I love books as some of you will know, and I read a lot. There’s always at least two books of mine on the go in this house. A friend asked me recently if I’d read anything lately that I would recommend, so I suggested a few things I’d enjoyed and thought she might like. That got me thinking about how much I actually do read, I don’t know if there’s any kind of average of number of books read in a month but it made me sit and jot down what books I’d read most recently. And that naturally led to a blog post. Now this may or may not become a regular feature here but here’s the books I read in April and what I thought of them.
Liz Gillis Women of the Irish Revolution This is a photographic history of many of the women who took part in various ways in the revolutionary period in Ireland, roughly from 1913-1923. Its a superb book, with so many photographs I have never seen before. Gillis explores each woman’s role and activities and also gives a synopsis of what they did afterwards, much of which I had no idea of. It is an easy to read, beautifully presented book which I would recommend as a good starting point for anyone interested in this period and most especially in women’s political and revolutionary activities.
Niamh Greene Secret Diary of a Demented Housewife I had never heard of Niamh Greene but saw this in a charity shop, fancied a light read and it was only a euro. Thankfully it was only a euro. I couldn’t finish it and it is very rare I can’t finish a book. Awful. I only managed 20 pages before I threw it in the bag for the charity shop. Poorly written, no likeable characters and after the 20 pages were up I realised I couldn’t care less what happened to the characters and that there was surely something else I could do with my time. I hate to be bitchy but that is my honest opinion of this book. Greene clearly has a market out there for her books, but I’m not part of it.
John Taylor In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death and Duran Duran Ok, cards on the table. I LOVED Duran Duran as a teenager, my bedroom walls were covered in pictures of them. I lost interest in them around 1988 and the pictures all came down. I didn’t keep up to speed with what they were doing unless they were mentioned in some magazine or paper I was reading. Kept most of the vinyl though. So I wasn’t aware that John Taylor had written his autobiography until I saw it in a charity shop (there’s a recurring theme here with my reading). It gave me a bit of a trip down memory lane, and also brought me up to date on what the band had been doing. (I wasn’t sure if they were still together or not…..they are) Its a light enough read in most parts, and I got through it quickly. The section where JT (well I have to call him that really, we all did back in the 80’s) details his alcohol and drug addiction and his struggle to overcome them are, for me, the best and most moving part of the book. I enjoyed this far more than I really expected to if I’m honest. If I’d been reading this as a Duran-mad teenager I wouldn’t have appreciated it at all. But as a woman in her 40’s, I found this interesting, enjoyable, and surprisingly moving in parts. Taylor’s honesty about his relationship with his parents and then with his own child and what he calls his blended family takes this out of the realm of the bog standard pop biog.
Sinead McCoole Easter Widows The latest book from Sinead McCoole explores the lives of the seven women whose husbands were executed in May 1916 in the immediate aftermath of the Easter Rising. McCoole has an impressive list of works on women in the revolutionary period in Ireland and this book added hugely to my knowledge of that period. I knew the life stories of Maud Gonne, of Kathleen Clarke, of Muriel MacDonagh, I knew something of the story of Grace Gifford Plunkett, but I knew very little of Lillie Connolly, of Aine Ceannt or Agnes Mallin. This book took years to research and write and while reading it I got a real sense of how engrossed McCoole must have been in these women’s lives. I did find it a little unbalanced at times – I got a much clearer sense of some of the women than of others – but that may be due to the sources that were available. One issue that would have improved my enjoyment of the book is that I found it hard at times to keep track of the various people owing to McCoole’s use of their given names without a surname. Many of the lesser characters share given names with the women or their children and that got confusing at times when no surname was used. However, I found this an excellent read, very well written, and would highly recommend it. Some of the stories are simply heartbreaking and it is clear that some of these women suffered for the rest of their lives, financially, emotionally, physically. A very moving book.
Audrey Niffenegger The Time Traveler’s Wife I saw a wee bit of the film of this on TV about a year ago and thought the premise was curious. I still haven’t seen the film (but will see it tonight when its on RTE!) but on finding the book thought it was worth a look. And yes, this was another of my charity shop pick ups. I’m not going to outline the plot here, I’m sure there are others out there like me who eventually get around to reading the “latest best seller” a few years after it was published. Its a mix of science fiction and love story and for me it worked on both levels. Henry can travel back and forward through time – at least through his own life – and meets Clare at various stages of her life. They fall in love and marry. If you want to know if its a happy ever after you’ll have to read it for yourself, and DO, its a great book and I loved it. But I wouldn’t read it again (and I have many novels I return to over and again) because I know how it finishes, so the sense of wondering how the story will go wouldn’t be there for me. I’m wondering now if the film can be as good, I’m often disappointed by film adaptations, but we’ll see.
Finally, I read Gil McNeil Divas Don’t Knit Well I’m not a diva (ok maybe I have diva-ish tendencies at times) but I do knit, not briliantly, but I do and I enjoy it. So this was another attempt at a light read. This time it worked, I enjoyed this a lot. Sometimes you (or me anyway) just want a book that’s not challenging, that has a story, that offers a bit of entertainment for an hour or two. Divas Don’t Knit did that for me. Its the story of Jo Mackenzie who after the death of her husband (who had just told her he was leaving her for another woman), moves to a different town with her two small sons, and takes over her grandmother’s wool shop. She sets up a knitting group and gets involved with various local and national characters, some likeable others less so but utterly believable all the same. The plot moved along quickly – maybe a little implausible at times – but it never dragged and it was easy to switch off for a while and just enjoy it. Worth looking at if you need a light easy read of a wet afternoon.
So there you go, that’s what I read in April. Six books. I’d probably usually read more in a month but it was Easter holidays for the part of the month so reading time was much curtailed! If you’ve any suggestions or recommendations of books for me to try, please do send them on, I’m always up for a reading challenge! If you’ve read any of these I’d be interested to hear what you thought of them. Happy Reading!!