What I've Been Reading Recently

Kindle and cat

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Late to the party with this one, I know. And my sister loaned it to me months ago. It was well worth the wait, though. I had no idea how Cheryl would make walking and walking and walking a very long way for a very long time interesting to read (I gave up on Lord of the Rings...) but somehow she does. For all the hardships she faces along the way, I was really rooting for her to complete her journey. Of course, there's more to it than that; she has lost her mother, seen her family fall apart, divorced her husband and dabbled in heroin and the walk is her chance to start putting those things behind her. It's a staggeringly beautiful, painful, moving book.

Shtum by Jem Lester*
Ben and his wife are struggling to get their severely autistic son the support they feel he requires; in a bid to move things along, they fake a separation. I wanted to love this book so much. The importance of providing adequate facilities for people with additional support needs and their families is something which deserves so much more attention. But, oh, I hated Ben so much - he was clearly depressed and I do hope that the book was heading towards him addressing that but, in the mean time, he was completely insufferable: lazy, selfish and bizarrely self-centred. I gave up halfway through and, by that point, there had only been about three or four paragraphs aimed at showing him and the early days of his marriage in a positive light - and, sadly, they weren't enough to bring me round.

Not Working by Lisa Owens*
Claire has quit her job with the intention of finding her vocation - despite having no idea what it might be or where to start looking for it. She spends hours surfing the net for inspiration and lots of money on drinks with friends who tell her that a job's just a job... but could that ever be enough for her? Claire's meandering disenchantment was extremely familiar to me - not much happens in this book but I found it oddly comfortable ("comfortable" rather than "comforting"); the novel equivalent of slouching on the sofa in an oversized sweater. One for all of us slackers who are reluctantly growing up.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren*
The autobiography of female scientist, Hope Jahren (who I had never heard of), I really wasn't sure what to expect from this. I really enjoyed it, though. It's full of genuinely fascinating facts about plants while Hope's battles to be recognised in a traditionally male field were inspiring - this is one of those books I'd like to have lying within my daughter's reach when she's a bit older. Hope's life has been very intertwined with that of her colleague, Bill, and a lot of the book reads like a (platonic) love letter to him; there were moments when it felt like she was trying to prove how wacky they both are, but over all this was a much more enjoyable read than I would have expected of a true life scientific research story.

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 2
Another collection of illustrated, double page stories. Some are sweet, some are sad, some are a tad pretentious - it's a gorgeous little book.

*Provided by publisher or agent for review

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