My poorest month of reading yet, I only managed to get through five books in June and that was with quite short stories like Open Water, Boulder and God Help the Child.
I had a few social events in June, a holiday in Amsterdam and my parents visiting for a weekend which very much put reading on the back foot.
However, of the five books I did read, there were a few standouts. I have a very exciting month of reading in July with a huge stack of good books on my TBR, however I also have a week-long road trip in America in July which will most likely halt my reading goal again.
We’ll see how we go, but for now here are the ratings and reviews of the five books I read in June.
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists – he a photographer, she a dancer – trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.
My rating: ★★★★★
A beautiful short story about relationships, masculinity and fighting emotions. Set in South London, the characters of this book leapt from the pages and felt incredibly real. For a debut novel, I can’t wait to see what else is to come from Caleb Azumah Nelson as this was exceptional.
Boulder by Eva Baltasar
Working as a cook on a merchant ship, a woman comes to know and love Samsa, a woman who gives her the nickname “Boulder.” When Samsa gets a job in Reykjavik and the couple decides to move there together, Samsa decides that she wants to have a child. She is already forty and can’t bear to let the opportunity pass her by. Boulder is less enthused, but doesn’t know how to say no―and so finds herself dragged along on a journey that feels as thankless as it is alien. With motherhood changing Samsa into a stranger, Boulder must decide where her priorities lie, and whether her yearning for freedom can truly trump her yearning for love.
My rating: ★★★
I picked this up in my library as it was long listed for this year’s Booker Prize. An ok read for literary fiction, but as I mostly find with a lot of Booker Prize-listed books, there wasn’t much of a storyline to grip on to. I wouldn’t go rushing to recommend this one.
God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
Sweetness wants to love her child, Bride, but she struggles to love her as a mother should. Bride, now glamorous, grown up, ebony-black and panther-like, wants to love her man, Booker, but she finds herself betrayed by a moment in her past, a moment borne of a desperate burn for the love of her mother. Booker cannot fathom Bride’s depths, with his own love-lorn past bending him out of shape. Can they find a way through the damage wrought on their blameless childhood souls, to light and happiness, free from pain?
My rating: ★★★★
I struggled to read Beloved which was my first introduction to Toni Morrison’s writing, but I wanted to give it another go as she’s so widely acclaimed. I spotted God Help the Child in my local library which was a very short story. I felt this was a lot easier to read and get into than Beloved, and Toni Morrison always writes such troubling storylines with amazing talent and depth.
America for Beginners by Leah Franqui
Sometimes you have to go a long way to find what you’re looking for. And sometimes a little beginners luck is all you need. Welcome to the First Class India USA Destination Vacation Tour Company. One fixed itinerary, one fixed price. All levels catered for. No refunds. Recently widowed Pival Sengupta has never travelled alone before and her first trip to this strange country masks a secret to find out the truth about her long-estranged son. Satya, her guileless and resourceful tour guide, has been in America for less than a year and has never actually left the five boroughs of New York. An aspiring/failing actress, Rebecca signed up for the role of Pival’s modesty companion; it might not be her big break but surely it’ll break her out of the rut she’s stuck in. As their preconceptions about each other and about America are challenged, with a little beginners luck, these unlikely companions might learn how to live again.
My rating: ★★★★
I picked this up as a spot of light-hearted reading between the Booker Prize novels and that was exactly what I received with America for Beginners. It transported me to both India and all across America (mostly New York) which I adored, plus I learnt a thing or two about Indian culture while digesting it. I laughed quite a lot and sympathised with the underlying storyline that was happening throughout. This is a book I would definitely recommend for some light reading.
Is Mother Dead by Vigdis Hjorth
‘To mother is to murder, or close enough’, thinks Johanna, as she looks at the spelling of the two words in Norwegian. She’s recently widowed and back in Oslo after a long absence as she prepares for a retrospective of her art. The subject of her work is motherhood and some of her more controversial paintings have brought about a dramatic rift between parent and child. This new proximity, after decades of acrimonious absence, set both women on edge, and before too long Johanna finds her mother stalking her thoughts, and Johanna starts stalking her mother’s house.
My rating: ★★★
Another book long listed for the Booker Prize, I picked this up from my local library even though the title was quite sombre to say the least. I also liked that the book was set in Norway, having just been there on a trip a few weeks ago (shameless plug, but you can find my YouTube vlog of that trip here) and could picture the fjords where the book was set – plus it even mentioned Bergen, where I had been. This was a strange book, I’ll give it that. A woman who had quite intense mother issues but left me wondering if there was more issues than just abandonment. A lot of short pages and chapters which allowed me to get through the book quickly, but overall I found the story quite strange (and not in a good way).