What We’re Reading: May

Annie —
Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

As the autumn sets in in earnest, I’ve been reading for either comfort or thrill. Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These has some of both – it is a slim novel, but every well-chosen word is absolutely engrossing.

It is a few weeks before Christmas 1985 in a small Irish town and Bill Furlong, the local coal and timber merchant is in the midst of his busiest time of year. As he makes his rounds, he reveals the long-held secrets and sins of his small community that is dominated by the imposing church on the hill. This is a beautiful, icy, sparse book about doing the right thing even if it goes in the face of popular opinion. Keegan lends a glorious nostalgic glow to this slice of recent history, all the while questioning its morals and mores.

Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda

Less comfortable but still enthralling, Claire Kohda’s debut novel follows a young woman who moves to London to take up an internship at a prestigious art gallery, which is not quite what she expected. All the while, she is getting increasingly hungrier. While Lydia would love to eat the food of her Japanese father’s heritage, she and her mother are vampires who have been living off non-human blood for as long as she can remember. But she’s left her mum behind, and her first time living independently is throwing up more challenges than expected.

A fascinating take on the traditional vampire story, Kohda examines the predatory internship model, race, hunger, desire and what it means to live on the outskirts of society.

Bebe —
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Lord Henry “Monty” Montague is in love with Percy, but in a time where the only form of international travel is via grand wooden sailboats, he is forced to keep his burning secret with Percy to himself. Monty is about to leave his home town to begin his Grand Tour, but with Percy alongside him Monty struggles to keep his priorities straight and his father satisfied. As he begins his tour, he realises that he is leaving behind his ideal future of leisurely pleasure and safety for the world beyond his family estate gates. Pressure builds when Monty’s father puts the family estate into Monty’s hands and when Monty’s friendship with Percy is tested after numerous romantic escapades. Monty is determined not to give up, but when a reckless decision turns into a manhunt spanning across Europe he is forced to rethink about what has greater importance; his family name or his growing love for Percy.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is filled with wit, romance and intrigue. I loved every single page of it and was finished with it just as quickly as I bought it. Highly recommended for young adults aged 12-17.