Half savage, hardy and free

“I wish I were a girl again, half-savage and hardy and free.”

Emily Brontë, poet, novelist and author of one of my favourite books, was born on this day two hundred years ago.

I probably don’t need to tell you the title of the book, since not only was it Emily’s only novel- she died a year after its publication at the age of thirty- but also because it has taken on a life of it’s own, becoming more widely known than the author herself.

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Wuthering Heights was published in 1847, initially under the pseudonym Ellis Bell, and it wasn’t until two years after her death that Emily’s own name appeared as author of the work, shocking all those who believed that a story of such passion, violence and cruelty could only have been written by a man.

Passion, violence and cruelty are absolutely the corner stones of the novel, as anyone who has read it will undoubtedly agree, but there is more to Wuthering Heights than just that, or at least there is for me.

Wuthering Heights seems to be a sort of literary Marmite. There are those like me, who love it, and those who hate it, and there seems to be very few people in-between. I’m sure some of the polarity in opinion stems as much from circumstance of reading, as from the book itself, since much of it’s readership these days is enforced via academia. I was fortunate enough to miss it as a prescribed text, and only read it for the first time as an adult.

I’ve spoken before about the importance of timing when it comes to reading. How certain books arrive at a particular point in your life, and how at any other time they might not have had the same impact. I think a lot of my favourites are a combination of brilliant writing and perfect timing, and Wuthering Heights is no exception. The following circumstances probably all helped with my enjoyment of the book:

  • I was reading it for pleasure, rather than to be quizzed on it’s ‘themes’ at a later date
  • I was already a fan of Gothic fiction
  • Wuthering Heights hadn’t been over-hyped to me, so I went in with few expectations
  • As a Yorkshire lass, like Emily herself, I could read the occasional passages of Yorkshire dialect and hear them just as though they were spoken out loud, rather than staring at a row of seemingly unconnected letters wondering what on earth ‘Hathecliff’s noan t’chap tuh coom ut maw whistle- happen he’ll be less hard uh hearing wi ye!’ means

If any one of those factors had been missing, perhaps Wuthering Heights wouldn’t have had quite the impact it did on me. But then again…perhaps it would. Because let’s not pretend it isn’t an incredible piece of literature in its own right.

Wuthering Heights is incredible not just because it was written by a young woman at a time when young women didn’t write, and certainly didn’t write *things like that*. And not just because it has gone on to inspire adaptation after adaptation, along with other creative works, such as Kate Bush’s legendary, chart-topping record of the same name, which put the young singer-songwriter down in history as the first number one single both written and performed by a female artist.

Even without all of that, even with just Emily Brontë’s words, on the page, it would have been enough to secure a spot in my heart.

The main complaints I hear about Wuthering Heights are that a. it is not a romance and b. all the characters are terrible. And I’m here to tell you that both of these assertions are absolutely 100% true.

The main plot is about the romance between Cathy and Heathcliff, and it contains Gothic romance elements, but for a book to be classified as a Romance in the strictest sense the two main characters must achieve a ‘Happily Ever After’ or at the very least a ‘Happy For Now’. No one in Wuthering Heights is truly happy, ever. And as for the characters? They are all deeply flawed, and for the most part wholly unlikeable. Sounds like a barrel of laughs, doesn’t it? I bet those of you who haven’t read it are dying to get your hands on a copy now 😉

Well, you should.

Because despite the unrelenting misery it is a masterpiece. And in an age where characters and public figures are expected to be inspirational, relatable, and likeable, reading about self-absorbed Cathy and the vengeful, hate-filled Heathcliff, along with their supporting cast of similarly irredeemable characters is a breath of fresh air, the likes of which you could only otherwise get on a brisk moorland walk.

The setting itself is perfection, and indeed the story wouldn’t work anywhere else. The wild Yorkshire moors serve as symbolism for the wilds of Cathy and Heathcliff’s tumultuous relationship and the eerie isolation fulfils the Gothic element, although in truth I doubt that was Emily’s reason for choosing to set the story where she did. It seems infinitely more likely that it was a case of ‘writing what you know’ and where better to set this sprawling tale of love and hatred across generations than the sprawling Yorkshire countryside in which the author herself lived?

The title of this blog post comes from one of the books popular quotes, one I have typed so many times now that my phone’s predictive text feature now suggests it whenever I type the words ‘I wish…’

It’s from a passage in chapter 12 of the book when *spoiler alert* Cathy falls ill, after a fight between herself, Heathcliff and Linton:

“I wish I were a girl again, half-savage and hardy and free…and laughing at injuries, not maddening under them! Why am I so changed? Why does my blood rush into a hell of tumult at a few words? I’m sure I should be myself were I once among the heather on those hills…Open the window again wide, fasten it open!…”

I love the line, not just because it so perfectly embodies a feeling so many of us have had- about how easy it would be to live our adult lives as though we were still children, when nothing bothered us for very long, because we existed out of reach of expectation and beyond even the barriers of physical pain, but also because it seems to sum up not just Cathy, or even her creator Emily, but the entire book as a whole.

Wuthering Heights is a half-savage, hardy and free novel that like Cathy herself, refuses to conform and ruins all hope of happiness in doing so, and yet, like Cathy is wild, breathless and lovely. And Heathcliff- what of the dark, brooding, Byronic hero? He is, without a doubt, bitter, vindictive and certainly in the latter parts of the book- mentally unhinged, but like Cathy, I found that I loved him anyway. Not because I believe him redeemable necessarily, but because I know from experience that it is possible to love people who are not, and to know that they are not, and yet not feel that love any less keenly. And in that at least, Catherine Earnshaw and I have something in common.

So happy birthday Emily Brontë, with tremendous thanks. And if you’ve never read Wuthering Heights, or your memory of it is tainted by a GCSE English Literature paper, then why not check a copy out of your local library, and let me know if you’re a lover or a hater.

 

 

 

 

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2017 Reading Round-Up

I always feel so disingenuous sweeping in at the end of the year to give a closing speech on my blog, that- let’s face it- has been horribly neglected for most of the year.

On the other hand though, what’s the use in me keeping the blog, if not to share things on it? Like for example, the books I read in 2017.

So, here goes…

In 2017 I started 44 books, and I finished 40 of them.  That’s a pretty standard drop-off rate for me, exactly the same as 2016 in fact.  Gone are the days when I forced myself to finish every single book I started.  Since having kids I’ve become a lot more forgiving of myself if I can’t make it to the end, and in fact sometimes I start a book and almost immediately put it down- not because it’s terrible, but because I think its probably wonderful- just not right now.  There’s definitely an element of timing for me, when it comes to reading, and I have to be in the mood for certain stories.

This year has been quite difficult for a variety of reasons- both on a personal and global level, and that had undoubtedly affected my reading life too.  Of the 44 books I picked up, only 3 were non-fiction.  Basically, I was done with reality and looking for an escape.  For the same reason, 14 out of the 44 books were romances.  Like many other bookworms, I expect, I just needed to know that SOMEONE SOMEWHERE was getting a Happily Ever After, even if that someone was a fictional character in the regency era.  I read Tessa Dare’s Romancing the Duke not once, but twice this year, and it was like a literary poultice for my aching soul.  In fact, I may yet leave an amazon review that says exactly that.  Seriously, if historical romance is your thing, you should add it to your 2018 TBR list.

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Similarly, 12 of the books I finished this year were re-reads.  There’s just something comforting about reading a book you’ve already read (in my case, possibly several times), when you know the ending, but enjoy the journey nonetheless.  So I revisited The Infernal Devices- the YA trilogy by Cassandra Clare, for what must have been the 4th or 5th time, and still fell hopelessly in love with her supernatural, steampunk-inspired Victorian London, and the trio of main characters- Tessa, Will and Jem.  And, as with every other time I’ve read it- the epilogue of Clockwork Princess made me literally sob, which shows that even when you know what the outcome of something will be, you can still become fully absorbed to the extent that you’ll have a physical, emotional reaction to it.

For those of you who like a good statistic, this was the numerical breakdown:

TOTAL BOOKS STARTED: 44

TOTAL BOOKS FINISHED: 40

 FICTION: 41

NON FICTION: 3

LIBRARY BOOKS: 15

E-BOOKS: 10

NEW (TO ME) BOOKS: 32

RE-READS: 12

That’s a massive increase in Kindle books compared to last year when I only read one e-book in the whole of 2016.  That is partly a result of a. my CIDP flaring up a couple of times, making it difficult for me to hold books for long periods, and b. the fact I got a brand new Kindle Fire HD for Christmas 🙂 so my final two books of the year I read on that.

There was also a decrease in the amount of library books I read, but that doesn’t actually correlate in any way to the amount of library books I borrowed– I still find it almost impossible to come home empty-handed from work, it’s just that they’re all stacking up precariously in my living room as I renew them over and over and over…something I should possibly work on in 2018 *whispers* You can only read one book at a time, Rebecca…

So, of the 40, what were my favourites?  Some years that’s an almost impossible question, but this year a few titles really stand out.  For a start, 2017 was the year that I read Jane Eyre for the first time.

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I know, I know, I almost can’t believe it’s true either.  For some reason, I- a lover of the Bronte sisters, and gothic literature, and Byronic heroes- managed to get to 32 years of age without becoming acquainted with Jane and her Mr Rochester.  In a way, I’m sorry I didn’t come to it sooner, knowing that if I had, I’d probably have re-read it forty million times already, but in another way, I’m almost glad I saved it until now- because what a delicious treat it was in the middle of what was in many ways an utterly ludicrous year.  And there was something so perfect about it’s timing in my life too, as Jane wrestled between what was right and what was easy, holding herself and others to exacting moral standards, I found myself exploring similar questions in my own life, and being surprised by my answers.  So yes, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte=  an instant, hands-down favourite, not just of 2017 but of all-time.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee, a YA historical with a bisexual main character, also undoubtedly became one of my immediate favourites.  I scarcely put it down from the minute I picked it up- and it was a brand-new, hefty hardback, so that’s an impressive feat for me with my feeble wrists.  I adored Monty, the main character and Mackenzie Lee’s writing style is brilliant so I was immediately swept up in the adventure.  It was rare case of me having heard about a book in advance of it’s release, and suggesting it as a purchase for the library, which meant that I was the first to get it when it arrived, and for once I wasn’t disappointed.  So many times, when a book is hyped up, or I care enough to pre-order it, I get to the last page to find it isn’t all I’d hoped, but with this one it absolutely was.  So if it sounds like your thing, definitely check it out.

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There was also Romancing the Duke, which I’ve already mentioned, A Tale of Two Cities- which I finally got round to finishing about 5 years after I first started it, and adored (although it isn’t exactly what you’d call easy-reading, but then Dickens rarely is), The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux, which was a delicious piece of straight-up storytelling, and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, which left me breathless, literally.  It did absolutely nothing for my anxiety, but I loved it all the same.  The suspense was intolerable and at one point I put the book down and actually physically pushed it away, as though by distancing myself from the words, I could escape the inevitable conclusion the characters were marching toward.

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So, there we have it- another year in books.

I don’t have any goals for 2018 when it comes to reading- whether I read more or less is irrelevant, just so long as I’m reading and enjoying it.  One thing I have vowed though, is not to leave the books I got for Christmas languishing on my TBR shelves, which means my first few reads of 2018 are all set and will definitely include The Fair Fight by Anna Freeman, and Bad Boy by Elliot Wake

I hope you all had a good reading year too.  If you discovered any new favourites in 2017, I’d love to hear about them 🙂

 

 

 

2016 Reading Roundup

I know, I know…it’s March.  I’m very late with this post.  In my defence…well, nothing really.  I was in a bit of a blogging funk at the start of the year, so never got round to sharing the books I read last year.  But here they all are:

 

  1. The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak
  2. Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier
  3. Gypsy Boy by Mikey Walsh
  4. Heft by Liz Moore
  5. How Eskimos keep their babies warm by Mei-Ling Hopgood
  6. The Crimson petal and the white by Michel Faber
  7. Complete Write a Novel Course by Will Buckingham
  8. Public Library by Ali Smith
  9. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  10. The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
  11. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  12. The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse
  13. The Masked City by Genevieve Cogman
  14. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  15. Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor
  16. Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
  17. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater
  18. Every Day by David Levithan
  19. Ash by Malinda Lo
  20. The Good Children by Roopa Farooki
  21. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
  22. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne du Maurier
  23. Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor
  24. Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
  25. The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater
  26. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Steifvater
  27. Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Steifvater
  28. The Raven King by Maggie Steifvater
  29. Hood by Stephen R Lawhead
  30. Cunning Folk- Popular Magic in English History by Owen Davies
  31. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
  32. Half Bad by Sally Green
  33. Half Wild by Sally Green
  34. Religion and the Decline of Magic by Keith Thomas
  35. Hemingway in Love by A.E. Hotchner
  36. Now is the time by Melvyn Bragg
  37. Murder at the Old Vicarage by Jill McGown
  38. Half Lost by Sally Green
  39. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

 

That’s actually considerably less than the 47 books I read in 2015, but this year I read a lot more *new* books, that I hadn’t previously read- only two of those listed above were re-reads.  For those who like their stats, out of the 39-

4 I didn’t actually finish (but a couple of those I will likely get back to at some point)

7 were non-fiction (that’s a lot more non-fic than I normally read, the sudden increase was thanks to NOVEL RESEARCH)

25 were library books (working in libraries has some major perks 😉 )

1 I read on Kindle (a massive decrease from 2015, but then again, I did start working in a library in 2016, so I guess that was to be expected?)

Some new favourites include Frenchman’s Creek- oh my god, I still cannot believe I hadn’t read this one of Daphne Du Maurier’s books before now.  Rebecca has (obviously) long since been a favourite of mine, but wow, Frenchman’s Creek has very nearly, almost- possibly overtaken it.  I literally swooned, and then once revived proceeded to fill my ‘bookish quotes’ notebook with basically every single passage.  I LOVED it.  In fact, just thinking about it now is making me want to read it again.

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I also fell in love with Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, and The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater.  In terms of non-fiction, both Gypsy Boy (a fantastic, unflinching memoir by Mikey Walsh) and Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty were incredible.

Honestly, out of the 39 books there really weren’t many (aside from the ones I didn’t manage to finish), that I *didn’t* enjoy this year.  For me, The Half Bad trilogy fell short of my expectations, but only because the ending was SO CRUEL, and I was pissed off about it for days, literally.  The Paying Guests was a bit depressing, but generally everything else I read I liked, and there are quite a few that I’m tempted to revisit again this year.

At the end of 2015, after completing my ‘great re-read of 2015‘ I hinted at a new challenge for 2016, but then that never actually got off the ground.  The challenge was going to be classics.  There are so many books that would be considered classics that I haven’t read, so I was planning to ask people I know IRL, and of course, you lovely lot- if you had any suggestions on where I should start.  But then life happened, and I never got round to it.

I honestly feel like it’s a bit late to be setting myself a reading challenge for 2017, given as we’re almost a quarter of the way through it already, but if there is a classic book that you think I should add to my list then please do leave a comment and I’ll let you know if I’ve already read it or not (chances are higher that I won’t have, I may be a prolific reader, but I lost a lot of years to Point Horror and Sweet Valley High, and honestly I have no regrets about that.)

As for 2017- well so far I’ve read eleven brilliant books, and I have a massive stack of unread books on my shelves to work through, not to mention about twenty unread books downloaded to my kindle, and of course all the books I have access to across the library service…so yeah, I have a feeling it’s going to be a good reading year!

2015 Reading Roundup

Well, 2015 is behind us and therefore so is my 2015 reading challenge, which was to re-read 12 of my favourite books and blog about the experience of reading them again (for what in some cases was the second, and in others the hundredth, time).

The books were-

  1. The Stand by Stephen King
  2. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
  3. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  4. The Outcast by Sadie Jones
  5. The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney
  6. The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe
  7. The Spider Truces by Tom Connolly
  8. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  9. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  10. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
  11. When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman
  12. 1984 by George Orwell

As you can see, I only managed to blog about 7 of the 12, although I did also re-read Miss Peregrine and Fingersmith, I just didn’t get round to sharing my thoughts on them (which if anyone is wondering is basically “I LOVE THIS BOOK, GO AND READ IT NOW!”- in both cases)

I did re-read quite a few other books though, which weren’t on the initial list of twelve.  In fact, of the 47 books I read this year, a whopping 26 of them were ones I had read before.  17 were new books, and then there were 4 that for various reasons I didn’t finish (in one case because I just wasn’t enjoying it, and in the other 3 it was more because I wasn’t quite in the right mood or headspace) and I’ll probably revisit those at some point in 2016.

Of the 17 that were new to me that I actually did finish- some that really stand out that may be new favourites are The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan, which was just fucking wow, and had the curious side-effect of causing my inner monologue to have a thick Scottish accent for about three weeks after finishing it.  Also Chicken by Chase Night which I downloaded to my Kindle on a whim and then basically couldn’t put down until I’d finished.  I also finally got round to reading the Shiver trilogy by Maggie Steifvater, which I’ve been hesitant to do despite having owned the books since 2011, because I got them as a fancy set and they looked too nice for me to actually read.  Finally curiosity won out though and they’re now back in their slipcase, with very creased spines, because I remembered that I actually love reading more than I love books.  And yes, they were worth the wait.  Also, I can’t possibly write about brilliant books I read in 2015 without mentioning The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare, which I enjoyed so much I may have read all three twice…(!)

For 2016 I have a whole new challenge in mind, which I’ll post about separately.  But aside from that I’m just looking forward to reading plenty and hopefully discovering some amazing new authors and stories 🙂

 

 

The Spider Truces

I finally, finally finished re-reading The Spider Truces by Tom Connolly, and I’m aware that makes it sound like it was an ordeal rather than an enjoyable experience but it wasn’t that at all, I’ve just been so busy that I’ve had to read it in the way “normal” people read books- a chapter at the end of each day, rather than the way I usually do- which is to blaze through from cover to cover ignoring all else around me.  It certainly makes for a different reading experience taking your time, but last night, with a few chapters to go before the end, I hooked myself up to my SCIG infusion and just went for it, and I’m glad I did because I now have that lingering sense of *something* you get after finishing a really great book- where you feel like you were actually there, and experienced it, and your brain is busy processing and filing it all away.

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This was my second time reading it, the first time I read it on Kindle after picking up at a reduced price when it was on a deal.  It was the summer of 2013, so I started reading it as a ‘well’ person and finished reading it in a hospital bed.  I read this just before I got really REALLY unwell and before I threw myself into the YA fantasy genre so hard I’m surprised I didn’t end up going through the barrier to Platform 9 3/4 😉

But The Spider Truces itself, despite probably being shelved as Literary Fiction, was it’s own form of fantasy and escapism for me, as it describes in almost succulent detail the places in which the story takes place, and for someone who was very much stuck in one specific and rather clinical (if not downright miserable) place, to be transported so effortlessly to the the Kentish Weald, to watch the changing seasons and years go by.  Then later, to follow the characters to Paris, a place that I want so desperately to visit, but keep being thwarted in my attempts to, was just the icing on the cake.

This book is wonderful not just because of the places, but also the people.  There’s Ellis, the main character, who we see grow from a young boy to a young man, and his Dad Denny, his sister Chrissie and his Great Aunt Mafi, all of who I could relate to in different ways, but it was Ellis who stood out for me, and who’s thoughts mirrored so many of my own.  The sudden unexpected panic that can land in the middle of a perfectly ordinary day or thought, as though from nowhere.  The sense of restlessness but the constant pull of the past.  The author Tom Connolly really captured all these things in a way that made me believe not just that Ellis was real, but that he was me, or rather I was him.  So it’s hardly a wonder that I laughed out loud at times or shed more than one tear as I followed him through the years of his life.

I don’t want to give too much away but for those wondering about the title, yes the book is about spiders, and Ellis’s relationship with them, which begins as pure terror but evolves to something more over the years.  It is also about grief, family, friendships, and figuring out what life is all about- or realising you never will.

My absolute favourite line from the book is

“A wonderful life of chaos and hope and disarray awaits all those prepared to risk it”

The kind of quote that is profound in it’s simplicity, much like the book itself.

So go! Read it now!

As for me, I am seriously behind on my list but the next book is something totally different: Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist which should have been August’s re-read, but is probably more appropriate for this time of year anyway what with Halloween being NEXT WEEK and all 🙂

The House of Sleep

This could totally be a blog post about how insanely tired I feel right now, and how between staying up late writing night after night, and babies spitting their dummies out (literally) at 4.45am, and the “summer” (lol) holidays, I am just wrecked and would love nothing more to check myself into a house that existed solely for it’s residents to simply sleep their days and nights away until refreshed.

But…it’s not.  At all.  This is my (admittedly rather belated) review of June’s Re-Read, which was, as the title suggests- The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe.

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This is a book that I got in a swap a very long time ago, and it came with bite marks in the cover, yellowed pages, and absolutely no pre-conceived notions whatsoever.  I had no idea what it was about, which I am increasingly finding is my favourite way to approach a new book, as the more hype that surrounds something, the more pressure there is to enjoy it, and the more disappointing it is when you (or rather I) don’t.

The House of Sleep is literary fiction, but unlike a lot of books that fall under that umbrella, I would say it’s a pretty easy read, which is obviously a totally subjective observation but I just mean that I didn’t feel like I had to be reading it in a certain frame of mind in a quiet room to really grasp the language or appreciate the story.

The story centers around a group of main characters- Sarah, Robert, Terry and Gregory, but more specifically around a house- Ashdown, which for some of the book is owned by the university and houses students, and later is being used as a private sleep clinic.  Sleep, and sleep disorders obviously feature heavily (the clue being in the title and all) as does sexuality and gender.  I’m hesitant to give away too many spoilers but I will say that one of the characters is transgender, and  that a decade ago when I first read the book (and almost a decade before that, when it was first published) that was probably quite a big deal.  It certainly was for me reading it anyway, as it was doubtless the first time I’d encountered a main character that wasn’t cisgender- long before I even knew what cisgender meant.

Coming back to it again a couple of months ago I wondered if the knowledge and awareness I’d gained since first reading it would give me a different perspective, especially regarding the sexuality and gender aspects of the story, and to a certain extent it did.  I wondered about some of the decisions the author made and found myself engaging with the story in a different- more critical- way, but overall I still enjoyed the way it was written, and the weaving together of the different personal stories across place and time.  For me this isn’t one of those books that you stay up all night to finish, but one that you pick up and put down each night before bed for a week or so, and rather than being blown-away by it, it leaves you with a lingering sense of something.

July’s re-read should have been The Spider Truces but I got sidetracked (again).  The good news being that I have read some other really fantastic books instead, the bad news being that it means I am getting a bit behind and should probably try to exert more self-control (Ha! Hahahahaha).

I’ll let you know how that goes 😉

The Tenderness of Wolves

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*Disclaimer: this post was originally written 3 weeks ago but for some reason I saved it as a draft rather than publishing and forgot about it until now- errr, oops*

I bet you thought I’d forgotten about May’s Re-Read, after being so early with all the others…well, I didn’t. But truth be told, it did take me longer than expected to get through it, not because of the book itself (which is brilliant by the way) but just because as soon as I picked it up and opened the cover life got craaaaazy, and with the imminent arrival, and then ACTUAL arrival of our little foster baby aka Squishlet I found that I suddenly had very little time for anything and when I did I wanted to use it for SLEEP!

But, these last few evenings I have read a chapter or two each night after she’s fallen asleep (although the first evening I tried it, Chris found me asleep on the sofa with the book open on my chest, haha!) and today I finally finished it.

I have to say, I wish I’d been able to guzzle it all in one go, or at least 2-3 sittings maximum, like I did the first time I read it, as there’s so much suspense and intrigue (especially towards the end) that it’s a book that lends itself really well to staying up past your bedtime to finish it, but even so, despite having to be a bit more stop/start this time and reading it in more bitesize chunks, I still really loved it.

The story takes place in Canada in 1867, and begins with the death- murder in fact- of a man named Laurent Jammet and the discovery of his body by a woman named Mrs Ross (whose first name is never used). It isn’t really a murder mystery/whodunnit style book though- or rather, it is but it is ALSO the story of the people living in the isolated settlement where the murder takes place and of the events that unfold after it.

The book has some really vivid and beautiful descriptions of the landscape and wilderness but it also vividly depicts people in all their wonderful messy human-ness, and the two things combined really took my breath away when I first read it and again this time.

I think the only difference reading it for a second time, almost a decade later, is a new found appreciation for the sense of loss and sadness I felt after finishing it. Not that the story had changed in any way or somehow become more sad than it was, just that a. it’s been a while (I am guesstimating it was around 8-9 years ago I first bought it) and b. I have changed. So things I thought of as perhaps sad or poignant then I maybe find even more heartbreaking to read about now.

(In other words, yes I am becoming an emotional wreck in my old age!)

Like all my other Re-Reads this year, I obviously think you should all go read it if you haven’t already. It actually won the Costa Book of The Year Award in 2006 and the author Stef Penney was particularly praised for how well she depicted the area at that time, despite having never set foot there due to suffering from agorophobia. I’ve never been to Canada (and certainly not in that time period 😉 ) so couldn’t say how realistic the picture she paints with her words is, but I will say that I do now FEEL as though I’ve been to Canada in 1867 and that’s what counts, to me anyway.

June’s book is The House of Sleep by Jonathan Coe, which I planned to start reading straight away but sort of got distracted by…errr…Twilight (shhhh!) So I’ll be back with another book related post in a few weeks- and possibly some fostering/general life related rants before then 😉