Bride since I’ve just acquired it. I loved her later book, The Night Tiger, and it does sound as if they share some similarities, so I’ll still keep my fingers crossed.

    • it was a close call whether I would continue reading The Ghost Bride. I’m sure other peoplewill enjoy it far more – I am not a lover of anything involving ghosts/spirits etc generally so not surprising this one didn’t grab me

  • I love it, such a cool way of traveling cheap! I have been to most if not all of these countries thorugh books, though I only know Louise Penny from your list.
    Now, a MOOC course on historical fiction? I’m curious, do you have a link?

  • Lyn Leader-Elliott

    What a mixed summer you’ve had! I suspect you might dislike Mo Yan. Red Sorghum, the only one of his I’ve read, was relentless in its depiction of the cruelty and brutality of rural life in China during the Japanese occupation. One of my real life friends, also a book blogger, said at the time that people lived through these things and we in a sense owe it to them to read about them.
    It was very tough, and utterly memorable.

    • I’ll make sure to avoid Mo Yan when I am looking for an uplifting book. Though having read Wild Swans maybe I will know a little of what to expect

  • Tamara Townsend

    A Fine Balance is one of my favorite books of all time. Its sooo good!

    • Hi Tamara. thanks for the endorsement of A Fine Balance. Mistry clearly has a very loyal following


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