Now August is over, I thought I’d make a second read-a-thin update post (first here) to tell you about the rest of the books I managed to read in August. I didn’t quite get through the five that I had left after my most recent update, but I did read another three books, and start a fourth, meaning I read somewhere in the region of eight and a half books in August, which I’m pretty happy with, given I spent several days at my boyfriend’s and didn’t have much time to read then, and I also worked a lot of hours. I also managed to fulfil all five of the prompts given, as I read a book that’s a part of a series towards the end of August, so yay! Next read-a-thin is in November and I might participate again, though with uni back in full swing by then, I might not read so much, but we’ll see. Without further ado, here’s some mini-reviews of the last three books I read in August.
Men Without Women – Haruki Murakami
Another collection of short stories — can you tell I like short stories? This was my first Murakami, so I was excited because I’ve heard good things about his writing. The series of stories were all centred around men and their issues surrounding their relationships with women, as the title suggests, though this did get a bit repetitive as the collection went on. Still, the stories were all quite different, following people with different jobs, different relationships with women, and some featured elements of fantasy or mystery that weren’t present in some of the others, which tended to be more grounded in realism. What brought the protagonists together was their isolation. These weren’t just men without women, they also seemed to be men without men, men without friends, or families. Despite these uniting themes, I struggled to see exactly what Murakami was trying to achieve with this collection as a whole. The stories didn’t seem to come together to create a single narrative, rather they seemed to tell the same narrative seven different times.
One of Us is Lying – Karen M. McManus
I don’t read many YA novels any more, but this was one I’d had on my shelf for a while, and it fit the prompt of “read a book in a series”, so I decided to give it a go. It was different to a lot of the YA I’ve read before, with a darkly realistic murder mystery plot. The characters were fairly well written and the split POV worked well and wasn’t confusing because the four protagonists were so different, though I did feel the split POV gave away that none of the four had actually committed the murder, my logic being that if they were guilty, they would confess in their own thoughts, and the reader would be privy to their confession. I didn’t, however, guess the identity of the actual murderer, or figure out the motive. The style was fairly straightforward aside from the split POV, and I found it a very quick read. I did find the actual content a bit young for me as I’m used to reading adult books, but I still found it an enjoyable read and saw it through to the end. I felt the book could have focused more on the emotional implications on the events of the book on the protagonists, as they all seemed to cope very well with the witnessing of the death of a classmate and the subsequent murder investigation they find themselves suspects in. Realistically, most teens would fall apart under those circumstances, but aside from some brief mentions of therapy and counselling, the mental effects weren’t really explored.
Normal People – Sally Rooney
The final book in my Rooney-filled August was Normal People. Like Conversations with Friends, I enjoyed Rooney’s writing, but I don’t think it quite lives up to the hype around her work at the minute. I also noticed that it seems to tell a very similar story to Conversations with Friends. A on-again, off-again friendship/relationship a la Frances and Bobbi, and dysfunctional sexual relationships on the part of Marianne. Again, everyone’s inability to communicate was frustrating, and none of the characters seemed very likable, or to treat one another with any kind of respect. While I think Rooney is a talented writer, I can’t help but notice this pattern emerging in her work even with such a small catalogue, and I struggle to see what message Normal People is trying to convey that hasn’t already been conveyed in Conversations with Friends. Still, as a book, it’s gripping and enjoyable, and only really brought down by the glaring similarities to her other work, which may appear particularly evident to me having read both her novels in such a short space of time.