This month I haven't managed to read as much as I would have liked, but I did manage to read the two books I intended to.
My first book was 'Necessary Lies' by Diane Chamberlain. Now I'm not quite sure how I feel about this one. It engages with an incredibly important, and shocking, subject - the state-mandated sterilisation programme implemented in North Carolina which existed between the late 1920s and 1970s. The programme focussed predominantly on people deemed 'feeble minded', and was disproportionately applied to poor and black communities, inside and outside institutions. The main protagonists are Jane Forrester, a young newly married affluent social worker, and Ivy Hart a 15 year old girl tasked with the care of her sister, nephew and grandmother as poor tenants on a tobacco farm. Grace is appointed the Hart's social worker and the novel charts the developing relationship between Ivy and Grace. The more involved Grace becomes in Ivy's life, the darker secrets she discovers. I won't reveal any more here in case you want to read it :)
I found it a very interesting read, on a dark element of American history I knew nothing about. The book also has some interesting story lines regarding gender roles and relations at that time, looking at the relationship with Jane and her husband as well as Ivy's circumstances. However, I felt the characters were rather two dimensional and formulaic at times - Jane's actions bordered on the unbelievable at points - and the ending was a bit too predictable yet unbelievable for me. I thought with such a powerful subject Chamberlain could have done a bit more. But I'd love to know what other people think if they've read it - I've seen lots of excellent reviews for this book and maybe I am being a bit too picky. There were a couple of good twists, and it seems the social history was probably very well researched. Overall I'd give it 3 out of 5 I think.
The second book I read was part of the 'challenge' I'm vaguely following (you can read about it here), and fulfilled the category 'a book your mum loves'. My Mum's all-time favourite book is Jane Eyre by Emily Bronte, so I thought I'd better read that! I've read it once before, but I think I was only 12 or 13, so a long time ago, and having read it again I don't think I appreciated it when I did read it. What a beautiful novel. It's such a wonderful plot, and masterfully written. Whilst I'm a bit of a skim-reader I had to slow down a bit here because there were a fair few complicated sentences that I had to read slowly to digest! But it was worth it, the story of a young orphan girl, cast out by her Uncle's wife to a charitable school, who later becomes a governess to the ward of the striking, dark and intense Mr Rochester is definitely worth a read. It's written in the first person, and I really warmed to the character of 'Jane', the authorial voice is very realistic and entertaining. The tension between her an Mr Rochester is wonderful, it rivals the courtship between Elizabeth and Darcy in my opinion. The book's full of suspense as well, I won't give too much away just in case people haven't read it. I was pleasantly surprised with how engaging it was though, and I couldn't put it down. I'm still glad I wasn't born a Victorian though ;) Definitely 4.75 stars out of 5
So for next month..... I'm going to aim just to read one book as I'm a little bit snowed under (not literally!) I've got several contenders lined up, but seeing as I keep seeing it all over the blogosphere I'm going to read Jessie Burton's 'The Miniaturist'. I might also include a review of a book I'm studying for my thesis just to mix things up ;)
What are you reading? Do tell :) Linking up with Laura's 'The Year in Books' on her blog The Circle of Pines, here.