Book 4 of 2017: ‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi

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I’ve been a bit nervous about reading this book, because my Grandpa died of lung cancer a couple of months ago, so I was worried that it would strike fairly close to home (which it did, obviously). However, I picked it up on Wednesday night on a whim. I’d wanted to read since I saw it in Waterstones in the middle of last year and I was feeling fairly restless, and the time felt right to open it up.

I’m writing this, but honestly, I don’t have a lot to say. It was brilliant. Probably in the top 10 of books I’ve ever read. It doesn’t feel totally finished, but it’s beautifully written. It encapsulates how I feel about death really well. His treatment of people and life are incredibly inspirational. When I got to the end, I truly felt like I valued life a little more, was able to see the magic a little more, and I think that’ll stay with me for a long time. It genuinely shifted my perspective slightly, or reminded me of where I want it to be, and honestly, I don’t think a book can do more. Heart-wrenching the whole way through, but phenomenal.

2016 in Review

The books I read, in order of reading.

  1. ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Charlotte Bronte
  2. ‘Half Wild’ by Sally Green
  3. ‘Half Lost’ by Sally Green
  4. ‘Oranges are Not the Only Fruit’ by Jeanette Winterson
  5. ‘The Lie Tree’ by Frances Hardinge
  6. ‘Between the World and Me’ by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  7. ‘More Than This’ by Patrick Ness
  8. ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ by Matt Haig
  9. ‘Yes Please’ by Amy Poehler
  10. ‘Career of Evil’ by Robert Galbraith
  11. ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ by JK Rowling
  12. ‘Fates and Furies’ by Lauren Groff
  13. ‘George’ by Alex Gino
  14. ‘Girl Hearts Girl’ by Lucy Sutcliffe
  15. ‘The Girl of Ink and Stars’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  16. ‘Maestra’ by LS Hilton
  17. ‘Girl Up’ by Laura Bates
  18. ‘Black Friday’ by Robert Muchamore
  19. ‘The Driver’s Seat’ by Muriel Spark
  20. ‘The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh’ edited by Charlotte Mosley
  21. ‘Hot Milk’ by Deborah Levy
  22. ‘All That Man Is’ by David Szalay
  23. ‘The Voyeur’s Motel’ by Gay Talese

Currently reading #1 – The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh

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I’m currently reading ‘The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh’ (Penguin, 1996. Ed. Charlotte Mosley) and am loving it. There’s a lot of footnotes, so it’s taking me quite some time to work my way though, hence the silence. I promise to blog more soon.

I am completely fascinated by the Mitford family and have been for as long as I can remember, but it’s been a while since I’ve read anything by one of them. Nancy was a writer, and wrote thousands of letters, and absolutely cracks me up. Her correspondence with Evelyn is very funny, and tells so much of history from a very social and personal perspective. This book has got me so interested in the period they were writing in (so far 1939 – 1951). It’s fascinating that two people could know so many influential people from such a period of history – so many politicians and cultural game-changers. I don’t think you could experience life in the same way now. 

It’s also got me really excited by letter-writing, a beautiful and dying art. I’m going to endeavour to write more, because it seems such a shame to lose it. Most forms of communication now just don’t quite have the romance. I’m also completely wrapped up in the grandiose of their language. It’s so much more formal, and regal than speech we use now, and I love it.There’s so much more variety, and they paint pictures so much more vividly for it.

Anyway, more on this soon. J’adore.

 

The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

My mom recommended this one to me, and she usually has good taste in books. She wanted it back by this weekend, so I figured I best get cracking, and thankfully, it’s only 103 pages. Easy to whip through.

And whip through I did. It’s a pretty compulsive read. There’s a really close focus with lots of detail which I loved. I always want details. Everything felt very precise too which was really enjoyable to read. Like you’re being guided by someone who knows exactly what they’re doing, which of course is the point.

It’s a weird book. It left me with a lot of unanswered questions. ‘Why would anyone want that?’ is probably the most overarching one. It’s bizarre, and different from anything I’d read in a while which was refreshing. I have got to the end and do feel like I could do with reading it again, because I sort of feel like I’ve missed something – see earlier question for details, but again, I feel like that’s the point. And at the same time, I’m not sure I want to put myself through it… I did feel slightly nervous reading it and I couldn’t quite tell why.

A weird one, a challenging one (emotionally – it’s an easy read). It felt slightly out of my reading comfort zone, which felt strange because I didn’t even realise I was in one, but I enjoyed it.

Wuthering Heights

Since I did a re-edition of Wuthering Heights at work a couple of years ago at work, it’s been irritating me that I haven’t read this. This is probably the classic with the most hype over it because there’s such debate about whether or not it’s a love story. And I wanted to know what I thought, so I finally got round to it.

And I do think it’s a love story, just not between Heathcliffe and Catherine #1. SPOILERS. I seriously love the Cathy #2 hooks up with Hareton. Feels like the whole thing was just leading up to them. And they were into moral tales back then, so Cathy #1 and Heathcliffe are probably supposed to deserve not being happy for being naughty or whatever.

Fav parts: when Cathy #2 gets sassy, any time; how sassy Cathy #1 is, all the time; Heathcliffe just being a dick for no reason – I loved that, he just is and I actually found the way it’s written pretty funny; Nelly, she just seems like such a dream, and actually like the only rational person there; all dat rambling on the moors, yussss; that Edgar Linton turns about to be a really nice guy, and a good dad, even though he was kind of a wet blanket and you’re like ‘you for real Cathy #1? #teamBadBoy’ There aren’t enough good dad’s portrayed in culture, and let’s be real, they’re awesome and so important; rugged Hareton, and all he wants is books… hello literary heartthrob, scrumptious.

Least fav parts: Linton (UGH); the old Yorkshire dialect – I’m usually a fairly speedy reader and I had to slow down for it and spell it all out to myself in my head, which was fine, but I’m lazy…; the way it’s told through the narrator (I forget his name, because he’s basically not in it) but it’s actually Nelly telling the story. I know this is a trope of lit of this period, but yo, what’s the point? just use Nelly from the outset. I spose the narrator gives spoilers so you want to know how you get from point A to point B, but we end up at point C anyway; and the obvious one, that Cathy doesn’t get with Heathcliffe! I sort of saw her point when she rationalises marrying Edgar to Nelly, but you live in the middle of nowhere love, just hook up with the boy who you’ve always fancied because he’s rugged and naughty, who’s your best friend who you love hanging out with, not the boy everyone else thinks is a catch because he’s conventional and rich. Rule 1 of life: stay with the people you totally adore. Obvs.

Also, I totally had this in my head the whole time I was reading this. Which was a-okay by me… In fact, I really enjoyed this part of the experience.