The month of January started in the best way possible, with diverse books and several new favourites.
The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince, by Robin Hobb
This novella was the last book in the Realm of the Elderlings world I hadn't read yet. I didn't like the idea of having nothing new to read from this universe I've grown so fond of, but then I remembered I had a terrible memory and would be re-reading every series as if it was the first time.
The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince is a short novel told as if a minstrel was singing it to you. It tells of the Farseer family and of the mysteries surrounding it. I don't want to tell you too much about the plot, it would be a shame to spoil it - but it's a medieval-inspired feminist fantasy story and I think that's all one needs to know.
Nineteen Eighty-Four, By George Orwell
I often approach a classic with mistrust. I don't like the idea of having to read a book just because someone says you should read it, and have often felt shame at not enjoying or not understanding a classic. However, when my favourite bookseller told me he considered Nineteen Eighty-Four as important as The Handmaid's Tale, which I'd read and adored two years ago, I decided to give it a go, and I'm glad I did. Nineteen Eighty-Four could have been written very recently, and would still feel relevant. It tells about a totalitarian society in which most people are constantly under surveillance and language is being used to slowly but surely eradicate freedom of thought. The story is a rather simple one that we encounter time and time again : one of resistance, of rebellion, of revolution. But here it's treated at the level of the individual and it makes it all the easier to put oneself in the protagonist's shoes. The style is quite simple, but for once it's a quality - it doesn't feel trapped in a specific time period, which I suppose, in addition to its plot, is partly why it's considered a classic. Trigger warning for a very violent few chapters. Otherwise, I highly recommend.
The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
It's taken me a long time to review this book. I didn't love it or hate it, that's a start. It's a fantasy novel set in post-Arthurian Britain - that was enough to draw me in, really. It follows Beatrice and Axl, a couple who decide to visit their son, living away from them. But in the mist-drenched land, memories have a tendency to get lost.
I found it hard to get a grasp of the story or the characters because of the epidemy of memory-loss in the land, which blurs everything. The Anglo-Saxon atmosphere reminded me of The Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh tales written down in the 19th century. I also thought of Mythago Wood, by Robert Holdstock. If you like history blended with legends, and if you're not put off by the fact that you won't understand everything, then this may be a book for you!
The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton
In this historical novel, Jessie Burton takes us to 1686 Amsterdam to meet Nella Oortman, the young wife of a prosperous merchant. They were married two months ago but Nella has just set foot in what is her home now. Her step-sister and servant do not seem enchanted by her arrival. Soon Nella will uncover a web of secrets revealed by the minute creations of a mysterious miniaturist.
What struck me about this novel was the ease with which I read it. The pages flowed effortlessly while I read about Nella and her strange dollhouse, her older buth not unkind husband and her cold, unforgiving step-sister. There were lots of details about life in Amsterdam at the time without it feeling like a history lesson, and not too many characters. It was quite slow to begin with (which I always like), but then the rhythm picked up gradually, following Nella's growing self-confidence. All in all it was a pleasant novel.
Binti, by Nnedi Okorafor
In January I felt like reading outside my comfort zone. One of my ventures was into the realm of Science-Fiction, which I don't really read at all. After hearing Jean Menzies (from Jean Bookishthoughts) recommend it again and again, it was time I dipped a toe into the genre with this novella. It's short, packed with thought-provoking situations and makes room for a female Black protagonist. I loved the ending and am looking forward to reading the two other volumes in the trilogy, which I may save for the #femmefantale readathon in March.
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What did you read in January?