I have recently become addicted to trashy television (Pretty Little Liars. Like, really trashy), and haven’t read as much as I like. But I still tore through these four over the past month, and loved them!
The Wonder – Emma Donoghue
Set in rural Ireland in the years after the Potato Famine, this is a work of historical fiction looking at the phenomenon of young women starving themselves as an act of religious piety. Donoghue’s heroine, a young nurse who is investigating one such case, starts out barely likeable, but grows into a complex character who is far more interesting than I initially expected. The book reminded me of Hannah Kent’s The Good People, but wasn’t quite as grim. I don’t know that I would necessarily recommend this book, as it wasn’t a standout, but I did enjoy it despite the somewhat cliché romantic subplot.
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
Oh my god. I don’t think I’ve read anything this wonderful in a long time. Life After Life is about so many things – family, gender, World War II, and the inability to relive our past mistakes and correct them. Ursula, the protagonist, is given the chance to redirect the course of her life, unconsciously, and the result is a very moving account of humanity, set against the backdrop of London during the Blitz. Please read this book. It’s just incredible.
A God in Ruins – Kate Atkinson
A God in Ruins is the kind of sequel to Life After Life, though you don’t have to have read one to read the other. This book looks at Ursula’s brother, Teddy, and his life through the war as a fighter pilot through to his old age and eventual death. It is a gorgeous look at the mundanity and simple pleasures of life, as well as the impact of World War II on the men who almost lost their lives fighting it and the inability for generations after to truly comprehend the sacrifices that were made. Also, Teddy is just a total champ, and I loved reading his story.
Commonwealth – Ann Patchett
I love a good sprawling family drama, and Commonwealth is certainly that. The story follows two families affected by divorce and remarriage, and a tragedy that affects their children. On one hand, I enjoyed the swapping narratives and multiple focal points of the plot, but on the other hand some of the characters didn’t have enough depth to make their emotional journey feel believable. Like The Wonder I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this to someone as a book that particularly touched me, but it was definitely a nice read so if you’re stuck for what to tackle next in your reading list, you won’t be disappointed by this.