Wrap Up March 2020 or it’s Women’s Prize Season!

March was weird, I am sure everybody will agree. And I am not sure April will be any less weird but maybe I will be more used to the weirdness by then? In positive news, the longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction was announced and I have started making my way through it – and for the most part I have enjoyed the books so far, although I am weary if that’ll stay that way.

Books I read in March:

  1. Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey: 2 out of 5 stars
  2. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  3. Weather by Jenny Offil: 4 out of 5 stars (review)
  4. Actress by Anne Enright: 4.5 out of 5 stars (review)
  5. Verge by Lidia Yuknavitch: 3 out of 5 stars
  6. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett: 1.5 out of 5 stars (review)
  7. Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby: 4 out of 5 stars
  8. Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie: 2 out of  5 stars

Favourite of the Month:

Actress. I did not think I would like this book and was then very happy when I did. It is so far my favourite of the longlisted books.

Stats(ish):

I finished eight books in March, all of them written by women. Of these books five were on the Women’s Prize longlist and thus fiction. I also read one romance novel, one short story collection, and one memoir. I also spent a lot of my time re-reading parts of the Psy-Changeling series because those books always make me happy. I did not completely read any of those books though.

Currently Reading:

Books I should get to soon:

I am still kind of planning to finish the Women’s Prize longlist (except for the Mantel) before the shortlist is announced on the 22nd. I am unsure whether that is at all doable but I am still going to try my best.

Women’s Prize coverage by other bloggers:

Rachel, Callum, Naty, Marija, Emily, Gilana, Laura

Review: The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

44318414Verdict: Very much not my type of book.

My rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction

Published by Bloomsbury, 2019

Find it on Goodreads.

“Do you think it’s possible to ever see the past as it actually was? I asked my sister. We were sitting in her car, parked in front of the Dutch House in the broad daylight of early summer.”

At the end of the Second World War, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single canny investment to begin an enormous real estate empire, propelling his family from poverty to enormous wealth. His first order of business is to buy the Dutch House, a lavish estate in the suburbs outside of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, the house sets in motion the undoing of everyone he loves.

The story is told by Cyril’s son, Danny, as he and his older sister, the brilliantly acerbic and self-assured Maeve, are exiled from the house where they grew up by their stepmother. the two wealthy siblings are thrown back escaped from and find that all they have to count on is one another. It is this unshakable bond their lives and thwarts their futures.

Set over the course of five decades, ‘The Dutch House’ is a dark fairy tale about two smart people who cannot overcome their past. Despite every outward sign of success, Danny and Maeve are only truly comfortable when they’re together. Throughout their lives , they return to the well-worn story of what they’ve lost with humor and rage. But when at last they’re forced to confront the people who left them behind, the relationship between an indulged brother and his ever-protective sister is finally tested.

“The Dutch House” is the story of a paradise lost, a tour de force that digs deeply into questions of inheritance, love, and forgiveness, of how we want to see ourselves and of who we really are. Filled with suspense, you may listen to it quickly to find out what happens, but what happens to Danny and Maeve will stay
with you for a very long time.

I knew fairly early into this book that I was not the right reader for it. That I finished it has more to do with the format in which I consumed it (the audiobook is narrated by Tom Hanks) than with any hope I had that it would get better. To be fair, there were parts in the middle that worked better for me – but overall, this is just not my type of book at all. It has been described as a modern fairy tale and that is true only in the worst sense: the story is neither magical nor lyrical but the characters are all as flat as the characters in Grimm’s fairy tales – they are Patchett’s puppet’s moving the story along, not always in ways which made sense to me.

To illustrate why I am not the right reader, here a few things I dislike in books, in no particular order: family sagas (check), historical fiction (check), evil step parents (check), flat characters (check), undeveloped female characters (check), incredibly detailed narration (check), people being treated unfairly (check), women hating women for no good reason (check), horrible parents (check and check). The structure could have worked for me as it jumps back and forth in time, which is something I often enjoy, but the storyline mostly just bored me. The rambling nature of the narrative worked best for me when there were the smallest emotional stakes: when Danny talks about his education or his real estate dabbling. Whenever the stakes were higher, I became increasingly frustrated. Part of that has to do with Danny being an omnipotent narrator while still being only in his own head, part has to do with how one-note these characters all were. For other people, this book has worked brilliantly (and I can kind of see why if I squint and look at this sideways), for me this was a frustrating slog following a character I found boring and self-involved.

Content warning: Death of a loved one, heart attack, abandonement, Alzheimer’s Disease

I am reading the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist this year. My current ranking is as follows:

  1. Actress by Anne Enright (review)
  2. Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo (review)
  3. Weather by Jenny Offill (review)
  4. A Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes (review)
  5. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett

Not planning on reading: The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020: Longlist Reaction

It’s finally here!

I have waited for this day for literal months and I am so glad the longlist is finally here and we can all start reading and discussing it. My predictions were actually ok this time around: I correctly guessed six and had two more on my maybe pile that made the list, so I am feeling sufficiently smug. It also seems to be a longlist not many people have read many books of yet, so that is exciting! I have only read one book so far and have to admit that quite a few are not books I was particularly thrilled about before their inclusion – but maybe this means I will find many gems I might otherwise have missed. Continue reading “Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020: Longlist Reaction”