Another month, another currently-reading list. This month I found myself slipping between contemporary fiction and leaning back on my classic fiction habits like a worn-out crutch.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
What a quietly extraordinary book this is. I have been wanting to read The Bell Jar for as long as I remember so when I found myself with a particularly long wait time between my order date and delivery date for Human Acts, it found its way off my shelf and onto my bedside table. It was superb; gentle but fierce and so agonisingly far ahead of its own time.
Human Acts by Han Kang
After being so struck by the quiet beauty and force of The Vegetarian I felt I had to try another of Han Kang’s books so I found myself Human Acts. This book was a difficult read. I won’t lie. Human Acts tells the stories of a group of survivors and victims, related through the 1980 Gwangju uprising in South Korea. It’s beautiful, violent and confronting. There were several points where I had to put the book down because I simply couldn’t stomach that much sadness and slaughter in a single sitting. While this is not, personally, how I prefer my books it is, undoubtedly, a testament to the raw power of Kang’s work.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Wow, what a book! And what a tonal shift away from Human Acts. In case you couldn’t tell, I needed to shelter myself a little and this was, in a way, the perfect book. This book has a small history in my family and not a happy one. My mother purchased it for my sisters, back in 2013 when it was first published, in yet another attempt to encourage her to take up reading. Having read it now, I realise it would have been the perfect book for her but after unwrapping it she never touched it again and its sat sadly on a shelf in our library until a week ago. Family history aside, this is an exceptional book: intelligent – sometimes too much so, teetering on the edge of celebrating its own cleverness and occasionally falling in – charming, funny and sad.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Virginia Wolf
Much like The Bell Jar this book needs little introduction and little explanation and has been sitting on my to-read list for years. I don’t know how I would even begin to review a book like this but I am 40 pages in and so far so good.