What I’ve Been Reading… April 2020

In April, I read a ridiculous amount. Sometimes, I’ll go for months and still be reading the same book, but in April, I seemed to be constantly reading, whether it was a paperback, kindle book or listening to an audiobook (and yes, that does count!)

I’d worked really hard in March – what with the school trip to Berlin and learning how to teach from home – and April brought me an extended, three-week Easter break, lovely weather for sitting in the garden, and lockdown rules meaning that I didn’t even have to feel guilty about sitting at home reading all day.

In fact, in April, everyone seemed to be reading. My social media feeds were full of people’s photos of their TBR (to be read) piles, posts about what books they were enjoying, and friends who didn’t normally have the time to read were suddenly finding that they had the time to pick up a good book, so I was in good company.

So this is what I read, and why I read it…

‘The Family Upstairs’ by Lisa Jewell

I won some book tokens in a competition in February, so I picked up a couple of paperbacks in WH Smith’s. I choose this one because I’d really enjoyed ‘The House We Grew Up In’.

‘The Family Upstairs’ is a great read. It’s full of dark characters, and dark interiors. I found myself warming to both.

‘The Green Mile’ by Stephen King

I’m a big fan of GoodReads, and I’ve been taking part in a monthly challenge on there, to read a book voted for by the challenge group members. April’s theme was green, and this is what we chose.

I love reading challenges because they encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and pick up books that you wouldn’t normally consider. I love ‘The Green Mile’ and whipped through it in a couple of days. The characters were fully believable but the storylines were both dark (you don’t get much darker than death row and the electric chair) and supernatural. It’s a strange combination, but it really works.

‘The Retreat’ by Mark Edwards

I read ‘Follow You Home’ a few months ago, and loved it – it was dark and full of twists; a really cleverly put together narrative with a fast pace and some great characters.

Unfortunately, I found ‘The Retreat’ much slower in pace, and featuring a series of coincidences that wouldn’t be out of place in a Dickens novel. Not for me.

‘The Collector’ by John Fowles

My friend and colleague, Gayle, lent me this book. We talk about books a lot at work and she knows my tastes well, so I was keen to read this one.

I’m not sure whether I enjoyed it or not, and it reminded me a lot of ‘Lolita’. An uncomfortable read, but it was certainly different. The author sets out the story of a prolonged kidnap – first from the kidnapper’s viewpoint, then the second half of the novel is from his victim’s. This does get a bit repetitive in places, but was an interesting take on the dual narrative format.

‘Our House’ by Lisa Candish

If I’m honest, I downloaded this audiobook because it popped up on my Audible store feed as a recommendation. The premise sounded interesting and didn’t make me suspect that it was going to feature any weirdo kidnappers like ‘The Collector’.

So what do you do when someone sells your own house without your knowledge? Well, probably not what happens in this book. Things get more and more unlikely as the novel goes on, and it lost my interest towards the end.

‘The Provincial Lady Goes Further’ by E.M. Delafield

The first of these books, ‘The Diary of a Provincial Lady’ was recommended by my friend Isobel, as she knows that I like Victoria Woolf, pointing out that both reflect upon the idea of women who write.

This is the second of the Provincial Lady diaries, written in the same telegraphic style that makes ‘The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole’ and ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ so popular. Georgina Sutton does a perfect reading, constantly sounding like the 1920s lady, despairing at those around her whilst trying to keep up appearances.

‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ by Agatha Christie

My father-in-law is a big fan of Agatha Christie. He recommended this one to me and it was a great choice.

I did not see ‘that’ ending coming, although clever old Poirot had it all figured out nicely.

‘Cigars of the Pharaoh’ by Herge

This is what happens when you tell your husband that you’ve read too many thrillers recently. He is proud owner of the whole Tintin collection and so I spent a happy hour giving my brain a rest by reading this.

The plot was darker than I expected, the illustrations were more racist and Tintin was a bit dimmer. Otherwise, it wasn’t too bad.

‘Village School’ by Miss Read

A few years ago, I signed up for an introductory trial from a company which would send you a lucky dip vintage Penguin book each month. I love these books, and you only had to pay the £1 p&p for the first month. This is what I got sent.

It’s been on my TBR pile for a while, and when I got sick of speed-reading thrillers, which weren’t really helping my corona-related anxiety, I decided to give it a go. It’s a lovely, gentle depiction of life in a village school, narrated by the teacher. A bit like an early version of Gervais Phinn. Rather charming and quaint.

‘The Fellowship of the Rings’ by J. R. R. Tolkien

I always thought that you could be either a Harry Potter fan or a Lord of the Rings fan, in much the same way as you can only really like either Star Wars or Star Trek (or neither if you have any sense). It turned out that I was wrong.

I’ve been putting off reading this for forever, mainly because I didn’t really enjoy ‘The Hobbit’. I decided to listen to it in April as I was whipping through books at an alarming rate so thought that I could probably tolerate this. I loved it though – lots of stunning description of the great outdoors, and the first part of an epic journey, was just what I needed to listen to during lockdown.

‘And Then There Were None’ by Agatha Christie

I listened to my second Agatha Christie this month. I was already aware of the story – and the solution – from TV adaptations, but a few of my students had shown an interest in it on GoodReads so I thought that I’d read it to show them a little encouragement.

It’s a famous classic for a reason – only Agatha Christie could have dreamt this one up!

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