This month, I read four very different books in January, but now, after reflecting back on them, I see that they all share one common element: strong women. I also happily stumbled upon the “What Should I Read Next?” podcast from Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy, which has given me lots of great titles to add to my reading list.
Swing Time by Zadie Smith / Two little girls are drawn together on their first day of dance class, and their friendship fills this novel. It is not an easy friendship. Their judgements, jealousies, and loyalties for one another shape their childhoods and define their lives as women. There are no saints in this novel. Every character is full of flaws; some of these weaknesses are deplorable, while many of them are simply annoying. But just as equally, each character, including the unsympathetic narrator, has something lovely and vulnerable about them, which is what kept me reading. And, as with Smith’s other novels, the streets of London fill so much of this story, making it a engaging place to spend some time.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai / This memoir is nothing short of inspiring. Yousafzai’s bravery and strength shine in this book as she shares about what her life was like before and after the Taliban came to her hometown in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. It is a portrait of an indomitable spirit as well as a powerful call for children all over the world to receive an education that will prepare them for a positive and successful future.
Nothing Daunted by Dorothy Wickenden / This was a delightful surprise. Vinny brought home a copy of this book from work, thinking that we would both enjoy reading it. It tells the true story of two women who leave their genteel East Coast lives for the rugged beauty of the Colorado Rockies in 1916. Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood break with convention and seek out a different path than the one expected of them by their wealthy families. While the book tells of their experiences in the West—mostly compiled from their extensive correspondence with their friends and families—it also comments on teaching, social mores, women’s roles in society, the American West, and frontier life, making it an engaging read.
The Green Road by Anne Enright / I loved how this novel took me back to the country roads of County Clare in Ireland. It was so easy for me to imagine the landscape in which this family drama unfolds having visited there three years ago. After many of years of being separated, the Madigan family comes together to spend one last Christmas together in their mother’s home, yet the reunion is not easy as years of jealousy, bitterness, resentment, and selfishness harden the relationships among the family members. Yet, this novel is ultimately about compassion and a mother’s love. For the matriarch of the Madigan clan, Rosaleen, these emotions are difficult to express; nevertheless, they are still deeply felt.