It’s almost half way through the year already, and I thought that now would be an excellent time to review the books I’ve read so far in 2022. I haven’t done as much reading this year as I did in 2021. This is mainly down to the pandemic easing, and returning to working in the office and being very busy. Additionally, as you’ll see from the books listed below, I tackled some book beasts in winter/spring! Some of these chunky and convoluted books took me a long time to get through. More than once my momentum slowed as I became disinterested in what I was reading. Conversely, I’ve read some absolutely fantastic books already in 2022, and I can’t wait to share and recommend them to you! Without further ado, here are the books that I’ve read from the start of January to the end of May 2022.
By Ash, Oak and Thorn by Melissa Harrison
Lucy bought me this book for my birthday, without realising that it is a children’s middle grade book. She thoughtfully looked on my Goodreads to see what was on my “want to read” list and picked it out for me. Well, I absolutely loved this book! It was so cute, and has such important messages about friendship, and protecting the environment. If you’ve got kids, then I very much recommend you get it for them to either read independently, or for you to read to them. Essentially, the book follows three small creatures who are guardians of nature. When their home is destroyed, they set out on an adventure in search of more of their kind, and to find ways of adapting to their changing world. Plus, isn’t this cover stunning?!
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Where do I begin with Jane Eyre? This is one of those books that I felt like I had already read because I know the story so well. I love the 1990s film adaptation with Anna Paquin, and thought that the book would be much the same. But, I can see now that the film adaptation was heavily edited to suit a modern audience. I very much enjoyed Jane’s story in and of itself. By this I mean that I empathized with her difficult circumstances and her horrific time living with her aunt and at Lowood. Bronte’s writing style is wonderfully rich and pleasant to read; it’s a classic for a reason.
My main problem with this book is that to this day it is painted as a romance. Mr Rochester is romanticized as some sort of Victorian “bad boy” that can be tamed and fixed. Let me get on my feminist soap box for a moment. Edward Rochester is nothing more than a gaslighting abuser. He is mean and manipulative and dishonest; this is not an aspirational romance!
The examples are countless, but in one instance of gaslighting, Jane is recounting her nightmare to Edward. She is confiding in him that she believes a stranger is entering her room while she sleeps. Edwards response is, “The creature of an over-stimulated brain: that is certain. I must be careful of you, my treasure: nerves like yours were not made for rough handling”. Of course, this was very much the conventional perception of women and their supposed delicate constitutions and mental capacities at the time. Nonetheless, I question why we continue to put Jane Eyre on a pedestal as a classic romance. Controversially, I wish Jane hadn’t settled for Edward.
The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
I didn’t enjoy this sequel as much as the first book, The Thursday Murder Club (see review here), but it was still entertaining. We read this in our work book club, and the consensus appears to be that we all admire the way in which Richard Osman brings characters to life. Thus, if you enjoy a character-driven novel over plot, then you’ll most like enjoy Osman’s accessible and charming writing style.
Possession by A.S. Byatt
Ugh. This book was so long and there was SO MUCH POETRY. I joined the Oxford University alumni book club, and this was the first book I read as part of their virtual group. Possession has two timelines, one which centres on two academics researching two Victorian poets. Secondly, there is an historical timeline about the poets and how the poetry and romance came to be. While I somewhat enjoyed the modern timeline, I just didn’t get on with the historical sections. I was not alone in my dislike for the tedious letters and poetry interspersed throughout this book, as some comments from other book club members stated the same.
I would argue that Possession is very much a book of its time and has not become timeless. It has a lot of ideas and concepts related to third wave feminism in terms of the academic narrative, which now feels out of place. This is the first book in a long time where I skipped sections and almost DNFd.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I read this book when I was sick, and it’s a perfect example of right book for the right mood; I absolutely devoured it! The main character Eleanor was fantastically awkward and initially comes off as uncomfortably unappealing. However, I quickly developed compassion and empathy towards her as I found out about her past. I would 100% recommend this book and it’s a contender for my favourite book of the year.
The Official Highway Code
It does what it says on the tin. I can’t really rate this book, other than to say it has necessary and useful information about driving safely in England and not breaking the law. I don’t think I would have passed my theory test without reading it, so it’s definitely recommended reading if you need to take a driving test in England.
The Paris Bookseller by Kerri Maher
I also read this book for my work book club, and we all found it a bit dull. The Paris Bookseller is a biographical historical fiction about Sylvia Beach. Beach owned the innovative English language bookshop Shakespeare and Company, as well as publishing James Joyce. It has a great premise and was full of potential for bringing 1930s Paris to life, but it fell flat. Some of the feedback from book club was that there was too much name dropping, and glossing over opportunities to elaborate on relationships. The best comparison I can give for this novel is when you have a film adaptation that flops. The movie can have a star-studded cast, massive budget, and great story, but if the writing is sub-par then it’s not going to succeed.
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
The Shipping News follows Quoyle and his family as they relocate from the US to their ancestral home in rural Newfoundland. Quoyle is the epitome of pathetic and self-deprecating, but you can’t help but fall in love with his character (and many others). This book was sad, funny and mesmerizing, with hints of folklore and maybe even the supernatural. I liked that Proulx didn’t shy away from depicting Newfoundland’s poverty and hardship, while capturing its charm and natural beauty. Proulx has an unusual writing style with sentence fragments which can sometimes make the flow halting. Nonetheless, she does such a beautiful job writing characters that I found myself overlooking the style peculiarities.
The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
This is a classic sci-fi and one of the first of it’s kind in terms of climate fiction and eluding to climate change. Published in the 1960s, Ballard’s story follows a scientist named Robert Kerans who is living in what used to be London, but is now tropical lagoons infested with giant iguanas, insects, and scorching temperatures. I found the writing style overly-descriptive, though the premise and pace of the novel partially compensated for the tedious descriptions.
However, what I couldn’t overlook were the out-dated depictions of women and Black people. The only female character (Beatrice) was hyper-sexualised, and really had little part in the book other than a point of sexual objectification. The racist terminology used to describe some of the characters was unsettling, and a stark reminder of the era in which the book was written. Because I couldn’t overlook these out-dated characterizations, I wouldn’t recommend this book if you are reading just for fun.
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I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on books I’ve read so far in 2022. If you did, I’d be grateful if you could like this post and leave a comment about what you’re currently reading or have read so far in 2022!