I don’t know about you, but I waver between having nothing great lined up to read – and waaaay too many great books on the go or in the queue. So I set myself a ‘summer’ reading list and have been working my way through (with a few detours to other books along the way!). I am mid-way through a couple but I have finished these and can recommend them if they’re to your taste!
The invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
This is my top pick. The story is a fictionalised novel centering around many real people, although it’s primarily the story of Sarah Grimke. Set in Charleston in the South, a slave girl (Hetty) is taken from her quarters, wrapped in ribbons and presented to 11 year old Sarah as a gift. Sarah is appalled at the thought of owning a person and tries to ‘return’ Hetty, but her family won’t allow it. So she decides to help ‘free’ her in other ways, beginning with teaching her to read – despite it being illegal to teach slaves to read.
The story alternates between Hetty’s reality and Sarah’s. Whilst Hetty’s life as a slave is obviously the more tragic, you’re also given an insight into the frustrations of being female at this time too, where women can’t own property, be properly educated, have a vocation or vote.
The story unfolds over 30 or more years and when it’s over, and you read the author’s notes at the end, you learn that Sarah Grimke (and her sister) were actual abolitionists and suffragettes. The ‘real’ Hetty only lived a short life, unlike the character in the book, but Sarah did actually teach her to read. Sarah is a real-life hero, a woman to truly look up to.
The investion of wings alternates between being an uplifting and extremely sad tale, but it isn’t a ‘depressing’ read (although after certain awful scenes I did need to take a short break). Sue Monk Kidd’s writing is lovely, her many characters well imagined, and the narrative is compelling. It’s a book I can highly recommend.
Allegiant by Veronika Roth
Like the Hunger Games, this is a YA dystopian fiction trilogy of which Allegiant is the final chapter. (I started reading them both before I knew they were going to be made into films, but thanks to that they should be vaguely familiar to you all if you’re not a YA dystopian fiction addict like myself and Caitlin!)
If I had to declare the better series, it would be The Hunger Games, but the Divergent Trilogy was still a great read. It starts in a city – a world really – where there are five “factions” based around broad types of people: Erudite, Dauntless, Amity, Candor and Abnegation. At sixteen you must choose your faction, dividing families and defining everything about your future. The key characters are Tris and her (inevitable) love interest Four, although there is a wide and interesting cast of characters.
It’s difficult to review a third book if people haven’t read the first two – feels too much like I’d need to write “spoiler alert” constantly. But what’s interesting about this book is how many of her readers HATED it. (Go read the Amazon reviews if you don’t believe me.) I was in two minds as to whether to read it, but am really glad I did. It answered a lot of questions that were outstanding for me about the basic premise of the story, the ‘world’ it was set in and it came to what I felt was a ‘natural’ conclusion where it was impossible for everything to turn out peachy!
But what people hated (and now I will say SPOILER ALERT, skip ahead if you want to read the book as I’m about to reveal a major plot point) was that the author killed one of her main characters. And not only did this make people angry, it kept them angry. For example, I posted a review on Amazon saying that despite all the bad press it was a great conclusion to the trilogy and within a few hours, someone had posted a REBUTTAL of my review! Really, how angry must you be to haunt the reviews of a novel you profess to have disliked just to take down anyone that disagrees with you?
I think it actually shows that the story and characters became totally real to readers. And isn’t this the hallmark of a good writer, inciting that much passion in people?
The Circle By Dave Eggers
Don’t read this if you’re a little disturbed by the potential of private companies, like Google or Facebook, to do “who knows what” with your personal data.
The book centres around a company called ‘The Circle’, run out of a sprawling California campus. The Circle links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, health and purchasing with their universal operating system. Much of The Circle seems to be based on Google, which is why the way this story evolves is disturbing – it all feels VERY real, and very possible.
What’s clever about this tale is the way everything can be justified, everyone can be persuaded that giving away all privacy is a smart move. The few characters who resist are painted as disturbed. Even as you’re reading it, you know it’s somehow ‘wrong’ but you feel yourself also thinking ‘but what’s the harm?’ It’s dark and insidious only when you really think about it.
It’s not a perfect book – I felt it went a little long – but it is still worth a read, for entertainment and to help you identify those moments when you should ask ‘what am I giving away to get this?”
GOT ANY BOOKS YOU CAN RECOMMEND? Please share in the comments!
Image source : Illustration by Eighteyed at Color Lovers