Here are the books I read in August 2018…
The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
I loved the 1999 movie adaptation, starring Matt Damon, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, but had never read the book until now. I found a set of Ripley books in a Little Free Library and decided to give them a go. The movie was more-or-less faithful to the book (other than some additional characters and a few deviations), so I already knew the story. I enjoyed this book so much that I decided to read the second one in the series….
Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith
The sequel got off to a slow start, and didn’t become interesting until Ripley committed a murder. By now, Ripley is married and living in France; in the first book, it was quite clear that he was gay, so I wasn’t convinced by this sudden change in character. The plot wasn’t as thrilling as The Talented Mr Ripley either; the world of art forgeries just didn’t captivate me. I did enjoy seeing how Ripley manipulated people around him so he got away with murder again, but overall this book didn’t feel very satisfying.
How Not To Be A Boy by Robert Webb
This is a wonderful book that poses questions about masculinity, framed around Webb’s own life story, which is in turns hilarious and poignant. In the UK, Webb is a famous comedy actor and writer, but irrespective of whether you know who he is, this is a great book that challenges us to think differently about how girls and boys are raised, and the expectations put upon them.
We Are A Muslim, Please by Zaiba Malik
Born in the UK to Pakistani immigrants, Malik grew up in Bradford in the 1970s and 1980s, feeling torn between being British and being Muslim. This memoir explores her childhood experiences, through the lens of the Pakistani immigrant community and being raised Muslim. She is an award-winning current affairs and news journalist, and this, her first book, was published in 2010. I really enjoyed this book, and devoured it in just a couple of days. It feels more relevant than ever, in our current political climate.
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
While Disney’s animated The Jungle Book is one of my favourite children’s movies, I had never before read the source material. First published in 1894, inevitably this does have some archaic language, which would probably put off younger readers. Truth be told, only half the stories here are about Mowgli’s adventures, and those of you familiar with the movie will feel somewhat disoriented by the different sequence of events in the book. However, it was satisfying to read about Mowgli, Akela, Baloo, Bagheera, and of course, Shere Khan, in their original stories.
Ripley’s Game by Patricia Highsmith
The third in the Ripley series of books. Oddly, he hardly features here at all in the first half; he’s more of a puppet master, whispering in people’s ears and then standing back to see what happens. What happens, of course, is murder, and the intriguing element of these Ripley stories is watching how the murderer gets away with it. Thankfully, Ripley is more prominent in the second half, busy corrupting a hitherto innocent man. Excellent stuff.
A Small Person Far Away by Judith Kerr
The final book in her YA trilogy of novels, based partly on her own experiences before, during and after the second world war. A Small Person Far Away details just one week of Anna’s life (now married and living in London) as she travels back to Germany following her mother’s failed suicide attempt. This was much darker than I was expecting, and is a satisfying end to the story; reading this, makes you view the previous two installments in a different light.
What will I read in September? Any recommendations?
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