#1 Grégoire Delacourt The list of my desires
An unexpected find at the library. I liked the pictures of buttons(!) on the cover so picked this up. It’s told mainly from the point of view of Jocelyne who runs a little haberdashery in France and who wins a large amount of money on the lottery. The win makes her evaluate the ‘list of her desires’ but those change as life changes around her. Thought-provoking and enjoyable.
#2 Lizzy Barber My name is Anna
I heard about this one from the Guardian’s Saturday Review section. Anna has grown up in a very religious setting and one day ventures to the forbidden land of a theme park. When she gets there it seems familiar, as though she’d once been there before, but she can’t have been. Meanwhile, over in England, a family are heading for one last try to find their daughter, who went missing as a toddler many years ago. OK, so it is fairly obvious what happens, but it’s well written and with some unexpected twists and turns. Must admit, I found some sections quite hard to read.
#3 Natasha Lester The Paris seamstress
OK, guess why I chose this one? Yep, it had “seamstress” on the cover and I walked past it at the library. How does everyone else choose their books?! The action is split between 1940 when Estella is forced to flee Paris at the Germans advance and heads to the US with her sewing machine (would someone really flee with their sewing machine?!) and 2015 when her grand-daughter, Fabienne, travels to an exhibition of her grandmother’s work. Her grandmother had become a world famous clothes designer. Interspersed into all this is a story of the French Resistance and spies, and a very very complicated family relationship which explains how Fabienne ended up where she did. I had trouble getting my head round all the people initially, especially when I couldn’t work out why on earth some of them were even mentioned, although it did become clear by the end. 😉 Possibly not the most realistic novel I have ever read, but I enjoyed the descriptions of making clothes and the fabric. It also gave me some insights into a world I knew little about and reminded me of the trip to see Fashion on the Ration at the Imperial War Museum nearly four years ago.
#4 Matthew Walker Why we sleep
Got this from the library after reading a review. It’s a ‘popular science’ read about the latest research into sleep and neuroscience. It’s very readable and also easy to dip into. The findings are pretty terrifying on the effects of sleep deprivation on, well, pretty much everything, including things I would never have thought of. It was reassuring in many ways though, particularly backing up parenting decisions we’ve made that prioritise sleep for everyone. Much echoed what I’ve always thought – that I shouldn’t be behind the wheel of a car etc if I haven’t had adequate sleep. I also found the idea of ‘sleep opportunity’ interesting – the idea that you’re not actually asleep for the whole time you’re in bed and you need to give yourself a bit longer in bed to get the right amount of sleep eg eight hours in bed doesn’t actually equal eight hours asleep (obviously when you think about it!). There are also some great tips for improving your sleep.
#5 Lorna Gibb Childless voices: stories of longing, loss, resistance and choice
Another one reserved from the library after reading a review! Clearly, I’m not childless, but it’s something I find interesting as I peered into that abyss during the lengthy time it took to get pregnant. Gibb is an academic who had wanted a family, but found herself unable to conceive because of endometriosis. She travelled the world talking to women from many different cultures about being childless and the results are related here in this very readable book. She spoke to women in cultures where women aren’t considered to have reached maturity until they have a child, leaving the childless in limbo; where men are able to marry another wife (infertility generally considered the woman’s fault!) if the first is ‘barren’; where women can actually ‘marry’ another woman, who then goes on to bear children for the first woman and husband; women who have chosen to be childfree (for various reason including environmental concerns); women in gay relationships; women who’ve never met the right person; women for whom circumstances just didn’t work out at the right time and women who once had a child but that child has died (whether a stillbirth or a much later loss). She touches on the discrimination faced by childless and/or single women (whether in terms of who gets to take leave when at work, or issues such as council tax single person discount which only knocks 25% off the bill) right through to what happens in old age when it’s often assumed that everyone has children who will care for them. A thought-provoking book and highly recommended.
I don’t think I realised before starting to write these reviews how much I read because of reviews I’ve read elsewhere. I’m not sure how this compares with the past when I would browse bookshops and the library much more and serendipity played a much bigger part – now if I go into a bookshop or the library I’m flying through in pursuit of LO!