Autumn has arrived. I’m hugging a hot water bottle as I write this post and I’m on a major come down after a great weekend away in France. It was my first break since I was re-diagnosed with cancer last year and in the lead-up I was really excited but also quite anxious. Anyway, the whole trip was amazing. I am so thrilled I went and felt good. And a big shout out for airport assistance which I used for the first time and it made such a difference.
This month’s reading list is short and sweet. I thought I’d read lots when I was away but everytime I opened my book I feel asleep in the sun or got caught up in some crazy random chats with my friends. So, for this month’s reading list, there are just four books, but they are four great books. I am so glad I read The Underground Railroad. It’s harrowing but sometimes it’s good to challenge myself to read books that make me uncomfortable. I loved The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments. Margaret Atwood is incredible. And Confession With Blue Horses was a moving read. Keep scrolling for this month’s reading list.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
It’s so hard to choose my pick of this month’s reads, but I think it’s this book. It’s a fictional story of a young slave girl, Cora who lives on the Randell plantation in Georgia. Terrance Randell is a particularly brutal slave owner and when she becomes the subject of his sexual desires, she decides to escape the plantation and makes her way north on the slave railroad. The slave railroad was an over-ground series of perilous routes that slaves used to escape the south. In this book, the author creates a literal underground railroad complete with conductors and drivers and with users of the route coming above ground at different stops with the help of abolitionists.
I haven’t read anything on American slavery in a long time and I’m so glad I read this. It is really hard to read at times. Everything about slavery was terrifying. How an ‘underground’ railroad existed in the face of such terror is hard to believe. The book left me wanting to find out more. I love historical fiction and in The Underground Railroad we follow Cora’s daring journey to freedom and in doing so we are reminded of the horrors that happened during this dark chapter in American history.
This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2017.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
I’m guessing that lots of you reading this post will have either read the Handmaid’s Tale or watched the television series. I wanted to read it before the sequel, The Testaments was published earlier this month. The Handmaid’s Tale is an incredible book based in a dystopian future state called the Republic of Gilead. In Gilead individualism is suppressed. Women are reduced to categories. To Handmaids, to Marthas, to Aunts, to Wives. The narrator is a Handmaid named Offred. The Handmaids are women who have no free will. Their sole function in Gilead is to produce babies. The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985 and it’s astonishing that Margaret Atwood had such an astute vision of the future. Now, over thirty years later, we see similarities between Gilead thinking and certain misogynistic tendencies that are popping up in different parts of the world in 2019. Themes such as subjugation, misogyny, powerlessness, hopelessness and repression loom large in this book. It’s another difficult book to read, but one that is so worth reading. Borrow, buy or download immediately.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
I was very excited for this book and listened to it on Audible straight after I finished reading The Handmaid’s Tale. Before reading The Testaments, I would recommend reading it or at least watching the television show. I haven’t watched it yet but I’m told it’s enough to set the scene for The Testaments. The Testaments is the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, published thirty-four years later. It tells the story of three characters. Aunt Lydia who became an aunt after Gilead was created, baby Nicole who was born in Gilead but smuggled to Canada and Agnes, who was born and raised in Gilead and decides to become an aunt. I won’t give too much away, but I loved learning the backstory of Aunt Lydia. I also loved that this book gave me hope which was much needed after The Handmaid’s Tale. Again, this is a book to go straight to the top of your TBR list.
Confession with Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach
I love history. I did my leaving cert prepared history essay on civilian life in East Berlin. I loved the Life of Others, a 2006 German film about the monitoring of Easy Berlin residents by the Stasi, the GDR’s secret police. A must watch if you like this kind of thing. So, when I saw Deborah from @theclotheslineie on Instagram talking about this book, I put it straight to the top of my TBR list.
It tells the story of Ella who was born and spent much of her childhood in East Berlin but has many unanswered questions about her time there and her family’s attempted escape. She is now an adult living in London and in search of answers. Meanwhile Aaron works for a Stasi archive. His job is to reconstruct the history of thousands of families who encountered the Stasi back in the old East Germany.
The book is the story of Ella’s search for answers and Aaron’s obsession with unravelling Stasi secrets. I really enjoyed this book. It’s heart wrenching to read at times, but it’s beautifully written and moving. Like I always say, I love fiction set against historical events. If this is your type of thing, this is a definite recommendation.