Lockdown Reads – Pt 1.

Earlier this year I decided I was going to start writing book reviews – lockdown had helped me get out of a huge reading rut and I’ve read (and more importantly enjoyed reading) more this year than I have in a long time. Unfortunately, life and other responsibilities meant that suddenly this intention was relegated to a handful of half finished posts in my drafts – I’m not in the habit of doing anything much other than thinking/feeling about whatever book I’ve just finished in my head, rather than writing about it… With that said I’ve collated a few lil reviews/reflections on some of my lockdown reads below and there’ll (hopefully) be more coming soon…

Lanny by Max Porter – I’d had this on my to read list for a while because it sounded wonderfully strange/intriguing and I loved it even more than I expected to – it was both familiar and otherworldly… and utterly brilliant.

Not far from London, there is a village. This village belongs to the people who live in it and to those who lived in it hundreds of years ago. It belongs to England’s mysterious past and its confounding present. It belongs to families dead for generations, and to those who have only recently moved here, such as the boy Lanny, and his mum and dad. But it also belongs to Dead Papa Toothwort, who has woken from his slumber in the woods. Dead Papa Toothwort, who is listening to them all.

Lanny, Max Porter.

I feel like any attempt at a review couldn’t quite give a sense of this novel – its use of language, its magic, its rhythm and its unpredictability. It really stuck with me and was such a joy to read – I passed it onto my boyfriend afterwords and he loved it too, finishing it just as quickly as I did. Whilst it’s a short read, it’s also one that brims with sensitivity, with the mythical, with the bitterness and the hopefulness of human life and somehow Porter manages to make all this feel effortless. A new favourite that I’m sure read again and again.

Sally Rooney’s Normal People feels too obvious to even talk about, but it was something I finally read early on in lockdown, after the hype for the new BBC series became unavoidable. I fell in love with everything about it – the soft, tender and understated portrayals of emotions that can feel so huge, the settings, the characters themselves (which were portrayed absolutely incredibly by Daisy Edgar Jones, Paul Mescal and the rest of the cast)… So many people have already articulated why far better than I will here, but briefly I’ll say that I loved the way in which Rooney writes dialogue, the way that she explores and expresses those moments that get inside of us and shape who we are as we grow up, and how closely bound that is with where we grew up and the world we thought we knew. Connell’s feelings of being out of place both back home and at University were something that really resonated with me and were probably the moments that made my heart ache the most within it all – that familiar feeling of everything seeming to unravel, leaving you scrambling and rootless is something that will always stick with me.

The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld – Set across three different periods of history, from the 1700s to the modern day, the novel follows Sarah, Ruth and Viv as their lives are shaped by the violence of the men surrounding them. The book is not an easy read, it is filled with brutality and violence and brimming with anger. Men are mostly cruel within its pages, in a relentless way which almost loses impact after a while (though that’s relevant to the ways in which we become desensitised to a constant stream of tragedy in our every day lives). Women aren’t the only ones to suffer at the hands of men in the novel and I really appreciated the explorations of the ramifications of war and of childhood abuse – I actually felt like the characters of Michael and Christopher were the most touching in the book in many ways. The narrative following Sarah did not materialise in the way I anticipated, but there are clever echoes and plays upon history throughout and its impact is there in a subtle way. My favourite thing about the book was the way that Wyld captured the fragmentary nature of the way in which we and our families and our pasts all exist together… Part of me definitely felt frustrated by the ending – though I’m not entirely sure that this is a bad thing… Ultimately, this novel felt like a remembrance, an act of defiance against the way in which suffering is so often erased from society, rather than simply a tale of multiple narratives woven together in a necessarily satisfying and palatable way…