April’s Reading – the importance of a good story

It is a bit later than I anticipated in May to be publishing my overview of April but, for what it is worth, I read 29 books in the month. This is one fewer than in April last year but I am pleased that 21 of them were in paper form – I am aiming to try and get my physical to-be-read pile reduced even if I don’t seem to be able to stop the electronic list growing (I blame the regular Kindle sales which always seem to contain books that I just have to have to have).

This month also saw me reach my one hundredth book of the year. This was Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg. This book contained lots of imaginary text messages between characters in well-known books such as Jane Eyre. It was a great idea but sadly didn’t work for me because a lot of the books chosen such as Greek classics and modern American novels I didn’t really know well enough to get the joke. Some of it was amusing but the book was a bit of an overall disappointment. I am not sure who would know this wide variety of books well enough to get all the jokes – apart from the author.

One of the books I read this month was Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones. I didn’t know anything about this book before I started it and I have no idea when and where I acquired it (which gives you an idea how out of control my to-be-read pile has got). The book is set in Papua New Guinea during an armed uprising where the inhabitants of one village are very isolated and the only white man in the area attempts to teach the children using Great Expectations by Charles Dickens as a guide. You have to have a passing knowledge of the Dickens book but the real theme of this novel is storytelling and how we tell our lives through narrative and how we learn to formulate our views of the world from stories. It was a thought provoking read and so I looked through my recent reading looking at books where the story was what gripped me. Here are a few you may enjoy :

  • A Country Escape by Katie Fforde. This is not great fiction or even a great romance but it is a gentle and engaging story of a young woman who takes on a failing farm and has to make it work. It is entirely predictable but passes the time very pleasantly and the story does draw you in. It is a good example of this type of light romance and I enjoy this sort of novel from time to time.
  • Fatherland by Robert Harris. This is a clever story. What would Germany have been like if the Nazis had won the war and continued to rule ? The hero of this novel begins to uncover some of the atrocities which have been covered up for years and puts himself in danger. It is a gripping thriller and very well researched and told.
  • Voyager by Diana Gabaldon. This is the third in her Outlander I read the first of these with some cynicism but have been absolutely drawn along by the author’s storytelling. This is a long book but I was engaged all the way through because I never knew exactly what was going to happen to the characters next. It is a time-travelling fantasy with a long running romance/love story. (I have not seen the TV series based on these books)
  • My Friend Monica by Jane Duncan. This is one of a series of books I really enjoy. The author writes about her heroine and others in rural Scotland in the first half of the twentieth century. In this book she mainly concentrates on a small engineering firm just after the war and life for a young couple just starting out. They are light books and amusing but with a lot of social history hidden away in the story.
  • Storm Cursed by Patricia Briggs. This is brand new and just released (actually in May rather than April but it fitted in well with this theme). It is the tenth in this author’s series about werewolves and other supernatural creatures in modern America. In the urban fantasy field this is one of the better series and I actually read this book all in one sitting because I wanted to find out what happened next.
  • The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum. I have loved this thriller for years and this is a reread. Although I mostly try and avoid books with amnesia as a theme I think that the author does it very well here and I have always been gripped by the main character’s growing realisation that he may be a person he despises. I was compelled to keep turning the pages. (I have not seen the film series based on this book)

I wish you all lots of good stories – keep reading !