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.