When I Hit You

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Read 13/05/2018-17/05/2018

Rating: 5 stars

Meena Kandasamy’s fictionalised account of her abusive marriage is on the short list for the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Knowing what it’s about, in very broad terms, I’ve been reluctant to read it, but a couple of glowing reviews piqued my curiosity.

The book describes four months and eight days of domestic abuse and marital rape. It describes why a woman in that situation might not be able to leave, and might not want to leave. It describes how abused women easily disappear from their social circles because the other people in those circles don’t want to look for reasons why.

I found it eye-opening. It made concrete something that I have only thought about abstractly. I’m thankful that I have never been raped, that the worst things I’ve experienced have been isolated incidents of physical and verbal abuse. I read this book from a relatively safe space. I can’t say whether a woman who has experienced or is experiencing the things Kandasamy describes would find it a help or a source of further distress to read this book. I can say that I found it well balanced and honest. Continue reading

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I Was Told to Come Alone: My journey behind the lines of jihad

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Read 14/04/2018-22/04/2018

Rating: 4 stars

All you need to know is, you need to read this book.

I became aware of I Was Told to Come Alone when it was included in the March Madness Reading Challenge. After I read Home Fire, I felt like I needed to read something based on the real experience of the young men who become jihadis and the young women who become jihadi brides. So I reserved it at the library. And I’m very glad that I did. Continue reading

Negroland: A Memoir

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Read 14/03/2018-21/03/2018

Rating: 5 stars

I can’t remember where I found out about Margo Jefferson’s memoir Negroland. I thought I’d read a review on one of the book blogs I follow, but a search threw nothing up. Maybe I found it when I was searching for more to read about black experience in a white-dominated society. Maybe I saw it on someone’s Instagram. However it crossed my radar, I’m glad it did. Continue reading

21st-Century Yokel

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Read 28/12/2017-02/01/2018

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve been reading Tom Cox’s nature writing for a while now, first through his columns in The Guardian and more recently via his website. He’s an interesting writer. He writes about nature in a way that makes sense to me. It’s difficult to describe, but it has to do with nature being entwined into life rather than held at bay and experienced for leisure. His writing style reminds me of W G Sebald. He’s whimsical without it being a pose.

I pledged for his latest book on Unbound. I haven’t read any of his other books, despite four of them being about his life with a clowder of cats and me being the sort of person who has to stop to say hello to any cat I encounter. 21st-Century Yokel, though, seemed the kind of book about nature, folklore, understanding the place where you live, walking, landscape, myth, and sheep cuddling that I’d been waiting for. Continue reading

Lincoln in the Bardo

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Read 12/12/2017-22/12/2017

Rating: 3 stars

I went into this novel blind. I’ve heard of George Saunders. He features in Nick Offerman’s book Gumption. He’s someone I’ve been meaning to read but never got round to. Lincoln in the Bardo won the 2017 Booker Prize. It was on the shelf in the library last time I went in to change my books, and someone had recently told me I should read it.

The same someone told me that Lincoln in the Bardo is a strange book, boring for long stretches then, just as you’re about to give up on it, something interesting happens that hooks you back in. They also told me that it was kind of like Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, but not.

It’s certainly a strange book. Continue reading

Half Broke Horses

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Read 02/11/2017-05/11/2017

Rating: 3 stars

I chose this book for Arizona on my US Reading Challenge. It has good scores on both Goodreads and LibraryThing, and a review in the New York Times praised it for its reminder of what life was like for many in the western states of the US from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century. The publisher, Simon and Schuster, has this to say:

Half Broke Horses is Laura Ingalls Wilder for adults, as riveting and dramatic as Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa or Beryl Markham’s West with the Night. Destined to become a classic, it will transfix readers everywhere.

Wow, right? Continue reading