January in Literature

One of the big perks of this year? I’m finally free to read WHATEVER I WANT again. BOOM! POW! TAKE THAT READING LISTS! Read all the things!

And it would appear that I’m not alone in this reading all the things thing either. I’ve noticed a lot of people asking for book recommendations, making reading their New Years Resolutions and The Dizain Collective have even started a book club! Putting two and two together I figured, hey, people actually want to know about books (insert suitable excited emoji in here). So I’m gonna give it to you, a monthly round-up of what I’ve been reading and whether you should read it too (or not).

MAYS mays'I kicked off this year reading Maya’s Notebook by Isabel Allende. Allende is my all time favourite author but this would not be my favourite pick.

Maya is a mess, addict, runaway, emotionally wounded. After a particularly foul stint in Las Vegas she is carted off to the Islands of Chile to convalesce (and hide from the US feds). In Chile she begins to heal, fall in love, develop relationships. It’s the story of a broken girl coming back to life. Like any Allende read its beautifully written, I still genuinely wanted to finish it, to know what happened but it felt a bit flat compared to previous works. I get the impression it was Allende’s stab at trying to conjure up a happy ending for her husband’s addict daughter who disappeared some years ago.

Maya’s Notebook is okay. It’s by no means great and it’s probably the worst Allende book I’ve ever read. But Allende is a star and so that makes it still pretty okay. Would I recommend it? No, pick a different one – Eva Luna or House of the Spirits.

tge lumin lumThe Luminaries has been the book on everyone’s tongue since it won the Man Booker prize last year. But even before that it was a Twitter favourite. I received it for my birthday but only just managed to get around to reading it. Why did I wait. The Luminaries is massive and it takes a few pages to capture you but oh my. Once you’re in, oh boy are you in.

Set in gold rush era Hokitika, The Luminaries is a swirling story of intrigue, murder, lust, greed, opium and revenge. With twenty characters at its centre, twelve trying to negotiate what on earth has transpired it is complicated but clever and incredibly rewarding. I hooned my way through the pages, not satisfied until every detail had been shed, something which the author, Eleanor Catton did in full circle.

The Luminaries is a complex beast, it’s hefty, at times confusing but it’s worth it. I cannot wait to see it translated into a television series. It’s a story which will actually work in that format. But read it first.

hyper hypeAnother Twitter favourite, Hyperbole and a Half is a collection of blogger Allie Brosh’s hilarious illustrated stories slapped into a book (some old, some new). Reading it was one of those weird things when I realised that all those pink dressed girls meme’s on the Internet were actually someone’s specific creation and actually came from something really cool. D’oh.

I found very quickly that it was a book I could not read in public because I would end up laughing uncontrollably out loud. I mean actually properly Loling.  Which is really embarrassing when you’re on a silent bus. It’s warranted though because Brosh is hilarious and self deprecating and also really damn on to it. Her explanation of depression had lightbulbs going off all over my brain saying yes! This is totally it! And then I had to make my boyfriend read it so that he could get it too. (I don’t think he minded because it’s pretty good). Since reading it I’ve also recommended it to lots of other people because it brightened my life when I was reading it and made me laugh in a way that doesn’t happen often.

This is a book I’d totally say, ‘Go on! buy it for someone who needs a laugh.’

the sum the sum ofIf I was laughing my way through Hyperbole and Half, I totally wasn’t laughing while reading The Sum of Our Days. Sobbing would be more accurate.

One of Isabel Allende’s most famous works is PaulaThe family biography she wrote for her daughter as she lay for months in a coma. Being Salvador Allende’s niece, Isabel Allende’s family history is pretty fascinating but the context in which the story is told makes for a harrowing read. At its conclusion I found myself sobbing in mourning of Paula as if I had known her myself.

The Sum of Our Days is the follow-up, what happened after, the grief process. When I started reading it was through welled up eyes. Even though I haven’t read Paula in years, reading The Sum of Our Days made it fresh once more. And harder because now she was actually dead. As the book progressed that feeling began to be healed as Allende also began to slowly heal.

I found that I learnt a lot from that book. About life, about love, family. I realised a few things about myself and wrote numerous quotes out on paper so that I could remember them. Isabel Allende’s writing is truly a gift.

‘We Only Have What We Give’

Last but not least a shout out to my favourite book store – Time Out. Make book buying a joyful experience and go check out these guys. They’re great at giving recommendations and a really lovely local business. You go buy books from them!

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About madicattt

Curator of The Things That Are Good. Sharing the things that stand out in the worlds of theatre, food, beauty and style.
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