Women’s Prize for Fiction Winners – Books I Read and Want to Read

Susanna Clarke has been chosen as the winner of the 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction with Piranesi, a book I haven’t read yet but that I definitely want to. I don’t tend to pay much attention to literary prizes, to be honest. However, the enthusiasm that so many readers show for the Women’s Prize usually makes me at least want to know who has won and what the book in question is about.

Having taken a quick look at the prize’s website, I discovered that I’ve read three of the previous winners and am interested in reading not only Piranesi, but also other four in the future. None of the books ended up on my wish list because they were the winners of this particular prize. It was either the premise or the general work of the authors that first appealed to me.

 

Winners I Read

 

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

A fictional story about the events surrounding the death of the son of a famous playwright, William Shakespeare, Hamnet was a worthy winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020. The feelings of the characters are tangible and duly intense. Agnes’s suffering in particular is poignantly portrayed. Set mainly around 1596, this book about grief, parenthood, love and family life also has some chapters set in previous decades, which allows readers to learn more about the characters and better understand their actions. Continue reading

Favourite Supporting Characters II

The most memorable characters tend to be the protagonists. However, books are far more engrossing when their supporting characters are as realistic, complex and engaging. Per definition, secondary characters are not the focus of the main storyline, but they are still essential for our enjoyment of a story.

Since writing my first post about my favourite supporting characters, around four years ago, I’ve discovered a few more who are as remarkable. Daphne du Maurier created three of them, which is unsurprising considering her talent.

 

Richard Grenville – The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier

Although Richard Grenville isn’t the protagonist of The King’s General, he is a critical character in the story. Honor Harris, the protagonist, explains why she fell in love with him. Their interactions, particularly at the beginning of the book, are amusing, charming and captivating. His actions are both kind and shameful. He is sarcastic, wild and careless with his finances. Continue reading

‘The Blood Miracles’ by Lisa McInerney

My rating: 3 stars

Lisa McInerney’s first novel, The Glorious Heresies, is told from the perspectives of five characters. One of them, Ryan Cusack, is the sole protagonist of The Blood Miracles. This isn’t the only difference between the two novels, though. Her latest isn’t, unfortunately, as enthralling as I hoped, since the plot focuses almost merely on drug dealing and the characters are not as fleshed out as they could have been.

Ryan’s life is in turmoil. Although he was born and grew up in Cork, he is fluent in Italian, thanks to his dual heritage. His boss, Dan, wants to make use of his language skills in a new drug route from Italy to Ireland. At the same time, Colm expects Ryan to be his partner at a music venue he is planning to open. But, now that they are in their early twenties, his girlfriend, Karine, wants him to change his ways and leave the world of drugs behind. Amid all of this, he meets Natalie, who brings additional trouble, and reunites with Maureen, who helped him before, despite him not remembering the details.

Sadly, the book focuses too much on the issues concerning drug dealing and night clubs to the point that it gets tiresome. That is a problem particularly because some of the characters who are part of Ryan’s life, such as Natalie and Dan, are too cardboard, and even Ryan is not as fleshed out and complex as in The Glorious Heresies. He is on a self-destructive path, but there isn’t enough exploration of it. The writing style has, overall, a very fast and turbulent rhythm, as if to mimic the torrent of events surrounding Ryan. His feelings, though, are only occasionally explored. Continue reading

New Authors Whose Work I Want to Continue Reading

Falling in love with an author who already has a long writing career means that we can add a significant number of books to our wish list. But there is also something special about discovering new authors who are at the start of their writing journey and looking forward to their future work being published. After reading just one book by the five authors below (who have only published three books or less as far as I know), I became interested in continuing delving into their work.

 

Madeline Miller

The name Madeline Miller was not unknown to me when I decided to read Circe, but I had never read a book by her before. In her latest retelling of an Ancient Greek myth, she focuses on Circe, a daughter of Helios. She was sentenced to exile on a deserted island for using witchcraft against her own kind. The novel is similar to a fictional memoir, and Circe’s emotions are tangible. I now want to read The Song of Achilles and am eager to follow her career.

 

Imogen Hermes Gowar

Imogen Hermes Gowar’s debut novel, The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, shines thanks to its believable characters and detailed writing style. Although the plot is not particularly remarkable, I still liked reading this character-focused novel set in eighteenth-century London. Jonah Hancock may have lost a ship, but he gained a mermaid. To recover the money that his vessel was worth, he consents to exhibit the strange creature. One of the places where it can be seen is at Mrs Chappell’s nunnery. There, he meets a beautiful courtesan – Angelica. When Gowar publishes a new novel, I’ll most certainly read it. Continue reading

‘EU Still 28’ Authors to Continue Reading

Throughout 2018 I read one book by an author from each of the present-day 28 EU members states. I called this project ‘EU still 28’. Some of the books that I read were written by authors whose work I was already familiar with. Others, on the other hand, were penned by writers whom I had never read a book by before.

My first time reading certain authors left me eager to know more about their work. Taking into consideration not only my enjoyment of the books that I read but also my interest in the other ones that are currently available in a language that I can read fluently (Portuguese and English), in the future I will certainly read more books by the eight authors listed below.

 

Robert Seethaler

To represent Austria, I read The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler. Having as main character Franz Huchel, it’s a story about sexual awakening set at the time of the rise of Nazism. I now want to read A Whole Life, which is about the return of a soldier to his village in the Alps after the Second World War. Continue reading

Favourite Books I Read in 2018

My reading experience in 2018 was overall dominated by the ‘EU still 28’ project, which consisted in reading one book by an author from each of the still 28 EU member states. I have completed that challenge and, so far, have also managed to read in their entirety ten other books. I’m still reading Christmas Days by Jeanette Winterson. But it wouldn’t be one of my favourite books this year even if I had finished it already, although I’m enjoying it. Thus, I’m ready to reveal which books stood out to me the most in 2018.

Despite not having rated any of the books that I picked up this year with 5 stars, I still read truly good ones. They just weren’t perfect in my eyes. I cannot lie, though, this was not the best reading year in terms of the enjoyment I got from the books that I chose. I gave three books 2 stars and didn’t finish other two.

I’ve rated many books with 4 stars, though. From those I’ve selected the five I liked the most and that were really close to deserve the coveted 5 stars. In reverse order, my favourite books from the ones that I read in 2018 are: Continue reading

Books Worth the Hype

Occasionally there is so much hype surrounding certain books that, instead of being confident that I will enjoy them, I become afraid of reading them. Books that attract a lot of attention, either after being heavily promoted by publishers or loved by many people in the bookish community, can, thus, remain on my shelves or wish list for a long time before I finally decide to pick them up. Some books I end up not understanding why they were so hyped, while others I fully recognise their merits.

Below are some of the books that, in my opinion, are worth all the previous hype around them. They were all written by contemporary authors, seeing that these are the ones that tend to be more publicised and that classics have already passed the test of time. I didn’t love all of them, but I definitely enjoyed them enough to recommend you reading them in case they sound like something you would like.

 

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

I became aware of Jessie Burton’s debut novel when it was released, seeing that it kept appearing on various book hauls on BookTube. I didn’t pay much attention to what it was about to be honest. But I knew that I wanted it on my shelves, because I had fallen in love with the gorgeous cover. This is obviously not the best reason to buy a book. Nonetheless, it ended up being a good acquisition, since I adored it when I finally read it. Continue reading

‘The Glorious Heresies’ by Lisa McInerney

My rating: 4 stars

In The Glorious Heresies, Lisa McInerney uses a murder as a pretext to delve into dysfunctional families and the tribulations faced by various characters whose lives were far from easy. Throughout the novel, we are given an insightful look into the darkest sides of Cork, where the story takes place. Ireland’s religiosity, drug dealing and the need to resort to prostitution are some of the themes focused on, as the characters’ lives became intertwined and spiralled somewhat out of their control.

The first main character we are introduced to is fifteen-year-old Ryan. He has a girlfriend, Karine D’Arcy, whom he took to his home to have sex with. He lived there with his father and five siblings, but they were away at the time. His mother had died some years previously. I really liked how we are not told right away what was happening. Instead readers are gradually shown the interactions between the two teenagers until what they were up to makes perfect sense. The same technique is used throughout the book in various occasions.

Ryan’s path crossed with those of the other characters in consequence of a murder. Maureen, a 59-year-old woman, unintentionally killed a man, whom she found inside her house. As she needed to get rid of the body, she contacted her estranged son, Jimmy. He was the most feared gangster in Cork. Although Maureen was the one who gave birth to him, he wasn’t raised by her but by his grandparents. He once went looking for Maureen in London and took her back home to Ireland. Continue reading

Monthly Favourites – August 2018

I seem to have run out of ideas for sentences to introduce my monthly favourites. So, let’s get to what matters. From August I want to highlight a book, a TV series, a music album and a beauty product.

Let’s start with my favourite book of the month. It’s The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney. I haven’t reviewed it yet, since I’ve only finished it today at lunch time. It centres around the life of five characters, whose paths cross after Maureen unintentionally kills a man. Ryan is probably the character who stands out the most, but nearly all of them are complex and feel real. There are also various instances of social criticism, which helps to paint a picture about the darkest sides of Cork, where the story takes place. I’ll publish a more thorough review of the book next week to better explain what I liked about it and the small misgivings I had while reading.

At the beginning of the month, I started watching the TV series Victoria and really enjoyed it. I had been meaning to watch it for quite a while, but I always ended up starting other series instead. For whatever reason, I wrongly thought that the third season was going to start in September. So, I watched the first two seasons in less than two weeks, which was a mistake, as I’ll now have to wait various months for new episodes. I have no idea how faithful it is to real events, since I didn’t know much about this monarch beforehand. However, I found it quite entertaining and engrossing. Continue reading

Book Haul – June / July 2018

Ahead of my birthday (which is today!), I bought some books as a gift to myself. I have had almost all of them in my possession for a while now, as I ordered them online and they arrived much earlier than I had anticipated. Nevertheless, I decided to wait until today to reveal my new acquisitions to you. Some of them are representing certain countries at the ‘EU still 28’ reading project, others felt like the perfect books to delve into this summer, and a few were on discount and caught my attention.

Without further ado, these are the eight books that I bought recently:

 

Voyage of the Basilisk by Marie Brennan

This is the third book in The Memoirs of Lady Trent series. After reading and enjoying the first two books (A Natural History of Dragons and The Tropic of Serpents) last year, I plan to read the Voyage of the Basilisk really soon. I am eager to be absorbed in another adventure of the famous dragon naturalist, Lady Trent. Continue reading