Everything I read in May

May was a big reading month for me. One of my favourite parts of going on holiday is all the reading I get done – so when I took a week off this month (Weekend Week!) I made sure to spend as much time as possible curled up with a book. Even though I was on holiday on my own sofa, it still felt very luxurious.

Here are all the books I finished this month and what I thought of them.

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Novels from the end of the world

I have always been an anxious person. I’ve worried about school, work, relationships, politics, death – all the usual things. So I guess it was inevitable that over the last year, environmental anxiety has taken over large chunks of my life.

Sometimes I can redirect my focus for weeks, thinking about projects at work or wondering what haircut I should get. But then I see an article – climate change projections, biodiversity warnings, plastic, dead coral reefs – that hits me like a truck and completely trashes my mental health, at least until I manage to repress the fear again. And one of the things I do to distract myself is read.

Last year I read The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell (some spoilers ahead). I wanted to like this book, but for the first 500 or so pages, I really struggled to get on with it. Its characters were interesting, but I wasn’t thrilled by the novel’s fantasy subplots or seemingly endless in-jokes about the Hay Festival.

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Here are those satisfying endings for Lullaby that you wanted

Recently I read the novel Lullaby, by Leïla Slimani. I thought it was a good book and I wanted to see what other people thought about it. So naturally I turned to the internet.

Unfortunately, Lullaby has been marketed as “the French Gone Girl“, which isn’t really accurate. It is not a fun thriller with lots of exciting twists and turns. So if someone picked it up expecting that, and instead got a tense exploration of class, poverty, race and the pressures of motherhood in modern France, I can understand they might need a while to adjust their expectations.

That being said… I regret reading the Amazon and GoodReads reviews, which have comment after comment grumbling about the book’s ending. “Waste of time.” “I don’t understand why she did it.” “Where is the twist?”

Lullaby immediately opens with a horrifying subject: a nanny murders the two children in her care. The narrative then travels back to explore the characters’ pasts and the relationships between them. What it does not do – much to the ire of these reviewers – is offer a magic explanation or easily digestible reason for this shocking crime. Something that you can read and say, “Oh, so that’s why that happened!” and then consider the case closed.

Fine. Let’s rewrite the ending of the book to be more to your liking. I present:

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Giving up on a book

I did something unusual last month: I gave up on reading a book. Two books, actually.

This is pretty rare for me. I will ditch a TV series without a second thought, and regularly lose interest in video games before playing them to the end. Films are a different story, but they’re also so short that I can tolerate a bad one in its entirety. But when it comes to books, I will generally grind through to completion, no matter how long it takes.

My latest book abandonments happened back-to-back. First I dumped Shardik after only a few chapters. Then I made it halfway through Brighton Rock and decided not to stick around for the second half. The books sat together at the top of my charity shop pile, a reminder of my shame. I began to wonder if there was something wrong with my attention span.

But the next time I picked up a book, I tore through it in 24 hours. I still felt bad about abandoning its predecessors, but I realised this felt like a much better use of my time than slogging through something I wasn’t actually enjoying.

I decided I should give up on more books. Why I don’t do this more often?

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