2017 Books – Chapter 2

January has dragged on and on this year, so forgive me for sharing a post with 2017 in the title. I don’t have a lot to report from my year so far (it’s been a bit wedding venue focused!) and to be honest I’m still catching up on the end of last year! But the good news is that it’s February this week and there’s only 8 weeks until the clocks spring forward.

Back to 2017, and at the beginning of the year I had the goal of reading 18 books off the back of a successful 2016 where I hit my target of 12. It was a target that for some would be done in a mere few months, but for me ended up being an unachievable challenge. In the end I managed a total of 10 books and below are the last of the ones read in 2017. I’ll tell you what my book goal for 2018 is at the bottom of this post.

 The Light Between Oceans – ML Stedman

The story begins on a remote island off the coast of Australia, where a light-house keeper and his wife face a life-changing moral dilema when a baby washes up in a boat on their island.

This book came to my attention following the release of the film, but I decided to go for the book first. I was hooked from the very beginning, as it starts part way through the story and takes you back to the beginning and right to the end. I liked the fact it tells a different side of the impact World War I, set in a country where I’ve never read a story set in that time. It really tugs at your heart strings and could have you in tears. It really made me think – could I live on a remote island, would I do the same thing, could I bring up someone else’s child without knowing their past?

A few months after I read the book, I tried watching the film but didn’t finish it. Perhaps it was something about the cinematic style and characters that made the story less interesting and much more bleak.

If you tend to pick emotive stories, I recommend you try this book.

Tender is the Night – Scott F Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald takes you to the 1920s on the French Riveria, where the young, rich and famous are drawn to escape reality. The allure of Dick and Nicole’s perfect outward appearance attracts a range of characters, including a young starlet, Rosemary. But Dick’s attraction to Rosemary, her percieved innocence and undamaged view of the world, unravels his relationship with Nicole and leads to his own self-destruction.

I really struggled with this book, which I was surprised at because I LOVED The Great Gatsby. Whilst Fitzgerald’s descriptive language painted the perfect picture of the French Riviera, Paris and Switzerland in the 1920s, I couldn’t warm to any of the characters and wonder if it would be better enjoyed in film. That said, when you get past this and work your way through half the book to get into the heart of the story, it does explore Dick’s complicated relationship with Nicole and the effect of her mental illness. As Fitzgerald’s last book, it has been said to based on his relationship with his own wife, her schizophrenia and his affair with a Hollywood actress. I think if I read it as an English student again it would be really interesting to analyse.

If you like the classics and don’t mind a story about darker and deeper emotions, this should be on your list.

Hot Milk – Deborah Levy

Sofia and her mother Rose travel to the Spanish Coast with the hope that the infamous Dr Gomez may be able to cure a mysterious illness that leaves Rose unable to walk. Dr Gomez’s unusual methods and Sofia’s encounters with the locals, lead both women to begin to see their muddled life more clearly.

I got swept up with the hype of this book after it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. So I’m sad to report that I didn’t enjoy it that much. It felt like the narrative was a bit jumbled, none of the characters were all that likeable and the ending felt unfinished. It reminds me a little of the books I studied that were written in a stream of consciousness, rather than sticking to a strict beginning, middle and end. Perhaps the fact that it’s not conventional and it explores female sexuality so obtrusively means there’s a deeper message I didn’t grapple with. It just wasn’t the book for me.

You might like it if you enjoy unconventional books that challenge writing norms, or where the focus lies on the message rather than the narrative.

The Bear and the Nightingale – Katherine Arden

Set in a remote village in Northern Russia, where the winters are cold and cruel, folklore and old magic comes to life by the fireside as the old tell the young tales of the Winter King. But for an unruly and stubborn Vasya, they’re more than just stories as she becomes the only one able to protect the village from danger.

I love escaping into another time and place, and one of the best things about this book was that it was set in Russia. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book based there and it’s the idyllic place for folklore surrounding the dark days of winter. But Katherine creates a world that’s dark and dangerous whilst being magical and true to Russian storytelling. It’s the perfect book to delve into under the duvet during colder months.

I recently realised it’s part of a series and the next book, The Girl in the Tower, has just been released. I haven’t got into a series of books for years and I’m quite looking forward to this one. I hope it doesn’t disappoint!

You’ll like it if, like me, you enjoy magical worlds and books like The Night Circus or Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Mia and her daughter Pearl move into the quiet suburban town of Shaker Heights, Cleveland, in search of a more settled life after spending most of it moving from town to town. An enigmatic artist, Mia unsettles Elena Richardson who follows the town’s regimented way of life. A custody battle for a Chinese-American baby puts them on opposing sides, leading to Mia’s secrets unraveling.

Celeste’s first book, Everything I Never Told You, was really thought-provoking for me, so I had high hopes for her second book. Whilst it looks at the challenges of teenage years and explores the delicate nature of the relationship between parent and child in a similar way, what I loved most was Mia’s relationship with her art and photography, how it shaped her life and helped from her run from the past.

If you’ve read her first book, or you enjoy books that look at familial relationships, I think you’ll like this one. But if you’ve got an interest in art or photography, I think you’ll find something you like too.

 

My goal this year is to read a minimum of 12 books but really I’d like to achieve 2 per month and hope that I might actually make 18. The trick I’ve realised is to choose books well because I have to see a book through to the end and bad books stall my progress over the year. So as ever, I’d be really grateful for your recommendations!! Leave a comment below, drop me an email or get in touch on Instagram. And if you’ve already read any of these books, do let me know what you think!

You can read the first half of 2017 here and all previous books here.

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5 Comments

  1. January 30, 2018 / 12:28 pm

    I really want to read Little Fires Everywhere but now I’m adding the Bear and the Nightingale as well. I’m currently reading the Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane and really enjoying it as it’s so different to what I’ve read recently.

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      January 30, 2018 / 4:29 pm

      Ooo Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane does sound good, I can imagine it would make a good film too. From the synopsis of this book I think you’d enjoy Little Fires Everywhere too! I need to actually go back through my previous posts as you’ve shared quite a few book recommendations I still need to add to my Goodreads list!

  2. January 30, 2018 / 3:52 pm

    I also really struggled with ‘Tender is the Night’ and in fact have left it partly finished on my Kindle as I really haven’t got into it and couldn’t engage with the characters just as you say- very sad as I wanted to love it!
    I’ve just finished ‘The Power’ by Naomi Alderman, a really interesting book about girls developing electrical power which basically means they’re much more powerful than men all of a sudden. It’s a very interesting look at male and female relationships, feminism and there’s a bit of religion chucked in there too- definitely an interesting read although a few bits are a bit graphic!!
    ‘The Light Between Oceans’ sounds like it could be my kind of book, I might put that on my list next!!

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      January 30, 2018 / 4:38 pm

      Oh that’s intestesting about Tender is the Night. It’s quite sad that his last book wasn’t as good as most famous ones, isn’t it. I’ve got a book called ‘I’d Die For You: And other lost stories’ By Scott F Fitzgerald on my reading list and I’m hoping I might find some of his better writing in there.

      I remember seeing The Power on the Bailey’s Women Prize last year but never got round to reading up about it. It sounds like it would be worth adding to my list too! I also need to go back through my previous posts as I remembered you shared some other good books. A task for the weekend I think!! 🙂

      With ‘The Light Between Oceans’ I think definitely read the book first. Have you read ‘All the light we cannot see’? As that is quite similar in terms of it being quite heart-rendering, only it’s a different time, place and topic.

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