One thing that’s become apparent to me on social media is that lockdown has affected us all differently, especially our sleeping and reading habits. I’ve been home for more than half a year now and I’ve only just started enjoying reading books again. In the first few months, all I wanted to do was watch Netflix and read graphic novels. I must have read hundreds of them (my poor credit card will vouch for that.) I think it was the nagging anxiety caused by the spreading virus – I didn’t want my attention drawn away for too long.
I have finally found my reading groove again, which I’m sure my new friends on Instagram were partly responsible for.
So here is a roundup of some of my lockdown reads so far.
Charlotte by Helen Moffett
Everyone remembers the scene in Pride and Prejudice when Charlotte Lucas’s engagement to Mr. Collins is announced and the shock and disbelief it caused among the Bennets. This book explores what happens after. We meet Charlotte, now married and settled, and her two children. Life is comfortable enough, although she is still reeling from the death of her son. We hear from Elizabeth (now Mrs. Darcy) whose life is far from perfect, and also Lady Catherine’s daughter and heiress, Anne, who has problems of her own. The book follows the bond these three women share and details their daily struggles for independence, their small acts of rebellion, and the pure joy their friendship brings them. It’s a wonderful dive into the Regency period told by an academic with a deep understanding of the time. Hold on tight though, as one particular scene is going to cause you to inhale your tea in surprise.
I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon on the couch with this novel and was transported right back to where Pride and Prejudice left off. It is so beautifully written and captures the time period effortlessly. I loved it.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power
I was surprised by the amount of recommendations I received for this novel on Instagram. I guess you could say I was duly influenced because I dove right in.
The students of The Raxter School for Girls are under strict quarantine. The island on which the school is located has been affected by a mysterious pandemic that affects the inhabitants of the island in different ways. The trees grow wilder, the animals fiercer, and the girls experience strange mutations. The last remaining teachers try to keep a familiar regimen, but with supplies dwindling and girls disappearing, Hetty starts to wonder what is really going on.
This is a fiercely imaginative novel that will keep you turning the pages till the midnight hours. Underneath the intrigue and horror of the mysterious plague, lies a story of female friendship, fragile first love, and the strength and resilience we all store within us. As Val Garland says in Glow Up, DING DONG.
The Killings at Kingfisher Hill by Sophie Hannah
I’ve been a reader of Agatha Christie my whole life. My mom was a fan, so naturally, I became one too. I was brought up watching the film adaptations and the Poirot series on TV. While the films and the series are great fun, the books were written during a particular period in history when not all people were considered equal. Some of the book titles were changed to be less offensive, but it’s not unusual to open an old paperback and be shocked to the core by the inexcusable slurs used therein.
The good news is the classic whodunnits have had a much-needed update. Crime writer Sophie Hannah has taken up the mantle of the Christie name and has released a series of brilliant, modern mystery novels featuring Hercule Poirot. The books are written in the same style as the originals, narrated by Detective Catchpool, a character of the writer’s own invention.
In The Killings at Kingfisher Hill, Poirot and Catchpool find themselves on a luxury train headed towards an old manor house where the famous detective’s help is needed. On the train, they encounter two strange women. One claims to be a killer, the other claims to have been warned of her own impending murder. It is the start of a mystery that will have you scratching at your head and wondering which of the inhabitants of Kingfisher Hill are killers and which are the red herrings.
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
This was the only book I managed to pick up and finish during the first few weeks of lockdown. It’s a difficult novel to describe. The raw, vivid scenes affected me for days after and I found myself walking around in a dark cloud as I came to terms with what I just read.
Fifteen-year-old loner Vanessa finds herself the target of a predator – her English teacher. The book describes in disturbing detail how she is groomed and moulded by this man when she is a child and the mess the experience leaves her in adulthood. As a woman, Vanessa does not see what happened to her as abuse and is shocked when allegations from other girls begin to emerge. Her knee-jerk reaction is to defend her old teacher, but as the accusations keep coming, Vanessa is forced to relook her past without rose-tinted glasses.
If you can stomach the subject matter, this book is a brilliant exploration of the psychology of abuse and how our painful experiences frame us later in life. I was left angry at the theft of Vanessa’s future and wondered who she was destined to become before this man set his sights on her. It’s a shocking and thought-provoking book, but the brilliance comes afterward when you’re forced to think over what you just read and examine your own experiences in a new light.
Watch this space for more LEGO reviews to come. You can see more of my LEGO stories on Tumblr.