Not wanting to lose my momentum, I carried straight on with Sense & Sensibility, which I also really enjoyed. I did have some frustration with some of the characters, and some of the plotting felt a bit contrived. I also discovered that my favourite scene from the Emma Thompson/Kate Winslet film version isn’t actually in the book, which was rather embarrassing and, I have to admit, a little disappointing. But it was still Austen and it was still wonderful.
In the audiobook medium, I finished listening to The Broken Earth series by N K Jemisin, with the third volume, The Stone Sky. I’ve struggled with all three of these books to a certain extent, but I’m very glad I persevered. There were some really interesting relationship dynamics, especially with the characters that interact with both the mother and daughter who are at the centre of the story, but separated for most of its length. As with the other books in the series, there were three narrative strands, and my interest was not spread equally across each, and there were some sections that really turned me off. The climax was pretty brutal, as I should have expected, but the ultimate conclusion proved very satisfying, and I was impressed by how everything eventually came together.
The October Wordy Birds Reading Challenge category is a book by an author I have met, and I had a few to choose from. I initially went with The Cut, by Daniel Blythe, which is about a gang of disaffected teenagers doing bad things in a seaside town. The author did a developmental edit of my novel last year, and I met him to discuss it over coffee in Sheffield. But I couldn’t finish it. The protagonist was thoroughly unpleasant with apparently no real excuse for her awful behaviour, and also no real conviction to see it through. There were flashbacks within flashbacks, which made it difficult to keep track of the timeline, I had no sympathy for any of the characters, and therefore very little interest in finding out what happened. So, I moved on to The London Complaint by Geoff Nicholson, which was given to me by the author himself as a prize for a short story competition I won last year. It’s a history of the various complaints that have been made about London by people writing about the city over the last several hundred years. It took me a little while to get into it, because the initial humour wasn’t to my taste, but it contained a lot of really interesting historical facts, and it was interesting to see how certain things have and have not changed in London over time. Overall, it was pleasantly diverting, but nothing special.
The Words In My Hands by Guinevere Glasfurd doesn’t qualify for the Wordy Birds Challenge yet, but I will be meeting the author at a reading retreat in November, which I’m very much looking forward to. The book was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel prize, and tells the story of Helena, a maid in 1600s Amsterdam, who has a relationship with Rene Descartes. It’s based on fact, though most of the details have been created to produce a complete story. Initially, it seemed very similar to Girl With a Pearl Earring, which I read earlier this year, and which has a very similar plot, also based on sketchy historical information about a Dutch household in the 1600s. But Helena’s story is much more developed and more extensive than Griet’s, though the struggles she faces and the life she lives are very similar in some ways. The inequality of the sexes and between people of different classes are very starkly drawn, and the romance aspects felt a bit uncomfortable because of the power differential between Helena and Descartes. The behaviour of Descartes was both unexpected in terms of the support he offered Helena, but also unsatisfying in terms of how far that support extended. Ultimately, it’s a very sad story, and very unfair in a lot of ways, and it was really interesting to read the historical note at the end, which explained how much it was based on fact and historical evidence.