Frankenstein Unbound

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Read 10/06/2021-28/06/2021

Rating 4 stars

My second read for the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge is Frankenstein Unbound by Brian Aldiss. I’ve known Aldiss’s name in relation to science fiction for a while but never read anything by him. I picked this novel up in Bookmark, a second hand bookshop in Falmouth, drawn by its cover art.

It is simultaneously, as with most science fiction, a reflection on concerns about the contemporaneous era, and a projection of where current science might lead. It is also a meditation on Mary Shelley’s gothic masterpiece, Frankenstein.

Continue reading

Unbowed: One woman’s story

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Read 27/07/2020-13/08/2020

Rating 3 stars

Book 9 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge, a substitution in the original list.

Unbowed is the memoir of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Muta Maathai. This remarkable Kenyan woman was a child during the period of the British war against the Kikuyu people. She became a scientist, educated in Kenya, the US and Germany. She joined the environmental movement and campaigned for the re-establishment of forest in Kenya and fairer representation of women in agricultural production. She was a powerful advocate for democracy in Kenya. Her ideologies put her in conflict with Daniel Arup Moi’s government, and placed her life in danger. She was the first African woman to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. This is what I gleaned from Maathai’s Wikipedia entry, after my best friend sent me a card printed by her sister, one in a series of inspirational women she had designed. Continue reading

Barn 8

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Read 12/07/2020-18/07/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 6 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge.

I’d read a lot of praise for Deb Olin Unferth’s novel Barn 8 on social media and in the press and I finally decided to take the plunge.

It is as good as people say it is. This is my first encounter with Unferth, although this isn’t her first book. Continue reading

Common People: An Anthology of Working Class Writers

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Read 07/06/2020-14/06/2020

Rating 4 stars

Book 2 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge.

Common People is a book I pledged for on Unbound in 2018. It grew from a radio documentary by Kit de Waal called “Where Are All the Working Class Writers?“, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in November 2017.

As well as securing high profile, established authors like Malorie Blackman, Louise Doughty, Lisa McInerney and Anita Sethi, de Waal as editor commissioned a search through regional writer development agencies for new working class voices to be included in the anthology. Continue reading

The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House

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Read 03/06/2020-07/06/2020

Rating 5 stars

Book 1 in my 10 Books of Summer reading challenge.

I put The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House on my list of books for the 20 Books of Summer reading challenge because I’ve owned it since November 2018 and made a couple of attempts to read it, both times putting it down after a couple of pages because it felt too much. The current protests against the brutal treatment of black people by police and society in general made me get over myself.

This pocket sized volume of 50 pages packs a punch. It brings together five essays by Audre Lorde that are a call to dig deep, find our passion, harness our anger and make a permanent, radical change to the assumptions that underpin the world we live in. These essays highlight sexism, racism and homophobia and underline their intersectionality. Continue reading

Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs

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Read 02/08/2019-08/08/2019

Rating 5 stars

Read for both the 20 Books of Summer readathon and Women in Translation Month.

Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs is Lina Wolff’s debut novel. Translated from the Swedish by Frank Perry, it’s a tale set in Spain that follows the narrator’s teenage encounter with a short story writer whose mission is to reveal the disparity between the binary genders of male and female and how meaningless the word love can be.

The women in this novel are strong, independent, resilient and resourceful. They take no shit from the men who drift in and out of their lives. None of them is entirely likeable but all of them are compelling as characters. I was instantly gripped by the world Wolff has created and wanted to do nothing but read this book and hang everything else I was supposed to be using my time for. Continue reading