November has been an incredibly sparse month, book wise - only the one finished and another on the go!
Do you find that your reading goes through peaks and troughs? Lately, I've felt fairly scattered and have used the little focus I have to concentrate on my NaNoWriMo goals. The separation from Rich has left me reaching for more mindless comforts, so I've been watching a lot of romantic films and knitting (it's surprising how cheering a garter stitch rainbow can be!).
But as the weeks have rolled by without seeing Rich, I've been craving something to submerge myself in and completely lose myself in - enter, books.
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Full disclosure - I have read all of Kate Morton's books so far and really enjoyed all of them (The Secret Keeper has been one of my favourites). There's something I find quite soothing about books set in the mid 20th century, particularly when there's a juicy page turning mystery at their heart.
Morton's books, I feel, having read them all, do follow a certain formula. I have occasionally guessed at the twists, but have yet to find myself unsatisfied by them. My one criticism, which I would also level at this book, is that sometimes things can be tied up a little too neatly. But then, that sense of order may also well be what I enjoy in them who knows.
I loved this one for the same reason I loved the previous ones - the place is so lush and beautiful; the characters that particular blend of English middle-class eccentric. The story is centred on the disappearance of a little boy during a big family party, a disappearance that is never solved. Sixty odd years later, a London police woman on forced leave from the Met stumbles across the dilapidated house and becomes obsessed with finally solving the case.
I finished it in about three days because whenever I had a spare moment I'd grab it and whiz through it. I had to know what had happened to little Theo and all the other little mysteries every family has. Is the ending satisfying? Hm, I'm not sure. In parts, definitely, but I did think there were weak elements in the ending. Still, I'd heartily recommend as a fun read in the downtime you might have this month.
The Handmaiden's Tale by Margaret Atwood
I have never read any Margaret Atwood (I know, I was surprised when I realised that too!) and I felt like this was a good place to start as a couple of friends had mentioned that it was very good. I'm about halfway through now and have reached can-hardly-put-it-down stages.
It is not the easy read that The Lake House was by any means. Reading it as a woman means it's getting my hackles up pretty much on every page. In case you don't know why - this story is set in a world that has just undergone a huge upheaval and is now settling down into new rhythms, where women most certainly have their place. While some are designated as Wives to men in power, others are Marthas (essentially servants), others Unwomen (who have refused to breed) and, finally, Handmaidens, whose job it is to bear children for the men. Deprived of pretty much everything, even moisturiser, the Handmaidens are pretty much the bottom of the pile - loathed by the Wives and all but ignored by the Marthas. It's difficult to read without getting worked up!
I find Atwood's writing style quite chilly, but I don't know if that's generally or just in this book, as the narrator Offred, tends to hold herself at arms length in order to cope. I'd be interested to try some of her other books, perhaps The Blind Assassin?