What I Read in July

July Wrap Up

H IS FOR HAWK by Helen Macdonald ****
I started off the month with Helen Macdonald’s much hyped autobiography. The book tells of how she deals with the loss of her father by training a goshawk. This is written so beautifully and I found myself getting lost in Macdonald’s prose. There is an other-worldliness surrounding Mabel the goshawk that is truly enchanting. The structure is somewhat unconventional and is a mix of biography, autobiography and academic writing. There are a lot of references to various falconry books and in particular to The Once and Future King by T H White. I found the links between Macdonald herself and T H White extremely interesting. However, I can imagine that this book isn’t for everyone. It’s almost as if the only way Macdonald can try and understand her grief is to write this book.

ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell **
I’ve not read much YA fiction before and my teenage years are filled with LOTS of cringe worthy memories. I kind of had an inkling that I wouldn’t like Eleanor and Park, but I really wanted to. I did like the first half of the novel and really enjoyed the scenes where the couple get to know each other. The second half seemed to completely spiral out of control. I found the ending was rushed and utterly unbelievable. Another thing that stood out was the constant references to Eleanor’s weight. I hate that the negative remarks reinforced the idea that teenage girls are supposed to despise their own bodies. I felt this was unnecessary and it just added to my negative feeling towards the book.

What I Read in July

TELL IT TO A STRANGER by Elizabeth Berridge ****
This was my first charity shop find of the month. To be quite honest, I only picked this up because it was the first book published by Persephone that I had the chance to own. The end papers have a really lovely geometric pattern and I knew it had to come home with me. The book itself is a collection of short stories. They are all set during the Second World War and focus on people’s experience of the war at home. Berridge focuses on class and gender and the shift in roles that occurred during this time. Each story is beautifully written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS by John Wyndham ***
I decided to read this after hearing how much Jean from Jean’s Bookish Thoughts liked this. I do really like early 20th century dystopian and apocalyptic literature and I had high hopes for this short novel. However, after every page I found myself hoping for something gripping or disastrous to happen. There’s an element of sexism that I really didn’t like and overall I just felt disappointed.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan

MISS BRILL by Katherine Mansfield****
I’ve wanted to read some of Katherine Mansfield’s work for a while now. I thought this Penguin Little Black Classic would be the perfect introduction and it really was. Miss Brill includes three short stories that are impeccably written. As a reader you get to know the characters so well in such a short space of time. This was such a delight to read and I’ll definitely be reading more Mansfield in the future.

This novel follows Australian doctor Dorrigo Evans from childhood, to the building of the Burma death railway and into old age. The treatment of the POWs building the railway by the Japanese officials is not a nice thing to read about. However, I found these sections the most interesting to the point where I resented having to read the other sections of the novel. I thought the chapters were fragmented and jumped around a lot, making my overall reading experience not an enjoyable one. Despite this, I’ve given it four stars. It’s a book that will stay in my memory for a while and the story of the POW camps is one that needs telling.

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