What I read January – April 2015: From The Amber Fury to Etta and Otto and Russell and James

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If I was really well organised, I would have started this blog at the beginning of the year and regularly updated it with my reading as I went along. But I’m not, so I didn’t.
Instead I’ve started this over halfway through the year, so I’ll just whip through the books I read from January to July this year. Separate post on May-August’s reads coming shortly.

JANUARY

The Amber Fury by Natalie Haynes

I read this one for Books On The Underground book club and really enjoyed it, if that’s the right word for a book which is really rather dark in tone. The Guardian described it as a ‘modern thriller about ancient tragedy’,  which I think sums it up quite nicely. If you like thrillers, the classics or reading about Edinburgh, you’ll probably find something to enjoy in The Amber Fury.

Idiopathy by Sam Byers

I probably would have abandoned this if it wasn’t a selection for London Book Club. A story of a selection of pretty horrible people, I found absolutely nothing to care about within this book.

FEBRUARY

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I had been meaning to read this one for ages, but the arrival of the BBC’s adaptation spurred me to bring it to the top of my TBR pile. I found it a little hard to get into at first, as even with a rudimentary knowledge of the period it was hard to keep track of all the characters, but by the halfway point I was totally hooked. As soon as I finished, I turned straight to Bring Up The Bodies.

Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel

Picking up where Wolf Hall left off, I thoroughly enjoyed Bringing Up The Bodies. The doomed story of Anne Boleyn has been told so many times it’s almost impossible to bring anything new to it, but yet Hilary Mantel manages it.

MARCH

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

Read for Books On The Underground book club read. Hailed as ‘the next Gone Girl’, The Girl On The Train follows an alcoholic as she tries to keep up the pretense of having a job while trying to work out her role in a young woman’s disappearance. It’s certainly a captivating read, but loses momentum towards the end.

The Narrow Road To The Deep North by Richard Flanagan

This beautifully-written tale of an Australian doctor left haunted by his wartime past is more than deserving of its Man Brooker Prize. While I thought it was brilliant, I couldn’t help but compare it unfavourably to real-life POW Eric Lomax’s brilliant autobiography, The Railway Man.

The Carhullan Army by Sarah Hall

This dystopian novel takes a while to get going, then seems to end just as things heat up. The general consensus among London Book Club, which I have to agree with, was that this was a poor man’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

Stunning.

APRIL

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas

I’d been meaning to read this for a while, but finally got round to it after it was picked for London Book Club. What starts as a seemingly conventional story of a family eventually becomes something quite different. A difficult, powerful, devastating read.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Highly lauded for good reason, I was rather surprised that this didn’t make the Baileys Prize shortlist. Picked by both Books On The Underground and London Book Club, the vast majority (myself included) really enjoyed this intelligent post-apocalyptic novel. Centred around a troupe of travelling actors performing Shakespeare, it sparked some fun conversations about what could end up surviving some form of mass disaster. I liked the fact not everything was fully resolved by the end… Although I was left hoping for a sequel.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

Hard to adequately describe, this beautifully written book explores ageing, love and friendship in a slightly unconventional way. While the story ends with more questions than answers, it is a rather lovely read.

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