OK, so on my old blog I used to write little reviews of books I’d read and post them up five at a time. And then I had a baby and actually reading books as an activity simply disappeared from my life, along with other things like sleep, having conversations about topics other than poo and going to the loo on my own. It wasn’t that I didn’t read anything at all. But there were hardly any books, and those that I did read were often geared towards having a baby, plus there was never time to write blog posts about them. I might write a post one day about those that I found helpful (and those I didn’t!) though. I’ve still been recording books read in my LibraryThing account, which should also show up in my blog sidebar. Another thing I found about having a child was it prompted me to reread some of the books I’d enjoyed as a teenager (not as a child, it’ll be well over a decade before LO will be reading some of these!), whether to have a different perspective on them now I’m a mum, or because they are ‘easier’ reading for a frazzled brain, I’m not sure. I did read a theology book last year but that totally fried my brain so I’ve decided to stick to easier things for the time being!
I’ve been trying to make more time to read books, and have kind of succeeded. Here are my first five books of 2018!
#1 The case against sugar by Gary Taubes
I read a review of this in the Guardian, and thought it looked interesting. I developed Gestational Diabetes during pregnancy (out of the blue – I had no risk factors and so wasn’t routinely tested) and had to go on an extremely limited diet. It wasn’t just a case of cutting out sweets and chocolate, I had to rethink my entire diet and lost a huge amount of weight (I had to stop wearing my maternity wear within a week of the birth!), so I thought reading a popular science book about sugar and its effects would be thought-provoking. And it was. The book is well written and accessible, with not too much science for a non-scientist like me. Although I was vaguely aware that sugar consumption had increased over time, I had no idea of the huge increase that had happened during the twentieth century, and how this interplayed with politics and economics, as well as coinciding with a huge increase in the development of diseases like diabetes. As the mother of a young child, I was well aware of how this is beginning to impact on health promotion initiatives, such as the NHS Change4life sugar swaps, and have taken some action to reduce sugar in my family’s diet. Although I do still love chocolate…
#2 The wonder by Emma Donoghue
I saw this in an independent bookshop last year, and picked it up as I try and support these bookshops. I had read her earlier book, Room, which I’d found quite compelling and was hoping for more of the same. The wonder is about a little girl who has stopped eating but appears to be miraculously thriving, and the English Nightingale nurse who is sent to Ireland to observe her. It took me a while to get into, but when I did it was worth it, as there is a lot of incidental detail about politics, nursing/medical history and religion which I found interesting. The ending was also unexpected! 😉
#3 Goodbye Piccadilly by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
This is the first in a series of WWI themed novels which my Mum had been reading and which got passed on to me. I decided I needed more novel reading in my life as it helps me relax before bed, plus these remind me a bit of Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Cazalet chronicles which I first read as a teenager and then reread when I finished work to go on maternity leave (but before having the baby). It took me a few chapters to get into this first one as, with these books, there is a large central family, plus servants plus friends and extended family to get your head around. Fortunately a family tree was provided!
It was worth it. This first book is set in 1914 and covers the run up to the war and the first months from the various perspectives of the family members – the oldest son keen to sign up, the eldest daughter whose fiancé goes to war, how their parents feel etc. There is much about class divides and how the news about what was really going on filtered through. It is interspersed with accounts of what was happening at the Front – via letters home or meetings with more influential people.
I enjoyed this first one, and I’m looking forward to getting to know the family more in the subsequent books.
#4 Keep the home fires burning by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
#5 The land of my dreams by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
The next two books in the series, set in 1915 and 1916 respectively. There are a few more twists and turns, some of them predictable, some of them much more so. I am enjoying the different perspectives on women’s lives (I’m finding the men much less interesting): from the elder daughter preparing for marriage, the servant also hopefully preparing for marriage and uncovering some of her past to the former suffragette who goes on to become a woman police officer (I had had no idea WWI was when this started) and then to drive an ambulance. The social changes in the background are interesting – women’s fashions, what women are able to do, the difference in attitudes towards homosexuality in the upper classes and otherwise.
Really interesting series and highly readable. I’m saving the next to read on holiday and the final one (1918) is due to be published in June so I’ll get it from the library.
Can’t quite believe I managed to read five books and it isn’t even halfway through the year yet! Still feels a bit pathetic compared to my days as a train commuter when I got through 1.5 books per week!
What have you been reading recently?