Despite the challenges posed by the current circumstances, lockdown has provided a great opportunity for many people to invest time in reading and explore new releases. Book lovers everywhere are calling for people to buy from their local, independent book stores and support authors with new releases, who will now be unable to do their anticipated book tours and events.
It’s great to see how people are rallying around the book community, to try and protect something that’s been incredibly comforting during an unfamiliar time: the simple act of reading.
Reading has been a huge comfort to me over the last few weeks and months, and I’ve been keen to take advantage of the extra time at home by finally diving into my ‘to be read’ list, whilst also exploring new titles and authors previously unknown to me.
Here’s just a handful of the books I have been enjoying during lockdown.
My Dark Vanessa is the heartbreaking tale of the relationship that develops between 15 year old Vanessa Wye and her 42 year old English teacher. The story alternates between the start of the relationship in 2000, and the present day life of Vanessa in 2017 when growing allegations of sexual abuse come to light.
It is a brutal story, beautifully written and painfully incisive in both its hard and soft moments.
Despite the palpable discomfort created, I fell in love with Russell’s descriptions of the physical and emotional responses Vanessa experiences to different situations. It felt important to read a different, often under-represented, perspective on the experience of abuse, in which the individual doesn’t believe they’re being abused.
My Dark Vanessa asks probing questions about consent and agency, and highlights the continuing impact of an intimate, intense relationship in such harrowing circumstances.
Longlisted for the 2020 Dylan Thomas Prize, Things We Say in the Dark is a collection of short stories in which Kirsty Logan explores the dark, the twisted and the downright spooky.
From eerie fairytales to twisted supernatural fiction, each story creates the perfect atmosphere of unease and impending doom whilst exploring themes of female fear, isolation and desire. Think of this book as adult ghost stories for feminists!
Exciting Times is the debut novel of Irish writer, Naoise Dolan. The story follows Ava, a Dublin girl living in Hong Kong, who finds herself stuck between a fun, but unfulfilling relationship with a man and a new, all encompassing relationship with a woman.
I loved the exploration of queerness in this book, particularly in the modern setting. The way Dolan approached a female/female relationship without making it tokenistic or sensational was incredibly refreshing, and something I’d love to see in more mainstream books.
David Nicholls, author of One Day, praised Exciting Times as a ‘sharp, smart, witty modern love story’ and it certainly hits that mark. Although I sometimes found the writing style reaching to be considered intelligent, and the detached, cool, but slightly obsessed nature of Ava’s character became a little stereotypically millennial, I really enjoyed this fun, quick-paced read.
Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019, My Sister, the Serial Killer is a morbidly fun, sinister and sharp read.
As a fan of true crime and horror, I was immediately drawn to the dark subject. The story shares a snapshot of Korede’s life as she deals with the aftermath of her sister’s propensity for killing her partners, and the overwhelming sisterly duty she feels to cover for, and protect her.
The snappy chapters and simple writing style mean I inhaled this book in just shy of one sitting. It’s a fun, interesting and female-focussed take on slasher-style genre. This was also the first book club chat that I joined with Women’s Writes, so I’m more than happy that this book founds its way onto my shelf!
What have you been enjoying lately?
Hannah Durham, How to Breathe Deep – https://howtobreathedeep.com/