I’m trying to get a little better at posting monthly wrap ups, but work has been incredibly hectic recently so here we are two weeks into November, but never mind! On the plus side I have now finished Rebecca, which I started in October so I can add this to my reviews.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
I was grabbed immediately by the first paragraph in this book, it was so captivating and intriguing that I couldn’t wait to read the rest of the story. As a result of Braithwaite’s fast pace this was a really quick read for me, I imagine it would be easy to read in one day, once you pick it up it’s very hard to put down. The chapters are also really short so I found it easy to return to when I had a spare 10 minutes, I found it a lot more difficult to stop though!
The story was quite different from what I imagined it to be, you follow the lives of the protagonist Korede and, you guessed it, her serial killer sister Ayoola. I assumed the story would be a bit more of a thriller, following how they hid the murders and evaded the police, I was surprised, therefore, to find myself reading about the sisters’ relationship, flicking between the present and their childhood. There’s still the suspense of will they get caught or won’t they, but the main theme of the story is their sisterhood and how far they will go to protect each other. This is not a genre I would usually go for, but I’m really glad that I read it because Braithwaite’s writing is perfect for getting lost in.
The pacing of this book is superb – I cannot express that enough. The story bounces backwards and forwards without ever being confusing, each flashback weaves another element into the story subtly but clearly. The fiction book I read before this was quite taxing, so it was such a wonderful change to have something that was easy to read, exciting and beautifully written.
I also really appreciated the inclusion of an interview conducted by The Observer with Braithwaite, in which she explains the expectations placed upon Nigerian authors to write about the “Nigerian experience”, which she explains is massively different for all Nigerians. It’s always great to hear about the context an author writes in, but especially when I’m reading books by authors from different cultures to my own. White people, myself included, often rely on AOC to educate us on the trauma they experience, but that is not their responsibility. It was wonderful to see Braithwaite stand up for her passion to write fiction, a fiction that resides in Lagos, but is not subject to all of the stereotypes that are often placed upon it by the western world.
Conclusion: Braithwaite won me over from the first paragraph, excellent writing and a fast pace made this hard to put down so I’m eagerly awaiting the publication of her next book in 2021. If you’re looking for a quick, witty, and entertaining story this is the one for you.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*** by Mark Manson
My boyfriend recommended this to me as soon as he’d finished it earlier this year and I’ve finally got around to reading it! I was a little skeptical at first simply because I often equate self help books with diet books, they offer magical solutions to life’s problems, but are generally based on false practise or are very difficult to maintain if you have a full time job. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised by Manson’s philosophies, they are not quick fixes but practices that you keep returning to in the hope that after several years you will focus your attention on the parts of your life that truly matter, and more importantly the parts that you can control or effect.
Manson’s use of anecdotes, his own and other people’s, are really helpful in contextualising his advice. I also think this made the ideas sink in much better as we are often happy to give others advice but find it hard to take it ourselves, so the idea of him telling you what himself and other people could learn, which on the whole I agreed with, and then turning that lesson back onto the reader was a really effective teaching method.
My only issue with the book is that Manson often uses laddish language to make light of certain situations, in my opinion the jokes don’t land and are border line offensive. This detracts from otherwise great writing, but I am happy to say the frequency of these off hand comments does decrease as the book goes on.
Conclusion: I think this is a book I will return again and again in order to reassess what I value and how this impacts how I view success and positivity. I have definitely found the practices mentioned really applicable in terms of work, right now is quite a stressful period in the lead up to Christmas, so remembering to not be affected by the elements I cannot control has really helped with my mental health. This is definitely worth a read if you need help prioritising your values and also as a reminder that you are enough, your life is not a failure if it doesn’t look like an Instagram page.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I’ve heard lots of comments saying this is a must read for everyone working on anti-racism and after finishing it I definitely agree. It was a very emotional read as the whole book is a letter addressed to Coates’ son, comparing their lives as young Black men, now and when Coates grew up, with references to his parents’ experiences too.
The fact that the book is a letter to Coates’ son I think is a perfect reflection of how AOC are not writing for the benefit of white people, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves, not to rely on author’s such as Coates’ to teach us. The title refers to Coates watching TV as a child and noticing that the characters shared none of his real life problems creating a gap between the mainstream (white) world and himself. Something that he still sees as existing today if only in a slightly different shape for his son.
Reading anecdotes as opposed to statistics was increasingly powerful and gave life to the data we hear in news bulletins,. Behind each of these stats are hundreds and thousands of families, friends and communities affected by the prejudice that remains prevalent in our society. This is an obvious statement, but it is important to remind ourselves of the individual impact, reading a mixture of both data driven research and personal accounts.
Conclusion: As I said at the beginning this is a must read. I find first hand accounts are often the most impactful as we can see the correlations with our lives, or where we cannot we begin to understand the privilege that we have held without realising. This is a humbling read and one that I urge you to pick up.
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
This has been on my TBR for a while, but the release of the Netflix adaptation has pushed it higher up my list and I’m very happy about that. I haven’t read any classics in a while and I immediately felt right at home. The beautifully descriptive language and slightly ridiculous ideas of what love is were comforting and entertaining.
I’m really glad that I had basically no prior knowledge of the contents of this books so I will try not to give too much away if you haven’t read it yet! First of all I fell in love with the language, wonderfully extensive descriptions of houses, landscapes and people make it easy to imagine the story is unfolding right in front of you. Secondly I loved that I never really knew how the major plot was going to develop. There were elements of the story that I found incredibly predictable, but after much bigger reveals I considered that potentially Du Maurier was using these obvious story lines to distract you from the main revelations.
I definitely think this will have lots of reread value, there are hints all along the way for the plot twists, but they are eloquently interwoven to not give too much away. I am unsure on how I feel about the morals of some of the characters, but Du Maurier cleverly makes you care for them so morals become muddled.
My favourite parts of the book are the main character’s imaginary tangents, where she assumes one small thing and then runs away with a story in her head. They resonated with me so much as someone how suffers occasionally with anxiety and I found it really interesting that these traits were included in a book written in 1938.
Conclusion: I’ve tried to review this and say as little as I can about the plot because I truly appreciated not knowing a thing about the book before I started. If you are a fan of classics and mysteries I think you’ll love this because it’s the perfect mixture of stunning, indulgent writing and captivating suspense.