June was a busy month – it was my birthday, some friends came to stay, I went to France for a week, I was ill, I realised I have two months to finish the first draft of my book and went into panic-writing mode – so I didn’t have much time for reading. Luckily, the books I did read were all very good!
I started with When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, which you’ve no doubt heard of if you have an interest in YA, as it’s been getting such good reviews. They’re well deserved! This is a really lovely rom-com about two American Indian teens paired together for an arranged marriage – it doesn’t quite work out that way, but they meet at a coding camp and fall for each other anyway. It’s super cute and very funny, a real pleasure to read (I also enjoyed looking up the Bollywood songs mentioned in it after I finished).
The other YA I read this month was Who Runs the World? by Virginia Bergin. Set 60 years in the future, this is about a 14-year-old girl called River who lives in an all-female society, as ‘XYs’ have been killed off by a virus. It’s quite a bold topic (it seems to have gotten quite a lot flack for being “man hating”) and I think it was really well done; I didn’t totally buy the way a world without men turns out, and I think it could have explored how trans/non-binary people would fit into such a society more – though it is mentioned briefly – but it’s entertaining and certainly gives the reader lots to consider. A good read!
I really enjoyed What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell, about an American teacher working in Bulgaria and his relationship with a male prostitute named Mitko. The writing is really excellent and it’s remarkably well observed; there are some scenes, such as the protagonist’s train journey with his mother, that feel so vivid it’s hard to believe it’s a work of fiction. Mitko in particular is a really intriguing character; he’s described in such detail and yet you’re left feeling you know nothing of him at all, just as the narrator does. Though it’s less than 200 pages, I spent a week reading this and I’m glad it did – it’s dense and takes some time to sink in.
My French book this month was D’après une histoire vraie by Delphine de Vigan, recently published in English as Based on a True Story. I absolutely loved this: it’s an autobiographical novel about de Vigan’s friendship with a woman called L., who tries to control her writing and to some extent her life. It’s incredibly gripping and keeps you guessing, and is really interesting on writing and the sometimes fine line between fact and fiction – a great read for writers, in particular (though it does get a bit Misery-ish and creepy at times).
Finally, I read Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. I’d been looking forward to reading this since hearing Eddo-Lodge speak at WebSummit last year, and it more than deserves all the hype it’s getting. It’s quite short but manages to give a thorough, layered and complex discussion of racism in Britain while still clear and easy to read – quite a feat. This should really be required reading for all Brits (especially the ones who complain the title is “reserve racism”, as it’ll explain why they’re very wrong).