Books :: 2021

 Oh yeah hi. It's me, Used to Be a Reader. For a long while I thought I might not even be able to have a book page for 2021 - that's how little I'd been reading. But then something amazing happened.

A friend - miraculously, irritatingly and wonderfully - did that thing so many of us dreamed of and wrote a whole novel during lockdown! Just like, banged out a novel. During a global pandemic. Amidst home-schooling and career collapse and possibly a small menty-b (mental breakdown - please try and keep up). 

She asked me to read it in about June, and I did, and I loved it, and then I was all about reading again.

So that was number 1: Zoe's as-yet unpublished brilliant novel.

And THEN, another friend wrote a novel. I mean ... so annoying.

As we know, I don't really do zombies - this was a $1 purchase to support my friend but then I got into it and enjoyed it so much! The plot line is fresh and compelling, zombie apocalypse woven in with the pandemic and lockdown, the characters nuanced and interesting, but the real star is Cape Town - Neil's great knowledge of and love for her shining through and it was a real pleasure to read.


3. Maskerade - Terry Pratchett
A reread, I found this dusty copy on our shelves - it's about the witches, always my favourite Pratchett characters.

4. Notes from the Lost Property Department - Bridget Pitt
Another easy one, which was handed to me to hand to someone else, and a quickly read it before doing so.
At this stage it was like I could only read if they came to me easily...

And then in 3 weeks in August ....

5. October - Zoe Wicomb
A local novel, slow and immersive, life in a the Klein Karoo. I feel happily fell asleep on this for a few nights until it rapidly picked up pace and I stayed up too late finishing it off.

6. Faithful - Alice Hoffman
I love Alice the most when she's doing magic realism, but second-best is characters with a tortured past. Shelby was a good one.

7. The Last Runaway - Tracey Chevalier
The annual Tracey C. This was a good one, Irish Quakers in the US assisting runaway enslaved people. But, I couldn't help but think about whether novels like this are okay... I learnt everything I know about slavery in the US from novels, and it led me to so much more reading on this, but when they're written by white people from the POV of the saviours - are they okay? I don't really know...

8. Dark Places - Gillian Flynn
Ooooo scary. Not as well-crafted as Gone Girl (I think this one was written before?), with some pretty harrowing scenes, but white trash traumatic childhoods has always been one of my reading tropes, and this certainly ticked all those boxes.
How can I be so PC in one paragraph and then so extremely not in the next? I dunno but it's my blog!

9. The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela - Sisonke Msimang
Sisonke's autobiography was one of the loveliest things I've read in the last few years and despite being really keen to read her take on Winnie M, I've had this book for over a year without reading it. So glad I finally did.
One of the most complex characters in South Africa's political history, Sisonke made her accessible in a modern woman's context, while not shying away from the many criticisms and dark parts of her personal history.

10. The Boneless Mercies - April Genevieve Tucholke
Not my genre at all, usually, but I bought it for my daughter and loved the cover and one day opened it and started reading and hardly put it down.
A group of female mercy assassins, what's not to love? 
My daughter loved it too.

11. The Transcript - Kate Atkinson
Not my favourite of hers but I enjoyed bumbling through it. Good plot (young girl recruited into Secret Service in London WW2), but weirdly for Kate the main character was so not compelling - flat and rather undimensional. Odd.

12. The Gathering - Ann Enright
Also often hit and miss, I like this one. Nice big dysfunctional families always a fave genre of mine.

13. Kitchen Confidential - Anthony Bourdain
Am I the last person on the planet to read this? I think I might be. So glad I did though.

14. The Undertaking - Audrey Magee
Oof, what a hard read. A German soldier starving on the Russian front, while his wife tries to get by in Berlin - both of them still convinced that Germany has the more righteous cause and will win the war. Awful. Not sure why I persisted but it felt like one of those horrible experiences you need to rush through to get out the other side, so I did. Shudder.

15.  Mermaid Fillet - Mia Arderne
And then the last one of the year, finished on the 31st (with matching ice lolly in the pic). Written by a woman I worked with years ago and always found intriguing. A deeply weird and very Cape Town specific story - deeply disturbing but delivered with razor sharp wit - that's Cape Town for you.

Not the worst list for someone who only started reading in June... here's hoping 2022 delivers more than last year, in printed word and many, many other ways.

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