Reading for Pleasure in 2022: February’s books

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

I am still processing this story; it is lingering in my mind weeks after finishing it, which is an indication of just how rich and striking this book is.

The story starts in London in 1976, when Peggy is eight years old, and takes us through to 1985.

In 1976 life is pretty normal for Peggy; living in London with her mum and dad. But, her dad is a “retreater”, who believes in going back to nature and living off the land. Not in a farmer-sort-of-way, but in the more extreme “let’s go and live in the forest and eat squirrels” way.

Our Endless Numbered Days takes us on a journey of survival with Peggy as she is taken away into the forest as a little girl with her father, and ends as she grows into a teenager.

It sounds a bit like a fairytale, but believe me this is no magical children’s story. It is dark and harrowing but compelling and beautiful in it’s own way.

Like I said at the start of this post, the story is still lingering in my mind days after I finished reading it.

Highly recommended.

A Class Act by Rob Beckett

Rob Beckett is a British comedian from London. I’ve never actually seen any of his stand-up but he’s a regular guest on panel shows so I am familiar with his sense of humour.

Here’s a short clip showcasing his stand-up.

His humour is often based around the social and cultural differences and divides between the lower and upper classes. Beckett, from a working-class London family, contrasts his experience and with that of middle and upper-class people.

This book is an extension of the observations that he makes during his comedy routines.

Although an interesting snapshot of his life, with plenty of anecdotes and memoir-style stories and reflections about his upbringing and experiences, the book feels neither funny enough to make me laugh nor serious enough to spark deeper discussions about the unfairness of the class system.

If you’re a fan then I’m sure you’ll enjoying hearing more about his life and how he got started as a comedian, but as social commentary this falls a bit flat.

Like A Charm by Elle McNicoll

Regular visitors will know that I’m a big fan of Elle McNicoll.

I loved her debut, A Kind of Spark, and have followed her career ever since, quickly reading her second novel Show Us Who You Are and eagerly anticipating her third, Like A Charm.

Well, Like A Charm is finally here and I’ve spent a week savouring the story.

I had to pace myself so I didn’t finish it too quickly.

Here’s the blurb on the back:

Edinburgh is a city filled with magical creatures. No one can see them…except Ramya Knox.

As she is pulled into her family’s world of secrets and spells, Ramya sets out to discover the truth about the Hidden Folk with only three words of warning from her grandfather: Beware the Sirens.

Plunged into an adventure that will change everything, Ramya is about to learn that there is more to her powers than she ever imagined.

Like Ramya, Elle McNicoll is on a mission. Unlike Ramya, McNicoll’s mission is grounded in reality rather than magic.

Elle McNicoll is dedicated to producing children’s fiction with neurodiverse characters at the heart of her stories. A Kind of Spark stars an autistic girl; Show Us Who You Are centres around an autistic girl and a boy who has ADHD; the main character in Like A Charm has dyspraxia, like McNicoll herself.

The Sunday Times calls Like A Charm “a wildly imaginative world of secrets and spells” and chose it as it’s Book of the Week.

Ramya has a special ability to see through the disguise worn by magical creatures (such as vampires and sprites) which prevents them from being seen by humans. Her grandfather leaves her a book which takes Ramya on an unexpected journey around the hidden magic of Edinburgh, while at the same time uncovering secrets from within her own family.

Fantastic stuff and highly recommended!

Maus by Art Spiegelman

First published in the 1970s and 1980s, Maus tells the story of Spiegelman’s father’s experience of surviving the Holocaust. It has become a classic comic book and powerful testament to the horrors of the Holocaust.

Spiegelman depicts Jews as mice, the Nazis as cats, Poles as pigs and Americans as dogs in this deeply personal account of his parents’ life during World War II. It alternates between showing Spiegelman talking to his father about his experiences, and then illustrating those stories for us, all told in comic form.

Essential reading.

When I started reading it, Russia had yet to invade Ukraine; by the time I’d finished, the invasion was under way. I just hope that history does not repeat itself.

What have you been reading recently? Let me know in the comments below!

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