I haven’t been able to devote much time to blogging this month, which has been a real shame for me. My reading has also been a little odd as I’ve only finished four books, although I’ve had a few more on the go that I’m still reading. So whilst it hasn’t been a bad reading month exactly, it’s definitely been a bad blogging month!
Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang
The subheading of this book is ‘The concubine who launched modern China’ and that sums it up pretty well. You may know Chang as the author of Wild Swans which I read years ago and really enjoyed, and I really enjoyed this book too. Cixi is an absolutely fascinating woman, who went against so many conventions of her time and country to effectively rule China against all the odds. I found the writing compelling, sympathetic to the woman herself, but not overly biased and willing to admit she certainly wasn’t perfect. But it certainly achieves the goal of showing that so much or what the world remembers of Cixi is legend, not fact, put about by her enemies. I came away believing that! I love to read about strong women, and Cixi certainly was that, what she goes through at times has that ‘you couldn’t make it up feel’ which makes it a page turner of a biography. Cixi is also the inspiration for a novel Empress Orchid which I have read and I liked reading more about the fact behind that fiction as well. Highly recommended as a good start to biography too if it’s not a genre you’ve read much of before.
Grimm Tales by Philip Pullman
It feels a bit unfair to say I read this in June, as I have been reading it on and off for, honestly, years. This book is Brothers Grimm stories, re-told by Pullman for young and old. Each story is really short, some you would be familiar with, some more obscure. I was really disappointed by this book. I found it repetitive, the stories boring and didn’t really see a touch of Pullman in it at all. I now realise that I actually haven’t liked anything by Pullman since the His Dark Materials trilogy, so I wonder if he is just not for me. Anyway, if you like fairytale re-tellings, you might like this but I really could have left it unfinished.
Audrey Hepburn by Sean Hepburn Ferrer
This book was presented beautifully with lots of gorgeous pictures, but again is just wasn’t for me. Ferrer is Hepburn’s son, and he has chosen to write the book in a certain, reflective way that just didn’t appeal to me. He makes his mother almost saint like, and her words like a creed. I get that he feels that way about her, but as a book I just found it annoying. I feel bad saying that as I’m sure in some eyes it is a perfect tribute. I liked looking at the photos, but I wish I hadn’t bothered to read the text.
Re-read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I allowed myself a re-read this month as I felt like I’d previously been blasting through my TBR. What can I say about this book? I have always said it was one of my favourites, even though I had only read it once, because it made such a huge impact on me. Now I’ve read it again and I know for sure that it is. It opened my eyes to dystopian futures and feminist ideas, to writing in a class of its own. The Handmaid’s Tale is set in a future world where many women are no longer able to have children, and society has dealt with this by making fertile women into Handmaids, clamping down on their joy and sexuality. This world feels so real and so possible, as you can see that it magnifies how some people actually do feel about women, about hierarchy and the future. I don’t feel capable of summing up how wonderfully nuanced this book is, but all I can say is read it if you haven’t already!