February was a VERY good book month for me for lots of different reasons. Firstly, I left my job (!!!!) and found myself 40 hours a week better off: all the more time for reading and relaxation! Secondly, I bought a lot of absolutely blooming fantastic books which made for easy reading. Thirdly, I spent 2 out of the 4 weeks of February in France, travelling around and of course, I made good use of my commute to devour as many pages as I possibly could. The result? 6 books completed. Result!
The first book was one that I read over the course of a weekend in Paris and is probably one of the best books I’ve read so far in 2017. Matt Haig is an author that I’ve already read a few books by, but Reasons to Stay Alive isn’t one of those. It was recommended to me by a good friend of mine and I asked my cousin to buy me a copy for one of my Christmas presents. She delivered and I devoured the entire thing over the course of a plane journey and a train from CDG to central Paris. Reasons To Stay Alive is a book that has so much hidden within its pages and brings so much to the table. It’s enlightening, brave and full of joy: it really does put life into perspective and make you consider all the good things in life, in spite of all the bad. It’s one of those books that I’ll probably always remember reading and I’ll be eternally encouraging people to pick it up and delve deep to fully appreciate the utility of Haig’s story.
Because I finished Reasons to Stay Alive so quickly, I found myself bookless on my return journey from Paris back the UK. I received a copy of Jodi Picoult’s short story collection Paris for One and Other Stories from Penguin books last month and I happened to have downloaded it onto my Kindle just before getting on the plane in Liverpool. I raced through this one as well, taking full advantage of every minute on board my flight. I loved the different combination of stories- they were compelling in all kinds of different ways. I particularly enjoyed the introductory tale and the tale involving a very pretty pair of high heeled shoes. I won’t say much more than that, as I’ve seen quite a few people I know with this one on their reading list and I hate to be the bearer of spoilers. It was a lovely, cutesy book to read on a short flight, especially with the format being short stories as I could pick it up and put it back down as and when. Definitely one for lovers of Jodi Picoult.
The next book that I read in February is actually one that’s part of a blog tour that I’m taking part in next week. The Method by Shannon Kirk was absolutely phenomenal. I love books concerning crime, psychological fiction, thrillers – we’re all so consciously aware of my love for all things sinister but I’m pleased to say that this book surpassed even my expectations. It was absolutely everything that I needed and everything that I wanted in a piece of fiction, gripping, enthralling and full of mystery. It kept me hooked right until the very last page. I’ll be writing a full review as part of the book tour so check back if you want to hear a little bit more about this one.
The next book that I read in February is actually one I’ve read before, granted I read it in the original language, French, under its published title Le liseur du 6h27. Translated into English recently, The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent is an absolutely beautiful read. It’s become quite a hit in the UK and I’ve seen SO many people getting stuck into this. I loved the French language version of it but I wanted to know the translation would fare against the original text and I’m so pleased to say that it was translated absolutely beautifully. The story itself is lovely: a Frenchman, Guylain Vignolles, catches the same train to work every day. Guylain has the unfortunate job of working in a factory which generates machinery to destroy and recycle books- as a book lover, he has difficulty in accepting this and each day removes undestroyed pages from the inside of the machinery, machinery that he refers to only as “the thing.” He dries out the pages, packs them in his briefcase and reads them aloud to his fellow commuters on the 6:27 train every morning. When he discovers the writings of a bathroom attendant, he sets himself the task of finding her and, naturally, falls in love with her and her musings as he does so. It’s a book about books and the joys of reading and it’s definitely one that I am very glad to have read.
I treated myself to a few Valentines gifts from me to me in February, and obviously, books constituted the vast majority of my treats. One of the books that I got, I chose on a whim: I liked the look of the cover. I didn’t even bother to read the synopsis, which is usually a major faux pas but on this occasion, it actually turned out to be a bit of a godsend. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson is considered to be her masterpiece, although I can’t say I’ve read any of her other tales to speak contrary to this. We Have Always Lived in the Castle follows a pair of sisters, Mary Catherine “Merricat” and Constance Blackwood in the years following the murder of their parents, aunt and brother. Constance Blackwood, the elder of the two sisters, was accused of the crime, eventually acquitted and has lived in isolation ever since. This book is mysterious and somewhat disturbing (in the best kind of way!) and one that I probably wouldn’t have normally picked up. I’m looking forward to exploring Jackson’s writings a little further as this was most definitely one of my favourite of the Penguin Modern Classics.
My final book of February 2017 was one I read on the train from Montpellier to Avignon and then Avignon to Paris. It was apt, considering the setting, although the subject matter wasn’t as chipper as I probably should have been reading. As discussed in my post here, I have a love for War Fiction and I’ve tried over the last few years to read as much of it as I possibly can. Whilst not entirely based on the war, my final choice Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay addresses a number of issues relating to the Second World War, principally the Vel’ d’Hiv round-up of July 1942. This book is devastatingly beautiful. It’s one of those books that you MUST read to truly appreciate: I believe that there’s a film adaptation of it, although I haven’t seen it as of yet. I found myself connecting with all of the characters in a way that I’ve not felt in quite a while: the writing is beautifully intricate and carries all of the techniques necessary to truly evoke emotion. It made me conscious of things that have happened in the past that I might otherwise not have known about and for this, I am very thankful.