December Reading

One of my favourite things about the Christmas period (and there are many) is that I can sit under a blanket on the sofa (occasionally with the addition of a cat or two, depending on whose house I'm in), with a cup of tea, and remain there for quiet a while, just reading.  There is no rush to do anything or be anywhere, I can just read.  As such, I tend to get through a lot of books at this time of year, and I've possibly read more than usual this year as I've finished my PhD and am currently job hunting, leaving me with a little bit more time on my hands.

So, here's my reading for December:

It started with re-reading (yet again) the Malory Towers books by Enid Blyton.  Despite having so many books in my flat (and a decent, well-stocked public library just a short walk away) I often feel that I have nothing I want to read, and so I fall back on these school books.  When I was younger, I wanted so badly to go to Malory Towers, I wanted to have a trunk with my name on, and a health certificate to hand in to Matron, and to swim in the pool filled each day by the tide.  Reading them now, as an adult, the stories are rather twee, but I love them all the same.

I won a copy of Hannah Kent's Burial Rites through an online competition.  I'm not sure if it is a book I would have picked up otherwise, but I did find myself enjoying it.  It's based around the story of the last woman to be executed in Iceland in the 19th century.  Previously, I knew nothing about Iceland, so the map in the front of the book and the short guide to pronunciation were useful.  The plot is interesting, told from the point of view of several narrators, and moves along at a decent pace.  Burial Rites is the author's first novel, and I'm definitely looking forward to reading more by her in the future.

The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult was picked up on a spur of the moment visit to the local library.  I first read a Jodi Picoult book a few years ago (I think it was Nineteen Minutes) and then found myself reading her entire backlist as well.  I like her books because they focus on ideas of morality and ethics, what would the reader do if they were in this character's situation?  The Storyteller focuses on Sage, whose grandmother survived Auschwitz, and Sage becomes friends with an elderly man viewed by many to be a pillar of the community.  Josef asks Sage for her forgiveness, as he admits to being a Nazi SS guard.  As with many (all?) of Jodi Picoult's books, different characters narrate their own sections to tell their own stories, which is a style that works so well for this sort of book.  Since I can remember, I have always read the end of a book when I'm about a third of the way through it (so I've probably met all the major characters) as I hate surprises, and always like to know where a book is going.  Whilst I am aware most people find this an odd habit, I don't think it detracts from the enjoyment of a book at all.  It's a debate I've had many times with many people!  Anyway, I also got Lone Wolf out of the library as well, so that's on my reading pile for January.

After The Storyteller I then started Fugitive Pieces by Anne Michaels.  I've had it on my shelf for ages, and never got round to reading it, partly because it doesn't have a blurb, just positive reviews.  Whilst positive reviews are, of course, good, it doesn't help me in knowing if I want to read it!  I could look it up online, but I didn't.  So it turns out that this book is also about the Holocaust, and another well-written book too.  It follows the story of Jakob, as he flees Poland and the Nazis when a child, and is 'adopted' by a Greek scholar before moving to Canada.  It's beautifully written (the author has published books of poetry as well) and although it did take me a while to kind of be comfortable with her style, I did enjoy reading it.

A few years ago, I was given Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales as a Christmas present.  It's full of lots of fairy tales from around the world, and most of them are not the cute, sweet sort of fairy tales I knew growing up.  I can't read too many in one go, as that can get a bit confusing, so I'm aiming to read one or two a day.  That's my plan for this afternoon, to curl up on the sofa under a blanket with a cup of tea and read.  Lovely.


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