February Reads

Here are my five favourite reads from February:

A Swim in a Pond in the Rain – George Saunders

Hardly anyone is lucky enough to get a place to study on the MFA Creative Writing at Syracuse, which is where George Saunders teaches a module on the Russian greats. However, this book is the next best thing. Saunders takes a selection of his favourite short stories by Russian greats such as Chekhov and Tolstoy and lets us read them alongside him. Why are they still taught today? What can we learn about the art of short story writing from men who died over a century ago? Perfect for anyone wanting to learn more about this form of writing.

Asking for a Friend – Andi Osho

The perfect uplifting novel if you’re struggling to read through the end of this lockdown. A sort of rom com, though it’s more about the friendship if I’m honest (which I’m more than happy about!). Jemima, Meagan and Simi are all at different stages of their lives but they have one thing in common: they’re all single. Their solution is to change the rules – instead of relying on dating apps, they’re going to ask men out in person. But only for each other. Obviously things don’t go to plan…

Exhalation – Ted Chiang

This collection of short stories is billed as sci-fi for people who don’t like sci-fi. Oh, and Barack Obama rates it! As in any collection, I loved some of the stories and found a couple less successful. The stories that were very science-oriented tended to lose me a little just because it’s not necessarily my thing, a personal preference more than anything else. My favourite of the stories is the first, The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate, a very successful take on the Arabian Nights with a sci-fi slant.

Real Life – Brandon Taylor

I thought that I wouldn’t like this book but instead I fell in love with it. A US campus novel set over a single weekend, this is one of those novels where it feels as though both nothing and also something monumental has happened. Wallace is a Black, gay grad student at a Midwestern university. His background is a world away from his friends and colleagues and although he has allies, he stays emotionally distant from them.  I found it a stunning read. The way Taylor discusses race and sexuality from Wallace’s point of view is on point and made me analyse my own discussions with friends on these issues. Highly recommended.

She Came to Stay – Eleni Kyriacou

Just out in paperback, this debut is perfect if you’re looking for a dark and atmospheric tale set in 1950s Soho. Dina Demetriou has just arrived in London from Cyprus, looking for a new life along with her brother Peter. Things start to look up when she lands a job as a seamstress at the Pelican Revue, a seedy Soho club, but one where she can use her passion for fashion and skill with a needle. It’s at the Pelican that she meets Bebba, a fellow Greek Cypriot. But Bebba has a dark secret and is about to involve Dina in her murky past… A perfect page-turner.

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