Because, let’s face it, I’d far rather do some reading than Spring Cleaning. Anyone else?!
Since starting The Expat Book Club I have been reading more than ever – that coupled with the recent freezing weather which made curling up with a book preferable to doing anything else. But this morning it felt spring-like for the first time…ok, still a bit chilly, but a whopping 12 degrees warmer than it was last Monday! The skies were blue, I could hear birds chirping away and I finally feel like the end is in sight to what has felt like the longest winter ever…
March 8th marks International Women’s Day so I thought why not do a round up of great books by women? Some of these are old favourites, some are recents reads, and I’ve included a couple which are on my ever expanding ‘to read’ list…
This year marks the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, ‘Frankenstein’. Written when she was just 18 and published when she was 19, Frankenstein is a complex novel that is still relevant today – when it comes to pushing the frontiers of science, how far is too far? The novel is so much more than the ‘monster’ caricature of Frankenstein that we are used to seeing presented on film. So much research has gone into trying to show that it was not Mary Shelley but her husband, the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, who was responsible for the novel – or at least co-authored it. To me, this begs the question – why couldn’t she have written it?
The novel came about when Shelley was with her husband and Lord Byron in Italy. They set themselves the challenge of writing a ghost story…and Frankenstein was born. I read this book a long time ago, but it has stayed with me. It is a far from perfect novel, but the ideas contained within it have lodged in my brain. However, the book I will be adding to my list is a new biography of Shelley…
‘In Search of Mary Shelley’ by Fiona Sampson.
Mary Shelley had an extraordinary life. The daughter of radical intellectuals, her mother was Mary Wollstencraft, proto feminist and author of ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Women.’ Wollstencraft died just after Mary Shelley was born, and this seems to have had a huge influence of Shelley’s writing. At age 16 she eloped with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley…with her stepsister in tow. They travelled around Europe with Lord Byron (‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’…doesn’t that just make you wish you could have met him??!) who became the lover of Shelley’s stepsister. Lots of illegitimate children, lots of sex scandals, lots of myth making…and lots of writing. I’m intrigued to read more about the ‘real’ Mary Shelley.
Starting in a similar time period but on different continents to ‘Frankenstein’ is Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel ‘Homegoing’. This was our February Expat Book Club book and one that really struck a chord with people. The story starts in Africa and traces the families of two sisters – one of whom is sold as a slave, the other who is married off to a slave trader. We follow their descendants through Africa and America right up to the present day. Most of us felt we learned a lot from reading this book – either about the complicity of African tribes in the slave trade, or the conditions in the American south. As one of our members said, it’s the kind of book you feel should be required reading.
‘Americana’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Moving now to modern times… After reading ‘Homegoing’ I read ‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It’s funny because I started this book a few years ago and couldn’t get into it. This time round I couldn’t put it down. This is a story of race and identity, told by Ifemelu, a Nigerian girl who moves to America to study. This book was a real eye opener for me on the subject of race…I can’t recommend it highly enough.
‘We Should All Be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
And given that this post was inspired by International Women’s Day – and because she is my current fave author – I am adding this to my list. It was inspired by Adiche’s TEDx talk of the same name.
From the publisher: ‘Drawing extensively on her own experiences and her deep understanding of the often masked realities of sexual politics, here is one remarkable author’s exploration of what it means to be a woman now—and an of-the-moment rallying cry for why we should all be feminists’.
I’m going to leave it at that because this is supposed to be a quick read…and I really do need to get some spring cleaning done if we are going to get our move organised!
Spring should be about a refresh though…and I see that I have refreshed my reading list – which is usually all fiction – with an essay and a biography. Are any of these on your list?