2014 was a year of reading women, and knowing me 2015 won't be any different! I'm kicking off the list with the books I read over the Christmas break, and then 2015 started with The Last Tycoon by F Scott Fitzgerald...
Don't forget, if you are a bookworm you can read my books too:
Greta and Boris: A Daring Rescue
The Boys on the Bus
The Love Affairs of Nathanial P, Adelle Waldman (new): I really enjoyed this book, I had such a reaction to the charisma and selfishness and immaturity of NP which was really refreshing.
Untitled for Barbara Loden, Nathalie Leger (new): This isn't out yet but is really an extraordinary book - part biog, part memoir, part novel, part study. Highly, highly recommended.
Liberty Silk, Kate Beaufoy (new): Very enjoyable read set in early 20s, 1940s and 1960s - covering three generations of extraordinary women.
Tender is the Night, F Scott Fitzgerald (new kind of, I hadn't read the 1934 version before): Yeah, you know how good this is!
The Last Tycoon, F Scott Fitzgerald (new): It's unfinished! It's so sad that it's unfinished. Because you know it would have been wonderful.
The Summer without Men, Siri Hustvedt (new): A fantastic, precise and emotional novel that has a brilliant section on how utterly shit neurosexism is - as well as gorgeous allusions and discussions about books, science, philosophy and heart.
Persuasion, Jane Austen (re read): One of the best.
Paris France, Gertrude Stein (re read): Her memoir of Paris and France, written in 1939 and published the day the Germans invaded the city.
The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook (new): I've been reading this off and on for a year, it's Alice's memoir and it's packed with delicious recipes including the Veal Marengo I made last night (although swapped veal for pork).
A Place of Greater Safety, Hilary Mantel (re read): It's one of my favourite books. It's so vivid. You believe you are there, at the corner of the table, rolling your eyes at Camille as Danton slaps you on the back.
The Innocent Libertine, Colette (new): It's an interesting read this one, because she kind of disowned it and was under pressure when she wrote it. It's no Claudine but all the trademark Colette is there.
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel (re-read) and Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel (re-read): I wanted to revisit these two ready for/overlapping the TV series.
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, Xiaoluo Guo, (new): really loved how clever this book was with language and the way the language changed in it. Very exciting.
The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood (re read): I hadn't read this for a while and it is such a perfectly paced, beautifully timed and wonderfully revealed novel. Even though I cried a lot reading it.
Claudine in Paris, Colette (re read): My favourite.
The Robber Bride, Margaret Atwood (re read): I always feel it's such a good companion piece to Cat's Eye - the one the cruelty of girls, the second of women. And also a book that is about male violence in many ways. (BTW - who has my copy of Cat's Eye? & my copy of Oryx and Crake?)
Claudine at School, Colette (re read): comfort.
The Edible Woman, Margaret Atwood (re read): Yes, rather in an Atwood/Colette loop right now! I adore this book.
The Vagina: A Literary and Cultural History, Emma Rees (new): provocative and thought provoking with lots of cunts!
The End of Equality, Beatrix Campbell (new): Concise and powerful, this book looks at the state of gender inequality today
Mrs Harris goes to Paris and Mrs Harris goes to New York, Paul Gallico (new): years ago I saw the film with Angela Lansbury and it seemed like it was a figment of my imagination. And then I found this book!
Miss Pettigrew lives for a Day, Winifred Watson, (re read): gorgeous escapism
The Lady in the Tower, Alison Weir (re read): after watching Wolf Hall I had a fancy to revisit Weir's historical analysis of Boleyn's last days
Night and Day, Virginia Woolf (new): for some reason I never read this book when I was studying Woolf at uni - what an error. It's brilliant, I love it.
Frenchman's Creek, Daphne Du Maurier (re read): Because this book is love.
To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf (re read): I'm so so loving revisiting Woolf as a grown up. I loved her as a student but there is something different reading her now. It's really striking how modern, how daring, how experimental she was. I knew it, but I don't think I fully appreciated it.
Orlando, Virginia Woolf (re read): It's so funny! I've always loved how funny it is. And it's just one incredible sexy sensual ode to Vita. Imagine - such love!
Under Milk Wood, Dylan Thomas (re read): I read it in the bath on Easter Sunday. TMI? What I think I love best about this play is how intensely rich the imagery is whilst at the same time being certainly simple and exact.
Lady of the Rivers, Philippa Gregory (re read): I like this best of the Cousins' War series.
The Paris Wife, Paula McClain (re read): In preparation for my Paris trip next week!
Leonora, Elena Poniatowska, trans Amanda Hopkinson (new): reading this now and it is an extraordinarily vivid and strange novel about an extraordinarily vivid and strange woman (wonderfully strange).
How to be Awesome, Hadley Freeman (re read): I last read this on the train to Paris and last weekend I read it on the train to Paris again.
How to be a Heroine, Samantha Ellis (re read): I last read this when I was tracking down my heroines in Paris last year, and I re read it tracking down my heroines in Paris again this year.
Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen (re read): such a joy to read this again! So long since I have - it's so funny and clever. I love it.
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte (re read): I love Wuthering Heights but I think I am Team Jane nevertheless.
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway (re read): I was in Paris after all.
Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway (re read): His best, in my opinion.
I am China, Xiaolu Guo (new): A really brilliant book that unfolds the story so carefully and is so real. Reminded me a bit of Possession with its structure.
Down with the Royals, Joan Smith (new): Impeccably researched and brilliantly angry, a rousing call for republicanism!
Darkmans, Nicola Barker (new): just started reading this, very intense and draws you right in with the uncertainty of it all.
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (re read): the annual re read!
Life moves pretty fast: the lessons we learned from eighties moves (and why we don't learn them from movies anymore), Hadley Freeman (new): Love love love Hadley's new book! She is a superstar! The Princess Bride! Back to the Future! Ghostbusters!
Do It Like A Woman and Change the World, Caroline Criado-Perez (new): Fantastic inspiring read about fantastic inspiring women by a fantastic inspiring woman.
The Cazalet Chronicles (all 4), Elizabeth Jane Howard (re read): Because I love them. Like a nice big chocolate bar of a book. With lots of weepy moments.
Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf (re read): Her best, in my view. It's spectacular, it really is.
GAH! I stopped updating this and now I can't quite remember if I've missed some books out. So here's some things I have definitely read recently...I don't think I've missed anything.
The Pure and the Impure, Colette (re read): Long time since I read this, her exploration of gay, lesbian and bisexual life in Paris and beyond. Particularly interesting chapter on the Ladies of Llangollen. With an intro from Janet Flanner - such joy!
The brief and wondrous life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz (new): I am ambivalent.
Selected Writings of Gertrude Stein, Gertrude Stein (both new and re read): I haven't read all of this. Some re-visiting (Autobiog, Tender Buttons), some new (extracts from Making of Americans - been so scared of it but wow oh wow I don't understand it in my brain but I understand it in my heart and in my gut).
Claudine in Paris, Colette (re read): I couldn't sleep and I thought reading Making of Americans would be too much so I picked this up. It didn't help me sleep but it's always a treat.
Reading Claudine in Paris then led to reading Claudine Married, Claudine and Annie, and Claudine at School...all in my 15 year old collection which is as well-loved as Claudine's Balzac.
The Other One, Colette (new): I picked this up thinking it was short stories and it turned out to be a short but perfectly formed novel about friendship and infidelity. Brilliant Colette.
Aha! You know I said I hadn't updated this for a while and couldn't remember what I had read? I can't believe I forgot the Sammy Steward books!
Parisian Lives, Samuel Steward (new): A sexy rollicking read with a shocking conclusion in the gay world of 1930s Paris, featuring appearances from Gertrude and Alice.
The Caravaggio Shawl, Samuel Steward (new): It's a murder mystery where Gertrude and Alice are detectives!!! It's amazing. The front cover is AMAZING.
The Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hoffman (new): Beautiful descriptions of the Caribbean and an intriguing story but frustrating in parts - there were storylines that I wanted to explore further that were sort of unfinished.
The Neapolitan Novels 1-3, Elena Ferrante (new): Oh my goodness they're so amazing! Read my review here.
Retreat from Love, Colette (new): You know something strange? I've had this book for like, what 14 years? And never read it. Shameful. It's lush. Man, the way Colette writes nature. Just want to dive in to her world.
Chance Acquaintances/Julie de Carneilhein, Colette (new): Another one. Owned it for years! I wasn't mad on the latter, but loved the former, again the descriptions of the mountains around Hotel des Bains. Love, love, love Colette!
The Vagabond, Colette (re read): The first Colette book I ever read and really, my favourite. It's different reading it as an adult. It's so sensitive, and funny, and brutally honest.
My Apprenticeships, Colette (re read): This is a memoir of her first marriage, which is really an exploration of an abusive marriage - many red flags. She escaped. That's the thing. She escaped.
Okay publishers, what's going on here? Why are so many Colette books out of print? Sort it out!
Fierce Attachments, Vivian Gornick (new): Why one should always read random articles in the Paris Review. How else would I have discovered this memoir of her relationship with her mother? Written fiercely, with clear sighted passion and rage.
Story of the Lost Child, Elena Ferrante (new): It's over. The series is over. I need a new series, but can anything be better than this?
Claudine's House, Colette (new): Another Colette book I've had knocking around and then never actually read. It's really rich, evocative, about childhood and a bit about motherhood. Plus a foreword from Doris Lessing, which is always nice.
Then I read some PG Wodehouse stories from World of Jeeves.
The Robber Bride, Margaret Atwood (re read): God she's good. I never, ever get bored of this book. I was reading the copy that Lev gave to me, which I lost, and then re-found.
Then I had a tantrum because my life is in boxes and I couldn't find my copy of The Blind Assassin!
So now reading:
Lady Oracle, Margaret Atwood (re read): Classic! The Royal Porcupine!
Forever Amber, Kathleen Winsor (re read): I was on a train for a long time and when you're on a train for a long time there's nothing like the original bodice-ripper. Oh Amber!!! How fabulous you are!!
The Taming of the Queen, Philippa Gregory (new): It took me a while to get into this but once I did I enjoyed it. Lady of the Rivers FTW in this series though. There's quite a lot of male violence in this book - makes a real statement about Henry VIII as a wife killer.
The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood (re read): Cue more crying on public transport.
Getting Colder, Amanda Coe (new): This was an interesting novel about a dysfunctional family but to be honest I thought the final metaphor was quite heavy-handed. Still, good holiday read.
Re read Fierce Attachments in order to write my review for OD 50:50
Station Eleven, Emily St John Mandel (new): really enjoyed this post-apocalyptic novel that asked good questions about what we save and what we value.
Cat's Eye, Margaret Atwood (re read) I haven't read this for ages as I lent my copy to someone and it never returned - so I re-purchased it. I actually got my highest ever uni mark for my essay on this book. Talked about the Bridge Metaphor a lot.
The Lost Daughter, Elena Ferrante, trans Anne Goldstein (new): A sparse, short novel that explores some similar themes to the Neapolitan Novels. It's very intense and unsettling with images that haunt you.
I forgot to mention these two:
After me comes the flood, Sarah Perry (new): brilliant debut with a beautifully revealed plot
Boating for Beginners, Jeanette Winterson (re read): The orange demon! Noah! Everything about this book is a delight.
Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy (re read): I wanted to read something big and chewy and intense. I'm always thrilled and scared by how every time I read it, I think something different about it.
Public Library, Ali Smith (new): Perfect. Read my full review here.
Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen (re read): Because I hadn't read it for a while, and I was travelling.
Carol, Patricia Highsmith (re read of sorts): I read this as a teenager and couldn't remember a damn thing about it. Except that I thought Carol was mean. Definitely one to read as an adult, it's beautiful.
A Stricken Field, Martha Gellhorn (new): So much more than Hemingway's wife! This is an extraordinary novel about the refugee crisis after the Munich Agreement which is all too familiar today, sadly.
And so I'm diversifying my reading with:
Mr Fox, Helen Oyeyimi (new): This novel starts in a direction you feel familiar with. And then, BAM! Off we go on some wild, wonderful imaginative directions. It's exciting!
The Lowland, Jhumpa Lahiri (new): A stunning novel. Really stunning. Very quiet, very stark and packs a huge emotional punch.
Everything I never told you, Celeste Ng (new): recommended by my friend Niz. Reading right now. Gripping stuff.
Half a yellow sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (new): Bit of a cheat here. I started reading it, then my Kindle battery died. And I thought my charger was at the office. It's not. I will finish reading this as soon as I can charge my Kindle!
Because I was waiting for my Kindle charger and didn't want to start anything new, I read some short stories in the That Kind of Woman collection (I think I accidentally have two copies!). Highlights were Roman Fever by Edith Wharton, Sanctuary by Nella Larsen and Kora and Ka by H.D.
That is my book diary for 2015! Once again it was a very woman-y affair although some men sneaked in.
There were a lot of re-reads this year, mainly because I've been living out of boxes and my Kindle broke. So had to make do with the one box of books I unpacked which rather brilliantly was Colette and Virginia Woolf.
Tune in for 2016's reading extravaganza!