Here in England we’ve been plunged into a second lockdown and it’s pretty dismal. I’m not sure about you, but the first time we locked down I was in better spirits. Even though we could not enjoy the summer properly, it was light and warm outside in the evenings and people were out sitting in their gardens or taking long leisurely walks.
Now it’s getting darker earlier and winter blues combined with being in lockdown is not easy. Hopefully it’ll just be for a month this time, but who knows.
Anyway, as you well know, I am a proper little bookworm. Even though I consider myself to be quite extroverted, I do enjoy getting some time to myself to read. I’m happy to go to a pub by myself in the summer and sit in the pub garden with a drink and a book, and equally as happy to sit in a cafe in the winter with my Kindle. For now I’ve mainly been reading before bed, because sitting outside in the cold on a bench somewhere does not have the same appeal.
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts. I’ve read so many things on my Kindle lately and I don’t want to list 20+ books, so I will just stick to the ones I really enjoyed.
The Midnight Library – Matt Haig
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig was one of my favourite books I have read this year. It follows the life of Nora Seed, who is having quite a miserable time having lost her job and her cat. She’s understandably distraught and unfortunately decides to take her own life.
She ends up in The Midnight Library, which is a sort of place between life and death. It’s filled with nothing but books and for some reason, Nora’s old school librarian Mrs. Elm is there.
The library is not an actual library of course. It exists as a parallel universe, and the books each represent a different course Nora could have taken with her life. These range from marrying one of her old boyfriends to pursuing her dream of becoming an Olympic swimmer. Snippets of each life are featured in the book and leads back to the question, would we have really been happy if we did things differently?
Although the theme seems slightly Sliding Doors esque, Nora only spends a chapter or so exploring each life choice, and they’re not interconnected so it’s not complex. It’s not meant to be. I think the point Matt Haig was trying to get across is, is the grass always greener on the other side? Are there little things in life that give us joy, but we overlook them because we’re searching for the big things?
Despite its sombre premise, it’s a really uplifting read and funny in places, honest!
All The Lonely People – Mike Gayle
Hubert Bird is a pensioner who lives alone in London. He has weekly telephone calls with his daughter Rose, and in one of them she announces that she’s coming back from Australia to visit him. This sends Hubert into a panic as he’s been telling Rose he has an active social life to stop her from worrying, whereas in all honesty he’s alone.
All The Lonely People flips between Hubert’s past when he was part of the Windrush generation that came to the UK from Jamaica, and the present where Hubert is trying to make new friends.
It’s a story about race, love, community, family, addiction, old age and friendship and it’s so very poignant. All the characters are extremely likeable and Mike Gayle’s writing is very readable.
City of Girls – Elizabeth Gilbert
City of Girls is mainly set in New York in the 1940s and it tells a story of glitz and glamour, at least from the outside. Vivian Morris arrives in New York and is taken in by her Aunt Peg, who owns a theatre in Manhattan. Vivian works as a costume designer and quickly makes friends with one of the showgirls, Celia.
We read about their antics and the mistakes they make. Through her time in New York, Vivian attempts to break free from her family’s expectation of her.
I really found myself rooting for Vivian and the theatre throughout the book. She was selfish and irresponsible but as the book was written looking back on past events, she was able to be self deprecating.
Although the plot was slow, especially towards the middle, the writing is witty and sharp and the characters were unique and engaging which makes time pass so much easier.
The Most Fun We Ever Had – Claire Lombardo
The Most Fun We Ever Had was a hulking great book at 642 pages. Like City of Girls, this focusses more on character development rather than plot.
The story focusses on married couple Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson, and their four daughters. Wendy is the oldest. She’s a widow and finds solace in the bottle and younger men. Violet is a stay-at-home-mum who has kept a secret that might soon resurface. Liza is a professor who finds out she is pregnant and Grace is the youngest and is living a somewhat secret life.
These aspects of their lives keep the plot moving along, but what I particularly enjoyed is how they interact with each other and the reasons behind it. The story is told from each character’s perspective, so you get a rounded idea of why they act around each other in a certain way. It’s a really remarkable book about family life and relationships. I’ve never read anything quite like it before and the characters were the most well-developed I’ve ever come across. I’d really recommend it, even if it’s over 600 pages long!
I’ve read a few paperback books too that I will review in a separate post.
What have you been reading recently? Have you gone into a second lockdown too?
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