“You keep describing yourself as this uniquely damaged person, when a lot of it is completely normal. I think you want to feel special – which is fair, who doesn’t – but you won’t allow yourself to feel special in a good way, so you tell yourself you’re especially bad”
Hmm OK where do I start with this? This book was recently longlisted for the 2021 @womensprize and I have seen MIXED reviews across bookstagram, book twitter and goodreads. So I made myself go into this book not expecting much…
And for the most part it was good. The chapters were short and the story kept me enticed and interested. Without going too deep into the story, it’s basically about a young girl who is teaching in Hong Kong and moves in with a rich man who she ends up sleeping with. He goes back to London and she meets this girl and also starts sleeping with her and it all becomes a big, weird love triangle.
So as you can see the story is interesting and there are some real gems in this where the main character is discussing love/friendship/relationships etc and I feel like I really emphasised with those feelings.
I don’t really understand why the book was set in Hong Kong as there were no real cultural elements of the story that made it important for the book to be set here? Oh, and the main character was incredibly annoying. I also think that the book has been compared to Sally Rooney’s ‘Normal People’ just because this author is also Irish. THIS IS NOTHING LIKE NORMAL PEOPLE.
On the face of it, yes, I enjoyed it more than I thought. Is it the best book I’ve ever read? No.
Apologies for the rant, but this book is definitely one that I’d say read, just so you can say you’ve read it and join in the discussion!
“We humans are reckless with our bodies, reckless with our lives, for no other reason than that we want to know what would happen, what it might feel like to brush up against death, to run right up to the edge of our lives, which is, in some ways, to live fully.”
I had the pleasure of meeting Yaa Gyasi in person (remember that?!) during her book tour of the UK for the release of ‘Homegoing’ and I think ever since then, I’ve always held her in a high regard.
So the release of ‘Transcendent Kingdom’ had me worrying about whether this book was going to be just as good as Homegoing (which is a bookstagram fave).
Transcendent Kingdom is VERY different from Homegoing but once again, Yaa Gyasi’s description of events, feelings, trauma and everything in between is just phenomenonal. The way this woman writes…it’s like she perfectly articulates my thoughts and feelings. It’s so addictive when I read writing like that because I just get so lost in her world.
TK explores a lot of hard-hitting topics and I would say there are a lot of trigger warnings in the book-related to addiction, depression, death/suicide and drug abuse. Gyasi also asks a tonne of BIG questions about religion and humanity that had me sat in the bath questioning things for myself too.
Although it’s VERY different to Homegoing, I’m glad it was. I don’t just want her to write about the same things and the same stories and in a way I’m glad that TK was so different because its allowed her to flex her MANY talents when it comes to creativity and writing, proving once again why she has a special place in my heart.
I would highly suggest reading this if you fancy a good cry and if you’ve ever questioned the relationship between religion and science!
“I think we’re made out of stardust and God made the stars.”
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Published: 2020 No. of Pages: 264 Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction Trigger Warnings: Suicide, drug abuse, depression, neglect, drug addiction, overdose, death Links:Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells
“We’ve turned ourselves into something. We’re many small pieces, each of us different but now stitched together. A patchwork of souls.”
Today I am honoured to be joining the other brilliant Book Bloggers and Bookstagrammers on the blog tour for Dangerous Women by Hope Adams.
Dangerous Women is set in London, 1841. The Rajah sails for Australia. On board are 180 women convicted of petty crimes, sentenced to start a new life half way across the world. Daughters, sisters, mothers – they will never see home or family again. Despised and damned, all they have now is each other.
Until the murder…
As the fearful hunt for a killer begins, everyone on board is a suspect. The investigation risks tearing their friendships apart. But if the killer is not found, could it cost them all their last chance of freedom?
Based on a real-life voyage, Dangerous Women is a sweeping tale of confinement, hope and the terrible things we do to survive.
What Did I Think?
They say that books are one of the best forms of escapism, and when they say that they mean books like Dangerous Women. The setting of this book is done so superbly, you feel like you know exactly what image the author is describing. The setting makes you feel like you are there, watching and listening to all the women surrounding you.
The book fluctuates between narrators and this excellently adds to the story and the narrative of women’s experiences in the 1800s. The different narratives also allowed me to understand different women’s perspectives and outlooks of the time, as well as helping me to draw an emotional connection with each character.
So, I was then shocked to hear that the book was inspired by a true historic event. The Rajah voyage actually did transport 180 convicts to Tasmania (as it is now known) in which 18 women crafted a patchwork quilt, which is held at the National Gallery of Australia. Therefore, the book for me, beautifully mixed fiction and history, with female empowerment and survival right at its very heart.
Being a HUGE history nerd myself, it is no doubt that my favourite part about this book was the sheer historical context/research that went into its making. I can’t begin to imagine how much research the author must have undertaken to achieve the very feeling that you’ve stepped back in time, but for me, that was the most enjoyable experience.
Dangerous Women gives a voice to the women who were on-board this voyage in such a clever and raw way, that you read this book like you have been allowed to step onto that very same voyage with them. With the murder mystery/thriller aspect of the novel also making you catch a glimpse of just how frightening it must have been for these women, I think Hope Adams has done a fantastic job of creating a novel that celebrates women, sisterhood, and friendship.
I would like to say a huge thank you to Gaby Young and Michael Joseph for my gifted ARC andfor inviting me to be part of the blog tour!.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Publisher: Michael Joseph Published: 2021 No. of Pages: 400 Genre: Historical Fiction Trigger Warnings: violence against women, self-harm, rape, incest, miscarriage, sexual assault, infant death, murder Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells
“She says nothing, in the way mothers say everything while saying nothing.”
Happy Publication Day to this stunning book by Imbolo Mbue!
I was lucky enough to be approved to receive an ARC of this book by Canongate on Netgalley and it has to be one of the most moving books I’ve read in a long time.
It covers some really interesting topics, the most poignant being the destruction and ruin of a small African village as a result of a large American oil company to set up business there. In doing so, the company’s oil pipelines and drilling sites have ruined crops and poisoned the village’s water supply.
It’s a devastating tale of destruction and loss but one that incorporates selfishness and greed. The village is full of residents who are fuelled by emotion and anger, not just at Pexton (the American oil company) but at each other and as a result, no one knows the best action to take as the majority of villagers are driven by their own motives.
The book incorporates a range of different narratives and through these characters, we gain insight into different perspectives and how that shapes their lives and opinions. What was deeply moving for me was watching the children of the ‘Pexton generation’ grow up and retell their experiences of when Pexton first arrived on their soil.
It is an incredible story and journey to take yourself on and one I thoroughly enjoyed, however not an easy read and one that made me reflect on how awful it must be to have your life overturned by big corporations with big bank balances.
I react the recent announcement of the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist.
So last night at 6pm, the judging panel for the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction announced their 2021 longlist over on the Women’s Prize for Fiction YouTube channel and my god, WHAT A LIST.
The list features 16 books that have been published by an array of different publishers and authors, that each discuss important and potent topics. Here is my reaction…
The 16 Books Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021:
Luster by Raven Leilani
Nothing But Blue Sky by Kathleen MacMahon
Because of You by Dawn French
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones
Summer by Ali Smith
Burnt Sugar by Avni Doshi
Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
The Golden Rule by Amanda Craig
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Detransition Baby by Torrey Peters
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood
Unsettled Ground by Clare Fuller
Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers
Consent by Annabel Lyon
Books I’ve Read On The List
Shockingly, I’ve only actually read two of the books that feature on this longlist, I feel like a fake! The books I’ve read from this list include Luster by Raven Leilani and Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi, and I feel VERY different about them both.
Luster was incredibly hyped up and I have to admit that the only reason I bought this book was because of all my fellow Bookstagrammers raving about it on Instagram. It didn’t live up to the hype for me and you can find my full review here. Although it was a great representation of young women and how dating and sex has drastically changed in modern times, especially with this focus on ‘boredom’, sexual liberation and open relationships. But it left me feeling a little down in the dumps and I felt incredibly and painfully sorry for the main character Edie. Not what I was expecting but a short book to read if you ever fancy seeing what all the hype is about and making your own opinion.
Transcendent Kingdom on the other hand is a deeply moving masterpiece by an author who is slowly becoming one of my favourite writers. I am yet to post my full review of Transcendent Kingdom but it was a book that not only asked some BIG questions about humanity and religion, but it also made me sob. Yet again, Yaa Gyasi has created a masterpiece, albeit a very different masterpiece to her debut novel Homegoing, and definitely deserves a place on this longlist.
Books That Are On My TBR
A LOT of these books already feature on my TBR, both physically and on my Amazon wish list, including Burnt Sugar, Exciting Times, The Vanishing Half, Detransition Baby, Unsettled Ground and Small Pleasures to name a few.
The majority of the books on this list are books I’ve heard/seen floating around my social media channels and some of them are even sitting on my bookshelves waiting to be read. So I’m not surprised that many of the books that have been frequently appearing on my Twitter and Instagram feeds feature on this list.
It’s also incredibly exciting to see authors like Torrey Peters who is a transgender author and has actually made history by being the first transgender author to make it on the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist. It just shows that there are some well-established prizes and organisations making the effort to be more diverse and celebrate the voices that for so long have been silenced.
Books I’ve Never Heard About
Yet there are actually some books on this list that I’ve never heard of before, such as Nothing But Blue Sky, Because of You, The Golden Rule and Consent. It’s safe to say that these four books have secured a (quite high) place on my TBR and I definitely hope to tick these off my list before the shortlist is announced.
I think it would be wrong of me to create a shortlist when I’ve only actually read two books from this list but I hope the two books that I’ve read do make the shortlist. Even Luster, because although it didn’t live up to my expectations, it was still a great and different read.
The actual shortlist is announced on the 28th April so I guess I have A LOT of reading to do before then! To be honest, I hope to have read The Vanishing Half, Exciting Times and Burnt Sugar by then so hopefully I can make more of a personal and educated guess at what the 2021 shortlist might look like.
So as it was my first bloversary yesterday, I thought I’d share some of the mistakes I have made during my first year as a Bookstagrammer/Book Blogger that I now reflect on. If you’re new to Bookstagram or the book blogging community, please remember that it’s OK to make mistakes like the ones I’ve made below. It’s a learning curve but it’s also a very personal experience, so make sure that whatever you’re doing, it’s for you and your pleasure!
Anyway, here are some of the mistakes I’ve made that have shaped my Bookstagram/book blog experience so far…
Not Using Natural Light In My Photos
You won’t understand the difference that natural light makes until you compare two exact pictures next to each other. I personally find that if I’ve taken a picture at night with light on, not only are there shadows all over the place, but when editing, the picture comes out grainy and just doesn’t look great.
Yet taking pictures during the day in natural light, makes a whole lot of difference. Not only do the pictures look brighter and have natural shadows, but they also perform so much better when you edit them. So my biggest tip to anyone starting out, is to use natural daylight as much as you possibly can.
Editing TOO Much
Speaking about editing, when I first started bookstagramming and book blogging, I took it upon myself to learn about the best editing apps out there and I used a bunch of different editing tools to enhance my pictures.
I loved the filters available in the Google Photos app, but they were sometimes a bit too much. I then had a play around on Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom and sometimes I would just increase the brightness and contrast too much and my pictures just looked so heavily edited, I can’t believe I ever let myself post those pictures, looking back now.
I also find that the pictures I take on a whim with no planning and no heavy edits seem to be far more popular on Instagram than the pictures I’ve spent hours editing. So as always, the more natural the better.
Not Writing Easy-To-Read Captions
When I first started out, I was writing ridiculously long and quite technical reviews and I found that not a lot of people were actually reading these essays I was posting, basically because they were boring and not easy to follow.
So then I changed my captions to give a little mini review, with prompts to go and read my full review on my blog. But I found that didn’t work well either. So I have since switched it up again to now write captions that include a mini review of the book I’m posting about and a question at the bottom to ask other people if they’ve read this book.
I’ve found that people just want their information right there and then and don’t want to have to follow link after link to get the information they read. Also, a lot of people using Instagram just want quick reads that they can relate to or respond to, so having a smaller, mini review with a question at the end helps me engage more with my followers and get a better response.
Not Engaging With My Followers
Engagement is something I’ve had to learn about quickly to make sure the content I was putting out was reaching the right people. Depending on what your goals are with bookstagram, depends on how much you should care about engagement.
If you’re just booking for a platform where you can log all of your recent reads and find/speak to like-minded people then engagement isn’t worth worrying about. However, I want to inspire and motivate people with the content I post, so therefore not only does the content I post need to be relevant and interesting, I also need to engage with my followers about the content I’m posting.
One of the best tips you’ll see most social media advisers give is to not disappear after posting. For a few months, I would post at my usual time of 6pm and then put my phone down and occupy myself with something else, thinking my job is done here. And I suppose it’s always nice to let the notifications tick away and come back to loads…but that’s not going to make your followers love you. One of the best lessons I’ve learnt is to stick around after you’ve posted and even comment on some posts before you post too and trust me, you’ll be able to make more friends and benefit from more loyal followers.
Trying To Read EVERY Book
Every Bookstagrammers pet peeve. I think one downside to becoming a Bookstagrammer/Book Blogger is it has made me incredibly greedy and I’ve experienced some of the worst FOMO this year.
Seeing different people post about the same book, not only does it get you so excited for that particular book and want to buy it, but it also makes you feel like ‘I need this book that everyone is talking about in order to fit in’. But I’m telling you now, IT’S NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN. You’re never going to be able to read every book that has ever been written. You can try but trust me, there will always be new books coming out all the time.
I’ve had to remind myself so many times about this and I’m sure a lot of you do the exact same thing too. The FOMO is real but at the end of the day, if you’re reading the same book that everyone else is reading, what makes you special? What makes you unique? What will make you interesting is if you’re recommending books that no one has heard of before and hyping them up to motivate others to read them too.
Letting ‘The Hype’ Ruin New Releases
Ahhh, ‘the hype’. I cannot tell you how many times I have bought a book because EVERYONE on my feed has posted about it (here’s an example of FOMO again) and it’s ended up not being half as good as I expected. And to be fair to those boks, if I had picked them up in a bookstore and not heard anything about the book before I bought it, I probably would have loved them. Yet the hype made them sound so incredible that when I ended up reading them, they were just a let-down.
And I’ve seen it happen to other people too. For example with the book Queenie, this was a book I just happened to pick up in Tesco one day, read it and was completely taken back by the writing, the humour and the story. Now Queenie is one of the books that was HEAVILY hyped up last year and I’ve seen Bookstagrammer review it after all this hype and said they didn’t understand why everyone loved it.
You see? So as much as Instagram and social media is a great way to spread excitement and hype about books, it can also be damaging to your personal reading experience because the hyped book is already ruined before you read it. So my advice to you would be, yes, of course see what other people are reading but also let yourself decide if you like books yourself.
Posting When I Don’t Feel Like It
Somewhere along the way this year, (I want to say around September/October) I lost my way a little bit. I think I had been trundling along all year not really acknowledging the effect that lockdown was having on me and how my life had changed so much in such a small period. I also lost my job as a result of the pandemic and became one of the daily statistics you read/hear about in the morning news. So obviously my mental health and my creativity (and even my love for reading) went completely out of the window and I found myself wanting to give up and subsequently forcing myself to post or be active on social media when it was actually the last thing I wanted/needed to be doing.
But I had this fear that if I didn’t post everyday and I wasn’t all jolly and happy when posting/being on social media, then people would lose interest and as a result I would become irrelevant. And that fear completely drove me to carry on posting when I had lost my love for it and obviously, that meant that when I was posting, I wasn’t engaging and I wasn’t posting content that people enjoyed or cared about…because I wasn’t doing it with the love and passion I had been giving before.
I’m pretty sure that if you were to scroll down my Instagram grid, it’s quite clear (to me anyway) where my creativity and love for all things blogging and books was fading and it pains me that I still carried one and didn’t just stop.
Since starting a full-time job again, it’s taken me a while to come to terms with how reading and blogging now fit into my daily and weekly routine. Yes, I’m not creating half as much or reading half as many books as I was doing back in April, but when I am reading/creating, I’m doing it because I want to and because I enjoy it. Don’t ever feel pressured to be something you’re not on social media.
Trying To Please Everyone
And that leads me nicely onto my eighth and final mistake that I’ve made during my first year as a Bookstagrammer and that is trying to please everyone. It’s easy when you first join bookstagram and the book blogging community to love all the support you’re getting but let’s be honest, you may start to crave the love and support from other bookstagrammers and bloggers so much that you end up losing your sense of identity.
This goes back to my earlier point of being unique and I definitely found myself wanting to consistently post about the books that other people have posted about to make me seem relevant and ‘in the know’. Whereas really, I was reading and posting about books that I either didn’t enjoy or that I would have never read if it wasn’t for this desire to be like everyone else.
Now I know some Bookstagram accounts pride themselves on their ‘edgy’ and ‘unique’ book recommendations but truthfully, I found that I couldn’t post about the books I wanted to or the book sI wanted to read because people didn’t know about them and therefore wouldn’t like or relate to my posts/content.
It’s hard to get out of this mentality and when you’ve posted every day for three months and been told that everyone loves you and your content, you start to fear that one wrong post might make everyone turn on you. Especially now when we live in such an age where cancel culture is HUGE and have cost many celebrities their fame and livelihood because not everyone agrees with their opinion. Of course I’m not standing up for the racists and transphobic celebrities out there because they deserve to be ‘outed’ for their backward thinking, but I think the moment you get some sort of following on social media, it becomes hard to show your real likes/dislikes in the fear that someone might not agree and persuade others to do the same.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that not everyone will like the books you recommend and not everyone will agree with your opinion of a book. Yet that’s OK and it doesn’t mean you should just say a book is good because everyone else thought it was. Be human, have your own thoughts and more importantly voice your own opinion because at the end of the day, people are following you and praising your content because it is ‘real’ and unique. So embrace that and DNF that book if you’re not enjoying it.
And there we have it…
So those were the eight mistakes I made during my first year of being a Bookstagrammer/Book Blogger and I wonder what mistakes I’ll make in my second year haha!
So 9th March 2020 was the date I decided to re-establish my book blog after seeing a news article about a young boy who was bullied because he posted his reviews of books on Instagram. I thought, my God, this boy has a fantastic idea posting about books via Instagram and when I went to investigate, a whole world of bookstagramming and book blogging was opened up to me.
So I created a logo, my brand colours, a WordPress site, an Instagram and Twitter account and away I went!
So in my first month as a new Bookstagrammer and Book Blogger, I was finding my feet and looking back I would say that this was the time I was most creative. I was reading some incredible books (e.g. Daisy Jones and The Six) and I was creating some great content too. Obviously being furloughed from work due to the new Coronavirus pandemic sweeping across the globe and this time off was doing wonders for my new blog and bookstagram!
In May, it was becoming evident that I needed something to fill my time. I was reading a hell of a lot of books, but because I spent all my day reading, when it came to the evening, I was finding myself needing to do something else. So I started blogging more, and I also started writing for a website called ‘Quite Literary’ and I became one of their resident contributors.
I was also missing my boyfriend by an incredible amount so in May, I went to stay with him and his family so we could enjoy the summer nights together.
In June, I created the ‘Let’s get Classical’ Book Club which is hosted over on Facebook as I saw that a lot of people I was interacting with on Instagram were afraid of reading classics because books like that are usually left to the more academic amongst us to read. I wanted to change this perception, whilst encouraging everyone to pick up a classic and not feel daunted by the language, length or story. Over the past few months, we’ve read some incredible books and I hope that I am helping others to love classics just as much as me.
In July, five months after badly injuring my back, I found myself starting to do more workouts and as the restrictions allowed for you to meet up to 8 people in the park, I went with my family to do workouts in the park with other members of our gym and it was so fun. If it wasn’t for the dog poo that someone was guaranteed to stand in every night, I’d take park workouts over gym workouts every day!
In terms of books, I took part in the Reading Rush and pushed myself out of my comfort zone with a few genres that I don’t tend to usually read such as fantasy and erotica.
In August, I think the furlough life was inevitably forcing me to be creative and stay active in whatever way I could and that led to the creation of my book shop, Milton Books. Although I have had to unfortunately close my shop since due to moving out and being swamped in a full-time job, I loved the journey that Milton Books allowed me to experience. I will never forget the support that the bookstagram and book community showed me and hopefully one day I’ll be able to re-open!
I also joined my local book club and went on a week-long staycation to Brighton with my boyfriend!
In September, I visited the beautiful Brontë Parsonage in Haworth and what a day that was! I got to go on a train for the first time in months and spent the day with my lovely feminist friend, talking all things women empowerment and equality.
I also FINALLY got the chance to go out drinking with my friends and looking back, this seems such a long time ago. Although there were social distancing rules in place, just having the chance to still go out drinking and have fun with friends was all I could ask for.
MY BDAY MONTH! And probably the strangest birthdays I’ve ever had. My boyfriend had planned for us to go and stay in Haworth for the weekend but as my birthday falls in October half-term here in the UK, our Government put the UK on national lockdown to help stop the spread of Coronavirus from schools and colleges. So I managed to get birthday waffles from my favourite waffle place just before lockdown but that was about it.
October was also the month I was made redundant from the job I had been on furlough from since March. It hit me pretty bad and having to re-do my CV, apply endlessly for jobs and attend brutal interviews over Zoom was an experience I hope I don’t have to do again any time soon. The job market was crazy and it was soul destroying applying for job after job with no response from most of them.
In November, I managed to secure myself a job pretty quickly which I am extremely grateful about, and began the next steps of my career with a local company in Manchester. I joined the rest of the country in WFH and had to familiarise myself with my colleagues over Zoom. It was strange and to this day, I’ve still not met most of my team.
I also took on a running challenge for a disability sports charity, Arctic One, in which I pledged to run a marathon over the course of a month. Through the challenge, I rekindled my love of running and especially after the stress and confusion caused by starting a new job in the middle of a pandemic, the pavement pounding was a necessary break.
In December, me and my boyfriend on a whim started looking at available flats in our area and found the most perfect flat that suited us to a T. We put a deposit down and before we knew it, we were accepted and given a move-in date of 23rd December. So the majority of my December was spent getting everything ready for the big move-in and Christmas as well. Truth be told, I hardly did any reading. I had a BUSY month and found myself too tired (and excited) from all the changes going on.
I did, however, manage to read a few Christmassy rom-coms which were just what the doctor ordered and I even got involved with the Twelve Days of Clink Street Publishing where I reviewed a different book every day which was FAB!
January was mine and my boyfriend’s first month living on our own together in our brand new flat. There were some slight teething issues but for the most part, we both found ourselves loving our new sense of freedom and adulthood (as scary as it sounds, it mostly consisted of weekly food shops and cleaning days).
In January, I got my favourite bookstagrammers to pick my 2021 TBR for me and if you’re interested in seeing what they picked for me, click here! I also read some amazing books and was invited along to join the Bloomsbury virtual event in which they showcased some of the amazing upcoming literary stars of 2021. Some of which I’ve pre-ordered straightaway!
In February, I fell back in love with bookstagramming and book blogging, posting consistently and noticing my creativity and love for bookstagram engagement slowly creeping back. Me and my boyfriend had a stay-at-home Valentines Day slap-up meal where we actually got all dressed up for once which was a breath of fresh air for both of us individually and as a couple. I even read some FANTASTIC books, one being Daughters of Night by Laura Shepherd Robinson and you can find my review and an exclusive extract from the book here.
I think somewhere in the middle I lost my way a little but once I took all the pressure of posting EVERY day and posting good and engaging content instead of just posting when and what I want, I’ve found my love for all things books and book blogging is stronger than ever.
Now let’s see what another year of Stuck In The Book has to bring! Thank you to all my followers and readers who have made my journey so far so brilliant and worthwhile. I hope you enjoy my content, reviews and images and I hope you will continue with me for lots more bookish posts!
International Women’s Day is a fantastic annual celebration of all things female, as well as the importance of women and how they have shaped the world we live in today.
So I hope you’ve celebrated all the women in your life today, as well as those women who have made a real change in our society. Here are some books that feature incredible women whose story will hopefully help you celebrate all things women and the journey to equality that we are still very much on…
Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo
In a chilling, eerily truncated third-person voice, Jiyoung’s entire life is recounted to the psychiatrist—a narrative infused with disparate elements of frustration, perseverance, and submission.
Born in 1982 and given the most common name for Korean baby girls, Jiyoung quickly becomes the unfavored sister to her princeling little brother. Always, her behaviour is policed by the male figures around her—from the elementary school teachers who enforce strict uniforms for girls, to the coworkers who install a hidden camera in the women’s restroom and post their photos online.
In her father’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s fault that men harass her late at night; in her husband’s eyes, it is Jiyoung’s duty to forsake her career to take care of him and their child—to put them first.
I’m recommending this book because of its raw and honest depiction of women’s experiences and how they are shaped by male prejudices and expectations.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Convenience Store Woman is the story of thirty-six-year-old Keiko who has never fit in anywhere except for when she starts working at the Hiiromachi branch of ‘Smile Mart’. Here she finds peace and purpose in her life and through the store is able to understand the rules of social interaction and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently.
Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. It’s almost hard to tell where the store ends and she begins. Keiko is very happy with her life, but the people close to her cannot understand her decisions and pressure her to find a husband and to start a proper career.
I’m recommending this book because although it is incredibly weird, Sayaka Murata’s irony and dry sense of humour comes through excellently in this story of someone desperately trying to understand and meet societies expectations of women and what happens when women don’t conform…
A Woman Is No Man by Etaf Rum
This story follows three generations of Palestinian-American women living in Brooklyn who are torn between individual desire and the strict mores of Arab culture.
Palestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Over the course of a week, the naïve and dreamy girl finds herself quickly betrothed and married, and is soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law Fareeda and strange new husband Adam, a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children.
Brooklyn, 2008. Eighteen-year-old Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, must meet with potential husbands at her grandmother Fareeda’s insistence, though her only desire is to go to college. Deya can’t help but wonder if her options would have been different had her parents survived the car crash that killed them when Deya was only eight. But her grandmother is firm on the matter: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man.
I’m recommending this novel because not only does it beautifully discuss how culture and honour shape some women’s lives, but it also shows how the ‘modern’ woman in some cultures are still ruled by shame and destruction.
The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
Set in South Carolina in 1964, The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of Lily Owens, whose life has been shaped around the blurred memory of the afternoon her mother was killed. Lily escapes to Tiburon, South Carolina; a town that holds the secret to her mother’s past.
She and her nanny, Rosaleen, are kindly taken in by an eccentric trio of black beekeeping sisters, and Lily is introduced to their mesmerizing world of bees and honey and finds herself feeling closer to her mother than ever before. This is a remarkable novel about divine female power and sisterhood. I’m recommending A Secret Life of Bees because it is a heartwarming story that celebrates and depicts the strength of women when we unite.
Other Books to Help You Celebrate International Women’s Day
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates
Untamed by Glennon Doyle
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
The Girl With The Louding Voice
Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies) by Scarlett Curtis
I’ve seen this book floating around Bookstagram for quite a while now, so when I received my copy in my Richard and Judy Book Club Winter Collection, I couldn’t wait to read it and even bumped it up a few spaces on my TBR. Shameful behaviour, I know haha!
The book follows a wealthy family from London that have moved into a Manor House in a forest for the summer after a miscarriage and scandal had been stamped on the family name. The mother, her two children and the nanny all move to this manor house and whilst they are there, stumble across an abandoned baby that they take in and look after. Yet their family secrets and scandals are ruining this ‘perfect’ family, and is continuing to do so to other families years later.
What I loved about this book was not only how the author, Eve Chase, created suspense and how excellently she created the sense of scandal and secrecy, but how she questioned the sense of belonging through the use of different characters and narratives. We have three women in this book who do not know where they belong and through each of these women’s narratives, we hear and feel their insecurities and worries. We see through Hera, Rita and Sylvie, all the ways that someone can feel lost and unloved which was heartbreaking and emotional to read. Not just your average thriller that’s for sure.
Another thing this book did was make me impossibly broody. Now I’m not sure whether it was the timing of reading this book which made me yearn for a baby as I was just about t have my time of the month, or whether it was the gorgeous descriptions of babies gurgling and giggling. Either way, it made me very broody.
Overall I thought it was a fantastic book and I couldn’t find much wrong with it other than the pace of the book becoming VERY quick at the end. Yet the storytelling and character development was excellent and I’m excited for what else Eve Chase has in store…
“What is better than believing you are heading towards love?”
What Did I Think?
Open Water is Caleb Azumah Nelson’s highly anticipated debut novel and one that will leave you questioning the concept of love.
In the novel, Caleb BEAUTIFULLY describes what it’s like to experience love for the first time, as well as exploring deeper into what it means to be a Black man in London.
The book is written in such a way that it simply feels like the narrator is writing every thought that comes into their head. Through repetition and stunning metaphors, you really begin to get inside the narrator’s mind and feel how they are feeling.
Although I will never know the brutal truths of what it’s like to be a Black man living in London, I have experienced first-love, and Caleb perfectly sums up the empowering feelings of need, want and even euphoria when you first fall in love with someone.
It took me a while to get used to the writing style but after a 1/4 of the way through, I realised that in order to enjoy this book, you have to slow down and take in every word. An experience that I haven’t had to the opportunity to do for a while and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.