It’s the final Wednesday in the month so time for another episode of What I’m Reading. An opportunity to share what I’m reading now, what I just finished reading and what’s next on my reading horizons.
What I just finished reading
Last night I reached the final pages of The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett. It was supposed to have been finished three days ago in time for the book club discussion but I ran out of time and was enjoying it so much I didn’t want to rush the last half of the book.
It’s been shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year, deservedly so because Bennett’s novel is a fluid and engrossing tale that tackles issues of identity, family bonds and racial “purity”. It’s narrative focuses on identical twin sisters who grow up in a small town populated by light-skinned African Americans “who would never be white but refused to be treated like Negroes”. Though the sisters become physically separated, their fates remain intertwined.
It’s one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.
What I’m reading now
I’m slowly making my way through The War Doctor: Surgery on the Front Line by David Nott. It’s a quite extraordinary account of decades spent as a volunteer medic in some of the most dangerous places in the world. Sarajevo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria: there’s barely been a war in the last 25 years in which he hasn’t been involved. You have to ask why someone would volunteer to put themselves in such a position of risk. “It is a kind of addiction,” he says in the prologue, “a pull I find hard to resist.”
Tonight I’m planning to make a start on the books I’ve chosen for 20booksofsummer (in my case it’s more likely to be 15 books). Two books from my ‘shortlist’ of 30 titles have been calling to me:
The Spire by William Golding: a shortish novel about a Dean who believes God has chosen him to erect a great spire on his cathedral. He perseveres with the plan despite objections that the cathedral was built on marshland and can’t support added weight.
Stone in A Landslide by Muriel Barbal: a novella is the life story of Conxa, who is sent away from home as a child to live with and work for her aunt and uncle. The love she finds is thwarted by the Spanish civil war. I’ve not had a great success with Spanish literature to date but maybe this one, being by a Catalan author, will work out better.
On balance it’s likely I’ll be settling down in the company of Mr Golding tonight.
What I’ll read next
You all know by now that I prefer freewheeling to having a firm reading plan so the books I mention here as being on my reading horizon are at most just possibilities.
Somewhere in the next few weeks I will be reading the next book club choice – it’s out for a vote among the members right now. The options are:
Hamnet – Maggie O’Farrell
The Mission House – Carys Davies
Actress – Ann Enright
The Woman In The Purple Skirt – Natsuko Imamura
Mermaid of Black Conch – Monique Roffey
Less – Andrew Sean Greer
What’s Left Of Me Is Yours – Stephanie Scott
Animals Of Lockwood Manor – Jane Healey
When The Stars Go Dark – Paula McLain
Jack – Marilyn Robinson
Beyond that it’s going to be back to the 20booksofsummer list. I might choose The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny. It’s book 17 in her crime fiction series set in Canada and I have a review copy. Though it’s not due for publication in UK until August i have a yearning to be re-acquainted with the delightful world of Three Pines in which many of the books are set. I’m also feeling the pull of 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? I know many people tend to change their reading habits depending on the season – do you consciously read different genres during summer (or winter if you are in the southern hemisphere right now)?