August: That’s a Wrap!

Well, here we are – it’s the end of August and coming towards the end of summer. While it seems pretty impossible that it is already this time of year and I’ll be sad to see the long, light days go, Autumn is one of my favourite times of year! I’m looking forward to the crisp days, leafy walks and sense of new beginnings that comes over the next few months.

August has been a varied reading month for me. In addition to my usual healthy dose of new and exciting feminist fiction in the form of Shelf Life, I have also read a few things that are a bit more outside of my recent genres of choice. I loved learning about the culture and history of a country I’ve never been to in The Bead Collector. Found took me on one of my infrequent but really enjoyable forays into thriller and crime, and Head Shot was one of the first memoirs I’ve read (I think ever).

I also seem to have been drawn to a number of novels set during the Cold War this year, with two of them appearing on this August reading list. I loved the absolutely beautiful Confession with Blue Horses by Sophie Hardach (review here) earlier this year. This month I discovered the pure brilliance of The Man Who Saw Everything (review here), by Deborah Levy and also the haunting The Museum of Broken Promises, by Elizabeth Buchanan.

Head Shot, by Victoria Nixon

Head Shot is a beautiful memoir from Victoria Nixon about her life growing up in Yorkshire, and the glamour and grief that follows her life and modelling career in the 60s and 70s. I haven’t read many memoirs at all before, really. But I’ve come to completely trust in Unbound to deliver timely and interesting non-fiction!

As you might expect, I’d recommend this to anyone interested in hearing about the style and culture of the 60s and 70s. But it also deals sensitively and honestly with emotive themes that I think will be of interest to a lot of other readers too – you can read more about this balanced memoir in my review here.

The Man Who Saw Everything, by Deborah Levy

The Man Who Saw Everything was the first book I’ve read by Deborah Levy and can now safely say it won’t be my last. I’ll definitely be rooting for this book when it comes to the Man Booker shortlist and winner!

In this novel, historian Saul Adler has been invited to East Berlin to do research on the German Democratic Republic. At the opening of the novel Saul is waiting for his girlfriend Jennifer to take a photograph of himself walking across the Abbey Road crossing: a recreation of the iconic Beatles album cover as a gift for the family hosting him in Berlin.

It is a novel with an unconventional and non-linear plot – its genius comes from Saul’s construction of his story and how his memories are put together to recreate the past. It is beautifully clever, but at the same time it’s technical brilliance isn’t overdone or made too obvious. If you’re interested in finding out more, check out my review.

The Bead Collector, by Sefi Atta

I heard about this book through the ‘Not the Booker’ longlist and I’m so glad the list led me to it, as I’m not sure I would have discovered it otherwise!

It gives readers a glimpse into the layers, traditions and cultures Nigeria, through a friendship between two women. Our narrator Remi Lawal, meets an American expatriate, Frances Cooke at an art exhibition. The two women quickly become friends and Remi takes Frances under her wing, introducing her to new people and showing her (and us) round the Ikoyi neighbourhood.

I highly recommend it to anyone else who wants to discover more about Nigeria’s deeply layered histories and cultures. You can read my review here.

Shelf Life, by Livia Franchini

Discovering this little egg was definitely one of this month’s highlights. Shelf Life is a quirky novel structured around a shopping list written in the week our central character, Ruth, finds that her relationship of ten years has come to an end.

Each segment of the novel is quite short and is headed by an item on the shopping list. These vignettes are narrated by many different characters and in varying styles. It is an unusual premise, and what emerges is a clever, sometimes unsettling reflection on gender imbalances, toxic relationships (both with others and with ourselves), and resilience.

If youโ€™re looking for an experimental feminist book, with an intriguing central character, this is one for you! Read more about it here. 

Found, by Erin Kinsley

This has been on my list for quite some time, so when I got some bonus reading time (the one good thing about a super delayed Eurostar back from Francs!), I saw my opportunity and I took it!

Thrillers and crime books aren’t a genre I read that often, so when I do I want it to be a good one, with a few dimensions, and really well drawn characters as well as a compelling plot. This is certainly what I got with Found – it is a brilliantly balanced book – it is at once a gripping thriller, and a heartbreaking family drama.

When 11 year old Evan disappears, it is every parent’s worst nightmare and everyone (us as readers included) are obviously desperate to find out what has happened to him. The threads of the story following the police investigation are really compelling, but in many ways aren’t the main thrust of the narrative. Instead, much of the book explores the emotions and dynamics of the family and friends left behind. If you loved the brilliant BBC drama The Missing, you should definitely read this book!

The Museum of Broken Promises, by Elizabeth Buchan

This novel takes us to the streets of modern day Paris, Communist Prague and post-Cold War Berlin and Prague. What really drew me in is the hauntingly beautiful idea for a museum of ‘broken promises’ – all the items have been donated by people who have experienced great loss or betrayal through a broken promise.

Items such as a ticket stubs, a wedding veil, shoes and clothes for a young child, and a black antique phone hold stories of a wealth of hidden promises. Buchan lets us glimpse the weight of the losses behind these objects: telling us little stories within the bigger story. While the love story running throughout the novel captivates us with its passion and danger, it was these little windows into a heartbreaking moments that really stole my heart.

Sweet Sorrow, by David Nicholls

This is the first book I’ve listened to on audio book for quite a long time, and I enjoyed every single second of it. This book is just pure joy. It is about the simultaneously delicious, terrifying and exhilarating rush of first love. Charlie is the novel’s endearing young narrator, who has just finished his final exams at school, and is facing a long, drawn out summer deciding what to do with his life now. Then he comes across The Company who are putting on a performance of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet – enter stage left the captivating and alluring Fran Fisher…

This book has cemented David Nicholls as my most reliable and trusted author. I’ve loved absolutely everything of his I’ve read and would now read anything he writes!

Looking forward to some autumnal, cosy reads this month – what do you all have lined up?

Sophie xx @sophie_Jo_Books ๐Ÿ“š ๐Ÿพ

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