For a while over the American summer, Three Women by Lisa Taddeo was one of the hottest books around; if you weren’t reading it you knew about it due to the number of people Instagramming the cover, asking if anyone had finished because they wanted to debrief their opinion in private without giving spoilers. That’s how it first came to my attention. That buzz has largely passed now – perhaps in part due to the much-anticipated release of the third book on this list – but it’s left me thinking about my own reaction, which is best described as muddled. Hmm… muddled? Conflicted might be a better word. It examines the sexual and love lives of three real women in America and the book is the result of years of interviews and research on Taddeo’s part. She’s clearly invested in their tales and tells them with depth and compassion; their complicated desires are framed vividly, and it is this juxtaposition between what they desire and what then is imposed, or inflicted, upon them in return is what has struck a nerve. It’s unsettling and sad. I think that’s the point – to ask, is this where we’re at, as a society? Still? I think it’s an important book.
Here Until August: Stories by Josephine Rowe was one of my much-anticipated releases of the year and it lived up to expectations. Before I touch on the stories themselves, I want to make note of the pleasantness of an experience it was to hold it in my hands. The book as an object, an artefact, that strives to match the quality of its contents, is something I think about a lot. In my own publishing experience, I know those design questions are important, laboured and, often, fragile because printing mistakes &/or accidents happen. Maybe the wrong stock is chosen; maybe you go matte on the cover instead of gloss. In this case, as a reader, the book feels perfect. I don’t know if this is just my psychology, but when that happens I’m disinclined from wanting to put the book down.
Here Until August: Stories takes us across the world, from Northern America to West Australia, as we peek into the lives of uprooted and unmoored characters as they search for answers in the places they’ve arrived in – or back at, such as in the case of ‘Glisk’ (winner of the 2016 Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize). Along with that, my other favourite stories were ‘Sinkers’, a son goes to spread his mother’s ashes in the man-made lake that submerged her hometown, and ‘The Once-Drowned Man’, where a taxi driver agrees to drive her rather eccentric fare up to the Canadian border near Niagra Falls (here is the link to the lovely cover image). Just wonderful.
You might have already heard that The Testaments by Margaret Atwood recently co-won the 2019 Man Booker Prize along with Bernardine Evaristo, author of Girl, Woman, Other. (I haven’t read it yet, and I must.) And I’m pretty sure (since you’re reading this blog that’s a lot about books!) you’re aware The Testaments is the sequel to Atwood’s dystopian classic The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m halfway through and – without spoilers – I’m starting to see a glimmer of hope. Just as well, for the subject matter is tough, not making it a light read – but it’s certainly an important one.
What are you reading this month?