Autumn, Ali Smith (2016)
The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride (2016)
Hotel World, Ali Smith (2001)
The Long View, Elizabeth Jane Howard (1956)
Fen, Daisy Johnston (2016)
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
Sympathy, Olivia Sudjic (2017)
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt (2013)
For My Sins, Alex Nye (2017)
The Power, Naomi Alderman (2016)
Swing Time, Zadie Smith (2016)
The Wonder, Emma Donaghue (2016)
The First Bad Man, Miranda July (2015)
Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders (2017)
Oh dear, it seems to have been broken. Oh, and it was going so well. My run of female authors over the past year had really been picking up the pace, and now George Saunders has gone and ruined it all. I suppose I can find it in my magnanimity to forgive him. After all, he is only a man. He didn’t know what he was doing. And the book is quite good.
I didn’t actually notice I was doing this until I tried to write a round up of my reading so far. It doesn’t surprise me that my habits favour women writers- if you were to ask me my favourite author, though it varies from time to time, I think it would always be a woman who came to mind. However on a quick sweep of our living room bookcase, of the seventy-two fictional pieces/memoirs present, thirty-five are written by women and thirty-seven by men. That’s not including the books by men I haven’t read, but own because they are classics or they belong to Richard, or started but couldn’t finish. There are no works by women there which I haven’t read. Oh, and all the Harry Potters don’t fit on the shelves so they are piled on the floor. There, that tips the balance!
I’m not going to dwell on the gendered side of things much longer, but I thought in the wake of Victoria Sadler’s look into the state of female playwrights on London stages, it might be worth examining. Perhaps the main take-away here should be: women can write. They can write, and sell, books. Seems to follow that they would be able to write, and sell tickets for, plays.
Anyway to the books! I have written about a couple of them previously (The Long View and Fen) but here’s a quick overview of the rest.
Autumn, Ali Smith
Not my favourite. As a study in time, this series will be interesting. And the novel is interesting, but its timeliness comes at an expense. It adds up to the sum of its parts, but I want more than that. It is a little too tight, the space isn’t there for the stories to reverberate and find their own frequency.
The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride
I think this novel might have been written for me. McBride’s writing doesn’t give you time to consider repercussions, where the plot might go, or how you got to where you are. Which works perfectly for this account of teenage Eily’s first year in drama school and relationship with an actor twice her age.
Hotel World, Ali Smith
This story takes one moment and lets it bloom. The Hotel of the title provides senses of both transience for the traveler and permanence for the hotel’s wakeful staff; mirrored in the experience of the novel. The act of reading the book may be fleeting, but once read it stays with you. (This is why I love Ali Smith!)
Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
This is a revolutionary study of a woman, a woman of colour at that, defined not by the men in her life, but by her own choices. And how the men she chooses shape her life. Framed as a story told to an old friend, the novel uses vernacular to put the story firmly in Janie’s hands. Biblical and everyday in proportion, this is an important book.
Sympathy, Olivia Sudjic
I have waining sympathy for any technology-is-ruining-what-it-means-to-be-human take. But Sympathy is on point. Exploring contemporary obsession with lifestyle and curation, it made me feel claustrophobic, exposed and exhilarated all at once. And Sudjic writes about instagraming feeling ‘like bursting a bubble in bubble wrap’ which is spot on imo.
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
Basically three novels in one: the Sad Thing happens in the first one, but they keep making me sadder. And thrilled to be reading. The evolution makes you nostalgic for the characters you first knew by the time you’re half way through, while the plot twists with stomach-dropping convulsions, tempered by consistent precision of language in writing about art and relationships.
I am going to to leave it there for now as going over 800 words in one post seems like overkill, but I will finish off in a couple of weeks, by which point I’m sure the list will have extended!