June Reads 2015

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A read quite a lot in June, and feel pleased that I’m making good progress through some books that have been untouched on my shelves for a while now. I’m also on a self imposed book buying ban until September, purely to encourage myself to read what I know will be great books I already have. It’s actually quite liberating!

Katherine Hepburn by Barbara Leaming

I thought this was a solid biography of the legendary actress – although it was weighted rather interestingly. At least the first half of the book was about her ancestors, with a lot of focus on her mother and aunt who were big players in the Suffragette movement. I found all that really interesting, but it was a bit weird that we didn’t really get into Katherine’s life until much later on. I also would have liked to hear more about her life after Spencer Tracey’s death. I agree with other reviews I’ve read that said this isn’t really about Katherine Hepburn, we hardly get any insight into her life as a movie star, but more of a family saga. I have to say I didn’t hate that. If you want to find out more about the golden age of Hollywood though, this isn’t the book for you.

 

A Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man by James Joyce

I’m not really sure how to write about this book as such a large part of it went over my head. It is a classic written in stream of conscience style, dialogue, lectures and diary form. The blurb describes it has ‘exuberantly inventive’ but I found it rather confusing and disjointed. It tells the semi-autobiographical story of a young man growing up dealing with faith, sin, philosophy and human nature from school through to university life in Ireland. Sometimes the writing style really grabbed me and I flew along with the narrative. But I found the extended chunks of sermons or meandering conversations lost my interest and I had to concentrate so hard to follow them. I lost my way with it and then really lost interest. I found that nothing really happens, and I felt no sympathy for the main character, so the writing just wasn’t enough for me. I finished the book not really sure why I’d started it, or what I’d gained from it. A bit of a lost read and not one I’d recommend, especially if you were new to classics.

The F word- Granta 2011

Granta is a literally magazine, published four times a year. This was their feminism issue from 2011 which I picked up from a charity shop. I’ve not got too much to say about this, it was made up of a series of short stories and poems, none of which really grabbed me. I couldn’t really identify with the stories told, although there were a couple of more interesting ones.

Mr Darcy’s Daughters by Elizabeth Aston

As you might be able to guess, this novel tells the story of Darcy and Elizabeth’s 5 daughters. In Aston’s book the 5 daughters are about to experience their first London season, away from their parents who are off travelling for Darcy’s work. I picked this book up because I just wanted a lighthearted, fun read this month. Whilst in many ways it was that, I had so many problems with the way the author chose to tell this story that I couldn’t get totally on board. As a Pride and Prejudice fan, I’ve read a few spin offs (the best being Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!) but this let me down. I could see the author was trying to show how the daughters were in a more progressive world (references to sex and homosexuality being the most obvious differences to Austen’s novel) but this meant it had none of Austen’s subtle humour. And the set up of the novel, that the Darcy’s would actually leave their daughters in London in the hands of relatives just as they are coming out into society, was so unbelievable to what I felt about the original characters. The daughters themselves were also like faded carbon copies of Austen’s characters – the fact that Camilla, the main POV, was meant to be like Elizabeth was so obvious it was almost painful.

The story itself was a good enough regency romp with plenty of scandalous characters, drama and gossip. I was also happy with the resolutions of each of the characters, and found myself eager to know how it would all turn out. So really, I think I would have enjoyed this more if it had been nothing to do with P&P because I couldn’t quite overcome my issues there! It seemed odd to write an homage to the classic, but completely disregard what made it, and its characters, so brilliant.

Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII by David Starkey

I’ve written a full Tudor Tuesday about this, so I won’t say too much more here other than – not my favourite Tudor noon-fiction, and not really recommended.

Revelation by CJ Sansom

This is the fourth book in Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake books which I’ve mentioned before as I’m slowly making my way through them all to review as a series. They are murder mysteries set in Tudor times, with a hunchback Laywer as the main character. The series started off slow for me, but I really loved this one and gave it four stars on Goodreads. I love the way the books work through Tudor England, and how famous characters from history work their way into each one. But in this book the actual murder mystery was also excellent, I really didn’t know who it was this time, and the set up of the serial killer’s motives was chilling. It’s hard to say too much, without giving the story away. But I would say if, like me, you found the first books lacking in writing style and story keep going as they really do get better!

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