Today’s post is going to be talking through the books I read in the month of April. Once again, I find myself in somewhat of a reading slump. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading, it’s just I’m really struggling to get myself in the right frame of mind to sit down for long periods of time and commit fully to a book. I used to love putting aside a couple of hours a day and sitting down and reading, really focusing on a book. However, I find myself unable to do that at the moment. I’m not sure if it’s something to do with starting a new job, everyday stresses, or just general feelings of unease since the pandemic. My goal for the month of May is to read more books than I read in April (a grand total of four, so that shouldn’t be too hard, right?)
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
I kept seeing this book on my boyfriend’s shelf and always saw it on lists of book that you have to read, so I thought it would be a good idea to read this one.
The book follows the life of Okonkwo, a strong man of his village who, at the age of 18, beat the reigning wrestling champion. He has lived up to this “champion” title his whole life as a reaction to what he saw as his lazy father. Okonkwo is perceived as being ruled in his life by fear and anger, jealousy and a want to determine himself and his position in his society. There’s not much plot to this book, it’s a simple read that instead focuses on Okonkwo’s culture, his faith and religion, attitudes towards women, what he holds most dear, farming and crops and the significance of growing yams. Okonkwo is unable to, and refuses to, adapt himself and his way of living when European settlers arrive and intend to enforce their religion on Okonkwo’s village. The book shows us the dynamic between this relationship and how the village and Okonkwo become vulnerable.
This book is an interesting exploration into the impact of the West arriving in African society and insight into colonialism. It is a serious book and from it, we understand how colonisers not only came and built schools and churches and changed the physical layout of the land, but how they also colonised the minds and thought-processes of the people. I can completely understand why this is seen as such an important read for people.
Hunger by Roxane Gay
This was a buddy read that I did with Ely from Earl Grey Books.
This was a fantastic book by Roxane Gay as she discusses her relationship with her body through the years. It is an incredibly honest account which, at times, felt uncomfortable to read. I feel very grateful and lucky that she found the courage to share her experiences of being raped when she was twelve years old, and all the trauma that followed that experience.
Though her story is a sad one, she doesn’t want a pity party. The ending is somewhat positive and the idea of taking back control of your body runs throughout the book. I think it’s a really great study on bodies and feminism and should be essential reading for everyone. However, there was one particular chapter where she uses a comparison with anorexia to emphasise how much worse obese bodies are perceived in society. I found that uncomfortable to read and thought it came across as quite diminishing of anorexia as an illness. I did find the rest of the book incredibly insightful.
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
I had seen quite a few people recommend this book and I’d heard a lot about it. After reading the blurb I thought it definitely sounded like something I would be interested in reading.
This book is set in Seoul and follows the life of Kim Jiyoung. She is a stay-at-home mum after recently quitting a job that she loved to care for her newborn child. Kim Jiyoung gradually begins to show signs of psychosis and her husband sends her to see a pyschiatrist. It is during these therapy sessions that her entire life is narrated; her childhood, first love, her time at university, her first job… Woven through all these “firsts” is the sexism that she experienced as well (being followed home by a man, sexual harrassment in the workplace, the expectations of women in Korea to have children and give up their jobs…).
The book is very interesting in that it shows Jiyoung’s life and the difficulties she experienced as a woman contrasting against a rapidly advancing Korea. It introduced me to a culture that I wasn’t familiar with and, despite the fact Kim Jiyoung and myself come from different sides of the world, I felt her pain and sympathised with her on so many things.
Perfume by Patrick Süskind
Perfume is one of those books that I’d heard a lot about. A lot of people at my secondary school actually studied it for English (I wasn’t one of those!) but I definitely thought it would be an interesting read.
This book is set in 18th century France and follows the life of Grenouille who is born with excellent smell. Through his childhood, he spends his time deciphering the many and varied smells of Paris, but he soon becomes bored of that and wants to find something more. He becomes obsessed with capturing the smells of young girls.
I’ve never heard of any other book like this; it’s incredibly original and the concept is very imaginative. The author really plays on our sense of smell and how that influences our lives, our memories, our behaviours… It was interesting because after reading this, I found myself focusing a lot more on things I could smell around me. I absolutely adored the descriptions that the author uses to describes the smells that Grenouille is experiencing; the descriptions are incredibly visceral and you can almost smell them yourself.
The mystery aspect of this book is an added bonus!
What books did you read in the month of Apil?
Thanks for reading!
Love, Zoë x