I got a bit optimistic the other day and decided that since the sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky then it must be warm enough to sit and read outside. Not quite unfortunately; more a case of April doing that sneaky thing it does where it lures you into believing it’s summer a few weeks prematurely. Whether I end up indoors or out though, there are some interesting books on the reading pile this month. I realised (again) how much I love my job a week or so ago when I got given a proof copy of “Into the Water”, which I’m sure I don’t need to tell you is the next novel by “The Girl on the Train” author Paula Hawkins. By rights it shouldn’t be featuring in a blog post about April TBRs as I’ve actually finished it already – but I couldn’t not mention it as it will surely be one of the biggest novels of this year. I’ll save my thoughts for the review, which I’ll probably post nearer to publication time, but if you manage to get anywhere near a copy then grab it and don’t let go. I’m super-excited about “In the Name of the Family” by Sarah Dunant, the next in her series of novels about the Borgias (I say series but I have no idea whether there will at some point be a third!) as I thought the first, Blood and Beauty, was pretty much everything you could want from a work of historical fiction. I’ve also just started “4 3 2 1”, the Paul Auster doorstop, and I have to confess, although I very much enjoyed the opening chapters I haven’t as yet got much further. This isn’t a reflection on the book I don’t think, more the fact that it’s quite a hefty thing that I suspect is going to require a reasonable amount of concentration and I haven’t really been in the headspace for something like that for a while. Last up, because I always like to have some non-fiction on the go as well, is an intriguing book I came across completely by chance in a local bookshop. “Selfish, Shallow and Self-absorbed: Sixteen writers on the decision not to have kids” is a collection of essays on, well, exactly what the title says. I’ve always found it interesting that conversations around childlessness are still something of a taboo, even in our increasingly open society. Well, that’s not quite true: potentially hurtful comments directed towards a woman without children about her lack of mother-status don’t seem to be taboo at all, but for a woman to respond and discuss the reasons for it is still, in my experience, looked upon with surprise, lack of comprehension and often, sadly, unfair judgement. I was interested to see that this book existed at all, and am very much looking forward to reading a variety of opinions on the issue.
As ever there will be more reviews up on Girl, Reading soon, but in the meantime enjoy the sunshine and enjoy whatever you’re reading!
I have never been a trend-setter. Some I’ve attempted to follow, with varying degrees of success, and some I’ve left well alone; many’s the time I’ve wished I could be one of those people who always seem to be the first to cotton on to the next big thing that everyone’s going to be wearing/watching/talking about. I wonder then, is it every author’s dream to see the title of their novel emblazoned across the cover of countless other publications, with the preceding words “the next” promising the perpetuation of a hot new trend? I can’t think of any other creative industry that so overtly compares one work to another in the hope of attracting an audience, but it’s a device that’s used over and over again, more accurately on some occasions than others. It’s fascinating to observe these literary trends take off, snowballing to epic proportions before the resultant behemoth eventually implodes under the weight of its own success, and the reading public lie prone and sated, waiting for the next idea to catch their imagination.
At the moment we’re all well and truly obsessed by what, for want of a better term, I’m going to call the female-orientated psychological thriller. Started arguably by “Gone Girl” and cemented by the juggernaut that is “The Girl on the Train” it’s a trend that’s still in full flow, with “The Widow”, “What She Left” and “Disclaimer” to name but a few picking up the ball and running with it. Delving a bit further back in time, remember the slew of conspiracy-theory-surrounding-ancient-artefact novels that followed Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code”? Suddenly you couldn’t move for ruined temples, mysterious relics and secret societies. And who could forget the era of gleeful sexual abandon instigated by “Fifty Shades of Grey”, when we all cast our embarrassment aside and it was suddenly okay to be seen reading porn on the tube?
Are big, bold, strident trends such as these always win-win for the readers or are they more of a double-edged sword than we’d perhaps like to think? Inevitably when comparisons are made between books in the way I’ve described there are always going to be instances when confidence that a new book really is “the next Girl on the Train” is slightly misplaced, and the readers (and author?) are left a bit disappointed. And admittedly, walking into a bookshop and seeing a succession of books that merely seem to repeat what’s gone before can potentially become quite tiresome. But for every novel that doesn’t quite live up to expectations there will be plenty that do and I believe that actually, the fact we so often see swathes of books of a very similar genre being released in a certain period of time is a perfect way of encouraging people to read even more than they may have done otherwise. Loved “Gone Girl”? Then brilliant – because there are now dozens of books right in front of you that you’re going to be drawn to and will probably enjoy.
All trends fizzle out eventually, and this one will be no exception. The exciting question for me, and all the other bookworms out there, is: what will be next?