April was a productive month when it comes to reading as I finished seven books. To be fair though, most of them were on the short side with the exception of Angelika Schrobsdorff's Hombres. One of the other books I read was Jacqueline Woodson's Red At The Bone, my April choice at Rare Birds Book Club. I also picked up the classics Animal Farm and The Bell Jar this month. I felt slightly disappointed by only one of the seven books, while the others were all great.
Animal Farm - George Orwell ⭐⭐⭐⭐
All animals are equal, but some animal are more equal than others
A couple of months ago I read 1984 by George Orwell and I was shocked how we currently live in a world with a lot of similarities to that book. That dystopian novel was written in the 1940s in which Orwell envisions the world in the 1980s. I picked up Animal Farm after reading some good things about it. The book is about a group of animals who take control of the farm they live on, kicking out their (human) farmer. In the beginning the animals decide everyone will be equal and have the same rights. Not long after, though, two pigs disagree over how things are going and try to gather the support of the other animals. One of them seizes control by force and ends up a totalitarian dictator. The book is a satire of the Russian revolution of 1917 and the early years of the Soviet Union, but again I can see some similarities to how politics is done these days. I read the digital version of both 1984 and Animal Farm, but I have since bought the physical version as I'm sure I will reread them again.
Hotel Silencio - Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I read the Spanish version of this book by Icelandic author Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir. The book is about a divorced, lonely man of almost fifty, who has just found out that his daughter is not his biological child. Feeling he has no more purpose in life he decides to take his own life. As he doesn't want his daughter to find his body, he packs up a toolbox and books a hotel in a country ravaged by war. Once there, he slowly forms a friendship with the owners of the hotel and is asked to use his toolbox to fix things in the hotel and in the homes of other locals. This book reminded me a lot of A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Both stories are about men contemplating suicide who are eventually drawn back into society, written with a lot of humor. I would definitely recommend reading either one of those, and believe it or not, but they are actually light reads because of the dark humor it entails.
The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath ⭐⭐⭐⭐
I picked up this book as I always want to learn more about mental health. In the The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath mirrors her own struggles with mental illness in the main character. The story follows a young woman who ends up having a mental breakdown leading to several suicide attempts. After being admitted to a mental institute, she receives electric shock therapy (anaesthesia free at first) which eventually lifts the metaphorical bell jar in which she felt trapped. This book is a quick, interesting read and while it was written in the 1960s, it's still very relevant.
Hombres - Angelika Schrobsdorff ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
My second Spanish read of the month, but this time by German author Angelika Schrobsdorff. I previously read You Are Not Like Other Mothers in Dutch by the same writer, which at times felt like it was written by a child. I already had the suspicion this could have been due to the Dutch translation of the book, and after reading Hombres I'm pretty sure that this was the issue. This time I didn't have any problems with the writing and I absolutely loved reading it. The autobiographical book is about a young woman, who grew up during the war, and the men who shaped her life: her first love, an Englishman, an American officer, a film director and a journalist. The protagonist experienced the end of the war as a refugee in Bulgaria and has then trouble finding her place in the world as a young woman. During the war she was condemned for having a Jewish mother, while in the after days of the war she feels she is being punished for her German heritage. The protagonist uses the men in her life to get what she wants, but ends up being unhappy anyways. I had to take my time reading this book, but it is nevertheless one of my favourites.
Red At The Bone - Jacqueline Woodson ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Jacqueline Woodson's Red At The Bone was my April choice at Rare Birds Book Club. The book covers the stories of three generations of a family which centres around Iris, who had her daughter Melody at the age of 16. The book starts with a 16-year-old Melody, but then the story goes back and forth in time covering the stories of her parents and grandparents. One of the main themes in the book is parenthood, and in particular motherhood. Jacqueline Woodson's poetic style of writing was a beautiful surprise. I didn't expect to like this kind of style of writing as much as I did. The last couple of chapters felt a little bit rushed to me, though. It appeared like the author was bored and wanted to finish the book. I wanted to continue reading about Iris and Melody. Still, one of my Rare Birds favourites!
Evening In Paradise: More Stories - Lucia Berlin ⭐⭐⭐
One of my favourite books I read last year was Lucia Berlin's A Manual For Cleaning Women, a perfect collection of short stories. Evening In Paradise is an attempt to match the success of that book, however, this felt a little forced. The book did contain a couple of good stories, but there were also some that I didn't connect with at all. The characters were confusing at times, something I didn't experience in the other book. Even though Lucia Berlin's writing style was exceptional again, this one gave me some mixed feelings.
The Gifts Of Imperfection - Brené Brown ⭐⭐⭐⭐
After watching Brené Brown's Netflix special The Call To Courage and one of her TED talks, I really wanted to pick up one of her books. Brown is a researcher who studies shame, courage, vulnerability and empathy, and has published several books on these topics. The Gifts Of Imperfection explores how to cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection to embrace your imperfections and to recognize that you are enough. As I'm going through that process myself right now, I found Brené Browns views and wisdom very interesting.