I was still overseas for the first few days of June and although I didn’t really suffer from jetlag once we got back, I had a pretty frustrating reading slump this month. I brought back so many new books from America and I think I got completely overwhelmed, and whenever I suffer from reading overwhelm I completely shut down and read nothing. It’s so helpful. Hopefully July will be better, but until then here is my June 2017 reading review.
June 2017 Reading Review
Give Me The Child by Mel McGrath (available August 2017) [GR]
Ooh boy. Not a good way to start the month. I picked this up at BEA and was super excited about it and I chose it as my plane read from New York to San Francisco. It ended up making me so angry that I had to put it down and finish it when I wasn’t in public. I’m torn with this mini review because I want to explain why I disliked it so much but since it’s not out yet in Australia I don’t want to be too spoilery. Sorry in advance if I am! Essentially, the main character is Dr (!!) Cat Lupo, and she’s married with one child, a daughter named Freya, whose birth was traumatic for Cat. Her family life is shattered when cops arrive with a child, Ruby, who they claim is Cat’s husband’s daughter. Cat’s husband initially denies knowing about the child and admits to an affair, and then after Cat does some digging he confesses that he lied to her and he did know about the child. Cat is a child psychologist and although she tries to repeatedly voice her concerns about Ruby’s behaviour, attitude, and overall influence on Freya, she is dismissed by everyone in her life. She is manipulated, shunned, humiliated, and basically abandoned by her husband and her colleagues and her family in the most absurd fashion and by the end of it, I didn’t care much about the resolution to the mystery at all; all I cared about was a resolution to this hideous characterisation of an intelligent and strong woman being portrayed as crazy and unreliable. Maybe that was the author’s point because I definitely know that’s how women can be and are regularly treated, but there’s not enough nuance in the story to deliver this message in a poignant or remotely meaningful way. There’s enough psychological abuse of women going on in reality and I don’t need to read it in my fiction. Fortunately, I appear to be in the minority with my dislike of this book, so maybe you’ll have better luck with it than I did. 2★
The Burning Girl by Claire Messud [GR]
I went from a BEA disappointment to a BEA highlight with this novel. At its heart, it’s a coming-of-age story about how childhood bonds grow and evolve over time. It looks at how things can change but also importantly at why things can change and in the novel, the reasons for the adolescent friendship breakdown between Julia and Cassie felt entirely familiar to me. I met a girl when I was the same age as Julia and Cassie were when they met and our friendship broke down at around the same time as Julia and Cassie’s did, and this novel resonated with me in many ways. Teen girl relationships are a tricky thing to fictionalise without trivialising or belittling the characters, and Claire Messud handles the complexity of female friendship during adolescence with insightfulness, grace, and a searing honesty that I haven’t come across in fiction in a long time. Friendships, particularly at an age when emotions are felt to such varying extremes, are inherently messy and complicated, but with age and distance comes wisdom and Claire Messud reminds us that, despite our best intentions, not all relationships are meant to last. 5★
Camino Island by John Grisham [GR]
I remember hearing about the premise of this book months ago and thinking that it sounded excellent. Essentially what happens is thieves break into the seemingly-impenetrable vault under Princeton University and steal the original five Fitzgerald manuscripts. The investigation gets some quick leads thanks to some sloppy mistakes from the thieves, but then the trail goes cold and the manuscripts disappear. I won’t say much more than that, but I will say that if you like Grisham’s legal thrillers then this book may not be for you–it’s about as far from a legal thriller as he could go. What he delivers instead is an homage to the book industry and a love letter to authors and booksellers everywhere. I really enjoyed this book. 5★
The End of Men by Karen Rinaldi [GR]
I’m a big Greta Gerwig fan and when I found out that Karen Rinaldi’s book was the source of inspiration for Greta’s new film Maggie’s Plan, I decided to read the book before I saw the film. I enjoyed the film when I eventually saw it quite a bit more than I enjoyed the book, sadly, and I think that was largely due to Greta herself. The women in the book, even Maggie, are quite unlikeable and while sometimes a good storyline can compensate for frustrating characters, this book fell flat in that respect for me. It also focussed quite considerably on parenting issues, specifically being a working mother, that I can’t relate to. Children or not, the female experience is indeed a complicated one but I felt like overall these characters were almost going out of their way to make life harder for themselves, and they didn’t get much sympathy from me. 3.5★
My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent [GR]
Hoo boy. This book. There is some sensitive content in this book, and on a couple of occasions while reading I had to step away because the disturbing darkness became too much for me. Gabriel Tallent’s writing is undeniably excellent and evocative but this book was just absolutely not for me. It’s the story of Turtle, a teenage girl growing up in a remote part of California, and the dangerous and abusive relationship she has with her father, Martin. He is a manipulative and deranged man, and as the novel progresses Turtle slowly begins to understand that for her to have any chance of a healthy future, she needs to distance herself from her father. Turtle is Martin’s world so naturally, he won’t give her up without an almighty fight, and it was as I raced towards the book’s dramatic climax that I connected with it, and Turtle, the most. If you can look beyond the content, this book is a marvel but unfortunately it was just a bit too much for me. 3.5★
No Way! Okay, Fine. by Brodie Lancaster [GR]
I’m a huge fan of Brodie’s (check out some of her work here
) and when I heard she had a memoir coming earlier this year I got very excited. I’m happy to say that her book lived up to and indeed exceeded my expectations. Brodie has the most natural writing style. She writes about funny topics and sad topics and awkward topics and while different subject matter calls for slightly different approaches, her voice is still present and for me that makes her writing super enjoyable. This book is broken up into sections and while it’s by no means a standard memoir, Brodie does talk about different stages of her life, including growing up in Queensland and finding her place in Melbourne. The pop cultuer and feminism chapters were strongest for me, but overall it’s a book I wholeheartedly recommend to just about everyone. 5★
And that’s a wrap on my June 2017 reading review. What books did you read this month?