This post is a slight departure from what you might usually find on this blog. And that’s because (fanfare please) my PhD corrections have been passed (!) and I am officially a doctor of philosophy! Hooray!
So, while I have enjoyed sharing my research and the more academic takes (and outtakes) from my thesis with you on Female Friendship in Fiction, I’m also excited to share some things outside of my research areas and the academic work I’ve been doing. Even some books that I have been reading (gasp) for pleasure!
So, in the first post of what might become a newly informal and conversational blog, I present to you some of the highlights from my lockdown reading list.
My reading has been a bit all over the place – mainly because I’ve been editing my book and finishing my thesis in lockdown. It’s been a blessing and a curse. I’ve had an extra 3 hours a day (claimed back from commuting) to give myself the time and headspace to do the thinking and editing required for the thesis and my novel. But at the same time, the fact that the world is falling apart at its seams is not conducive to creative thinking! Having said that, I have managed to get some reading done. Below I’ll share with you a few thoughts on each of my lockdown reads (so far) and I hope to share more posts like this in the future.
An oral history of the fictional band The Six and its glamorous, loose-cannon frontwoman Daisy Jones, Daisy Jones and the Six reads like a rock biography, with all its highs and lows, its bad behaviour and drama. Absolutely riveting. I read Daisy Jones and the Six in one weekend, and as soon as I finished it I raced to Wikipedia to read up on Fleetwood Mac, the widely-thought-to-be inspiration for the novel. Jenkins Reid’s 1970s are so real, so visceral and captivating, that the reader feels like they are part of the band. Read it, and then give it to your dad to read (as I did).
This has been on my list for a while after winning the Women’s Prize in 2018. I finally got round to reading it during lockdown. The story follows three siblings – Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz, who are all British Muslims – as they navigate the ‘hostile environment’ in a post-9/11 West across the UK and the USA. The story explores how to consolidate two identities which are seemingly often in direct conflict with one another. It’s extremely moving and essential reading to help understand how modern British racism and anti-migrant rhetoric disseminates in our culture.
I first heard about Mhairi McFarlane on the Sentimental Garbage podcast. The book being discussed was Who’s That Girl? and I liked the sound of it so I thought I would try another of Mhairi’s. I ended up devouring Don’t You Forget About Me in one sitting – and as soon as If I Never Met You came out I completely demolished that too. There really is nothing better for soothing the soul during uncertain times than a meaty, well-crafted rom-com. I’ve been slowly making my way through Mhairi’s backlist during lockdown and it’s been delightful.
I bought Here’s Looking at You as part of a 3-book collection of Mhairi’s backlist for £6.99 on Kindle. (Also available on Apple Books).
An incredible technical and stylistic feat, Evaristo’s novel follows twelve women and womxn in intensely personal and unflinching character studies that fold in upon themselves and unfold in spectacular style, spanning decades, continents and generations. The experimental form reads like poetry and the novel is variously hilarious, astute, heartbreaking and uplifting. Evaristo captures the interior lives of her characters deftly and sensitively.
Dolly Alderton takes a look at modern dating through the eyes of Nina, a thirty-something independent girl-about-town, in her typical cynical style. The book mixes traditional romance tropes with very real and relatable themes of loneliness and performativeness in a digital-first dating world. Stylistically it sits in the traditional women’s fiction space, but perhaps tends towards the more literary, and the package reflects this.
Fans of Holly Bourne’s adult fiction and Marian Keyes will like this, and anyone who enjoyed Dolly’s memoir Everything I Know About Love.
I finished The Flatshare overnight, and the next day I demanded all my colleagues read it too. In an effort to escape a toxic relationship, Tiffy takes up an unusual living arrangement with Leon, who works night shifts. They communicate through post-its and baking, and of course they fall in love. This is a perfect modern romance, and it speaks to more difficult topics too around emotional abuse in relationships. With this debut, Beth O’Leary establishes herself confidently as part of the vanguard of the emerging millennial romance genre. Fans of Mhairi McFarlane and Lindsey Kelk will love Beth O’Leary.
I’ve seen so many people talking this book up on social media I had to read it myself. This is a story with an elegant literary prose style, and a quiet, simple plot where all of the emotion is in the subtext. It follows Maeve and Danny, brother and sister, who grow up in the extraordinary architectural beauty of the Dutch House before being forced out by their father’s new wife. I’m not very far into the story yet but so far it’s stunning.
From the office
I can’t do a round-up of my reading list without mentioning a few stand-out titles from Mills & Boon (my job) recently published or coming very soon. So – if you’re a fan of romance, please enjoy these shameless plugs!
Georgia Toffolo (of Made in Chelsea and I’m a Celeb fame) launches her romance career with this heartwarming festive tale, including a fun spin on the fake engagement trope. This is super-festive reading and perfect for curling up on a cold winter’s night.
An LGBTQ+ will-they-won’t-they romance that touches on many important issues around homophobia, coming out and being comfortable in your own skin. It follows Nora who returns to her small hometown after the death of her father, and discovers that her childhood sweetheart, Sophie, has married her ex. A modern Persuasion.
Two women who feel as though their lives are stalling create a ‘Friendship List’ to help them become bolder, with items like ‘get a tattoo’ and ‘have sex with a hunky stranger’. They rediscover themselves and find love along the way. A wonderfully heartwarming tale of friendship and second chances at happiness.
On the TBR pile
- My Sister the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite
- Exciting Times Naoise Dolan
- The Girl with the Louding Voice Abi Daré
- A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet Becky Chambers
- The Vanishing Half Brit Bennett
Have you read any of these books? I would love to know what you think – and I’m always looking for new recommendations, so if you have any good lockdown reads to share please do!