February was a great reading month for me! I feel like I’ve found my reading groove again, and I got through quite a few books that I’ve wanted to read for quite a while.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
I am very much an introvert, and it’s taken me a long time to learn to accept that about myself. I heard about this book a long time ago, and it’s been on my to-read list for ages. It sets out just how much the modern world is set up for extroverts and how extroversion is seen as the only way to succeed.
I found myself nodding along with so many of the ideas here, and it really resonated with me in so many ways. Even from a young age, I remember all my school reports stating that I ‘needed to speak up more’ and ‘find my voice’ and I was always made to feel that being quiet and introspective was something that needed to change. I loved the stories of introverts channeling their introverted qualities in a positive way and it helped me to feel more confident in embracing those introvert qualities that I see in myself.
My only criticism was that I really wish it had gone further in giving tips and techniques for more concretely how to make a more positive impact as an introvert. There were plenty of examples of famous introverts who have had massive impact and success, but as a more ‘ordinary’ introvert, who is by nature quite self reflective, I felt that the book didn’t necessarily teach me anything about myself that I didn’t already know; it just reassured me that those qualities weren’t necessarily a negative thing.
Big Sky – Kate Atkinson
This was a new release that I was particularly excited about. Kate Atkinson is one of my favourite authors (I read her recent Transcription last month), so a new book is always a treat. Big Sky is the fifth novel in the Jackson Brodie series, and sees the return of the detective after a break of quite a few years.
I have to admit (and I was surprised) that I didn’t enjoy this one. The topic of child sex trafficking was pretty grim and made difficult reading, but I found the characters stereotypical and pretty uninteresting. Mafia thugs, trophy wives, bored teenagers, plucky female detectives… It seemed to take ages just to get going, and then wrapped up almost too quickly, without ever really gripping me. I have to admit I was pleased to finish this and move onto the next book.
Where The Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
This book has been so hyped up and I’d seen so many people over on Instagram recommend it that I couldn’t wait to start it. It’s set in the marshes of North Carolina, and tells the story of Kya, a young girl whose mother walks out on the family, followed, one by one, by her siblings, leaving her alone with her drunken and abusive father. Until one day, he leaves too. She is left to raise herself, with only the birds and the wildlife that surround the swamps to keep her company, save the odd trip to town in her boat.
It is in part a murder mystery, part a nature study, part courtroom drama, part romance. Delia Owens’ description of the marshes is beautiful and really brought to life the landscape and the natural world there.
But overall, I was left feeling a little disappointed. I suspect the hype was too much for me, and I expected it to be more than it was. I was expecting more of a life changing read, and while I enjoyed it, it certainly wasn’t one that had a huge impact on me, or one that I would rush to read again.
The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047, Lionel Shriver
I picked this one up at the library, having remembered enjoying (not sure if that’s quite the right word though) We Need To Talk About Kevin by the same author a few years back. The Mandibles are a family made up of several generations, headed up by an elderly and very wealthy man. Beneath him, two generations await an inheritance which, it transpires, will never materialise. The novel begins in 2029, when a huge economic crash hits America, rendering the dollar practically worthless. Suddenly, the fortune of The Mandibles has vanished, and they, along with everyone else in America, are left virtually penniless.
It’s a strange and unsettling read. There is quite a lot of setup at the start in the economic and political lay of the land, and that does take some time to get your head around, but so much of what it lays out is entirely plausible, and it doesn’t take too much imagination to see it happening. It’s a world that is like our own, but that changes almost overnight, and only gets worse from then on.
I found this a really tough read, as the messages in it were so bleak. Much of the human nature revealed is very negative, but there were moments of kindness and good that did come through, and there was plenty of humour too, albeit very bleak and somewhat biting. Like “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, this is a book that will stay with me for a long time.
On my list for March is The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne – I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve read it, or if you’ve read any of these too.