What I read in January and February: From War and Peace to Still Alice

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2014’s reading challenge was to get through a book a week, which ended up with me reading 100 books. In 2015 I read a total of 42 books and did have the intention of reading War and Peace… but didn’t get on to it until December, so it ended up being my first book of 2015. I haven’t set myself any reading targets as such, but I have decided to take part in the #2016classicschallenge in a bid to get through some of the classics I’ve had stuck on my ‘to-read’ list for years!

JANUARY 

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

The first book of 2015, and the first #2016classicschallenge choice. I had put off reading this for ages, expecting it to be a long, hard slog. However, I was found it surprisingly easy to dip in and out of thanks to the brief chapters. All in all, I really loved War and Peace. Vivid description, involving characters and an epic sense of history pervade the novel, coming together to create a masterpiece deserving of its classic status. The less said about the second epilogue the better though. Read my full run down here.

The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick

I had genuinely been aiming to read this book for years. As a history geek, the idea of a story set in a world where the Allies didn’t win the war had always fascinated me. However, I was slightly disappointed to find the bulk of the novel was built around some counterfeit jewellery. Of course the book is so much more than that, and I did really enjoy it, but I found myself wanting more of the top-level politics all-too-briefly touched upon. The idea of Hitler incapacitated due to syphilis, Bormann as the Reich’s dying leader and Goebbels seen as his preferable successor was fascinating. I watched the Amazon Prime series shortly after finishing the book, and I must confessed its deeper exploration of Philip K. Dick’s world.

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FEBRUARY

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

I don’t really know quite what to say about The Sea, The Sea. The whole book was devoid of likeable characters, with our narrator, retired theatre director Charles Arrowby, the worst of the lot. All in all, I found my first foray into Murdoch absorbing but completely ludicrous.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Since finishing War and Peace I’ve becoming slightly obsessed with getting to all of the classics I’ve somehow never managed to read, so I thought it was high time I got stuck into some Mark Twain. Huck Finn is certainly a vivid and memorable character and his story is certainly a captivating read, but I couldn’t help but feel a little too uncomfortable to fully enjoy it. It’s obviously a book which needs to be viewed in context of the time in which it was written, but I couldn’t quite look beyond its language and treatment of Jim, the runaway slave.

northanger abbey

Persuasion by Jane Austen

I loved both Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, and if pressed I would probably say Emma is my all-time favourite novel. Yet somehow I had failed to get on to the rest of Austen’s works. What a treat I had in store!

I absolutely adored Persuasion. While Austen’s works are so far removed from present day life, this story of a lost love felt somewhat more relatable. I found Anne Elliot absolutely captivating – I think I may have a new favourite literary heroine.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

After devouring Persuasion, I was keen to embrace more Austen. I must admit I had previously been put off by its status as a satire of gothic novels, as I can’t say it was a genre that particularly interested. While it didn’t quite match up to Persuasion, it was an enjoyable read.

High Rise, JG Ballard

High-Rise by JG Ballard

February’s #2016classicschallenge choice – and London Book Club’s – was certainly an interesting read. I’ve never read a book which has so vividly depicted smells – even a couple of weeks after finishing, the sense of the putrid smelling building has stayed with me. I found Ballard’s depiction of the high-rise as a character in itself fascinating, as all the characters believe their increasingly despicable actions to be both inevitable and a necessary part of survival in the high-rise. Like a kind of Stockholm Syndrome where the building is their captor, nobody actually wishes to leave. However, I struggled to really believe in this dystopian tale. Things descend into chaos a little too quickly and easily to feel believable. Despite its flaws, I’m glad I tackled it. Frustrating, challenging and at times downright disgusting, it certainly gave my book club plenty to talk about.

Me Before You

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I started this on a pleasant Sunday morning and found I genuinely couldn’t put it down, and by Sunday evening I’d finished it. I won’t say too much to avoid spoiling it, but it’s fair to say it’s an emotional rollercoaster!

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

It seems I am a glutton for punishment. The day after finishing the story of a paraplegic young man, I started a book about a woman with early-onset Alzheimer’s. It was a cheery couple of days.

I thought it would be a tough book to get through, but I found it so engrossing I just couldn’t stop reading. Genova’s scientific background clearly plays an important part in making the book feel realistic, but Alice is also a very authentic, well-written character. Seeing the story through her eyes made the story feel so much more powerful. I’d definitely recommend.

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One comment

  1. runningprincess78 · March 28, 2016

    A great selection. I’m a big Austen fan and am always meaning to give those books another read. I’ve also got War & Peace on my list for this year – perhaps a summer holiday read!

    Like

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