A Reading Wrap Up – September 2020

It’s that time again.

Time I got my lazy arse in gear and did a wrap up of the books I’ve read recently. These are the books I’ve read that I haven’t or won’t be doing full standalone reviews for. But they are no less worthy of a mention!

Let’s get crackin!

After The Silence by Louise O’Neill (Riverrun)

BLURB:

On the day of Henry and Keelin Kinsella’s wild party at their big house a violent storm engulfed the island of Inisrun, cutting it off from the mainland. When morning broke Nessa Crowley’s lifeless body lay in the garden, her last breath silenced by the music and the thunder.

The killer couldn’t have escaped Inisrun, but no-one was charged with the murder. The mystery that surrounded the death of Nessa remained hidden. But the islanders knew who to blame for the crime that changed them forever.

Ten years later a documentary crew arrives, there to lift the lid off the Kinsella’s carefully constructed lives, determined to find evidence that will prove Henry’s guilt and Keelin’s complicity in the murder of beautiful Nessa.

I really enjoyed this one! I’m a fan of Louise O’Neill’s adult books and really loved Almost Love. I’ve heard the After The Silence was heavily influenced by the very popular true crime podcast West Cork (which I recently listened to on Audible and was transfixed!). This is a multi-layered book which deals with controlling relationships, small island prejudices, judgment and misconceptions. It has a claustrophobic quality and the documentary element lends it a fresh and compelling point of view. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The End Of Alice by A.M Holmes – Scribner

BLURB:

The End of Alice treads the wafer-thin line between the evil and the everyday and caused a major controversy when it was first released in the US. The story centres on the correspondence of two paedophiles: one, the narrator, is a middle-aged child-killer serving his twenty-third year in prison; the other, his bland-speaking, sweet-seeming admirer, is a nineteen-year-old woman intent on seducing a young neighbourhood boy. Slowly, through these letters, the narrator’s monstrous character emerges.

Oh my word, this book! I’ve had this secondhand copy on my shelf now for a good while. I recently read and enjoyed Music For Torching by A.M Holmes so I decided to finally pick this one up. Now I knew going into this book that it involved paedophilia. Little did I know how stomach churningly graphic it would be. The thing with books like these is you can’t really say you ‘enjoyed’ it. Once I’d started reading I carried on because I was invested, but I have read many a review where the reader has had to give up due to the upsetting and sickening nature of the book. I will NEVER forget this book. Like……EVER. If you do decide to pick it up, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED, DO YOUR RESEARCH!

The Nesting By C J Cooke (HarperCollins)

BLURB:

Deep in a remote Norwegian forest, Lexi has found a new home with architect Tom and his two young daughters. With snow underfoot and the sound of the nearby fjord in her ears, it’s as if Lexi has stepped into a fairy tale. But this family has a history – and this place has a past. Something was destroyed to build their beautiful new house. And those ancient, whispering woods have a long memory. Lexi begins to hear things, see things that don’t make sense. She used to think this place heavenly, but in the dark, dark woods, a menacing presence lurks. With darkness creeping in from the outside, Lexi knows she needs to protect the children in her care. But protect them from what?

This book really surprised me if I’m honest. When I first went into it, I wrongly assumed it would be a completely dark, gothic and creepy tale, and whilst on the whole it is, there is also a dry humour in places courtesy of our protagonist Lexi. There is certainly an unsettling undercurrent shot through with threads of chilling folklore, something which I adore. The setting and backdrop of Norway is not one I think I’ve encountered before and C J Cooke certainly does a fantastic job of describing the landscape and drawing you into another world. I really enjoyed this one. I’d recommend getting your hands on a copy and snuggling up around Halloween to immerse yourself in this ghostly tale.

Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (W&N)

BLURB:

When you leave Ireland aged 22 to spend your parents’ money, it’s called a gap year. When Ava leaves Ireland aged 22 to make her own money, she’s not sure what to call it, but it involves:

– a badly-paid job in Hong Kong, teaching English grammar to rich children;
– Julian, who likes to spend money on Ava and lets her move into his guest room;
– Edith, who Ava meets while Julian is out of town and actually listens to her when she talks;
– money, love, cynicism, unspoken feelings and unlikely connections. Exciting times ensue.

I have to be honest and say that this is not usually the kind of contemporary fiction I would naturally pick up. I’d heard comparisons drawn with Sally Rooney and as most of you know I’m not a Rooney fan I’m afraid. This book however I enjoyed more than I thought I would. I bought it on a Waterstones whim and when I was feeling a little bit lost with reading in recent weeks I decided to just give it a go. It’s a quick read that I enjoyed. I have no rapturous praise, just simply I enjoyed it. I liked the exploration of language and etymology the most. The millennial element not so much but I’d still recommend it.

Mr Cadmus by Peter Ackroyd (Cannongate)

BLURB:

Two apparently harmless women reside in cottages one building apart in the idyllic English village of Little Camborne. Miss Finch and Miss Swallow, cousins, have put their pasts behind them and settled into conventional country life. But when a mysterious foreigner, Theodore Cadmus – from Caldera, a Mediterranean island nobody has heard of – moves into the middle cottage, the safe monotony of their lives is shattered. The fates of the two cousins and Mr Cadmus, and those of Little Camborne and Caldera, become inextricably enmeshed. Long-hidden secrets and long-held grudges threaten to surface, drawing all into a vortex of subterfuge, theft, violence, mayhem . . . and murder.

Well this one was a lovely surprise bit of book post and what a quirky, dark little tale it is! What starts out as a story with an almost fable-esque quality suddenly takes a very unsettling turn! A few people who I’ve chatted with about it have been surprised by the dark twists and turns! I found this one an eccentric and eclectic read and I’m not quite sure what else to say! Give it a whirl and see for yourself!

Summerwater by Sarah Moss (Picador)

BLURB:

On the longest day of the summer, twelve people sit cooped up with their families in a faded Scottish cabin park. The endless rain leaves them with little to do but watch the other residents. A woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a retired couple reminisce about neighbours long since moved on; a teenage boy braves the dark waters of the loch in his red kayak. Each person is wrapped in their own cares but increasingly alert to the makeshift community around them. One particular family, a mother and daughter without the right clothes or the right manners, starts to draw the attention of the others. Tensions rise and all watch on, unaware of the tragedy that lies ahead as night finally falls.

I held off reading this one for quite a while because the world and his wife were reading and loving it and that tends to put me off picking a book up. I’d also not really enjoyed Ghost Wall, when all around me had waxed lyrical about it so I was apprehensive. But, I can safely say I really enjoyed this one. The multiple different perspectives kept it fresh and propelled the story forward. The backdrop of the unrelenting Scottish rain served as almost a character in itself. I’m sometimes not a huge fan of a stream of consciousness/inner monologue narrative as it can make me feel a bit worked up and anxious (I don’t know!) but I felt that the balance was just right here. I’ve read The Tidal Zone and Night Waking and enjoyed both of these so I really must get around to reading Bodies Of Light and Signs For Lost Children.

The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer (Penguin Modern Classic)

BLURB:

Peter, Peter, Pumpkin eater
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her…’In this extraordinary, semi-autobiographical novel, Penelope Mortimer depicts a married woman’s breakdown in 1960s London. With three husbands in her past, one in her present and a numberless army of children, Mrs Armitage is astonished to find herself collapsing one day in Harrods. Strange, unsettling and shot through with black comedy, this is a moving account of one woman’s realisation that marriage and family life may not, after all, offer all the answers to the problems of living.

I had seen this book on Claire Fuller’s Instagram feed and I am always hugely interested in the books she reads as I feel we have very similar taste. The Pumpkin Eater is a strange little novel teeming with black humour. I found myself constantly wondering just how many children this woman had! It’s constantly referenced that she has many but a definite number is never settled upon. I think it’s more than 6 but less than 15……. I guess we’ll never know! This is an ‘of its time’ tale of marriage, motherhood, depression and loneliness. But don’t be put off by those weighty subjects. This book is witty, clever and captivating. I really enjoyed it.

So there we have it! Just a few of the books I’ve read recently that I wanted to mention to you.

My reading is extremely up and down at the moment. I’m either eating books up or I’m all booked out! I’m just taking each day as it comes and trying not to pile too much pressure on myself at an already tricky and confusing time!

Anyway, I hope you’re all well and I’ll see you again soon.

Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx

4 thoughts on “A Reading Wrap Up – September 2020

  1. Fab selection there Amanda 👍🏻 I’m the same as you at the minute, all uninterested and slumpy or devouring at pace, it’s a weird one! I’ve reduced the amount of screen time I’m having lately as I need to get through so many on my TBR (you’re responsible for many of them may I add 😂) and next on my list is The End of Alice 😬 I’m feeling a bit het up about getting into it, I’ve read the first chapter 3 times and I’ve no idea why 🤪

    Like

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