What I should be doing right now is binge watching the new series of The Gilmore Girls – in fact, by this stage, I should be on to my second viewing. But, alas, we have overseas visitors, and it doesn’t seem quite right to just disappear for 6 hours, as much as I may like to. Instead, we have been showing them some of the best things Australia has to offer, which, naturally, has involved a lot of beaches. Happily for me, all of these beach days have afforded me the chance to do a lot more reading than I thought I would do. Which is a small consolation for the fact that I’m not ensconced in the delights of Stars Hollow. So, what have I been reading? Well, I’m not sure I could have found four more different books on my shelves to follow each other.
I started with Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky, which I didn’t know much about at all, except that they’d made a movie of it and I’d heard good things. The backstory of the book is super interesting – apparently Nemirovsky had written two books that were to be part of a series before she was arrested as a Jew and was eventually murdered at Auschwitz. The notebook that had the two novels in them, as well as the notes for where the third novel would go, survived and were eventually compiled into the one book, Suite Francaise, in 2004. As such, very little editing had been done (both by the translator and by Nemirovsky herself at the time), and obviously the story was never fully completed, but what remains is a really interesting and charming story about life in France during the War. The first half of the book follows a number of different groups of people as they flee Paris to escape the Germans who are conquer the city, while the second half focuses on one small village that has been taken over by the Germans, and the locals must learn to live with their new ‘guests’. While there was a definite air of incompleteness about the story, it was super enjoyable and I really want to see the movie now. I give it 3 out of 5 handsome German soldiers.
Next I moved on to The Dry by Jane Harper – a crime novel set in a rural, outback Australian town, where a man has seemingly killed his wife and child before taking his own life. I was a bit nervous about this one because I don’t love crime novels – I get scared very easily, and I was worried that this was going to leave me with some serious nightmares. But thankfully it wasn’t scary – it was very suspenseful and had some tense moments, but I never felt scared. I would whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone who loves crime novels, and even those who don’t, as it’s beautifully written and had me guessing throughout. The way Harper manages to evoke the Australian outback was incredible – the heat and the dry were actually palpable. And I just love the idea that a cigarette lighter in a dry land is far more dangerous than a gun – such great imagery! This gets a solid 4.5 out of 5 outback pubs.
From here I moved on to what is quite possibly my favourite book of the whole year (which is really saying something seeing as this is also the year in which I read The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks and The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood): The Bricks that Built the Houses by Kate Tempest. Oh man, what an amazing writer – I can’t wait for this girl to have an extremely prolific writing career so that I can spend years reading all of her stuff. The story starts with three people escaping London with a suitcase full of, what we assume is, ill-gotten money, and then winds back the clock a year to show us how they got to this point. Tempest weaves the most interesting and unique stories throughout the narrative, whether she is describing one of the central characters or outlining the life of someone we meet only once, her writing is such that she will have you investing in all of the characters whether their role is large or small. I started writing down some of the beautiful things that she wrote, but then I realised that I would pretty much have to rewrite the entire book because there was something lyrical and poignant on just about every page – it is abundantly obvious that Tempest also writes poetry. The writing reminded me a lot of Zadie Smith – both in content and in style – and had me even more excited to read Smith’s new novel, Swing Time. I give The Bricks that Built the Houses 5 out of 5 London caffs.
Finally, just this afternoon I finished Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty. While this was probably my least favourite of the four books, that’s not to say that it wasn’t enjoyable. I firmly believe Moriarty couldn’t write a book that isn’t enjoyable even if she tried. This was her first book, and you can kind of tell, as it’s lacking a lot of the searing observations that her other books are so packed with – but it was light and funny and heart-warming, and definitely had some of the hallmarks of Moriarty’s later books. I give this one 3 out of 5 forks lodged in pregnant bellies.