It’s the first of June, which means it’s time for me to reflect on what I read throughout May, and roughly plan out what I want to read this month. Something I’ve learned from doing these book club posts this year is that I can only ever have a sort-of plan for what I want to read in the following month. I usually pick books based on what I feel like reading at the time, or for a particular purpose, like learning about something new. Since April, I’ve been reading Jane Austen books for a local book club, and so far they are the only ones I plan to read and actually do end up reading! So, there you go. I’m a feeler-reader (that’s a thing; I just made it up).
That being said, I actually have read all of the books I set out to read in May. SHOCKER. I should, however, be totally honest: this happened because I wrote my April Book Club post halfway through May and had already read, or begun, a number of books on my to-read-in-May list. So, if you ever want to look dedicated, disciplined and organised, do that.
Time for the disclaimer: Due to the nature of this type of post, there may be some spoilers in my reviews, so read on with caution. Generally, I will give a brief overview of what the book is like (much like a back cover would), but I won’t give away major plot points and such. I will always warn you if I ever do, though!
What I read in May
The book is written in the first person and tells the story of Jesse and Ramon’s journey to parenthood. After years of trying to have a biological child, they turn to domestic adoption, which is a pretty complicated process and quite emotionally exhausting too. There is a lot of waiting, a lot of not-being-chosen and some really shitty prospective biological mothers. Throughout the book, you are constantly reminded of Jesse’s yearning to be a mother, of her disappointment at not being a biological mother, of her desperation. I can’t imagine how traumatic it must be to not be able to have a biological child, but Jesse is very angry with the world and takes it out on her husband, her parents, her sister, her friends. It was a bit much, at times, to keep reading. She was very self-pitying and just totally consumed by wanting motherhood, and by understanding motherhood, that she seemed to forget that she’s not the only person who wants a child and can’t have one.
Oh, this is a controversial one! I’ve read positive and negative reviews and wasn’t sure what my opinion would be. Overall, I enjoyed the book. I like Lena Dunham’s writing style and her sense of humour is similar to mine, so I “got” it. I can relate to her as a child a lot. I had anxiety about a lot of things growing up, from as far back as I can remember, and it got to the point where it would interrupt my life at times. It can be really scary and confusing having to deal with that when you’re little. She had quite a different upbringing than mine – many would argue that she grew up very privileged. Which is code for white, in a well-off family with plenty of resources for therapists, private schools, and lots of connections. But, just because that’s her life, doesn’t mean she’s exempt from mental health issues, bad relationships, parental disagreements, sexual trauma, and pain. It also doesn’t mean that she isn’t allowed to feel like shit sometimes because of those situations. We all are. Money and connections don’t automatically mean someone will be happy and struggle-free and therefore cannot acknowledge when they aren’t.
What I liked the most is that she’s weird. Definitely not the absolute average, normal person with average, normal thoughts and feelings, that probably err on the side of a bit conservative and blah. She was a weird kid and her parents supported that. She’s still weird and she owns it, embraces it, and does her best to love herself. Whether or not someone is “weird”, all we can really do is embrace who we are and own it.
I’ve always loved Halloween and been so sad that New Zealand doesn’t celebrate it. Which is really weird because I learned from this book that Halloween originated very much within the British Isles and Ireland, and given that New Zealand was colonised by those people I would have expected slightly more involvement. But no. Those who colonised North America seemed to be far more interested in retaining the old celebrations, which eventually lead to what most of us know as Halloween today: October 31, autumn, trick of treat, costumes and candy.
This was an interesting read that went as far back in history as possible and detailed the evolution of Halloween. At times, though, I found the writing style to be a bit textbook-like and boring, but the information was interesting to me so it made up for it. There’s also a lot of fantastic illustrations and imagery throughout the book. This is the first Halloween history book I’ve read, so I’m not sure how accurate the content is, but it does appear to be well-researched and contains references.
I don’t like this book. I’m not completely finished but I have read it before, so it’s ok. Seriously, though, one of the main characters, Fanny (basically the main character but it’s not written in the first person and the narrator does delve a bit into other characters, independently of Fanny), is the most insipid thing! I don’t hate her, but I do find her irritating. I think it’s because she was taken from her birth family at 9 and shipped off to her aunt and uncle, but never made to feel totally part of the family. She’s always been “just the ward” to most people in the family and therefore has never had the opportunity to assert herself as being worthy of…pretty much anything. Plus she’s probably just naturally shy and the type of person who likes to follow rules exactly. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, but my God, it’s hard to read about it.
Aside from my dislike of pretty much all the characters, I find the story overall to be quite boring, even though a fair amount happens. I feel like it moved very slowly and isn’t particularly funny. It’s just full of really irritating people, especially Mrs. Norris. Not Austen’s best work.
What I want to read in June
After Pride and Prejudice, Emma is my next favourite Austen story. I can’t remember if I’ve ever read the novel, but I do own the Gwenyth Paltrow film on DVD, so there you go.
I actually started reading this some months ago but other books got in the way, so I’m going to finish this off in June.
One I’ve been meaning to read for ages, and one I could probably really do with reading right now!
Have you read any of these books? What did you think?