The Book Review | July '19





I made a significant dent in my reading pile last month. Now just another 80 odd to get through...




I cannot walk past a charity shop without popping in to check out the books - in fact, I can't remember the last time I bought a book new! This isn't a bad thing per se because it's sustainable and raises money for charity, plus I am a loser who gets a thrill from finding a title I've been looking for. But it has left me with a crazy to-read pile, so lately I've been putting down my phone and reaching for a book instead like the good old days before Apple infiltrated our lives. I thought I'd do some quick reviews, but we chat about books more in depth over on Sick Chick Lit!


I couldn't wait to read this because When Harry Met Sally is a fave, which Ephron wrote. A thinly-veiled autobiographical account of the aftermath of her husband's affair, the author's trademark wit is in every sentence which makes for a fun read - important, as this book is lacking in depth. Still, it's short and comforting book despite the theme of heartbreak and the recipes dotted in throughout are a warm touch (I think Dolly Alderton said she pinched this idea for Everything I Know About Love.) I'm not sure if it's one that's made much of an impact on me, but I'd say it's an easy read for a lazy day.

Us - David Nicholls ★★★

I'm a big fan of David Nicholls, author of the much-loved One Day. The protagonist in Us is less like Dexter and has more in common with the protagonists of his other novels The Understudy and Starter For Ten - so awkward and often socially inept, I found myself physically cringing more than once. In an attempt to stop his wife from leaving him and to bond with his teenage son, Douglas takes his family on the Grand Tour of Europe which of course doesn't go to plan. Despite his obvious flaws I was rooting for Douglas the whole time and overall found it a really entertaining and funny read. His novels so far all seem to follow a similar theme and it seems his new release won't be any different but when you don't fancy reading anything heavy they're basically rom-coms in book form and this is his best. Controversial maybe, but I enjoyed it more than One Day


I was so excited to read this! I'd read The Days of Abandonment a little while ago and adored it, I think Ferrante isn't afraid to confront ugly emotions. My Brilliant Friend is the first of the Neapolitan novels, telling the story of the lives of Elena and Lila from Elena's perspective. The book chronicles their lives from early childhood to adolescence, growing up amongst poverty and violence in a tough neighbourhood on the outskirts of Naples in the 1950s. But Elena and Lila are part of a new generation of greater freedom and access to education that questions the existing, messy power dynamics within the family and the wider community. You are totally immersed into their world, which isn't always the safest place but still has moments of charm thanks to Ferrante's attention to detail. I'm not sure if her style of writing is for everyone and I think there are some who find the novel to be very slow paced but personally I thought it was exquisite. I need to get my hands on the rest ASAP! (Also, watch the HBO series if you can because it was v true to the book.) 


As an avid reader of British Vogue since my early teens, I was keen to get a closer insight into the life of the editor as back then I was convinced that it was surely the best job in the world. I watched the documentary that was in the process of being filmed whilst Shulman was writing the book and was left with a less than favourable opinion of her so thought that this might change my mind - but it really didn't. I would like to say that I totally appreciate how huge a job editing Vogue is and that she did some great work whilst there. I also think that when she took the job it was a different world but as it evolved she really stayed in the same mindset - I stopped buying the magazine during the last few years of her at the helm because I found it boring and more and more irrelevant. In her book she just seems close minded, judgemental and at certain points just plain mean, not only about others but often about herself too. This surprised me that she seemed so lacking in confidence and it made me feel sad because I felt like she maybe hasn't been shown much kindness in her life. I hope she is feeling happier now! 


I'd watched the amazing BBC series and looooved it, it moves a lot faster than the book but is forgiven because the book is a whopper. I'm one of those Tudor nerds and this novel is based on Henry VIII's minister Thomas Cromwell. A working class man who became one of the most powerful political figures in England, he was instrumental in Henry's annulment to his first wife so he could marry Anne Boleyn and also played a large part in the dissolving of the monasteries. For such an important man not much is known about his personal life, but it's so brilliantly imagined by Mantel in this novel. Her writing style is something that takes some getting used to, as the narration jumps all over the place and at points I think people may find it a bit of a drag but it's so rewarding once you get into it. You're reminded of just how brutal Henry's court was and what a dangerous time it was to be alive. I'm looking forward to reading the sequel!


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