What We’re Reading

Each week we bring you a sample of the books we’re reading, the films we’re watching, the television shows we’re hooked on or the music we’re loving.

Fiona is reading Gentlemen Formerly Dressed

gentleman-formerlyI’m currently reading Gentlemen Formerly Dressed by Sulari Gentill (due for release soon). This title is the fifth Rowland Sinclair book but his first for me and, after being repeatedly delighted and reading paragraphs aloud to my bemused (and busy) partner, absolutely not the last.

1933, London, and refined rabble-rouser Rowly has fled the Nazis in Germany with his body barely intact and his inclination to paint shattered. Along with his live-in artist friends, he wants to spread the word in England about the atrocities, but his quest to do so lands him in the middle of an entirely different and salacious crime.

Full of glorious set pieces, stately homes, terribly dignified aristocrats, verbal and physical fisticuffs, and more people fainting in horror than you can shake a bottle of smelling salts at, the thoroughly delicious Gentlemen Formerly Dressed has made me completely rethink my avoidance of historical crime.

Amy is watching The Walking Dead

walking-dead In anticipation of the AMC series The Walking Dead’s fourth season, which will air on TV next week, I’m working my way through the first couple of seasons on DVD.

I am a pretty ravenous fan of the reanimated-corpse genre (I will read and watch anything from World War Z to Frankenstein to 28 Days Later), and The Walking Dead is one of my favourites for its serial format (so far, it just keeps coming!). The show is based on the 100+ issue Eisner Award-winning comic book series of the same name, by Robert Kirkman, with artwork by Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard. The adaptation to TV has been executed with brilliant gore effects, perfectly cast actors and a well-balanced ratio of suspense:drama. Darryl Dixon with his crossbow is pretty alright, too.

The third season saw the introduction of Michonne, who totally kicked butt with her samurai sword and neutered zombie guardians for scent camouflage (I will be adopting this method of survival when the real zombie apocalypse hits, just FYI), and an antagonist who was even more frightening than the rotting, flesh hungry walkers, staggering forever onward. The Governor: pure evil. I may have to sleep with a light on for the next few weeks, but I just can not stop watching this satisfyingly pulpy speculation about the fate of the human world.

Bronte is reading The Story of a New Name

story-new-nameA few months back I reviewed Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend and called her writing, ‘so close to the bone you can feel your teeth grinding’. Now in the second book of this trilogy, The Story of a New Name, Ferrante again delivers a stunning novel, continuing the story of two teenage girls - the narrator Elena Greco and her friend, Lina Cerullo.

This trilogy is somehow less aggressive, less immediately devastating than her earlier books – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake off the intense discomfit with which The Days of Abandonment filled me – but the slow build-up of this kind of storytelling has its own rewards. There’s something exciting about growing with a character. The novel is also such a wonderful portrait of the simultaneous normalcy and horror of living in poor or uneducated conditions. When considering the domestic violence around her, Elena says: ‘We had seen our fathers beat our mothers from childhood. We had grown up thinking that a stranger must not even touch us, but that our father, our boyfriend, and our husband could hit us when they liked, out of love, to educate us, to reeducate us …’

If you’re worried about reading a translated work, don’t be with this title. I don’t speak Italian so can’t compare to how this version stands up to the original but Ann Goldstein’s rendering of Ferrante’s language is beautiful. Raw and affecting, yet precisely structured - if you’re a reader who enjoys serious literary fiction then Ferrante is worth a read.

Nina is reading Murder in Mississippi

murder-mississippi I’m reading John Safran’s true crime Murder in Mississippi. It’s an investigation into the murder of a white supremacist in Mississippi, and covers serious topics such as class and racism, so it feels a little odd to say that this is a fun book to read, but it’s true. This book is a lot of fun.

John’s writing style is laid-back, informal and very chatty. He places you alongside him at every stage of the investigation, recounting all the little details as they happen, and really lets you see behind the scenes of how he figured this thing out.

Murder in Mississippi – the way it’s written, and the way it approaches the subject matter – is unlike anything else I’ve read this year, and I’m finding it to be an absolute breath of fresh air. Highly recommended (especially for Safran fans).

Like the rest of the world I’m listening to, and loving, Lorde right now. Ah, to be so young and so talented.

I’m also watching a lot of TV, as the new seasons of various shows are coming back. Right now my slightly trashy favourites are Vampire Diaries (don’t judge, IT’S GOOD), Parenthood, The Good Wife, Homeland, Scandal and, when it comes back next week, The Walking Dead. I echo everything Amy said above about the show – it’s very, very enjoyable. Speaking of television, I wrote this piece on the best female leads on TV right now.