The books I read in April 2021
The months seem to be passing by in a blur. And with the situation currently being grim, reading is the only way I have to take my mind off all the negativity. But I find my attention span reduced and have only been reading shorter books or re-reading some of my old favourites of late. Here are the books I read in April 2021.
1. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
I chanced upon this book while browsing the shelves of Blossoms Bookstore during my last visit there (I’m not sure when I’ll be able to do that again!). Something about the title intrigued me and I decided to pick it up.
The Joy Luck Club is the story of 4 Mother-Daughter pairs. The Joy Luck Club was started in 1949 when 4 women who had immigrated to the US from China decided to meet and play mahjong. They begin to share their stories of their lives in China and the circumstances that made them leave. These 4 women have daughters and the book goes back and forth the narratives of the mothers and daughters.
The book does not follow a chronological order nor do the chapters have a sequential linkage. It also becomes confusing with the mother-daughter pairs. If I were to read this on my Kindle or listen to the audiobook, I don’t think I’d have managed to finish this! But thanks to the little note at the beginning of the book and the fact that I could flip back and forth through the pages, I managed to finish it. And I’m glad I did!
The book beautifully brings out the difference in opinions between the mothers and the daughters. The mothers who have left a part of their lives in China continue to long for the lives that they might have lived there and the memories that thoughts of life in China bring. The daughters who have been brought up in the US feel no connection with the culture and the way of thinking that their mothers are influenced by.
It is beautiful and emotional roller coaster, exploring a mother-daughter relationship. I liked it but I’d recommend it only if you have the patience and the emotional bandwidth for it.
My rating: 4/5
2. Some Days by Maria Wernicke
Since the last few years, April has been the month of adding a bunch of free titles on my Kindle thanks to the World Book Day offer that Amazon has. Since I’ve been planning to read books set in different parts of the world, I find some of these titles really fit in the kind of books that I like to read.
And that is how I came across “Some Days” by Maria Wernicke. It is an illustrated book about a child who is missing a loved one. The child tells her mother about a passageway in their yard where she feels safe and she is accompanied by the person whom she wants to be with. But the sad part is that, on some days that passageway isn’t there.
A really short but beautifully illustrated book. It has melancholic feeling to it and makes you long for that “passageway” of your own where you feel safe and have your loved ones with you.
Though this is supposed to be a children’s book, it didn’t feel that way to me. It called for reflecting on certain aspects surrounding life and death that I’m not sure a child could do.
My rating: 4/5
3.Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi is a story that questions the impact of Religion and Science and their co-existence while dealing with grief and loss.
Gifty studies neuroscience at Stanford. Her work involves the study of reward seeking behaviour in mice. She chooses this line of work to keep herself occupied by doing something difficult because life hasn’t been so kind.
Gifty’s grew up in a religious atmosphere. She attended the evangelical church and she kept a journal to talk to God. While her mother was busy trying to bring up two kids in Alabama after her father decided to go back to Ghana and never return and instead divorce her mother, her brother Nana is the one person whom she needs by her side.
Nana is gifted basketball player. But one injury leads to him becoming an addict and he dies of a drug overdose. After Nana’s death, Gifty finds that her mother is now depressed though her mother never calls it that.With all these things happening, Gifty looks for answers. She looks to religion for answers and then she looks to science for answers.
Gifty’s character is a complex one but is beautifully written. There are a lot of topics that this book deals with-like dealing with grief, science versus religion, mental health, addiction. But it deals with all these topics in a wonderful way. It doesn’t feel like too many things are pushed into the story, but it all works together so beautifully.
If you like emotional books, then I’d definitely recommend this one. Here is an interesting quote from the book,
“We’re all made up of stardust and God made the stars”
My rating : 4/5
4. Rebel Spy by Veronica Rossi
This was a book that I was looking forward to reading since I booked my Mocha Box from The Big Book Box because it had all the elements that I usually like in a book.
Frannie’s life is a sad one after she has lost her mother. Her alcoholic stepfather makes her dive in the sea in search of useful things from ship wrecks and to make things bad, he plans on marrying her himself. Frannie wants to escape this life, but how?
She soon finds an opportunity when she finds the body of a young woman floating near the shore and decides to assume her identity. Frannie becomes Emmeline Coates and is rescued by a British merchant ship. She soon learns that Miss Coates was a rich woman and belonged to high society and so she must learn the ways of the wealthy.
For the next three years, she lives comfortably in New York but there is something that disturbs her. She learns about the dark side of the war and though her benefactors are all loyalists, she finds herself drawn to being a rebel. Making use of her position in the society, she decides to become a rebel spy.
I found the premise intriguing. I love historical fiction especially the ones that have strong female protagonists. Though the narration is quite interesting, the whole story did not come together as I’d have liked. I was hoping there would be more plot twists. And I liked the beginning and the possibilities that the assumption of Miss Coates’s identity offered. But I wanted more spying! Considering that this book is set in the 1770’s, Frannie was way ahead of her time in terms of a woman’s role in a war.
I found this to be an okay read. What I found more interesting, was reading up more about Agent 355 who was a New York society girl and spy for George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Rebel Spy is a re-imagining of the story behind Agent 355.
My rating: 3/5
5. 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff
This technically wasn’t one of the books I read in April 2021 because I finished it on the 1st of May. But I’m still going to consider this here!
I love epistolary novels because I find the notion of writing letters interesting. I remember how I’d used to send out letters to my relatives and friends while growing up. As a child, it was always a source of happiness to find a letter addressed to me in the mail.
84, Charing Cross Road is a series of letters exchanged between the author Helene Hanff who was based in New York and the people working at Marks and Co. Helene finds herself longing for antiquarian books but doesn’t find the ones she wants in New York. So begins the correspondence with Marks and Co. From trying to figure out the conversions from Pounds to Dollars to sending gifts for Christmas, the relationship between the author and the people working in the bookstore soon turns into friendship.
If you are a bibliophile, this is a book that you will love. It has a charm of its own. The book is a short one and I almost finished it in one night. What took me longer is another novella by the same author about her visit to London called “The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street”.
“The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street” is written in the style of a journal. All through “84, Charing Cross Road”, the author mentions the wish to visit London that does not materialize because of various reasons. But when “84, Charing Cross Road” is published, the author soon finds herself with an invitation to visit London and a lot of people who want to meet her. After reading it, I just want to visit London sometime (Definitely not now!)
One quote that I absolutely loved from the book:
“Why is it that people who wouldn’t dream of stealing anything else think it’s perfectly all right to steal books?”
I have experienced a lot of the books that I have lent others never making their way back to me! So, this a question that I have too! 😀
My rating : 4/5
These were the books that I read in April 2021. Have you read any of these? Do you find any of your favourites from the books I read in April 2021? May has been slow in terms of reading and hence I decided to fall back to the comfort of old favourites. I am re-reading the first Harry Potter book and A Man called Ove. What are you currently reading?
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