What We’re Reading: Mandel, Searle and Gilbert
Each week we bring you a sample of the books we’re reading, the films and TV shows we’re watching, and the music we’re listening to.
Ellen Cregan is reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
For the past five years, various, trusted sources have recommended Station Eleven to me. Last weekend, I finally got around to reading it and absolutely loved it. This book is the intersection of a few things I love in fiction: Shakespeare, pandemics and tough female characters. The novel tells the story of a group of musicians and actors, the Travelling Symphony, journeying through a ravaged world twenty years after nearly 99% of the world’s population perished from a particularly deadly strain of influenza. As the Symphony moves around what used to be North America, it stops in the tiny settlements of survivors that have popped up, and performs Shakespeare’s classic works. The story jumps back and forth in time, showing the world before, during and after the flu. It focuses on the many chance connections between several characters, and in the end, the way the story comes together is masterful. It’s the kind of book you’ll read half of in one sitting without even realising it.
Leanne Hall is reading Sincerely, Harriet by Sarah Winifred Searle
I’ve been looking forward to the release of Sarah W. Searle’s middle grade graphic novel Sincerely, Harriet in July, so I was really excited to get hold of an advance copy. Harriet is thirteen and has just moved to Chicago with her parents. School hasn’t started yet and her parents work demanding hours, so Harriet is left alone for long periods of time in her new home, with only books and her overactive imagination to entertain her. She writes letters to an old summer camp friend, visits elderly Pearl downstairs, attempts to read her school English texts, and investigates the mysterious sounds coming from the unoccupied third floor.
I really feel for Harriet. She’s so obviously bored and lonely, and her amazing creativity has nowhere to go. The underlying truths of her life are revealed slowly over time in small moments and details – there are so many layers to uncover in this quiet and subtle story. I usually have a quick gut response with illustration styles, and the pinky-purple tones and clean style of Sincerely, Harriet are visual catnip for me. I can’t recommend this sympathetic and intimate graphic novel for tweens highly enough – look out for it next month!
Rosalind McClintock is reading City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
This book is a ride. A boozy, heady, leg-flinging ride set in an old theatre full of characters, glamour, grime and martinis. I am only five chapters in and am already in love with everyone, including the severe Olive. The voice of the narrator Vivian is clear, strong and engaging. She tells the story so exuberantly that the small details lift off the page where, if shared by another narrator, may weigh it down. I have no doubt there is darkness to come; it is 1940s New York after all, but I feel safe that there will always be enough colour, humour and sparkle to get me through.