Today’s post is going to be my February wrap up; everything I read in the month of February, my thoughts and a quick review of each book.
Let me know in the comments what you read this month!
A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Little Princess was always one of my favourite classics as a child, alongside The Secret Garden also by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Sara Crewe is sent to Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies. Her life is completely changed when she learns that her father has died back in India leaving her penniless and an orphan. Miss Minchin banishes her to a dingy attic room and she is forced to work as a servant at the same school she was once a pupil at. Demeaned and abused, her fortunes slowly start to change.
I loved re-reading the book as much as I loved reading it back when I was a child. I also loved the movie as a kid and I must re-watch that too! Sara Crewe is the fictional perfect human being – kind, compassionate, resilient and generous. I loved returning to Sara and re-reading her adventures. A very heart-warming tale!
Common People: an Anthology of Working Class Writers by Kit de Waal
This is a collection of essays, peoms, memoirs and short stories from writers coming from a working class background (featuring many new, unpublished writers as well as new-to-me authors). This collection discuses the various ways that your background can impact you, the varied experiences of the working class, whilst also emphasising that being working class is not solely about the “under privileged and disposed” but a call to be “proud of your roots”.
Several of the stories really resonated with me. I found many of the stories to feature elements of humour as well as being reflective, poignant, sad… This book feels much needed in the world of publishing where these sorts of voices are so often overlooked and forgotten. I would urge anyone to read it. There’s no notion in this collection of “life is unfair”, it’s more encouraging people to accept their background and find ways to deal with it and overcome it.
The Yellow Dog by Georges Simenon
This is the fifth book in the Maigret series (though thankfully I don’t think there’s any real need to read them in order as I definitely have not done this!). This book is set in the seaside town of Concarneau where a local wine merchant has been shot. It seems that someone is set out on killing all the influentual and rich men in the town. Maigret looks for his answers in the seeminly inconspicuous barmaid Emma and a strange yellow dog.
This is the second Maigret novel that I have read. It was a really good mystery read with an unexpected twist at the end. I like the style of how Maigret solves his cases; a mixture of provoking things to happen and waiting for things to unfold. There are a number of red herrings in this book that keep you guessing throughout.
The setting is perfect – storms, fog, empty streets. A cosy read!
The Night is Darkening Round Me by Emily Brontë
This is one of the Penguin Little Black Classics featuring some of Emil Brontë’s most beloved poetry. The poems are based around themes from death, nature’s beauty and the passage of time.
Although these poems are often bleak, I loved reading them and truly found them amazing works of literature. Dark, passionaate, imaginative, full of strength and strong emotions. It’s no surprise that her sister Charlotte said of them, “I thought them condensed and tense, vigorous and genuine. To my ear they had a peculiar music, wild melancholy and elevating”. I’d love to re-read this collection again and really, really focus in on the structure, the context and the beauty of the words. I feel like I could read her poetry forever.
The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry
This book is a monologue of a librarian who unlocks the building one morning to find a reader who has been locked in overnight. The one-sided conversation is fast-paced whilst she expresses her frustrations and anguishes at a range of issues from the way libaries ar run, architects and her love for a researcher she often sees in the library. As well as her love for books of course!
If you class yourself as a bookworm, chances are that you’ll love this quick read. It features cracking one-liners that are funny but also hard-hitting and true. The monologue is gripping and with no natural breaks in it, you can read this book in one sitting very easily! I found it captivating and saw a lot of myself in the librarian.
The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley
Set in 1859, an ex-smuggler for the East India Company is trapped at home in Cornwall due to a previous injury he sustained in China. The East India Company recruit Merrick for an expedition deep within the Peruvian jungles to retrieve quinine – essential for the cure of malaria – Every group that’s tried has ended up dead – killed by the monopoly that makes quinine so well-protected. Upon arrival at a time bordering the quinine supplies, Merrick stumbles upon a salt line where anyone who crosses ends up dead.
This book was not what I was expecting and I find it very difficult to describe or give a succint review of it. I was expecting a historical fiction novel, not one with heavy elements of fantasy and magical realism, with fairy tales and the supernatural woven through every page. The imagery is vibrant from the countryside of Cornwall to the jungles of Peru. The story also touches on important issues of colonialism, race, politics, trade, religion… One thing I would say was that I found the book started off quite slow but that quickly changed when the characters arrived in Peru.
Othello by William Shakespeare
This has always been my favourite Shakespeare play and is probably one of the most well-known tragedies ever written. It is set between Venice and Cyprus and it tells the story of how Iago sets out to destroy Othello’s career, marriage and happiness by twisting a set of wicked and cruel lies, trapping everyone in the web in the process.
The story is very over-the-top and melodramatic, but it’s one of the best plays ever written because of that exact reason. It has layers upon layers involved in the plot but also in the characters. From Iago, who is possibly the archetype for many modern villains to Othello, conflicted and confused and led by his jealousy. It’s a difficult read, not least of all because it’s Shakespeare and Shakespeare will always be difficult for us to read, but because it’s so tragic.
If you haven’t read any of Shakespeare’s work before, this is definitely a great place to start!
Books I am currently reading
I still have a few chapters left of Spring edited by Melissa Harrison.
Thanks for reading!