So my seventh month of #readwomen2014 has finished, and it's been another treat. I've even got ahead of myself and read some fabulous female previews - including a brand new Poirot by Sophie Hannah! But more on that when it's out in shops. This month I've read...
How to Build a Girl, by Caitlin Moran
As everyone knows (or ought to know) CM is by all accounts a funny, sparky, quirky journalist - and she brings heaps of this to the table in her first adult novel. It follows Johanna - a young, overweight girl living in Wolverhampton and surviving on mostly her vivid imagination and cheese. It's the story of how she manages to escape the paralysis of poverty through rock journalism, along the way getting her heart broken, flying in a plane for the first time and humiliating herself on the news with a Scooby-Doo impression.
Most of the coverage for HTBAG has focused on its unusually high masturbation quota, but tbh it sounds like a pretty good option given her teenage circumstances. If any of that sounds familiar, well, that's because Moran has taken the 'write about what you know' advice to heart. It's an even bigger dose of deja vu for anyone who's read her non-fiction, feminist call-to-arms How To Be A Woman.
While I'm all for coming-of-age novels, and Johanna's life gave me access to a (thankfully) unfamiliar viewpoint, I would love to see Moran following a new narrative for her next work. But, essentially, no matter what she does, we all love that clompy-boot-wearing, mad-haired feminist mouthpiece, especially when we're allowed inside her head. All of which is what I should have talked with her about, rather than pulling this face.
Butterflies in November, by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir
Translated from Icelandic, this story follows a main character, who is never named, as she leaves a broken-down marriage and travels across the bleak landscape with a friend's deaf child in tow. Like an Icelandic spring, I took a while to warm to this story, but when I did I found it to be rather beautiful and otherworldly. The main character is rather chilly toward everyone bar the boy in her care (who is, frankly, adorbs) and the dialogue is strange and halting, but actually I found these details worked in its favour, and the whole book left me in a pleasant, dreamy state. Not a novel to skim read, but worth a go if you're looking for a change of pace.
The Rehearsal, by Eleanor Catton
First, a confession - I haven't read the Luminaries. It's just sitting on my bookcase like a big, dead weight. I know the Man Booker Prize-winning tome is worth a go, but I just can't seem to find the time. To make up to its author, Eleanor Catton, I decided to give her (much, much shorter!) debut novel a whirl.
Alternating between a senior school left rocked after a teacher-pupil affair, and a local drama college where pupils are turning the scandal into a production, it's slightly hard to follow what's real and what isn't. Not that it matters - after a certain point you just have to go with it, and assume it will unravel in the end (which it more-or-less does). I read the entire thing without knowing whether I was enjoying it or not - and, to be honest, I'm still not certain. But I do admire a gutsy female author, and it's certainly a braver work than most.