February 2020 Reading Roundup

From Japanese literature to the history of Serbia via the aftermath of war in Sierra Leone, this has been a good month’s reading for me. Here’s a roundup of the books I’ve read in February.

The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata

The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata

This was my read for this year’s Japanese Literature Challenge. I plan to write a full review in the next week or two, but I found this a beautiful novel by a Nobel Prize winning writer that raises lots of questions about the role of ageing parents in the dysfunctional lives of their children.

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna

Aminatta Forna is one of my favourite writers; I reviewed her latest novel Happiness on the blog in 2018 and wrote about The Hired Man for a Canadian lit mag a few years earlier. The Memory of Love is probably her most famous novel, and it was a wonderful read, full of interesting characters and powerful insights into the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Gypsy Folk Tales by Frances Hindes Groome

This was one of those cheap Kindle ebooks based on an obscure, out-of-print 19th-century book. I found the stories interesting, but the formatting and copy editing of the ebook edition were bad, and that made it hard to enjoy the book.

The Heart Of The Race: Black Women’s Lives in Britain by Beverley Bryan, Stella Dadzie and Suzanne Scafe

The Heart Of The Race: Black Women's Lives in Britain by Beverley Bryan, Stella Dadzie and Suzanne Scafe

This reappraisal of British history from the oft-neglected point of view of Black women was first published in 1985 but remains very relevant today. I liked the introductory chapter tracing Black women’s role in British history and then the analysis of the contemporary situation through the authors’ research combined with oral history. The use of “we” to describe the experiences of Black British women was very effective.

The History of Serbia by Cedomir Antic

I found this a good overview of Serbian history from Neolithic times to the present day. Serbia didn’t exist as an independent state for most of that time, but the book does a good job of charting the main events on the territory under Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman rule, as well as under independent Serbian rulers during their most powerful time in the 14th century and again in recent times.

The Verdict

The standout book for me this month was The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna. I’ll read pretty much anything she puts out, and this is right up there with her best work, although I think I still marginally prefer The Hired Man.

What did you read this month? Any favourites or disappointments you’d like to share? Head over to Feed Your Fiction Addiction to see more book bloggers’ month-end roundups.

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There are 19 comments

  1. Thanks Andrew, I also loved The Memory of Love when I read it a few years ago, and The Hired Man has been on my list for a while too. One of my best books of the year so far is Meena Kandasamy’s book When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife. It’s an account of domestic abuse and shocking violence in India but also about the protagonist’s writerly response to it. There’s some wonderful writing there.
    If you’re interested in the experience of black women in Britain you might like Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo. Both these books reviewed at Peak Reads!

    1. Thanks for the recommendations! They both sound excellent, and I will check out your reviews to find out more. I read Evaristo’s Soul Tourists in January and enjoyed that one, so maybe it’s time to give Girl, Woman, Other a try.

  2. A very interesting selection of books, both thematically and culturally. I also really liked the Kawabata when I read it a couple of years ago. It made me think about issues around parental responsibility, especially when relationships within the family are beginning to break down…

  3. Wonderful books you have read, Andrew! I haven’t read The Sound of the Mountain, but I love Yasunari Kawabata – such a fascinating writer! Looking forward to your review of the book.

  4. Andrew, thanks for highlighting Memory of Love, a book I would like to pick up once my reading for the Booker International Prize 2020 is done. And, of course, I’m so glad you read for the Japanese Literature Challenge 13. I want to like Kawabata, which I do, but somehow I am more moved by other classical authors such as Juni’chiro Tanizaki. (I am crazy about The Makioka Sisters, which I am currently reading.) Do let me know when you post about The Sound of the Mountain, or feel free to put a link to it on the review site: JapaneseLitChallenge13.blogspot.com

    1. Hi Bellezza, Glad you’re enjoying The Makioka Sisters! I haven’t read anything by Tanizaki, but I would like to. The premise of The Makioka Sisters doesn’t excite me, but of course it’s all in how it’s written. Sure, I’ll drop a link on that site when I get to writing the review, hopefully in the next week or two.

    1. Hi Lisa, I’m glad I could add to your Goodreads to-read list. Mine is completely out of control, so I like to have some company 😉 The Memory of Love is excellent—hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  5. Aminatta Forna is a new novelist for me. I linked to your 2018 review, and would like to track it down. Also the novel you reviewed in this Feb. Roundup is very interesting as well.

    1. Hi Judith, I hope you read and enjoy her work. There’s a common thread throughout her novels of characters dealing with the aftermath of conflict, but each book is quite different and distinct, so it never gets repetitive.

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