I read a lot of books last month. But there were also a lot of rereads, and I do have this terrible tendency to have already written about al lot of books by the time we get to this point in the months. But I have a plan to try out for that in July, so I’ll keep you posted…
Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
Elizabeth Zott is a scientist. The trouble is that it is America in the 1960s and women apparently women aren’t meant to be scientists. Her Nobel nominated colleague Calvin can see that she’s a scientist and a lot more and the two of them start a relationship. But three years later Elizabeth is a single mother and is presenting the world’s most unconventional cooking show on regional TV. I need to give you a warning serious sexual assault early in this book and a death a little while after, but if you can cope with that once you get out the other side you’re ok. And we all know that I’ve had trouble with dealing with stuff like that recently and I was find with this. Elizabeth is an brilliant character – she knows what she wants to do and refuses to understand people who tell her no or change what she’s doing if she thinks she is right. The book is told from various different character’s perspectives, including her dog and her daughter and it’s just a delight. Six Thirty is the smartest of us all. This s Bonnie Garmus’s debut novel and it’s such a delight it was nearly BotW yesterday. It’s had a lot of buzz so you should be able to get it really easily – and if you are going on holiday, it was definitely in the airport bookshops when we were there!
Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron by Julia Quinn and Violet Charles
This is much referenced in the later Julia Quinn novels, and now we finally have (a graphic novel version of) Miss Butterworth! In the books it’s a romantic and gothic novels – much play is made of its outlandish plot – a character is pecked to death by pigeons for example. And it’s everything you would expect – utter, utter madness, beautifully illustrated by Quinn’s sister Violet Charles. I enjoyed this and I’m so glad it got published – for reasons that will become clear if you read to the end.
The Intoxicating Mr Lavelle by Neil Blackmore
Benjamin and Edgar Bowen head out into Europe on a Grand Tour that their mother has devised for them to help them meet People of Quality so they can come back with an enhanced social standing to help the family. But when Benjamin meets Horace Lavelle, the brothers’ paths and goals diverge. This came out in 2020 – I got a copy from the work book sale a few weeks back and then realised that I had it in the NetGalley backlog as well. Oops. Anyway, I liked the premise and the writing style, but it was a bit too bleak for me in the end. I don’t do well with books that are hurtling towards disaster at the moment, even if they are dealing with expectations and society and judgment and constructs and stuff that I am interested in. I wanted it to be ok for Benjamin; but I knew it wouldn’t be. But historical fiction isn’t always neat and happy, and may be that is the point. I suspect that pre-pandemic I would have been more enthusiastic about it – so I suspect other people who are not in need of neat resolutions and/or happy endings at the moment may really enjoy it.
Paper Lion by George Plimpton
So this was one of the longest of the long runners on the still reading pile. And that’s partly because it was a paperback so didn’t go in the work rucksack but mostly because I managed to lose it for ages! Anyway, this is a legendary book about American football in the 1960s when a journalist managed to persuade the Detroit Lions to let him join their preseason training camp as a quarterback. Obviously a lot has changed in professional football since then, but this is a fascinating glimpse of how sportsmen trained and lived at the time as well as the workings of an NFL team. If you like sport it’s definitely worth looking out for.