April basically disappeared. I have no idea where the time has gone, but apparently another month has passed and so here’s a round of everything I’ve been reading, including a foray into non-fiction which I thoroughly enjoyed and a reread of one of my favourite books from last year.
The Library at the Edge of the World, by Felicity Hayes-McCoy
Continuing on from my binge of light, easy fiction in March, I read The Library at the Edge of the World. Following the end of her marriage, Hanna Casey leaves her London life and goes back to the small town she grew up in, on the West Coast of Ireland – moving back in with her mother, teenage daughter in tow. The story kicks off several years later, with Hanna still living with her mother and working in the local library, trying to regain some independence now her daughter is grown up. However, when the library comes under threat, Hanna finds herself inadvertently leading the battle to save the local community.
I really wanted to love this book but it just didn’t quite work for me (which perhaps just means I went in to it with certain expectations which weren’t met). Given the protagonist is a librarian (and the word ‘library’ is in the title!) I thought it might connect more with other books and literature, but that isn’t really a feature of the book. I wanted something warm and comforting, but I didn’t really get swept up in the story. I felt a bit disconnected from it and didn’t particularly warm to the protagonist – perhaps because she keeps herself at a distance from the community, for the most part, and wasn’t the warmest character herself, so I didn’t feel as engaged by her. It was an okay read – very easy-going – but didn’t quite hit the spot.
Everything I Know About Love, by Dolly Alderton
This book really stuck with me and I’m already feeling like I want to dip back in for a reread. I bought it in April as I wanted to try to add a bit more non-fiction into my reading diet, and I ended up whizzing through this book in one weekend.
Everything I Know About Love is a memoir by journalist Dolly Alderton, reflecting on life, love and friendship in her teens and twenties. I really enjoyed the way this was written and found it very relatable (despite having had completely different life experiences for the most part). There is an honesty to the writing and a familiarity which makes it very comforting – like having a chat with a friend. There are some very funny parts – including satirical emails dotted throughout – as well as some very sad moments covering loss, and feeling lost in yourself.
Stay with Me, by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
This was my pick for book club in April. It feels like something of an oxymoron, but I really enjoyed this heartbreaking book. Heartbreaking is really the only word I have for this story.
There are things even love can’t do…if the burden is too much and stays too long, even love bends, cracks, comes close to breaking and sometimes does break. But even when it’s in a thousand pieces around your feet, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer love.
It’s hard to talk about everything I feel about this book without giving away what happens. The story is set in Nigeria in the 1980s – with a few chapters in 2008 (I was going to say ‘in present day’…until I realised 2008 was 10 years ago…) – and it follows the marriage of Yejinde and Akin. After several years of marriage resulting in no children, Akin’s family decide he must take a second wife to provide the offspring he is expected to have. The themes of family, motherhood, social and cultural expectations and pressures that go with it – as well as loss, love and longing – all run through this book. Beautiful, sad, thoughtful. I loved it.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman
This was the second book club book of the month, and a reread for me. I read Eleanor Oliphant when it was first released in 2017, loved it and recommended it to anyone who would listen. It has exploded in popularity this year and it seems like everyone is reading it – which is much-deserved success for this gem.
The story (unsurprisingly!) follows Eleanor Oliphant. And she’s completely fine thank you very much. She goes to work. She goes home. She spends the weekends with two bottles of vodka for company. And she has no need for anything or anyone else. She has been through some very dark experiences in her past and the self-imposed isolation seems to be a way of repressing and coping with this. But, as these stories go, life finds her and this isolated bubble is suddenly disrupted. Two separate incidents – being inadvertently involved in a random act of kindness and a chance encounter with a man she considers the man of her dreams – force her out of the comfort zone she is so used to and into a new world of social interactions, friendship and learning her own worth.
Eleanor isn’t always a likeable character – and I did find at book club that people could be quite critical of her! – but as you learn more about her past, you can come to understand her better. There is a slightly odd contrast in her personality, where she can be both totally clueless about social interactions, etiquette and pop culture references, whilst also having moments of astute (often very funny) social commentary. But overall she is a character I could empathise with, and there moments I could relate to as well as moments which had me in tears. There’s a lot of hype around this book, so I don’t want to oversell it – but it’s one I love and I know I’ll return to again and again.
So that was April! What have you been reading recently?