Back with another reading list, including two books that… if I could I would make everyone read.
Both From a Low and Quiet Sea and The Great Alone made me cry, more than once. Both are beautifully written. Sad, heart-breaking and powerful, both are must-reads. You Know You Want This is a collection of short stories. This debut has been eagerly awaited since the author’s short story “Cat Person” went viral in 2017 after being published in the New Yorker. I’ve mixed feelings on this book. You’ll have to keep reading to find out why. And Dirty Little Secrets is a thriller that I can’t honestly say was a page turner for me, but is nonetheless entertaining, especially if thrillers are your thing. Overall it was another good month of reading.
Keep scrolling for the full low down on each of these books and as usual, if you have any recommendations, please send them my way. OR if you’ve read any of these books, I would love to know what you thought.
From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
This novel is a short, but powerful read. When I turned the final page, I wasn’t ready for it to be over. I wanted more. I very rarely shed a tear over books. The last one was Educated by Tara Westover. But within seconds of finishing From a Low and Quiet Sea, the tears came.
This book tells the stories of three men. Farouk is a doctor and refugee. Lampy is a dreamer from small town Ireland whose heart was broken by his first love. John is a wealthy man who is tormented by his past actions. Their stories come together at the very end of the book in a heart-breaking and unexpected way.
It’s a complete joy to read even though it’s poignant and heart-breaking and I think that’s really hard to achieve. It’s the first Donal Ryan book I’ve read and I’ve already lined up my second for the month ahead. I’m annoyed with myself that I haven’t read his work sooner. I’m going to go there and call this a must-read. Please put it on the top of your TBR list.
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
This novel is the latest offering from the author of The Nightingale. It’s a book about survival set in the Alaskan outback and is definitely not a book I’d typically pick up in a book shop. However, my love of The Nightingale and a recommendation on Instagram from fellow book lover, Chloe of @nursefancypants pushed me to give it a go.
The Great Alone is described as “an epic story of human survival and love, and an intimate portrait of a family tested beyond endurance” and that it is. Thirteen-year-old Leni Albright and her parents move to remote Alaska in search of a better life. Her Dad is a Vietnam veteran plagued by post-traumatic stress disorder and incapable of settling in any one place. Arriving in the small town of Kaneq at the start of the summer, the Albrights are welcomed by the community who set about helping them prepare for the Alaskan Winter. At the start, all seems to be going well but as winter approaches and daylight lessens, Leni’s father becomes increasingly volatile and it becomes clear that he poses a greater threat to Leni and her mother than the harsh Alaskan winter.
I was hooked on this book from the moment the Albrights arrived in Alsaka. The author evokes an atmosphere of beauty and danger that combined with the storyline, made the book impossible to put down. I loved The Nightingale, but I think I loved The Great Alone even more. For me, this is one of those books that you pick up and suddenly hours have passed and you are still entirely absorbed in it. I’m recommending this as another must-read.
PS: I also shed several tears over this book!
You Know You Want This by Kristen Roupenian
This is the debut novel from the author of “Cat Person”, a short story published in the New Yorker in 2017 which became somewhat of a cultural sensation. Now Kristen Roupenian has penned an entire book of short essays. There are twelve in total, all featuring some form of self-involved behaviour.
The inside cover tells us that “these are stories that make you feel fascinated but repelled, scared but delighted, revolted but aroused” and I’m not sure I can add to that description. From the bizarre story of a princess who falls in love with her own reflection and murders her husband to that of a grown woman who struggles to contain her childhood obsession with biting. While Cat Woman is centred on unwanted male attention and male entitlement, many of the other stories in the book are centred on female narcissism.
This book is long awaited and with that must bring a huge amount of pressure on the author. I finished this book last night and I’m still struggling to decide whether I liked it. Some of the stories I found a little boring and others I loved and read multiple times. The stories are being adapted into an HBO series, but if you were a fan of Cat Woman or even short stories in general, I’d recommend reading the book.
Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain
The new release from Irish crime fiction author Jo Spain. Set in the wealthy gated community of Withered Vale, we expect domestic bliss but when one of the residents is found dead in her home, we realise that life in the Vale is far from perfect. Olive Collins lived alone. Her badly decomposed body is discovered in her home three months after she was last seen. As the police investigation unfolds, we learn the dark secrets of Withered Vale. Expect hidden pasts, domestic dramas, sexual liaisons and more. This community and novel have it all.
This is your typical murder-mystery. Like many crime thrillers, Dirty Little Secrets is quite formulaic but that doesn’t mean it’s not an entertaining read. For me it wasn’t a page-turner and I never found myself compelled to read on and on. Having said that it’s well plotted and pacey with interesting characters. If you like murder-mysteries and crime thrillers, put this on your TBR list.