First Bite by Bee Wilson
Fear by Gabriel Chevallier
The Woman Who Ran by Sam Baker
This month has been a very odd one for reading. It's felt like I've spent a lot of time reading, but not actually made any progress with any books. For the first time in a long time I've read less than a book a week and only finished three books in February. Oddly, I'm also quite upset about that.
I started the month very excitedly with First Bite by Bee Wilson. It's a wonderful book and gave me so much to think about but, as with all non-fiction, I read it slowly to make sure I was taking it all in, occasionally going back and rereading sections or applying Wilson's argument to my own eating experiences.
I put First Bite aside after a week to read Fear which I needed to review for Centenary News (on a self-imposed review schedule). Although Fear was an absorbing novel, it was also pretty hard going. It's one of the most candid war novels I have read in quite some time and much of it was hugely emotive. Chevallier's writing style is also quite dense and layered so I had to dedicate more time and considerably more brain power than I expected.
I turned to The Woman Who Ran, which I picked up second hand on the bookshop crawl, as a lighter and quicker option after Fear. A palette cleanser, of sorts. I hoped it would change the trajectory of my reading and avoid the inevitable hurtle towards a slump that follows a period of dense reading. In part it did because I whizzed through it and thoroughly enjoyed it (a review should be up this week), but I then made the mistake of again returning to the war, to non-fiction and to a dense narrative, this time in the form of a front line nurse's diary.
Dorothea's War is brilliant, revealing, and insightful. It focuses on daily life in a frontline hospital and the comings and goings associated with that. I'm comparing her experiences with those of Beatrice Hopkinson, who's diary I read in January, and it feels like I'm learning so much about how similar and yet varied nursing roles were in the First World War. Nevertheless delving into the minutiae of life and thinking critically about historical context etc has become quite taxing for my brain, probably as a result of being so busy generally this month. I feel like a need a speedy crime novel or thriller - true escapism - to relax and reset my cogs.
Last night I set Dorothea's War aside and instead picked up another bookshop crawl purchase, Harriet by Elizabeth Jenkins. I've heard nothing but good things about Harriet so I'm hoping it will stop the oncoming slump in its tracks and let normal reading habits resume.
What did you read in February?