My February round up is a little bit earlier than normal as I will be kicking off Reading Ireland Month 2019 tomorrow.
I’ve spent most of February reading and planning for Ireland Month – which I am really going for this year! – so my reading during the last few weeks hasn’t been quite up to the standards set by January, where I read 19 books!
This month, according to Goodreads, I read just 7 books, which isn’t too bad. Only two were from the 746 though, but I hope to make that up next month.
My reading has been slightly hampered lately by the fact that I have been sucked in by a couple of great TV shows. Mr 746 and I have been watching the astonishing and frankly under-appreciated Halt and Catch Fire for the last year and we are now at the final two episodes of the fourth and final season. I adore this show and really don’t want it to be over and to have to leave these characters forever! The Guardian calls it ‘the best show that nobody watched’, so do yourself a favour and check it out if you get a chance.
Another highlight has been the fantastic Russian Doll. Smart, funny, addictive and deceptively deep, it features a Groundhog Day-style story line and a scene-stealing performance from Natasha Lyonne.
Plus, any show that uses a Harry Nilsson song for a theme tune gets my vote every time.
Reading-wise this month, I finished two books that were outside the 746 challenge and both were fantastic.
I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce on Twitter – which came with a lot of very yummy goodies! I would imagine that in the next month, this is the book that everyone will be reading and talking about.
Blood Orange is a thrilling and dark domestic noir, with a chaotic protagonist and a multi-layered plot. Alison, a lawyer, is about to take on her first murder case, that of a woman accused of stabbing her abusive husband to death. Alison is struggling to keep her life on track – her long hours, heavy drinking and an ill-advised affair with a colleague mean that her relationship with her husband Carl and her daughter are showing the strain.
All is not what it seems though in this taut and believable thriller. Tyce has written an incredibly well-plotted novel that wrong-foots the reader at every turn, without resorting to gimmick or artifice. It is also a very timely novel, exploring issues of consent, abuse and misogyny in a deft and integrated way. It will make you mad, that’s for sure, but you won’ want to stop reading.
My other non-746 read this month also concerns consent, but of a different kind. Putney by Sofka Zinovieff is an ambiguous and ambitious exploration of a relationship between Daphne, a thirteen year old and an older man, Ralph who is in his thirties.
As Daphne, now aged 50 and with a teenage daughter of her own, looks back on this formative relationship, she starts to wonder if what she experienced was love (as she has always thought) or, indeed, abuse.
The narrative shifts between the past and the present and between narrators as Zinovieff explores what happened from Daphne and from Ralph’s perspective. It’s a dangerous terrain to explore as Ralph, now dying of cancer, still sees their relationship as something pure and beautiful just as Daphne is starting to understand the damage that it has caused her. Ralph is clearly self-deluded and self-obsessed, but Zinovieff resists turning him into one-dimensional monster and retains enough sympathy for him to allow the reader to question our own reaction to his relationship with Daphne.
The shifting moral landscape between the 1970s and today is deftly explored and Zinovieff has a real skill at depicting the physical landscape- from present day London to the sun-drenched beaches of Greece where the relationship between Ralph and Daphne played out.
Putney is a fascinating exploration of abuse and control, told by a narrative voice who doesn’t realise she has been abused. This is a modern day Lolita, where Lolita finds her voice and is able to speak out about the power exerted over her by an older man.
Finally this month, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting the legend that is Roddy Doyle as he came to HomePlace to talk about his fantastic career and to read from his new novel, Charlie Savage, which will be published on 7 March. He was an absolute delight – funny and insightful and a pleasure to work with.
Keep an eye on the blog next week for a chance to win a signed copy of Charlie Savage as part of Reading Ireland Month 2019!
How has everyone’s month been? Do let me know what you’re reading and watching in the comments below!
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!