Somehow, it’s already February, which means it’s time for a monthly reading recap. I got through four more books this month, admittedly quite short, with one being a poetry collection. Overall, really solid month.
First off, I read The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan.
I felt conflicted about my rating for this. I’d probably settle it more around 3½ stars. Reason being, that whilst I loved the style and imagery, the unraveling of it all was a little… bizarre. And not entirely in a good way. Within the first chapter, I was all kinds of uncomfortable and I remember wondering if that the opening chapters were this unsettling, what on earth was the rest of the story going to turn out like? Apparently, not much. The tension built, peaked, and stopped. There was nothing left past the first two chapters that hadn’t already struck me. Whilst it wasn’t surprising that my investment in the characters was limited, given the subject, it gave no favors because the rest of the narrative needed that kind of support. Without a single character to root for, any stakes of discovery did not save the pacing. A large part of me wished details had been weaved in throughout the book. Overall, atmospheric, haunting, but ultimately evoked little from me aside from initial shock and, later, a disconnected sort of appreciation.
Next up, is Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany.
This was actually a book club read I picked up on brief notice, and I will say I’m glad I jumped on board. It was a fascinating read, outside of my usual genre choice, and a book I’d highly recommend you give a go for a variety of reasons. To get it out of the way, I did initially struggle. Whilst the world wasn’t dropped onto the reader in hefty monologues, some of the subjects were, and I couldn’t help but feel some disconnect from the story for a good while because of this. Also, in terms of plot, I hate to say it but it’s rather thin in some areas. The discourse surrounding it seems to mask that fact for a while. Regardless, I did very much enjoy this. It feels bizarrely modern for its time both in language and content. The prose was beautiful and there’s a particular scene regarding a childhood memory that’s so poignant and gorgeous in its unraveling I nearly got goosebumps. It’s one of those reads where it’s not perfect but somehow draws you in, right to a point where it might as well be.
Onto The Wired City by Yolanda Sfetsos.
I had similar feelings about this work as I had to Madeleine’s novella The Vine That Ate The Starlet, in that it was such a joy to read I can hardly stand how short it was. Again, not a genre I dip into often, but I devoured this story in what may as well have been one sitting. The scene-setting throughout the story is brilliant, and the story needs no nudging before it set a mystery into motion, and we’re on our way. The world-building is clear and well managed. In terms of tension and suspense, it was held to a high level throughout without falling into the trap of appearing hectic. And some of the imagery in this? Beautiful! Some great juxtaposition with advanced technology in states of disrepair, both in the tech and the environment. Some of the more action-led scenes felt like a cinematic cut scene. Great fun. The reason I shaved a star off? A couple of nitpicks. There is a feline character introduced that I honestly can’t say was given to us for a reason, to the point I felt like I’m missing something. As well, I’d have liked a bit more exploration of the concept of humanity in a world of androids. The idea of what it means to be human was brief in its introduction and examination. With that, the characters, regardless of wear and tear and notions of scrapyards, ended up feeling somewhat invincible. I think I was just after a bit more engagement with the cast. But overall, nifty, fun, fast-paced little read!
Finally, Vita Nova by Louise Glück.
Poetry collections I find so difficult to evaluate, for obvious reasons. This was not a terrible collection, far from it, but did not quite strike a chord with me as other poets have. I am tempted to pick up something else by Glück in the future, however. But my main gripe with this collection is the fact that a few of these were forgettable and near melded to each other, and I can’t particularly recall many that really hit me or struck a chord as other poems have before. But that doesn’t detract that there was plenty I enjoyed and resonate with. Particularly fond of Vita Nova I, Aubade, The Open Grave, Formaggio, Descent to the Valley, The Garment, Condo, Earthly Terror, and Ellsworth Avenue. There’s a feeling for me wherein I felt the presence of something more hiding within this collection, but ultimately, I was content enough not to have found it.
Here’s to what March may bring.