Commute reads ~ 2015 so far

I often ponder how it’s possible for weeks and months to pass by so quickly. Is it London life packed from the working week to weekend, or a stage of life where there’s always something to do, people to see or places to go? As I finished my fifth book of the year last week, I realised that we were six months into the year already and it prompted this frequent thought (albeit confused with the fact that we still have the rest of July and August to enjoy a summer which seems to have vanished somewhat recently). At the same time I discovered I was annoyingly short of my target of reading one book a month and I realised that usual distractions of Bloglovin, Instagram, Twitter, Timeout and Stylist on the daily commute had absorbed more time than may be healthy.

Before I move on to the second half of the year, as there is still the promise of a few more weeks of summer left and holidays or sunny weekends to read books still await, I thought I’d pause for a moment and share my commute reads so far (hoping that I might get a few recommendations in exchange…).

So in order of least to most favourite, here they are:

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The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman– Denis Thériault, Liedewy Hawke

I stumbled across this book when I was looking for inspiration and rummaging around the posts for Poppy Loves Book Club. It’s only 100 pages or so, so I think you can class it as a short story which (if you’re not easily distracted) could be absorbed very quickly. Set in Montreal, it follows the lonely life of Bilodo, a postman who takes to secretly steaming open some of the post from his rounds so that he can delve into the lives of others. When he comes across the letters of what he assumes are between lovers, he becomes more and more involved in their exchange. The letters include a Japanese form of poetry called a haiku and I think the most clever aspect of this book is how the author intertwines the concept of the poem with the structure of the story. It was a good short read, but not one I’d be quick to recommend.

H is for Hawk– Helen Macdonald

I decided to read H is for Hawk after it won the 2014 Costa Biography Award. Award winning books are often guaranteed good reads, but whilst I liked the book overall I did at times struggle to finish what is a relatively short book. On the one hand, Helen explores grief and bereavement after losing a parent, which from having experienced myself I can relate to, and it is beautifully descriptive (the description of frozen puddles as ‘saucers of ice’ was one of my favourite lines). On the other, through her intense relationship with the goshawk, I found myself skimming over the parts of the book that focus on hawking and refer to Terence White’s book on the subject. I did enjoy reading Helen’s memoir, as a genre I don’t usually choose it was a refreshing change, but I think the factual side of it lost my attention.

The Taxidermist’s Daughter– Kate Mosse

I’ve heard so much about Kate Mosse’s books that I’m surprised I never thought to pick one to read until now. Set in 1912, Kate shares the tale of Connie Gifford, daughter to and a practising taxidermist who lives an isolated life at Blackthorn House. Connie begins to unravel the disturbing story behind the accident that wiped her memory many years before after a murdered local girl washes up at the bottom of their garden, and three men (including her father) go missing. With taxidermy as a running theme you can imagine that at times the descriptions can be somewhat gory and uncomfortable, particularly the extracts of the murderess’ diary. But if you like murderous mysteries or you’re a fan of her books, this is a book for you.

The Miniaturist– Jesse Burton

The Miniaturist is a well-publicised book, in fact it may have grabbed my attention on a poster in the underground. But for those who haven’t heard about or read this book, it’s set in 17th Century Amsterdam where strict morals are maintained and punishments provided for anyone who goes against them. Newly married to a wealthy guilder, Nella arrives and is presented with a wedding gift of a miniature replica of the house she now lives in. As the parts arrive to furnish it, the secrets behind the home’s stern exterior emerge and Nella has to decide whether to stay and support her husband and sister, or flee for home comforts. The complex characters and the context of the Netherlands and the sugar trade provide plenty of interest to get absorbed into. Throw in the intrigue of the creepy miniature replicas and you find yourself immersed in a great book.

The Bees – Laline Paull

Whenever I’ve explained the story behind this book, I often receive the comment that it sounds similar to Dreamwork’s film Ants. Whilst it is an easy read, it’s also so much more and overall quite fascinating. Laline tells the story of Flora, a bee born of the lowest kin who rises above her inherited rank in the beehive. Through the humanisation of bees the book explores the themes of motherhood and hierarchy, whilst at the same time describing the minute world of the beehive. You’ll never look at a bee in the same way again after reading this!

So there are the books I have read so far this year. Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

I’ve just started reading Station Eleven after spotting it on Zoe’s brilliant Instagram feed, (she’s also the writer of Conversation Pieces and runs the Blook Club). I’ve got a few more books from a list done at the beginning of the year (and everyone seems to be reading The Girl on the Train) but I definitely need some more lined up to help me catch up on my goal. Do you have any recommendations??

P.S. If you need any more book recommendations, you could read the following posts:

 

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6 Comments

  1. July 16, 2015 / 3:28 pm

    Oooh good selection! I enjoyed Taxidermist’s Daughter but agree, sometimes the descriptions got a bit much for me. I really like Kate Mosse’s books – I think Labyrinth is my favourite but I also liked Citadel. I found the Miniaturist very slow to get going but I liked it a lot more from about halfway.

    I just finished The Book of Strange New Things which I found fascinating but quite disconcerting, so next up I’m going for something much more trashy and reading The Royal We. I also need to read The Girl on the Train!

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      July 16, 2015 / 3:42 pm

      I think I’ll try a couple more Kate Mosse books, I feel like Labyrinth has become a bit of a classic so I should really go for that one! The Book of Strange New Things looks interesting, I don’t think I’ve read a science fiction book before so it could be a genre I explore next. It’s been good trying a mixture of things rather than sticking to my usual, but sometimes you can’t beat getting absorbed by an easy read.

  2. July 16, 2015 / 8:30 pm

    I loved The Miniaturist but really couldn’t see the attraction of The Bees at all. I haven’t read any of the others though. If I only had a slightly longer commute I might get to read a bit more.

    Lisa | Not Quite Enough

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      July 17, 2015 / 11:23 am

      I chose The Bees for a light-hearted read after H is for Hawk but agree it may not be for everyone. I used to have a 20 minute commute and read hardly anything for two years. I think more use out of my kindle is one of the few perks of a 45 minute commute via the Northern and Bakerloo line!

  3. July 25, 2015 / 10:54 am

    I’ve never read any Kate Mosse, I probably should! I’m currently reading ‘The Girl with all the gifts’ which despite being the type of book I usually don’t much like (dystopian-future type thing) I’m actually rather enjoying…

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      July 26, 2015 / 4:51 pm

      Oh sounds interesting, I’ll have to to take a look at the story. It’s good to try new genres, esp when they work out of course! 🙂