Books read 2020 #1-5

I’m not sure if I’m reading at a similar rate to last year or not. I am definitely not reading more than I was doing as all of my spare time has vanished! But last year I read 12 books, and 13 the previous year, so five books in five months means I’m keeping up with that.

#1 Margaret Atwood The Testaments

I loved this book and was very pleased when I got it for Christmas! I’m been an avid watcher of The Handmaid’s Tale on TV, even through the really grim season two, and was delighted to find that the book also included bits from the TV series (well, Margaret Atwood was involved with that too, so I shouldn’t have been surprised). It’s at least twenty years since I read The Handmaid’s Tale, and I really should read it again, from my perspective now as a middle-aged mum of one, compared to when I was a somewhat naive university undergraduate. The Testaments continues the story of the earlier book, but quite a few years in the future. The chapters switch between different viewpoints – an aunt, a girl growing up in Gilead and a girl growing up in Canada. Sometimes I found this slightly confusing but it really does work as a plot device. I don’t want to say too much about it as I don’t want to give the plot away to anyone who hasn’t read it, but I found it an empowering read. It gives a lot more background to Gilead, what had happened to bring about its creation and the practicalities of living there.

#2 Esther Rutter This golden fleece: a journey through Britain’s knitted history

Another Christmas present, and a book I hadn’t heard of before – it was given to me by a relative who’d read a review of it! Esther Rutter relearns how to knit using the internet, and spends a year travelling the country meeting people who farm sheep, and spin and knit yarn. She explores knitting traditions in the sheepier parts of the country, and makes various projects to explore these traditions using local wool. I really enjoyed reading this – although I’m also rather jealous of the opportunity to travel the country picking up yarn to make the projects. Highly recommended!

#3 Neil Hudson Scattered and gathered

This one was from a review from a local Christian organisation and it’s actually aimed at vicars and church leaders (which I am most definitely not!) but it’s about being a Christian in the places where you are most of the time (ie not at church, where I’m only present for two hours a week, and not at all at the moment as the building’s closed due to Coronavirus!) and how church can support that, bearing in mind that a lot of us that do go to church these days don’t go to a local one. The review sparked my interest because I moved churches last summer for various reasons, and one of them was that there was no appreciation of what I spend the vast majority of my time doing (as I explained to that vicar – my priority list goes ‘God, family, work, church’, which I don’t think impressed her too much!). The book has a refreshing approach – avoiding people becoming “rota fodder” would be a help, for a start! Although as I’m not in a leadership position there’s not actually that much I can do about it… No photo as I forgot to take one before I returned it to the friend I’d borrowed it from.

#4 Hannah Rothschild House of Trelawney

Sourced from another Guardian review, which I must have read and ordered from the library very quickly, as the review was dated 13 February, and I collected the book a week before lockdown! It proved quite timely – the plot concerns an aristocratic family living in an ancient, tumbledown house as they spiral into the world of the 2008 crash and recession – so I was reading it just as the world fell apart all over again. The house is brilliantly depicted – rambling, disintegrating in parts, with wings and staircases all over the place. The people are caricatures and it’s all rather far-fetched, but that’s the point: it works well to make an entertaining story that moves quickly. It was a good choice to read during the first few weeks of lockdown as it isn’t a taxing read and made me look forward to having a few moments every day to settle down with a book and escape from the chaos and doom on the news. I’ve added her earlier book The improbability of love to my books to read list.

#5 Debbie Macomber A good yarn

This was passed on by one of my knitting group friends and has been sitting on my waiting to be read pile for rather a long time. Not because I didn’t want to read it, but because I kept reserving books from the library which then became a higher priority as they had a deadline. It was a good read for this time – fun, easy to read and not at all taxing – which is what I needed as my concentration span has not been great recently! I haven’t heard any of her other novels about Blossom Street, but it’s a sequel to an earlier one in which Lydia sets up her dream yarn shop. This novel brings together three women who, for various reasons, sign up for a sock knitting class over several weeks, and who become friends. I liked the way that not all of them had to end up with a man(!) for it to be a good conclusion. And, of course, I loved the descriptions of the yarn shop!

Have you found that Coronavirus has changed the types of books you want to read? Has it increased or decreased your reading time?

One comment

  1. An interesting selection!
    I haven’t picked up The Testaments yet. I did Handmaid’s Tale for A-level English so still have something of a reaction to it.
    My lockdown reading began by retreating into other worlds. I re-read a shelf-full of old favourites, which I found very calming. The Servant of the Empire Trilogy by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurtz is a frequent comfort read. I tend to read in the evenings and over mealtimes if I am eating at different times to the others.
    At the moment I am balancing some Margery Allingham short detective stories with a re-read of Stephen King’s The Stand. This may or may not be a good idea as it is about a pandemic. I thought it would be interesting to read it with an eye to comparing it to what is happening now. Reassuringly, the plague is much worse in the book than it seems to be in real life.
    I’ve also been reading a lot to J. We are working our way through the Murder Most Unladylike series by Robin Stevens. Currently on book 5.


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