Since my last update, I finished The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher, and I absolutely loved it. It was genuinely terrifying; Kingfisher has a great line in creating incredibly disturbing images. My full review can be found on Goodreads, but to summarize, The Hollow Places is one of the scariest and funniest books I’ve ever read. Kingfisher’s previous book, The Twisted Ones, is now on my TBR radar.
I let my three-year-old daughter select a book for me from my TBR bookcase, and she picked Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns. Our young narrator, Sophia, talks us through her harrowing life, including failed marriage, sexism, illness and extreme poverty. She brushes over absolutely devastating events as if she were discussing the weather, with a “keep calm and carry on” attitude that leads to so many mental breakdowns. But Comyns has created a gorgeous character in Sophia, and I loved spending time with her. I longed for her to have a happy ending.
I bashed through the graphic novel Blackwood by Hannah Eaton, a gorgeously illustrated tale of folk horror. I grew up in northern England, and was blessed with a grandma who told me a wealth of folk and ghost stories, so despite Blackwood’s dark content, Blackwood felt warm and familiar in a way that I suppose very few people would understand. Also, the faces in this book are full of character in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Fantastic. Go get it.
During November, I read two books in a genre I don’t often visit – domestic thrillers. First was Confessions, by Kanae Minato (translated by Stephen Synder), from 2014, and an incredibly exciting upcoming 2021 release, Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan.
It’s really strange that I happened to read these books in the same month. Both have a theme of everyday deception, of keeping up appearances. Both involve the death of a young girl under mysterious circumstances. And both are so incredibly dark, it leaves the reader unsettled by thoughts of the horrific acts of which their neighbors and friends are potentially capable. And in their own ways, both books address the challenges that come with being a parent.
Both books employ clever storytelling techniques to keep the story moving forward. Confessions switches narrator every chapter, giving a new perspective on the aforementioned death. Good Neighbors interweaves newspaper reports, book extracts, and interviews, giving a retrospective view of the story as it unfolds.
Confessions was entertaining in a far-fetched fun kind of way. Good Neighbors moves at a breakneck speed, and little seeds are planted throughout, leaving the reader guessing right up until the end. I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen; I just knew it was going to be bad news for someone.
My full review of Good Neighbors is up on Goodreads. I predict we’ll be hearing a lot about this book in 2021.
As for the rest of the year, my NetGalley queue currently contains these exciting titles:
- On Fragile Waves – the exciting debut novel from E. Lily Yu
- The Rib King, by Ladee Hubbard, which I suspect may continue my theme of reading books about keeping up appearances.
- The Atmospherians, by Alex McElroy, about a cult designed to reform problematic men. Cannot wait to get started on this one.
- Library of America’s beautiful Octavia E. Butler collection, containing Kindred, Fledgling, and Collected Stories.
I’m also finally catching up with The Testament of Jessie Lamb, which I started yesterday, and I’m getting BIG Handmaid’s Tale vibes. I’m in a bit of an audiobook slump, so I’m hoping to find something to break my out of that. I think I’ll try Mike Birbiglia’s new book.
I’m still reading a short story every day. I’ll be close to 1000 by the end of 2020. I’ve not read any absolutely incredible short stories for a while. Maybe I’m getting a bit jaded about it. I don’t know. However, it’s almost time for me to crack open my lovely H&O short story advent calendar! Unfortunately, it would seem this is the last one they are doing. Was it something I said?