Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

amy-freshwater.jpgI don’t think I have read anything quite like this. It is deeply imaginative, lyrical and magical, but I didn’t enjoy the experience very much. Ada is born with ogbanje – Nigerian gods – inside of her; they live in her mind and sometimes take over her body, trying at once to protect and destroy her. It could be a story of mental illness, or of the multiple selves we have within us. It is very dark, with trauma, physical and mental violence, and much wrestling with sexual and gender identity. It’s an uncomfortable read, but not a journey without value.

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The cotton town girls

cynthia-cotton-town-girls.jpgA story set around the time of the suffragette movement and was both heartbreaking and inspiring. The author evoked the time period well. There was a great set of characters representing the different types of women involved in the struggle and the effect they had on the community and each other. The story included scenes that I have read about before, such as the hunger strikes and forced feeding and secret meetings and riots, but it still added my knowledge and personal experience.

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The thirteenth tale by Diane Setterfield

Amy The Thirteenth taleI thought I would like this much more than I did. There are lots of bookish elements, and many references to Jane Eyre, and I really enjoyed the beginning, but at times I found the characters painfully unpleasant, which made those sections drag. A young woman who works in her father’s bookshop is contacted by a reclusive author, who asks her to write her biography. What follows is an over the top mystery, with a satisfying ending.

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Stolen beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese

Cynthia Stolen BeautyHistorical fiction based on fact. Told through the eyes of Adele, whose portrait is painted by Klimt, and her niece Maria, who flees Vienna during World War II. Although their stories are decades apart they share a strength of spirit. They were remarkale women. The story balances the excesses of Vienna’s Succession Art Movement with the Nazi rule and dispossession of Jewish wealth. I love a story that invites me to explore the topic further, I was looking at the artists mentioned and their work. You will want to watch the movie Woman in gold after reading this story.

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The silence of the girls by Pat Barker

amy-silence-of-the-girls.jpgPat Barker has written some of my favourite WWI and WWII fiction, so I know her to be a brilliant teller of war stories. The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of The Iliad, and while it is a story of the Trojan War, it focuses on the plight of the women. The detail is graphic and harsh, there is much rape and violence, but it is also a moving tale of strength and hope, particularly that of women.

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The lost flowers of Alice Hart by Holly Ringland

Cynthia Lost Flowers of Alice HartThis story was full of sadness and beauty. Australia’s landscape is told in beautiful detail which balances out the horor of abuse. Characters are either running from their story or embracing it. The language of native flowers are used to great effect, used in the introduction of each chapter, matching Alice’s story. It was easy to become involved in the story and Alice’s journey.

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Swing time by Zadie Smith

amy-swing-time.jpgSwing Time is the story of two brown girls from London, who love to dance and have a complicated relationship. We follow them from childhood to adulthood, in London, New York and Africa. It is, as you would expect from Zadie Smith, beautifully written, and I never found it dull, but I was not entranced, either. The narrator, not named, is detached, without ambition, even shiftless, so I found the themes of parenthood, race, belonging, poverty, charity, fame, purpose, and meaning not, perhaps, as powerful as they might have been.

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Orlando by Virginia Woolf

amy-orlando.jpgOrlando is such a beautiful, lyrical, whimsical, funny, dreamlike, book; I wanted to read it out loud. It’s an historical fantasy story about an aristocratic young man, with a great passion for nature and living, who somehow lives outside of time, and one day wakes up as a woman. Yes, it is bizarre, but a joyful, amusing, and exotic journey.

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