2020 Reading Challenge – What I Read in August
“This morning, the sun endures past dawn. I realise that it is August: the summer’s last stand.”
The end of August means…it’s nearly autumn!!! I’m very excited for cosy nights, chunky jumpers and everything turning to orange and red. This has been the most surreal year, and it’s still strange and everything is different, but I’m really looking forward to September. On the whole, August was a lovely month (although I was not a fan of that heatwave) and I got to spend time with friends, see my parents for the first time in ages and our garden and summerhouse is finally finished, so Sam and I have spent a lot of time in here. It’s also been a really sad month for me as my Grandad passed away a few days ago. It wasn’t unexpected, but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking.
Books-wise, I managed four books this month…
The Catch (T.M. Logan) ⭐⭐⭐
Ed is delighted to meet his twenty-three year old daughter’s fiancé for the first time. Abbey is head-over-heels in love with her new man. Smart, successful and handsome, Ryan appears to be the perfect future son-in-law.
There’s just one problem. There’s something off about Ryan. Something hidden in the shadows behind his eyes, and it seems that only Ed can see it.
This is a quick, fairly straightforward domestic thriller. It’s not a groundbreaking story but I did enjoy it. It’s a classic “is he too good to be true?” scenario, and I thought it was very predictable, but it’s a decent read.
I totally understand that Ed was meant to be seen as simply being a protective father, but a lot of the time he came off as far too obsessive, and a lot of his decisions just felt ridiculous.
The majority of the story is told from Ed’s perspective, but I think it would have been more interesting to share the narrative with the other characters to give them a bit more personality – they all felt a bit flat, and so when we were given chapters by them, I just didn’t really care.
The beginning of the story is great and the premise is intriguing, but I think the predictability and unrealistic ending was what let it down.
After the End (Clare Mackintosh) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
When their son becomes critically ill, Pip and Max are faced with an impossible choice, and they don’t agree. The story splits into two – each path telling a different version of events. The majority of the story is told from Pip and Max’s perspectives, though there are a few chapters by their doctor, Dr. Leila Khalili.
I was expecting this to be a heartbreaking story about a terminally ill child, and while it absolutely is, it’s so much more. I got pretty weepy in the first few chapters, and then the story divides. I’ll be honest, it took me a few chapters to get to grips with this, I had to keep reminding myself which outcome the story was continuing.
I thought it was very cleverly done, and a unique way of telling the story. I really felt for both Max and Pip, I could see where they were both coming from. This book is so different from Clare Mackintosh’s other books (all of which I’ve loved) and I was really impressed at how well she wrote about such a tough topic. When I read in her author’s note at the end of the book that she and her husband *had* faced such an impossible decision, it made the book even more powerful and poignant.
Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day.
This book is an incredible and ambitious debut. I think the scale of it is hugely impressive, and I think it’s very well written, and moves seamlessly through the generations. There is a family tree printed at the front of the physical copy of the book which I found I had to refer back to a lot as there are a lot of characters.
A key feature of the book is the structure, it’s like a family tree in itself – each new chapter is a different character in the story, moving forward in time. While I think this was beautifully done in the first two thirds of the book, I found that the final few chapters felt a little rushed. The rich detail and depth of the initial stories, particularly Effia and Esi, completely immersed me in their worlds, but as the story went on, the chapters became shorter and I found it harder to connect to the characters. I wanted to love the ending, and while I thought it was well done and appreciated the idea of everything coming full circle, it did feel a bit too convenient… though saying that, I’m not sure how else it could have ended!
I think it’s a really educating and important read. The story explores the slave trade and what it becomes in the US, and how it changes Ghana. It wasn’t sugarcoated and it was a compelling book to read.
The Devil’s Work (Mark Edwards) ⭐⭐⭐
Sophie is so happy when she gets her dream job, but on her first day, an unnerving encounter makes her wonder if she’s made a huge mistake. What are her colleagues really up to? And what happened to her predecessor? Her husband and daughter are quickly pulled into the nightmare, and Sophie is forced to confront secrets she has carried for years.
I love Mark Edwards’ books. I think he writes brilliantly and his domestic thrillers are usually excellent. This was readable, but I think it crept into the territory of “ridiculous” towards the end, and I really had to suspend my disbelief as I read on. The main character, Sophie, was likeable enough, but she wasn’t very memorable, though I was intrigued by the flashbacks of her university days. There weren’t many key characters in the story which made it easy to guess who the guilty party was.
What have you been reading lately?