December Reading Plans

 

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump recently; I abandoned Claire Fuller’s Bitter Orange, yet another novel of complicated relationships set in a stately home during a heatwave summer; this pitch feels too familiar to me now, and the protagonist wasn’t engaging enough to keep me reading. I also struggled with Lucie Whitehouse’s first police procedural, Critical Incidents; Whitehouse is an elegant and effective writer of psychological thrillers, but this first instalment in a series was horribly over-complicated, with three interlocking plots that were all tied up too swiftly at the end.

I’m currently reading Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney, which is a extremely well-written story of a religious fundamentalist family spending time on an isolated piece of coastline in north-west England in the 1970s, but it’s also a classic case of a book that’s been let down by its marketing. With the current resurgence of ghost and horror narratives, it’s been repackaged, as my friend Alex pointed out, as part of that genre even though it really isn’t a spooky novel. If I’d started it in a literary fiction frame of mind, I think I’d be getting on with it much better. Finally, I’m about two-thirds of the way through Richard Powers’s massive The Overstory, which actually is very good, but demands time and effort.

I’ve got six books left on my TBR pile, and I’m hoping to read these before Christmas rolls around. They are:

  • Unsheltered: Barbara Kingsolver. After hearing her speak in London recently, I obviously wanted to get hold of her latest novel, and although I’m unsure about the historical strand (which deals, yet again, with the impact of Darwin) I’m intrigued with her contemporary take on the economic crisis and boomerang millennials.
  • The Fishermen: Chigozie Obioma. Set in 1990s Nigeria, this 2015 Booker Prize shortlisted novel tells the story of four brothers who receive a curse from a local madman.
  • The Rapture: Claire McGlasson [June 2019]. I heard Glasson speak about this novel at the Durham Book Festival. It tells the story of a real-life inter-war all-female cult, the Panacea Society.
  • Golden Child: Claire Adam [January 2019]. Again, Adam spoke about this debut at the Durham Book Festival. Set in Trinidad, the novel follows one brother searching for another.
  • Testament: Kim Sherwood. Based on Sherwood’s own family history. Eva is seeking to uncover her grandfather’s past when she discovers that he underwent forced labour service in Hungary before being taken to the death camps during the Holocaust.
  • The Boat PeopleSharon Bala. A ship of refugees from Sri Lanka reaches Vancouver and are thrown into a detention processing centre. Told through the perspectives of a range of characters, including refugee and father, Mahindan, his lawyer, and the adjudicator. Thanks to Rebecca for passing on her proof copy!

What are your December reading plans?

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13 thoughts on “December Reading Plans

  1. The Overstory is great, although it does take effort (and I found myself emotionally exhausted at the end!) The Loney didn’t work terribly well for me either; I thought this was down to the pacing, but maybe the marketing had something to do with it. The Fishermen has a strong effect when read, although it’s faded in memory since 2015. And Unsheltered is definitely worth reading, although probably not Kingsolver’s absolute best.

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    • The Overstory is definitely emotionally draining! I loved the sequence in the ancient tree and found its death v upsetting. The Loney is very slow, despite excellent characterisation and atmosphere.

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  2. I think December is a slump-y time of year in general. Approaching the end of the year, you’re keenly aware of all the current-year releases you meant to read but didn’t, or still owe reviews for but can’t be bothered to read … and though the 2019 books are calling ever more loudly you don’t feel you ‘deserve’ to start them yet. Or at least that’s how I feel 🙂

    I’m particularly interested in the books you picked up at Durham Book Festival — I hope you’ll report back on whether they were worthwhile.

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    • Yes, you’re probably right – I do like to reduce my TBR pile before I get new books, but I’m not really excited about reading any of the six I have left, except Unsheltered and maybe The Boat People.

      There was a third author at this Durham Book Festival event – Bev Thomas – her debut is called A Good Enough Mother, about a psychodynamic therapist whose son is missing. I forgot to mention it in this post, but I’ve read it already and it’s very good. Also out in 2019.

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  3. The Fishermen sounds intriguing, Laura, so will put that on my list. I gave up on a book just last week – it’s a liberating feeling isn’t it? Am in awe of how much you read. My current reading includes the Michelle Obama book (so far, v good – am halfway), and next on list is Transcription by Kate Atkinson. I just (very belatedly) read The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson and it was thought-provoking and funny, as well as a real eye-opener. Good research if you’re writing crime/ thriller!

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