July: That’s a Wrap!

Nyx is never one to miss a photo opportunity! Here she is in front of the stack of books I read in July, which are looking somewhat colour-themed in a hazy red of summer heat. I have to admit, amongst all the muggy heat and sleepless nights, at times this month I felt too tired and run down to even open a book. But that must have balanced out with several peaceful evenings sat in the garden and reading a book after work (with a gin, clearly) – because in the end I read five books in July. My reading included a couple of strong feminist novels, another fantastic anthology from Unbound and a really gripping buddy read.

Here are July’s gems:

The Woman in the Photograph, by Stephanie Butland

I have been looking forward to this book for a while, and it did not disappoint! A fierce, feminist, inspirational book – it changed the way I saw the world.

At the beginning of the novel we meet Veronica Moon (Vee) who, desperately eager to progress her photography career, goes to photograph the strike action taking place at the Dagenham Ford Factory in 1968. At the picket line, she meets Leonie Barratt, whose imposing presence and sharp wit immediately captures Veronica’s attention (and ours!). Leonie’s mentorship and energy throws Vee right into the middle of the passionate and resolute women’s movement of the 70s. 

I certainly consider myself to be a feminist, and what I loved most about this novel was how it made me take a step back and question what that really means. I closed the last page invigorated to revisit the question of what feminism means to me. 

The Women in the Photograph is out now with Zaffre. If you want to read my full review, here it is!

Supper Club, by Lara Williams

This was another fantastic feminist gem. It had a really quirky and fresh approach to what seems to be an emerging trend of books about women, which also use food as a central theme or symbol. I read and loved The Woman Who Wanted More by Vicky Zimmerman (you can read my review here), and I’m super excited to get stuck into Shelf Life, by Livia Franchini this month.

The concept of the women’s supper club itself in Supper Club is deliciously unashamedly feminist. These women want to find out what happens when women exist in spaces they are told they shouldn’t exist in, when they act on desires that they’re not supposed to have, when instead of always trying to make themselves smaller and smaller, they make themselves bigger, and take up more space.

Supper Club is out now, with Hamish Hamilton – definitely pick this one up if you’re interested in something a bit different and if you love food! I loved it and I’ll be posting a full review of this one.

Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo

The book everyone has been talking about! I have to say though, I struggled a bit with this one. On the one hand, I found Taddeo’s writing style really captivating – her writing style is effective in it’s simplicity and directness. There are plenty of poignant and quotable phrases and paragraphs – moments where I wanted to punch my fist in the air and shout “Yes! This!”. There is also a dry wit that felt reminiscent of the sorts of conversations that women might have together.

At the same time, I wanted to hear from these women more directly than this form allowed. Knowing that these were real women almost made me feel more removed from them, in a paradoxical way, as someone else was telling me their story.

Overall I think this simply wasn’t quite the book I was expecting. I’d expected it to be more of a celebration of female desire, whereas I came to realise that it is perhaps more of a lamentation on that theme. In this book, women’s desire is created under the male desire their worlds are centered around. They have to play the game of desire according to men’s rules – and playing the game is the only way to be ‘seen’, to become ‘somebody’. Because of that, it felt extremely uncomfortable to read at times. But at the same time I simply felt I could not look away…

Fake Like Me, by Barbara Bourland

I read this along with the wonderful #FakeLikeUs gang, for the Quercus buddy read. Fake Like Me is about a young painter (our nameless narrator) as she navigates her place within the New York Art scene, as a female artist. After a fire destroys all of her latest works, she is faced with a tough decision and then an even tougher task. Is is fraudulent to create replacements for all of these paintings (some of which have already sold), and how on earth will she manage it over one short, stifling summer?

This was my first ever buddy read, and I found it a really great way to read! Reading along with others is so fun – you get to share all your theories, see what other people picked up on and what you’d maybe missed. I also loved that it meant I had to read a section at a time – it meant that the suspense built more gradually over the weeks and by the time I reached the final segment, I was desperate to know EVERYTHING!

Anyone interested can join the final #FakeLikeUs buddy read today at 8pm over on the Quercus Instagram page. Excitingly, we will be joined by Barbara Bourland herself, as we discuss the final sections and thoughts on the book overall. I’m sure there will be lots of reviews posted today too – mine is to follow soon!

Others, edited by Charles Fernyhough

This is another eye opening anthology from Unbound publishers. When I read Common People last month, it quickly became one of my favourite books of the year. I came to Others with a great deal of excitement, but I have to admit also a fair bit of trepidation – I’d enjoyed Common People so much that I was wondering if this could live up to it!

I needn’t have worried – Others is just as thought-provoking as Common People and the anthology format gave me the same fantastic snapshot of whole host of different viewpoints, narratives and experiences. More to come in my review – but for now, safe to say anthologies are still my new-found format of the moment!

What have been your favourites this month? Were any of these on your July reading list?

Sophie @Sophie_Jo_Books  📚 🐾

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