Reviewing July

July was a month of great books for me, but as it was also the month I went on holiday I haven’t written about any of them! This is a catch up post about some of my highlights.

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch
This is the first book I’ve read by Iris Murdoch and I would very happily read others. This was a comedy of relationships with really great characters. Ridiculous, yes, but great.

This is Life by Dan Rhodes
READ THIS NOW! I’ve never read a book like it. A quirky adventure around Paris that all begins when Aurelie, as part of an art project, throws a stone that hits a baby. This is so original, enjoyably French, and one of the best books I’ve read in ages.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris
Why oh why did I ever wait so long before reading this? Highly, highly recommend this, especially for some holiday reading. An utterly glorious novel, set in rural France, a real feast of magic and charming characters. The little touches of magical realism are just right – never approaching outright fantasy or silliness. A warning: It is completely impossible to read without having food in the house.

The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris
The second of the series is much darker, slightly bitter, when Vianne is struggling to move on from free spiritedness in order to protect her children. Called something like The Girl with No Shadow in America, this is very much like a dark fairy tale.

Peaches for Monsieur le Curé by Joanne Harris
Yes, I devoured the whole series one after another. Peaches for Monsieur le Curé feels like the real sequel to Chocolat perhaps because the story returns to Lansquenet, the setting of Chocolat. This novel is very much of today’s times – about the clashes of religion in secular France. By this point the main characters felt like old friends and I have to confess when it was over I was really depressed. What a brilliant series.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
I can’t praise this highly enough! It was sinister and unsettling, gripping, well written, exciting… perfect, really. I was recommended it by a friend as a book to read after you have read something that changes your life, i.e. a perfect antidote to the heartbreak the comes when a truly brilliant book is over. It was great advice and I would say the same. The Secret History is such a good book to follow a great read because it is so absorbing. And brilliant in its own right. I was really unsettled at how the book convinced me  that the murder was completely logical. Read it, honestly it is brilliant.

Jules et Jim by Henri-Pierre Roche
This was a bit of an odd book. On the one hand it was about Paris in the early twentieth century (a plus) and on the other it was about three ridiculous people (slight minus). I loved Jim – said to be a character semi-autobiographically based on Roche’s own life – and I liked Jules more and more as the book went on. The object of their affections, Kate, was a different story altogether. I don’t know how either of them had the patience to put up with her. This is an unusual love triangle but I struggled to really understand both her actions and motivations for them. I don’t think relationships have to be quite as complicated as these three made them out to be! This was a quick read and enjoyable because it was so unique. It was the author’s debut novel written when he was 70 so I suppose it was bound to be different.