Summer Book Review !

Summer holidays are a great opportunity to do some catching up on reading. Here are my reviews and ratings of everything I read this summer. Of course, this is just my subjective opinion!

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro – 5 stars 

Ishiguro is a brilliant writer, crafting an illuminating novel written from the perspective of an artificial friend, a robot. Challenging our values as a society and depicting childhood innocence from an unbiased perspective, Klara and the Sun is a must-read. The narrative was fairly easy to read, while also bringing up key themes and topics (friendship, social hierarchies, growing up, etc.), and I will absolutely be reading more of Ishiguro’s work.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt – 3 stars

The Secret History had been recommended to me by a number of people who really enjoyed it, so I assumed I would too. I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it either. The story starts out by describing Bunny’s murder, and then goes back to explain how they got there. While the plot was intriguing and I enjoyed the story, it was a very slow read and I just couldn’t get into it.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami – 4 stars

Murakami’s writing is nothing short of extraordinary, and it could have gotten five stars for the narrative alone. This being said, I had some issues with the plot. It centers almost exclusively around the main character Toru’s relationship with women, yet all of the women are quite clearly written by men. It kind of ruined the experience for me when some scenes were just so unrealistic. Despite this, I did really enjoy reading it, finding it accessible yet complex (on some level), so it gets four stars. If you can survive the male-gaze, I would definitely recommend reading this. 

Heart Berries by Terese Marie Mailhot – 2 stars 

Heart Berries is my aunt’s favourite book and the Goodreads reviews are fairly complementary, so I figured I’d try reading it. It is a collection of essays, a new way of writing a memoir, about a woman’s coming-of-age experience on a Canadian Indian reservation. Her story is powerful, but I didn’t appreciate the way she wrote it. However, I am not generally fond of memoirs or nonfiction. If you like poetic, stream-of-consciousness writing and memoirs, this would probably be enjoyable for you. Some of the topics discussed may be triggering – just be aware of that. 

Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote – 4 stars

‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is now one of my favourite short stories. Holly Golightly’s instability and erratic behaviour combined with her cool demeanour make her iconic. The narrative is lovely, and while the narrator is drawn to Holly, he is also recognising her flaws and difficulties. It’s a short read, so I would absolutely recommend this. Why am I not giving it five stars then? The collection actually contains three other stories after ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’: ‘House of Flowers’, ‘A Diamond Guitar’ and ‘A Christmas Memory’. I didn’t mind ‘House of Flowers’, though I did find the plot bizarre, but the other two were just not to my taste. 

Youth by J.M. Coetzee – 5 stars

J.M.Coetzee is incredible: Youth, the second of his fictionalised memoirs (how cool is that!), is now one of my favourite books. It wasn’t overly difficult to read – as in, I didn’t struggle through it or find it particularly slow. The narrator is recognisably odd, with peculiar ideas of himself, his dreams, and of the world around him. It was one of those books that just sticks in your head after you’ve read it. This was one of the easiest five stars I’ve ever given and will absolutely read more of Coetzee’s work. Youth is fairly short, so if you ever have the chance, this is a must-read. 

Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill – 5 stars

This play is arguably O’Neill’s most famous – it is also the only one of his plays available in our library, which was very disappointing for me. I loved this play. It starts off fairly normal, a family enjoying their time in their summer house, with only a bit of turmoil, but quickly derails into a tragedy impacting all characters. Based on O’Neill’s own life, it won the Pulitzer Prize after its publication. If you like tragedies and plays, like Death of a Salesman or A Streetcar Named Desire, you have to read this play. 

Engleby by Sebastian Faulks – 3 stars

This novel was disturbing to say the least. It’s written from the perspective of Mike Engleby, an intelligent but troubled young man as he grows up. He is obsessed with a girl called Jennifer, who he follows around and observes, and his stability deteriorates after her sudden, mysterious disappearance. It was a slow read but incredibly interesting.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – 5 stars

Offred is a Handmaid in the theocratic Republic of Gilead, struggling to survive under the oppressive regime. Her only role is to carry children – her only identity is now her body. Atwood’s ability to capture Offred’s desperation and her daily struggle through the narration and stylistic techniques was incredible. It is a gripping read, and I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone. Just a warning: it does deal with the topics of rape and sexual violence. 

– Kate Grossenbacher

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