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For the Love of Reading: March 2023

Let’s take a look back at the 7 books I finished in the month of March.

The Dressmaker by Beryl Bainbridge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This short book packs quite a punch, from the WWII Liverpool setting to the carefully crafted and strategically meted out prose, it’s easy to see why it was nominated for The Booker Prize way back in 1973. The entire thing is a rather uncomfortable observation of a group of wholly unlikeable and sexually repressed characters with an ending that is utterly disturbing. Highly recommended for fans of literary fiction and the macabre.

The House of Eve by Sadeqa Johnson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I enjoyed this story of the parallel lives of two young Black women, both seeking to fulfill their dreams despite the odds against them. I love that it’s historical fiction that illustrated the Black American experience and the author does a wonderful job of highlighting the importance of education for women as a means of obtaining security and respect. I could see the ending coming from a mile away but the richly drawn characters and righteous indignation I felt on their behalf, kept me engaged.

We All Want Impossible Things: A Novel by Catherine Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Is it better to have loved and lost? Ask anyone in pain and they’ll tell you no. And yet. Here we are, hurling ourselves headlong into love like lemmings off a cliff into a churning sea of grief. We risk every last thing for our heart’s expansion, even when that expanded heart threatens to suffocate us and then burst.
This is a beautiful book that tells the story of two devoted and life long friends, one of whom is dying of cancer. It’s heartbreaking and messy, raw and real, sentimental without being maudlin, brutally honest and poignantly funny. The rollercoaster of hospice, the exhaustion and tears, the interaction with other patients and healthcare providers, are all told with lovely contemporary prose. It’s the sort of book you know you shouldn’t read because it’s terribly sad, and yet you read it anyway because there’s something about getting your heart stomped on that you love; it makes you appreciate being alive.

Babel: An Arcane History by R.F. Kuang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book had such great promise at the start. The story drew me in immediately and I was excited to see it develop. And then it was just dull. Oh, there were some surprises along the way and I enjoyed the themes of books and the conundrum of translation. But. The characters were stereotypical, the language was too modern for the time period, and it was all very repetitive. It also felt a bit like a Harry Potter for grown ups but without the things that make the Harry Potter books great. (And yes, I know J.K. Rowling is problematic but this is art and I judge it as such.) I know I’m in the minority and others have enjoyed it but I can’t recommend it without reservations.

I Have Some Questions for You by Rebecca Makkai
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this latest book by Rebecca Makkai. It feels current, drawing on podcasts and amateur online crime solvers, but also serves up nostalgia for the 1980s with the boarding school setting and unsolved (or is it?) mystery. It draws on themes of abuse and misogyny, loneliness and friendship, coming-of-age and a wistfulness for youth, while drawing parallels to real life crimes, liberal politics, and the #metoo movement. While it lacks some of the depth of Makkai’s other books (especially The Great Believers) it’s still an engrossing story written with sharp and evocative prose. Recommended.

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this suspenseful and engrossing story. The back and forth timeline, the strong female protagonists, the mysterious story, are all terrific. But the star of the show is the Sun Down Motel itself. Creepy and atmospheric and haunted by a plethora of scary ghosts, it’s so vividly depicted that it feels like a real place. Recommended for fans of the genre and anyone who wants a fast, compelling, and satisfying read.

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Kingsolver’s retelling of David Copperfield is full of gorgeous prose, richly drawn characters, and vivid settings. Her illustration of the problems of the foster care system and her condemnation of poverty, drug abuse, and addiction are pointed and masterful. Her twists on the names of the original characters from Copperfield are clever and often hilarious. And yet I was bored. The plot is exactly the same as the original so there was literally no engagement for me on that important aspect of the book. I give it 3 stars for the plot, 5 stars for the writing, which results in a 4 star rating from me.

I had five 4 star reads and I call that a great month of reading!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Great reading month, Carole! I have added a few of these to my TBR list! Thank you!

  2. Always great book reviews, Carole. 🙂
    (As you know, I felt the same about Demon Copperhead. I’d say . . . it may be the most overrated book of the year? Or maybe that’s . . . Babel.)

  3. More great reading in March! I’ve tried to start Demon Copperhead twice but couldn’t get into it either time. I always wonder how to rate boring books with beautiful prose and stunning writing!

  4. A great month for you Carole! I’ve been on the fence about Demon Copperhead since it came out. I love Kingsolver’s early writing (Pigs in Heaven, The Bean Trees and – of course – The Poisonwood Bible), but her recent books I have found overly preachy and just have not enjoyed them. I will most likely skip this one.

  5. What a great month! I have Makkai’s book up “soon” (for a bookclub discussion next weekend) and can’t wait.

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