I’ve always loved reading from a young age, and of course, studying a History and History of Art degree, my life was basically reading!! However, throughout the past three years of uni, I have slacked with reading for fun and have only picked up a few books I really wanted to read in the holidays. Now I’ve finished uni, I’d love to try and make reading a fun and regular aspect of my life! I’d also like to make book reviews a feature on my blog, I’m aiming to do a Book Roundup of all the books I’ve been reading in a particular month/ two month period depending on how much I read. I’ll also add a book I’m definitely going to read in the coming month so it can become an almost relaxed book club and anyone reading the blog can join in too.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood
The past two months I’ve read 4 books, starting off by finishing The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood. I’d started The Handmaid’s Tale last year in fact, having seen and absolutely loved the TV series that aired last year and I finally got round to finishing it just before the second series started on Channel 4. However, the time it took me to read does in no way reflect my thoughts about the book as I found it such a thought-provoking and gripping book. The book explores the life of Offred, a Handmaid, whose primary function is to bear a child for the Governor and his wife in the dystopian Republic of Gilead. Any deviation will lead to severe punishments, like being sent out to live in the harsh conditions of the colonies or even hanged in some circumstances. Without too many spoilers, I found the structure of the book, following Offred through her daily routine, with the chapters divided into days and nights, a brilliant way to show how not only Offred but the characters around her acclimatised to their new way of life. It also helped to put even the smallest acts of rebellion into perspective, giving the reader an impression of how much each act risked their lives. Overall, I thought it was a fantastic read and also can’t wait to see where the TV show takes the story. I’d love to read some more books by Attwood so if anyone has any recommendations send them my way! (I have a beautiful hardback copy of The Handmaid’s Tale, but you can buy a fairly cheap paperback on Amazon here.) Rating 4.5/5
Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut.
My second read of the month was a bit more challenging for me to get into and it was Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut. The novel follows Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran and POW, who, as he gets older, becomes “unstuck in time” and begins to experience events in his life out of chronological order and often all at once. Admittedly this was the aspect I struggled with when reading as the narrative jumped quickly from one time and place to another, making it difficult to keep up at the start. However, as you continue reading you begin to understand that this warped concept of time is only one of a number of problems Billy faces after living through the traumatic event of the bombing of Dresden. I particularly enjoyed the narrator’s deadpan description of war, and repetition of the key phrase ‘so it goes’, throughout the entirety of the book whenever a death occurred. The nonchalant use of language, when describing the usually dramatised events of war gives the reader a reality shock, making them question how monotonous war is and how each death becomes meaningless in the continual cycle of war. (I sadly don’t have a copy of Slaughterhouse 5 to take photos of but you can buy a copy on Amazon here.) Rating 3.5/5
Rice’s Architectural Primer by Matthew Rice
A little bit of a different read from the traditional fiction is my third read of Rice’s Architectural Primer by Matthew Rice. The book is a beautifully illustrated introduction to architecture, spanning a breadth of British architectural history and styles that ensued. Not only does the book provide illustrations of key buildings of each period, but also detailed annotated sections to help the reader get to grips with architectural vocabulary and grammar. Although I’d like to think I know quite a bit about architecture on basic terms, it was great to read an overview and really pair together certain features with periods. The book also has a collection of small maps at the back with notable buildings and their period in each area of Britain, a brilliant addition if you’re looking for somewhere new to visit. I received this as a gift for my birthday and I think it’s such a beautiful present for anyone wanting to learn more about architecture. Rice also has a Church Primer and a new book coming out called the Language of Buildings so I’m looking forward to hopefully starting a collection with those. (If you’re looking for an academic book or glossary you might prefer purchasing a different book as the main emphasis is on illustrations, although I’d still highly recommend it as a companion book). You can purchase Rice’s Architectural Primer here on Amazon. Rating 5/5
The Power by Naomi Alderman
The final book I read this month was The Power by Naomi Alderman, a book I’ve been waiting to read for so long. Although I think I could have made time for it earlier in the year, I really wanted to dedicate some quality time to it as I was expecting to love it. After now finishing it, I can confirm I did absolutely love everything about this book, the style it was written, the characters and the whole plot of the novel. The book follows the story of a few characters (each with their own chapter) as they adjust to a life in which women suddenly develop a special electric power that can be used to electrocute anything and anyone. As women begin to discover the power the characters are faced with a changing society in which men begin to lose control. One thing I thought worked well in the book was the change of perspective between characters which brilliantly demonstrated how different characters both male and female reacted to the power. I often sided with particular characters whilst reading their chapter but then other characters circumstances and experiences made me change my mind and see the multifaceted positives and many negatives of the new found power. However, I do think some of the ideas of gender reversal and inequality were forced at times, especially through the authors’ letters at both the beginning and end of the book. They did raise questions, however having read the book, they seemed obvious and as if the author was making sure the reader fully understood. Sunbeamjess goes into this in a bit more depth in her video here so have a watch if you’re interested. I’d still really recommend this book though as it’s a great page-turner! I’d really recommend this book if you loved The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Attwood. You can buy a copy on Amazon here. Rating 4/5
Hope you enjoyed reading this post, I know it’s something a little bit different but I loved writing the reviews and can’t wait to continue this as a feature. If you have any thoughts about any of the books mentioned or any recommendations please do let me know! Next month I’m planning on reading Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, which you can buy here on Amazon. Please do join me and we can discuss the book in the comments of the future post!