Welcome to my new style monthly bookish post; where I choose a small selection of the books I have been reading recently and recommend them. Simple! If you are looking for inspiration on the next book to read, then scroll down. I’m sure something will grab your interest.
The Foundling – Stacey Halls
‘A mother’s love knows no bounds’ – this is historical fiction which I was initially dubious about picking up, having read Stacey Hall’s debut novel The Familiars and finding it fell a little flat. But the premise of The Foundling intrigued me enough that I wanted to give it a go. Set in London, 1754 we meet Bess Bright, a young woman who finds herself unwed and pregnant. With few other options, Bess must take her baby to London’s Foundling Hospital where she hopes she will be one of the ‘lucky’ children accepted into their care. It’s estimated that around 1000 babies were abandoned every year by parents who either were unable to care for them due to poverty, or perhaps similar to our main character here, due to their illegitimacy.
Bess leaves a token with her daughter, promising that one day she will return. When that day comes, some 6 years later, Bess does indeed return to the Foundling Hospital only to be told that she has already collected her daughter…the day after she dropped her off. And so our story unfolds.
This is an easy book to read with an interesting premise; our characters are fully formed and flawed and although it lacks some of the depth you would typically expect from this genre, it makes for it a quick read.
She Who Became The Sun – Shelley Parker-Chan
If you follow me on any of my social media platforms you will no doubt know that this book wasn’t my favourite. However, I do believe it will have an audience out there. It just wasn’t me!
Marketed as Mulan meets The Song of Achilles, She Who Became The Sun is set in 1345 in China, which is under harsh Mongol rule. In a poverty-stricken farming village, two children visit a fortune teller. The boy is told that in his future lies greatness but the girl is told to expect…nothingness. However, when the boy dies unexpectedly, the girl decides to take his fate as her own. From poverty, to a monastery, to rising through the ranks of the growing Chinese rebellion, we follow Zhu Chongba as they unrelentingly seek the future they have claimed as their own.
The thing I didn’t enjoy about this book was the rapid progression of the plot and the character’s story arcs. I felt as though we skipped through the book without the depth I needed in order to connect (and therefore invest in) with the characters. I can see all that this book is trying to be and all that it wants to do and I think if you like fast-moving stories with dark elements then this is a book you will thoroughly enjoy. Zhu Chongba is very much walking the line between morally grey and outright villain but they do it unrepentantly and I think against the exotic backdrop, this story will appeal to many.
The Martian – Andy Weir
I love a good book to movie adaptation and I was excited to see how The Martian would stack up. If you are not familiar this is a sci-fi book in which our main character, Mark Watney, is left on Mars after a failed mission. He is presumed dead…only that isn’t true! This is very much Mark’s survival and desire to live until he is rescued on a planet that is hostile and, frankly, deadly. There are moments of humour, it is heart-warming and interesting but a warning – this book does also cause a degree of anxiety as seemingly everything Mark does ends in an explosion. Will he, or will he not survive?!
The movie was also good, although I disagreed with some of the changes they decided to make. There is a lot of maths and science in the book which I found myself skim-reading but seeing it on the screen helped me to visualise. I’d almost recommend watching the movie and then reading the book. Something I hardly ever do.
The Prison Doctor – Dr Amanda Brown
This non-fiction memoir takes us through Dr Brown’s decision to leave her successful GP practice and begin working in some of Britain’s most notorious prisons. After changes to the way in which doctors were expected to practice medicine leaves Dr Brown feeling disillusioned, she decided to walk away from her GP surgery and begin again. Her journey into the prison system is interesting and eye-opening; with a number of challenges along the way.
It is clear from the outset that Dr Brown isn’t an author but I found this lent an authenticity to the stories she was telling which examined the sad reasons people become trapped within the prison system, how they may attempt to break the cycle and how for some, it is a lifestyle choice. I thought it very well executed and enlightening and it has definitely peaked my interest in other books on this topic. For those who may be slightly squeamish, there is nothing too graphic contained within the pages either.