Books · Reading Challenge

Read the Year: June

“The Experience of Fatherhood”

I chose Silas Marner as my Read The Year pick, and I was a little worried that I might have made a tenuous link as an excuse to cross another Eliot novel off the TBR list. While Eliot is making a point about the ways in which our values affect our conduct, and we reap what we sow, she uses the contrasting conduct of Eppie’s biological and adoptive fathers to do so. Even now, there are people who feel that there’s something shameful about raising another man’s children, but Eliot offers a touching portrait of the bonds that can form with the family we choose, which still resonates today. I think this is one of the more accessible of Eliot’s novels, and a good starting point for anyone who is intimidated by her reputation.

Related Reading

I also read The Secret Garden this month. I’d read it as a child, but found it hard to relate to, and much preferred Burnett’s The Little Princess. Since it’s the theme for The Shawl Society this year I decided it was time to revisit it. Perhaps it was the 8 or so years living in Yorkshire, which meant I came back to this with a fondness for characters like Ben Weatherstaff, but I found that I couldn’t put it down, and the reunion of Colin and his father reduced me to tears.

Other Reading

Fiction

As planned I read Alison Weir’s Jane Seymour novel. It was gripping, and made me a little more sympathetic toward Jane than I had felt previously (Katherine of Aragon is still my favourite #truequeen). The conclusions about her death, which I won’t spoil, are interesting, and highlight the difference modern medicine has made to a woman’s chances of surviving childbirth. I have a ticket for Weir’s talk at Edinburgh Book Festival this summer, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about her research for this novel. I also finished The Tamuli, and, still in the grip of nostalgia, read my way through The Malloreon. Since I’m not quite ready to leave Garion and friends, I’ve tracked down second-hand copies of The Belgariad, and am waiting on their arrival to start another fantasy binge. Fond as I am of Sparhawk and his fellow adventurers (my first introduction to David Eddings’ work), I do think the cosmology is better thought out in the Garion books, and they’re a masterclass in how to elevate stereotypes like ‘the knight’ or ‘the rogue’ into complex characters.

Non-Fiction

Most of my non-fiction this month was on Audible – I stuck with the 15th and 16th centuries with John Julius Norwich’s Four Princes, and Giles Tremlett’s Isabella of Castile: Europe’s First Great Queen. The latter is a wonderful companion to the author’s earlier work on Katherine of Aragon, and would work as an interesting preface to Game of Queens, which I read last month. I then embarked on Max Adams’ The King in the North – one of my birthday paperbacks. This was a recommendation Warren Ellis made in his newsletter ages ago, and it’s every bit as good as he suggested, with a density to the prose which most ‘popular’ history books lack. I’m finding I need to read small snatches and absorb, hence why I’m re-reading old fantasy alongside it.

Running Total

Books Read: 65

Currently Reading: 4

Next Month

The initial plan is to finish The King in the North and read my way through The Belgariad. I’m taking a little break from history on Audible to catch up on some podcasts, and the Tiny Tyrant is now on school holidays, so I’m resigned to July being a light month as regards reading.

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