Book Diary of January 2023

February 14, 2023

It’s been too long since I last sat down to write a review for a book I’ve read. I used to do this religiously until last year, when I kind of just quit. But having set some new book related resolutions this year – like reading one book in Portuguese, and a classic a month, for example – I now want to get back to sharing my thoughts with you on the books I choose to read every month. And with January starting strong, with six books read, I feel really excited at sharing this on my blog again. So here goes my book diary of January 2023.

The Inseparables by Simone de Beauvoir

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A story about friendship and love, faith and the despair of losing it, duty and the pitfalls of blind obedience. While I could not shake a general feeling of moroseness all throughout reading this novel inspired by the very real friendship of Simone and Zaza (with Simone being represented by Sylvie and Zaza by Andrée), reading about the deep friendship and love connecting their two very different characters, made me read the whole book in two days. One thing I should mention is that I am very torn when it comes to Simone de Beauvoir. I believe her to be a brilliant writer, and I will not stop until I read everything of hers (The Second Sex is next on my list as I had only read excerpts of it, and never the whole thing), I don’t have the best opinion of her as a human being. Her controversially open relationship with Sartre, her insistence on it being the most (dare I say only?) authentic way of love, while there were clear signs it made her unhappy and the alleged seductions of her students, make me just uneasy about this strong woman whom we actually owe so much as women. As I write this, however, I am more and more convinced I want to dive into her and Sartre´s journals to understand them both better (I absolutely adore Sartre´s writings too, by the way).

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is the second book of the Dune series, which I bought in a frenzy after devouring the first. Dune Messiah expands the already complex Dune universe adding for example the Bene Tleilax storyline, the idea of cholas, and much more to it. In light of the jihad unleashed by Paul and the rise of his empire, the book takes on a much more philosophical tone than the first Dune and although the plot keeps you on the tip of your toes with the conspiracy to dethrone Paul through the ghola of the deceased Duncan Idaho, questions of philosophical paradoxes dominate it. In that sense, I dare to say it´s almost harder to process than the first Dune. And while it has less action, and you are probably by now familiar with both the writing style, and also the Dune universe and the laws governing it, the constant allegories and philosophical questions brilliantly showcase Frank Herber´s deep understanding of theology and ideology. All I can say is that I can hardly wait to start reading Children of Dune next.

The Ink Black Heart by Robert Galbraith

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Now that I think of it, it seems like January was a month for sagas and controversial writers. The Ink Black Heart is the sixth book of the Cormoran Strike series, and as the series expands, it only seems to get better (and thicker). I realise a lot of people have criticised this book for its length but what would the author be without her pathological attention to detail? I also realise a lot of people have criticised JK Rowling for her personal views, rating the book very poorly without even reading it. As someone who has read it and who separates JK Rowling´s talent at writing an absolutely gripping, keep you at the edge of your seat for 1000+ pages book, to her political beliefs, I have to say I loved the book. And I now hate the internet. Edie Ledwell, the co-creator of a popular cartoon, The Ink Black Heart, gets online bullied and harassed by a mysterious figure who goes by the name of Anomie. After being rejected by Cormorans Strike detective agency for help, Edie is found murdered in a cemetery, and Strike and Robin find themselves trying to unmask Anomie, and as such find the killer. The book oscillates between absorbing action and excerpts of online chats, that you will desperately try to put together while figuring out who did it. By the time you reach the end and find out who the killer actually is, you’ll want to take your hat off to JK Rowling yet again. while lamenting that she and Agatha Christie never got to meet.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I am aware that this one is supposed to be a classic for its genre, and even though I’ve been curious to read it for a while, I never really got to it until now. Having said this, the concept of the 5 love languages has been taken over and broadcasted by so many content creators and media outlets by now, that upon reading the book I felt I got very little added value out of it. The five love languages (words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, receiving gifts and quality time) are pretty self explanatory so the book felt a little bit too much, and that it could have totally been summed up in an article. On top of this, the allegedly real life stories the author uses to confirm his theories seemed a bit forced to me. Not to mention the very conservative and religious undertones that are ever present in them, making any equality and inclusion centred 21st century human (but particularly woman) cringe a little bit every few pages.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Now on the polar opposite of conservative and traditional gender role oriented narrative, comes this dystopian novel by Naomi Alderman. The plot: teenage girls develop the power to create electricity within their own body that can hurt or even kill, as such shifting the power dynamics to a world where men, as opposed to women need to fear for their lives. This happens over night and the consequences soon become deadly. While I found the plot pretty unique and engaging, the execution (particularly after reading some more reviews and thinking back at it) has some flaws. The concept of power changes or corrupts people is as old as time, but this book focuses on some particular contemporary uncomfortable topics like rape culture (inverted this time to men being majoritarily raped) or religious (particularly Muslim) extremisms . This latter topic is over-simplified in the book in my opinion though, and does not take into account how centuries of religious indoctrination in countries like Saudi Arabia do not get overturned over night. Additionally to this, I wish the book had fewer but better constructed characters, that one can create a connection to, making the story more powerful. All in all though, the story, while not offering significant answers, pushes for hard and uncomfortable questions and is going to be a fun read for anyone who like me, likes dystopian literature.

A Vida Não É Útil by Ailton Krenak

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This small book by indigenous leader Ailton Krenak provokes us through five essays to ask ourselves questions like “why can the economy not stop after all?” or “what if the worlds richest colonised Mars?”. The essays are all taken from past articles or speeches and often have a very oral style, making them very easy to read and to also get the energy Krenak tried to convey. And there is plenty of that, as he is extremely passionate about the environment and the way humans are ruining it through consumerism or even a false understanding of what sustainability entails. The book, while focused on big questions, won´t offer any big answers. Instead, it wants to underline major issues we as society are already facing and ignoring, through the wisdom of an indigineous person. And somehow this hits harder than a Greta Thunberg (whom I very much admire too, let it be said) trying to to influence change. Sure, Krenak is quite radical, but if we are to be fully honest with ourselves, is anything but radicalness going to work for the environment at this point? I confess I probably wouldn´t have read this book in English. The fact of it being short and in Portuguese was however not the main selling point. The author intrigues me, and I am trying to broaden the spectrum of writers I read nowadays. And so, I am glad I read it.

February will bring about some more books on politics, social sciences and some poetry, if I manage my time well. And I can´t wait to tell you all about them next month.

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