Jun 252021
Books I Read in Spring 2021

It was a mixed bag for reading this spring; some books are contenders for new favourites, and others left me annoyed and deflated. I probably should have tried to read more non-fiction. However, I was looking for escapism to get me through the dreary wet weather. I also didn’t read anything off my TBR for 2021, which you can find here: Ten Books I Plan to Read in 2021. Nonetheless, I’m pleased that I was able to read consistently throughout April and May. I also squeezed in a couple of books this month despite the chaos of exam season. Here are the books I read in Spring 2021!

In case you missed it, find out what I read in winter: Books I Read in Winter 2021

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

This was our book club pick for April. Our group was unanimous in our dislike of Leave the World Behind, which is marketed as a dystopian thriller. However, the dystopia hasn’t actually come into being, nor do you find out how the world ends. Alam left too many questions unanswered, and built up a lot of tension between characters, which never went anywhere. Where this book succeeded is in its social commentary on race and class in the US. In contrast, the aspect I disliked the most was the writing style. Alam’s writing is bordering on pretentious, and is almost as if he used a thesaurus to make his writing unnecessarily complicated. His use of sexual language was unnecessary, and off-putting when in relation to the child characters. It was depressing and disappointing.

Leave the World Behind

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn

I absolutely adored this book! Fun fact, it was the first book I borrowed via the Libby app through my local library. My preference is still reading physical books. Although, it’s a nice option to switch to reading e-books on my tablet from time-to-time. I have wanted to read The Salt Path for a few years, but always put it off because the themes of this memoir include terminal illness and homelessness. I thought it would be a bit heavy going. There were certainly some gut-wrenching moments as Winn describes her and her husband Moth coming to terms with Moth’s illness, and their financial ruin. Despite this, so many moments in this book were absolutely beautiful, and Winn’s writing is charmingly funny.

With nothing else to loose, this couple decide to walk the South West Coast Path, which goes from Somerset to Devon in England. I’ve been to a few of the locations mentioned in the book, and I found the depictions of the natural environment and busy seaside villages nostalgic. I wrote more about The Salt Path in Spring Favourites and Mental Health 2021.

The Salt Path

Life in the UK Test Handbook

The title says it all. A necessary step in my UK citizenship process is taking the Life in the UK test this summer. The handbook and study guides are useful for understanding basic customs and laws. However, the crammed history section with sweeping generalizations and political correctness makes my historian’s toes curl. Also, I clearly know very little about sport, art, and Wales.

There’s Something In the Water: Environmental Racism in Indigenous and Black Communities by Ingrid R.G. Waldron

There's Something in the Water

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
Out of all the books I read in spring 2021, I think about Migrations the most.

Read the reviews for both books here: Reading to Save the Planet: Books on Climate Change

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

I’ve been trying to read more Canadian literature, and thought I would give this a go since I love The English Patient. A YouTuber (Book Tuber) I follow described Ondaatje’s writing as “highfalutin”, and I would agree. His writing style and storytelling makes me think of visiting an art gallery where you look at the painting and think “I know this shows talent, but it’s very arty and I don’t quite get it”.

To illustrate this point, I love that my used copy was previously owned by someone learning English as a second language who underlined words they didn’t understand. Ondaatje uses rich vocabulary so I think this would have been a challenging book to read with limited English. One unfortunate lost in translation moment was a passionate love scene which contained the word “nudges”. This misguided person included marginalia, and beside nudges wrote “chicken nuggets”. Confusingly erotic…

Leaving aside the language, this historical fiction set in 1930s Toronto is an impressive portrayal of early industry and the working classes with their immigrant heritage. It has a bit of everything in it from romance, to mystery, and was thoroughly enjoyable. My only dislike was the formatting of the dialogue, which I found confusing to follow. A 4/5 stars from me!

In the Skin of a Lion

Harvest by Jim Crace

It’s been a long time since a book made me angry, and Harvest had the added bonus of being frustratingly tedious. The story is set in England during the start of the enclosure acts, so roughly the 1600s, though it doesn’t specify. It is told from the perspective of the protagonist, Walter Thirsk, a villager and the Master’s confidant. The novel takes place over a fairly short period of time and recounts how the village is turned up-side down during harvest time. In addition to some outsiders arriving to the village, a surveyor also visits to map the village lands in preparation for a shift from crops to sheep.

Beforehand, I didn’t know what this novel was about and presumed it was dystopian contemporary fiction, given that the synopsis described a crop failure. What added to this miss-representation was the cover of my particular edition. It has an artistically designed image of farmers working in the fields, but a farmer is clearly wearing a baseball cap… not exactly historically accurate.

My biggest disappointment with Harvest was the representation of women (or lack thereof). Women are only mentioned as minor characters. When women are included, the writing is overly sexualised. There are several references to abuse, and in a few places they were described as animals. Even the antagonist, who is a strange woman presumed to be a witch, is portrayed as a sexual object, with allusions to attempted rape. Perhaps Crace was simply trying to write in a style reminiscent of the treatment of women at that time, but it wasn’t done tastefully. This book is fairly divided in terms of reviews. Some people loved it and others were spectacularly disappointed; I would be in the latter camp with a 2/5 star rating.


The Jade Peony by Wayson Choy

Last, but certainly not least, I read The Jade Peony. I very much enjoyed this novel! It gave me greater insight into the racial tensions in Vancouver during the Second World War, particularly between the Chinese and Japanese communities. The book’s organisation into three parts featuring Jook-Liang (young sister), Jung-Sum (middle brother), and Seek-Lung (youngest brother) worked well to convey the family’s story. I connected with the characters, and my favourite was definitely the grandmother (Poh-Poh). If you like historical fiction, and specifically narratives which feature navigating different cultures and diaspora/immigrant identity, then I’m sure you’ll love Choy’s work.

The Jade Peony

There you have it, the books I read in spring 2021. What was your favourite book that you read this spring, and what are you looking forward to reading next? If you enjoy bookish content, I would really appreciate it if you could leave a comment and subscribe – it helps me know what type of posts to write for you!

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