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Recently Read: January

This year is already flying by! But after my dismal November reading, I was afraid to fall back into a slump once I got settled into my routine again. But I was happily surprised with what I was able to read in the month of January. Keep reading to hear my thoughts on these books! 

Autumn: 3.5/5
Focusing on the divisiveness in the UK during Brexit, Autumn focuses on how the events of the last few years have impacted multi-generations. It questions who we are, what we want out of life and how our actions shape history. 

I was talking to the author of The Woman In The Window (which I reviewed last month) at an event with Harper Collins a few days ago and mentioned I had recently finished this book. He asked how I liked Ali Smith's writing style because he's tried reading 3 of her books before and could not get into it, and I completely agree. I had heard that her writing style was quite divisive but still wanted to give it a try. There were times when I really enjoyed reading this book, but I felt like it contained so many metaphors that I found myself completely lost in a lot of places. This may be because I'm not from the UK and didn't experience Brexit, or it could just be her writing style. 

But there were some beautiful prose in the book, and at times I found myself completely emersed in the passages. But there were equal amounts of time when I wanted to give up on the book. Whether it was referring to social media as a cesspool of shit, commenting on how the news is "like a flock of speeded-up sheep running off the side of a cliff", questioning the role of democracy and what it has become, or humans natural ambivalence to understanding the world around them, I think this book touched on so many important issues. The book was so much more than just Brexit. It talked about the hopes and dreams that are promised, the promise of new and brighter things that never come. It talks about how politicians and those in power ask us to wear rose coloured glasses and overlook the fundamental flaws. I think if you are a fan of her writing (or very metaphorical, poetic style writing) then you'll definitely enjoy this book, but I don't think it was for me. 

The Perfect Nanny: 4/5
Myriam hires the "perfect nanny" for her young children after returning to work. Louise seemed like an ideal fit; she's quiet, polite and devoted to the families she works for. But as the family and nanny become more co-dependent, tensions build and the power dynamic is challenged. Challenging ideas of power, class, race, domesticity and motherhood, this debut novel is a must-read. 

I think I was expecting something a bit quicker in pace, as it was a thriller, but this was more of a slow-burning novel. I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. I was scrolling through GoodReads and saw someone describe this book as a "quiet, ugly little book [that] crept right under my skin" and I couldn't agree more. The novel is so unique in the sense that it starts with the crime on the first few pages, and reverts back to when the trouble began and slowly works toward the events that lead to the murder. 

The novel shows how Louise, the nanny, completely emersed herself into her employers lives, to the point they thought she was indispensable. But it also shows how she is simultaneously strange and necessary, a burden and overbearing. What I think I liked most about this book is the underlying tensions in each chapter, in the way Myriam second guesses her self, but continues to trust the nanny despite the fact she often feels ill-at-ease. 

Overall, I found this book quite haunting, as I've seen others describe it as, and I think that if you enjoy thrillers, this offers quite a unique take on the genre, and I'd highly recommend it. 

How To Fall In Love With A Man Who Lives In A Bush: 4/5*
Set in the beautiful city of Vienna, Julia spends her days teaching English to unemployed Austrians and spending her weekends with her cat and best "friend". When Julia runs into Ben, an adventurous, handsome and homeless man from Canada, she starts to question her mundane lifestyle. The two embark on a stranger than fiction romance that is both heartbreaking and hilarious. 

This book has exceptionally bad reviews on GoodReads, but I really enjoyed this book! I'm a fan of Scandinavian humour in general, and this was no exception. It's a quirky little book about finding love and finding yourself. While it comes across as light and fluffy, I love how it still touches on class differences and on relationship struggles. It focuses on how we judge people based on their jobs, education and perceived societal status while making light of these elements. I think this book is definitely an acquired taste, but I found myself laughing throughout the entire thing (the first sentence in the book is "I love cock" and would definitely recommend it if you are looking for a quick read (I read it in a few hours!)

The Alice Network: 4.5/5
Amercian college student Charlie St. Clair is pregnant, unmarried and lost. She embarks on a mission to find her cousin, who went missing in Nazi-occupied France during the war when she runs into Eve Gardiner. As the two embark on the quest to find Rose, Charlie uncovers Eve's secretive past as an English spy during the first world war, and her time in the "Alice Network". Told in alternating chapters, it explores the lengths people will go to for love and retribution. 

I think what really pushed this book over the edge for me was learning that it is based on a real person, Louise de Bettignies (Alice Dubois). I'm loving historical fiction right now, and this was no exception. While I definitely prefer Eve Gardiner's perspective, I did enjoy Charlie St. Claire, despite her somewhat annoying tendencies. I loved the exploration of the prominent and often overlooked roles of women during the war, and how, because it was told from the perspective of women, they were viewed as persistent and independent, instead of nuisances or slutty, as in often the case from male perspectives. 

Both Eve's and Charlie's stories were equally engrossing, and the situations depicted were very well written. Quinn's description of the French countryside is beautiful, which emphasized the stark contrast to the dirty situations the women found themselves in. Their stories were equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring, especially in light of the Alice Network being an actual network of spies. I think if you are a fan of historical fiction or books with female protagonists, you'll absolutely adore this book! 

Beartown: 5/5*
Set in a tiny community in Northern Sweden, Beartown is a dying community, or so they say. An old ice rink acts as the centre of the town, with the junior hockey team riling the community together. As the National semi-finals draw nearer, the hopes of the community rest on the shoulders of these teenaged boys. Yet this pressure is the catalyst for a violent act that ripples through the community and puts everything the town has worked towards in jeopardy. Beartown exquisitely explores the bonds of community and the secrets that tear them apart. 

This was the first novel that I read in 2018 and I absolutely adored it. I had read A Man Called Ove last year and really enjoyed it, but wasn't expecting this book to be such a departure from his previous books. 

I will say that the beginning of the book can be a bit slow, and it focuses heavily on the role hockey plays in the town. As someone who was born and raised in Canada, and who played a competitive sport growing up, I can appreciate the focus on the role of sport in the community; however, I have seen some critiques of the heavy focus on this. 

What I loved the most about this book was the vilianization of the victim in this book, especially in light of the #metoo movement, and how people make rash judgements on something that they don't have the facts for. It paints an important picture of how hard it is for victims to come forward after waiting, and the disbelief others will have when the accused is a prominent figure in the community. It's hard to talk about the plot without spoiling it, but I think that this is such an important book and one that everyone should read.  

What have you been reading? What would you recommend I read next? 

* provided for review