Well, so far I’ve managed to stick to the challenge, as outlined here, and I’m feeling pretty proud of myself!
My books for the months were Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.
I don’t want to give any spoilers away so I’ll attempt to be brief and vague enough about them to not spoil them for anyone who hasn’t read these books. Elizabeth Is Missing is an absolutely beautiful book but, not gonna lie, I had to take a break every few chapters because it made me so, so sad. Having a narrator / heroine of a book with dementia is definitely unusual but it works. If you’ve ever known someone who has experienced dementia / Alzheimer’s then you couldn’t fail to find this book tugging on the heart strings. Not only does it give a moving account of how it feels to experience dementia, it’s also a great detective story that you don’t want to put down.
Clearly I was aiming to really bum myself out with my book choices in January but The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is definitely worth a read, once you get over the implausibility of the plot (as an early reviewer of the book said “Note to the reader: There were no 9-year-old Jewish boys in Auschwitz – the Nazis immediately gassed those not old enough to work.”). I can understand the frustration felt by some that the sense of censorship in the book detracts from the horrors of concentration camps however this *is* meant to be a children’s book and is written from the point of view of a nine year old child. But all of that to one kind and you’re left with a moving story of an unlikely friendship between two boys in truly horrendous circumstances and a reminder of man’s capacity for inhumanity.
My third book was picked at the insistence of a friend who has always been Team Brontë whilst I’ve been firmly in the Team Austen camp and she was right, this is a fantastic book. Power through the first chapter because the rest of the book becomes a definite page turner. Anne Brontë probably deserves to take the title of “first feminist novel” for this book – it’s far more kick-ass than I expected and without the guaranteed comfort of a happy ending.
Finally, I read Gone Girl as I’d bought the book around the time the film came out to read before watching it so expect the film to pop up on my watched list sometime soon. It’s hard to really touch on the plot of the book without giving anything away but if you haven’t read it, I’d really recommend it. Flynn is an excellent writer who manages to have you completely invested in the outcome of the story despite two phenomenally unlikable main characters.
As for films, I watched The Theory of Everything, Behind The Candelabra, Cinderella, Interstellar, A.C.O.D (Adult Children of Divorce), Fury, The Big Short and Dallas Buyers Club. A fairly mixed bag and I really enjoyed them all. Trailers are below if you fancy checking any out…