I haven’t actually done a lot of reading this month, although it feels like it!
I have undoubtedly mentioned this before, but my preferred way of reading is many books at once. For example, I’m reading two eBooks, listening to two audiobooks and have rifled through a few paperbacks, too. And putting it like that makes me wonder whether I’m doing it wrong…
Unless I get completely hooked on a book, this way works best for me – but it also means that I get absolutely no books finished every other month!
Anyway, I did actually finish those two audiobooks mentioned above.
Small Bodies of Water – Nina Mingya Powles
Summary: Nina Mingya Powles first learned to swim in Borneo – where her mother was born and her grandfather studied freshwater fish. There, the local swimming pool became her first body of water. Through her life there have been others that have meant different things, but have still been, in their own way, home: from the wild coastline of New Zealand to a pond in northwest London.
In lyrical, powerful prose, Small Bodies of Water weaves together memories, dreams and nature writing. Exploring everything from migration, food, family, earthquakes and the ancient lunisolar calendar, Nina reflects on a girlhood spent growing up between two cultures, and what it means to belong.
This is such an enchanting, poetic memoir of various moments through the author’s life, all of which are memories relating to or around bodies of water. She moves around quite a bit in her childhood, and so these places are pools in London or Borneo, or the whole ocean in Aotearoa (New Zealand – the author consistently uses this, original name for the country).
Her way of narration, meaning how she reads the words, where she puts the stress on a sentence or the length of her breaths, coupled with the careful construction of her sentences, makes for such a mellow experience I felt very calmed by listening to this. It is very comfortable reading, particularly with the many ruminations on nature and climate coupled with memory and dreams.
This falls into a few different categories, genre-wise, such as non-fiction essays, memoirs or nature writing, but to me it felt most like poetry in prose.
House of Hollow – Kristen Sutherland
Narrator: Eleanor Bennett
Summary: The Hollow sisters – Vivi, Grey and Iris – are as seductively glamorous as they are mysterious.
They have black eyes and hair as white as milk. They share the same birthday, spaced exactly two years apart. The Hollow sisters don’t have friends – they don’t need them. They move through the corridors like sharks, the other little fish parting around them, whispering behind their backs.And everyone knows who the Hollow sisters are. Because one day the three Hollow sisters simply disappeared. And when they came back, one month later, with no memory of where they had been, it was as if nothing had changed.
I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did, which is largely, like the above, because of the excellent narration. Obviously, there is a fantasy element to this book, but the build-up and explanation of the mystery, in addition to the unsettling characters we meet along the way, are all depicted really well. The narration matches that eerie atmosphere.
There is also quite a large horror element to this story, which I wasn’t expecting but, actually, really enjoyed. It’s a lot darker than my initial impression of it!
I will say that the horror aspect did feel at odds with the narrative voice at times, a confusion of whether this was a book for adults or teens. For example, it’s kind of obvious in the synopsis, but there is a littttle too much preoccupation with just how mysterious and beautiful and Odd the Hollow sisters are. An hour in, that’s pretty much all that’s being mentioned, so I would encourage you to try and persevere past that. I’m aware the otherworldliness of the sisters is the central theme, but descriptions of their allure begin to feel rather gratuitous.
I also think the execution of the climax was a bit clumsy, and although I did enjoy it, it definitely felt a bit more of being told rather than shown. But otherwise, I did enjoy the character development and atmosphere of the story as a whole.
What have you read this month? I hope it was successful reading for you!