Blimey, August. In an update on my self-imposed book buying ban, I can tell you that I haven’t bought a single book in a month! I’ve read a mixture of borrowed books and my own and got one from the local library, so I’m not doing badly. In fact, I have so many books (and am not resisting the siren call of the library very well), that I’ve decided to extend the ban until Christmas! For each book reviewed from now until December, I will mention where the book came from. You might notice that, unusually for me, the bulk of this month’s books are novels. I’m trying to break old habits.
The Winter King- Thomas Penn (borrowed from a friend)
I enjoyed the series earlier in the year based on this book, so looked forward to reading this biography of the first Tudor king. Although the author has an easy to read, engaging style, I’m afraid he’s not been able to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse; there’s no hiding the fact that Henry VII was BORING. The most colourful parts of the book relate to- who else?- the future Henry VIII. Anyone who tells you Henry Tudor just seems dull because of his more exciting son is wrong. He was dull as ditchwater and mean to boot.
This Charming Man- Marian Keyes (borrowed from a friend)
I used to read Marian Keyes when I was student; during my deepest point of my depression at uni, Marian Keyes, Minette Walters and Jackie Collins were lifelines of easy reading for the days when I could only manage to get out of bed to make a Pot Noodle. This was the first Keyes book I’d read in about eight years and it was candyfloss for the brain: easy to read, funny in parts and utterly predictable (although there were a couple of twists, I’ll grant you.) It was a perfect book for reading at the start of the summer when I couldn’t do with anything heavy.
Rebecca- Daphne Du Maurier (borrowed from work’s library)
I devoured this. It really is a wonderful book that deserves its classic status. The twists and turns were compelling reading and it totally didn’t end the way I thought it would. It’s amazing how a book that was written in the 1930s can have such resonance today and feel totally fresh (even my favourite, Gone With The Wind doesn’t quite manage that. What with all the racism and what have you.) Utterly, utterly brilliant. I don’t know why I never read it before. If you haven’t read it, make it a goal to do so as soon as possible and then let me know what you think.
May We Be Forgiven- A.M. Homes (borrowed from work’s library)
This book won the Women’s Prize for Fiction (that used to be the Orange Prize and next year will be sponsored by Baileys) and I must say, it’s a peculiar book. On the jacket, it is compared to Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, which I read about ten years ago and HATED. I did like this book, but it’s kind of… winding. A kiss on Thanksgiving means that the protagonist and his brother hurtle through a massive set of life changes involving murder, online hook-ups, a terrorist plot and a trip to Africa. I liked it, but was slightly baffled in parts. Which is probably why it was perfect for the Women’s Prize judges!
The First Ladies of Rome: The Women Behind The Caesars- Annelise Freisenbruch (my own copy)
This is a brilliant book. It’s a compelling look at the female relatives of the Roman emperors and their role within Roman society. The author attempts to untangle some of the many myths and scandal surrounding empresses such as Livia, Agrippina and Messalina, as well as looking at how these women influenced day to day life in the empire. If you’re at all interested in the history of women, or of Rome, I would highly recommend this book.