Wrap Up: November 2017

I did not have the best reading month. As I have talked about elsewhere I am currently reading too many books I am not excited about and have forbidden myself from starting new books before I finish these. This might not have been the best idea.

Without much further ado, here are the six books I have read in November:

  1. Her Body and Other Parties – Carmen Maria Machado: 4 out of 5 stars
  2. Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro: 4 out of 5 stars
  3. The Uploaded – Ferret Steinmetz: 2 out of 5 stars
  4. The Girl in The Tower – Katherine Arden: 4 out of 5 stars
  5. Under the Pendulum Sun – Jeannette Ng: 3 out of 5 stars
  6. Autumn – Ali Smith: 3 out of 5 stars.

Favourite of the month:

I think I will have to say The Girl in The Tower. I just adore the world Katherine Arden has created so much. I find her voice so impressive and the way she builds her stories on familiar tropes but making them special is just brilliant.

I also really enjoyed Her Body and Other Parties and agree with every praise this wonderful short story collection has gotten. If you like short stories and haven’t picked this up, you really should.

Currently Reading:

Like I said, I am still trying to finish all the books I have started and only then will I allow myself to start something else. I cannot remember the last time I had no book on my currently reading shelf on Goodreads and am kind of looking forward to that and to the feeling that comes with a bit of a clean slate. Wish me luck.

Reading Next:

If I get through the books I am currently reading at some point (I am not that optimistic given my current reading pace) I am giving myself permission to just choose whatever the heck I feel like. No pressure, no fixed TBR, no “I should be reading this”. I want to end the year on a high.

 

Review: Autumn (Seasonal #1) – Ali Smith

28446947Verdict: Clever, poignant, probably brilliant but too disjointed for me.

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Date read: November 27th, 2017

Published by Hamish Hamilton, 2016

Find it on Goodreads.

A breathtakingly inventive new novel from the Man Booker-shortlisted and Baileys Prize-winning author of How to be both

Fusing Keatsian mists and mellow fruitfulness with the vitality, the immediacy and the colour-hit of Pop Art – via a bit of very contemporary skulduggery and skull-diggery – Autumn is a witty excavation of the present by the past. The novel is a stripped-branches take on popular culture, and a meditation, in a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, what harvest means.

Autumn is the first installment in Ali Smith’s novel quartet Seasonal: four standalone books, separate yet interconnected and cyclical (as the seasons are), exploring what time is, how we experience it, and the recurring markers in the shapes our lives take and in our ways with narrative.

From the imagination of the peerless Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories, and a story about ageing and time and love and stories themselves.

My thoughts are all over the place for this book – maybe fitting because this is what this book is as well: all over the place. There is undeniable brilliance here: sentences so profound they made me stop in my tracks, word plays so wonderful I had to read them twice, musing on a great number of important things. It comes as no surprise that Ali Smith is a genius. But for some reasons these sparks of brilliance never came together for a coherent whole for me – and I guess this was also the point. There is no proper coherence in life and in art and Ali Smith captures this perfectly.

At the core of this book is the friendship between Elisabeth and her older neighbour Daniel and the profound effect on her life he has – opening to her a world of art and cleverness. This book is also filled with musings on art – especially that by women – and how art is both important and prone to being forgotten.

This relationship somehow did not work for me – I think I would have needed it to be more fleshed out. The wonderful glitzy stylistic framework was not enough for me. Somehow I was lacking an emotional core for this book to really resonate with me. This lack was reinforced by the secondary storyline of Pauline Boty. This could have been so interesting but ultimately fell flat for me. Mostly because I did not have the necessary knowledge to contextualize what Ali Smith was telling me. This feeling of lack of knowledge worked against me multiple times during this book.

I think, ultimately, I might have read the book wrong: I think it would have worked better for me if I had read this in one sitting, allowing myself to be swept up in the stylistic whimsy. This way the book would not have felt disjointed but rather a perfect microscopic view of one single moment in time. This moment being the aftermath of Brexit – which is something that is very close to my heart. I have lived in the UK for 5 years, 4 of those in Scotland and as such I have so many feelings about the UK leaving the EU. Especially because the months leading up to the Referendum were filled with xenophobic and racist discourse and because many people voting for leaving the UK voted for exactly those reasons. I am disappointed in the country I felt so welcome in, a country that is so wonderful and has so much to offer, and I am disappointed that people my age just did not go and vote (how idiotic is that?) and I am sorry for my friends who are still there, both those from the UK and those from abroad. Because this Referendum will change the country and there is no stopping this. (That was a tangent.)

First sentence: “It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.”

Thoughts: On 3-Star-Books

I am currently reading six books; five of those I don’t think I will give more than three stars. This fact got me thinking about 3-star-books and why I struggle with them.

I am currently reading:

 

None of these books are bad books. In fact they all have some parts that are absolutely brilliant and parts that are anything but:

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock has vivid language and a brilliant way of describing the world but is beyond slow-moving with a plot I am not sure can even be called that. Authority has Jeff VanderMeer’s brilliant command of language and the intriguing setting that I adored in the first book but features a main character that is a bit of a charisma vacuum. Autumn has poignant descriptions and captures many of my complicated feelings about the UK but its disjointed natures makes it difficult for me to care about its protagonists. By Light We Know Our Names has some absolutely heartbreaking stories with the fantastical elements being brilliantly integrated but the stories feel repetitive and depressing for depressings sake. Under the Pendulum Sun has a genius premise and just nails the atmosphere it is going for but its ambling plot and a very very unfortunate twist (that grossed me out so bad) keep me from fully enjyoing it.

These middling kind of books are usually the ones that take me the longest to read them. Sometimes, when I absolutely dislike a book, I more or less race to finish it just to be done with it, or I just abandon it completely. But those books that do not really elicit any strong reactions have the tendency to wreck my reading flow. Especially if I have started too many books already, as I have this time, and have forbidden myself from starting any new books until I have finished the ones I am already reading. Which leads to me not reading. Which annoys me to no end.

What about you? Do you sometimes struggle with the okay-ish books or do you struggle with the ones you dislike more?