in which I wrap up June

Half the year is gone, I don’t quite know where…

(1) Things which I have read and enjoyed.
June was a good reading month. I finally finished off two collections that I’ve been working through for a while, The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla and Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang, both of which are immense and kinda visionary. If you want to be thinking about the way the world is, you should read both.

Also on the list:
* The Dark Circle by Linda Grant, which was a Bailey’s Prize nominee and which I enjoyed a surprisingly large amount. I didn’t expect a social-history-novel about TB and class in the 50s to work for me, but it really really did.
* The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, which I hadn’t read for years but wanted to re-read as the TV series started up. It was a very important book for me, and I’m delighted that it still holds up. I recognise different things about it now, though, and the impact it has on my as a 36 year old woman is different than the impact it had on me at 17.
* The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid was this month’s London Book Club book, and it was nice to have a little slip of a book. I really liked the style of it and the way the gaps or blanks in the story being told asked you to use your imagination.
* Release by Patrick Ness, which was as much of a joy as usual. I don’t think either of his last two quite live up to More Than This, but then that was remarkable. In this case, I’m not quite sure how well the two stories interconnect, but I really like the primary story – which feels very real to me.
* The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes. I am Team All These Novels Based on Classical Myths Are A Great Thing, and Colm Toibin’s latest is in my TBR pile. In this one, Haynes looks at the Oedipus story through Jocasta (mother-wife) and Iseme (daughter-sister) – and for me, the Ismene story was the strongest. What I really liked, though, was the way Haynes has felt free to carry on myth-making with these characters and create a new variation on the tale. At one point I went, ‘Wait, but that’s not what happens!’ and then I lolled, because it’s A MYTH, FOLKS.
* The First Day by Phil Harrison, which was leant to me by a friend I stayed with in Belfast who knows the author. It’s a first novel, and I liked it but didn’t adore it. The mood and tone have stayed with me and it’s got a clear voice – I found myself reading it in a northern Irish accent. At the same time, it’s about Ideas (which I am pro) but it does more expressing of the ideas than it does embodying of the ideas in the characters and story. If it had been much longer than its 300 pages, I probably would have laid it aside, but fortunately it wasn’t.

 

(2) Things which I have watched and enjoyed
Three cinematic goodies this month: Wonder Woman, My Cousin Rachel and Gifted.
I had a ball watching Wonder Woman and I really like the theology/philosophy that underpins its closing – though I could have lived without the Final Inspirational Words of Steve Trevor.
Gifted was utterly charming, which was nice because it could have been tooth-rotting garbage. The perfomances were great, the story was allowed to be a little bit complex, and none of it overstayed its welcome.
My Cousin Rachel has stayed with me – in its frustrations and its genius, which are the same thing. I had the same reaction to the book – a strong cry of Just tell me if she did it!!!. Clearly my need for emotional satisfaction and neatly tied up ends has a possibly stronger pull than my intellectual delight in the fact that neither the story nor this film will give you that answer. It’s very cleverly done.

 

(3) Things which I wrote
I wrote a short review of Justin Thacker’s book *Global Poverty: A Theological Guide.* Spoiler, I liked it.
I also wrote short piece trying to untangle my thoughts about Ted Chiang’s short story, *’Hell is the absence of God.’* It involved re-reading the end of The Last Battle and dragging my copy of The Great Divorce of the shelves (finally). Further (non C. S. Lewis) recommended reading on ideas of heaven and hell desired.

Finally, over at the day job, we (finally) released a collection of essays called Made in the Image of God, which is about the relationship of the imago dei to the ways we think about and do aid and development work.

 

(4) A photo from the month gone by

Giant’s Causeway, while on a work trip to Northern Ireland.

 

(5) In the pile for July
I’ve just started reading Jenny Erpenbeck’s End of Days for our next book club. Then I’m on to Toibin’s House of Names and Xan Brooks’ The Clocks in this House all tell Different Times before digging into the large numbers of unread books on my shelves. I’m hoping to snag a copy of the new Arundhati Roy, as well, courtesy of a friend.

The Proms kick off halfway through the month, and while I’m not promming with a season pass this year, I’m going a whole bunch, so there will be much reading in queues again, I hope. Plus, this month brings Nicola Benedetti, the Rach 2, Monteverdi’s Vespers and and Beethoven’s Ninth.

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