book stack

After really getting back the reading bug last year, I'm wanting to continue my little monthly wrap-ups. And they are little, because 4 books (which I accomplished in January) is a lot for me as a slow reader, to get through in one month alongside work and, y'know, life! But I like books, I like writing about books when I've enjoyed them, and the four I've read so far in 2021 have been rather great choices.

If you didn't read my last post, I'm trying to read more classics and highly-recommended books this year to tick off on my scratch-off poster of '100 must-read books'. So 3 of these 4 are for that reason, the other is just a highly anticipated read that I couldn't leave in my TBR pile for any longer. 

The Great Gatsby, by F Scott Fitzgerald 

It's somewhat embarrassing to admit I've not read so many of the greats until now, but I've always opted for contemporary over classic for the simple fact that they're easier to read and more relatable. But boy do I regret not picking this one up sooner!

"Set in the Jazz Age on Long Island, the novel depicts narrator Nick Carraways interactions with mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby and Gatsby's obsession to reunite with his former lover, Daisy Buchanan."

Simply put, I loved it. I thought the prose was delightful and I loved the way it was told through the narrative of Carraway. I read a review on Goodreads that summarises 'As clear a portrait of a generation as has ever been put to pen, and Fitzgerald has done even better by making much of the qualities of this novel timeless, shining a bright light on all that is right, and much that is wrong, with our society and our culture.' and honestly, I couldn't have summed it up better myself? It's complex and multi-layered but subtle and simple at the same time. The only thing stopping it from being 5 stars for me is the actual plot; I can't help but feel like it was lacking something, but I don't know what.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins-Reid 

TJR is fast becoming a must-buy author for me! After reading (and adoring) Daisy Jones and the Six this was a must-buy. I'd heard so many good things and it for sure did not disappoint.

"Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career."

The remarkable thing with TJR is how she makes fictional stories and characters so so real. With Daisy Jones & The Six, I wanted to listen to their music even though it's not real, and now with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I want to watch Hugos back catalogue of movies even though it doesn't exist! The narrative in which the story was told was simply just magnificent, I loved Evelyn even when I didn't want to love her. Awful, complicated, completely lovable Evelyn who is a flawed, compelling, brave, ambitious woman. The twists and turns of the story weren't obviously predictable but also not all that shocking in surprise, if that even makes sense? The book tackles a lot of issues so fiercely and unapologetically, and I just know this is one I'll be picking up again to re-read soon.

alice in wonderland, wordsworth classic

Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll 

When I saw this listed on my scratch-off poster I was in two minds whether to scratch it off; I know the story and read it many moons ago as a child but I don't remember reading it? So when I found the beautiful Wordsworth Classic Editions reduced on the WH Smith website I picked it up along with a few others and gave it a re-read.

"After a tumble down the rabbit hole, Alice finds herself far away from home in the absurd world of Wonderland. As mind-bending as it is delightful, Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel is pure magic for young and old alike."

You know what? This book is absolute madness. I'd forgotten quite how bizarre it all is, and reading it as opposed to watching the film is much harder; I'm not good at trying to come up with the visuals in my head and in all honesty, I found some of it a little tedious. There were adventures that I enjoyed of course, but essentially, I'm still unsure whether I think Lewis Carroll created a fantastic piece of fantasy or a great big pile of nonsense.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak 

When I say I've been putting off reading this book for a long time, we're talking years. I've heard the hype, I've wanted to get involved, but I knew it was going to break me. And it shattered me.

"It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still. By her brothers graveside, Liesel's life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger's Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery. So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor's wife's library, wherever there are books to be found. But these are dangerous times. When Liesel's foster family hides a Jew in their basement, Liesel's world is both opened up and closed down."

Given that this is a YA book, it is easy to read in terms of writing style. However, given that it is set in Nazi Germany, it is often difficult to read it terms of the plot. I've read books set around the Holocaust before, both fact and fiction, but this was a unique take that I'd not come across. The way in which it is narrated by Death itself puts such a different spin on the book, and the way in which it doesn't focus on the story of the direct victims of Hitler, but the indirect. Germans who don't want to follow the Nazi regime but don't have much choice to do otherwise; who are hiding in shelters and losing loved ones as the country is bombed. The characters are rich, interesting and wily. The character development is second to none. And honestly, this is a book that I would recommend to any and everyone.

What have you read throughout January?

Loves. Emma.

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