What I Read This Summer: June Readings

Instead of attempting to review all the books I read while on my unplanned break, or leaving them entirely unrecorded, I’m going to do a series of posts with mini-reviews of what I read when I wasn’t blogging. If anyone is interested, I’m happy to chat more about any of these books in the comments.

King Hereafter by Dorothy Dunnett: I read this while in Scotland (my third read of the novel), because it seemed appropriate to read Dunnett in Scotland, and I didn’t want to take on a Lymond reread. Plus, this is my favorite of Dunnett’s books. It’s so complex that I pick up a little more each time, but it’s always emotionally satisfying. I’ll admit that I was a little less focused than I’d like, because I was traveling, but that also made a reread a good choice.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder: This is a completely wild story about a woman who falls in love with a merman. I happened to read it as I watched Fleabag, and I saw a lot of echoes in the way the main characters of the two stories used sex as a means of drowning out their anxieties.

Beside the Sea by Veronica Olmi: This is a devastating novella about a mother who can’t manage her life any more and is seeking one last grasp at joy. I kept hoping the book wouldn’t go where it went, although I had a sinking feeling all the way through. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who isn’t feeling emotionally strong.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker: The story of the Trojan War from the point of view of Briseis, enslaved as a war prize by Achilles. I liked this a lot, not just because it provides a different angle on the well-known myth, but also because Briseis is allowed to have complex and contradictory feelings about her situation.

Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner.  This book is a hoot! The rare spinster novel without a hint of romance (hooray!). It starts out looking like a pretty standard tale of a put-upon spinster shaking herself free of family expectations and striking out on her own. And then it takes a turn.

Circe by Madeline Miller. Hard not to compare this with Silence of the Girls, since I read them so close together. I liked Silence a little more, but I still enjoyed this. I especially liked how cleverly Miller wove in so many different characters not necessarily associated with Circe and how she illuminated so many different ways of being a woman, especially in a world where women are all but erased from the stories.

Vanity Dies Hard by Ruth Rendell. This 1966 Rendell novel is a more traditional mystery/thriller than her later books. It’s a little dated (an unattractive 38-year-old woman married a younger, attractive man — shocker!), but it’s fun to watch the main character, Alice, follow the clues to her friend Nesta’s disappearance, only to become afraid that she herself is at risk.

This entry was posted in Classics, Contemporary, Fiction, Mysteries/Crime. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to What I Read This Summer: June Readings

  1. Amy Rea says:

    You already know that I like Lolly Willowes :) but I also really liked Circe. I think “like” is the wrong word for Beside the Sea, but it was certainly a gripping read. I should check out the Barker.

    • Teresa says:

      Totally agree about Beside the Sea. I can’t say I liked it, and I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but I thought Olmi depicted the situation really well and I was quite moved by it.
      Silence of the Girls is definitely worth reading. I thought the writing was excellent, and it ranks above Circe in its emotional complexity.

  2. I have Lolly Willowes on my bookshelf right now and keep meaning to start it. It will be one of my January reads!

  3. Jenny says:

    I don’t think you told me you read Lolly Willowes! I am SO pleased you liked it. “A hoot” is the right word. I just adored it.

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