Reading | Week 18 in 2021

Happy Wednesday! I’m here to share a few more books that I was able to finish since we met last week – my goodness, aren’t we lucky that there are so many amazing books out there?!

Summerwater by Sarah Moss
This story is told in one day. Moss adeptly takes us into the heads of a group of people vacationing around a Scottish Loch. The author impressed me by showing off a wide-range of internal dialogues: those of an elderly woman fearful of dementia, a stay at home mom undone by trying to decide what to do with one free hour (been there, done that), a teenage boy just trying to get away from his family, to name just a few. The whole day climaxes to a disaster in the evening (this isn’t a spoiler, there’s a heavy-handed hint at the beginning), which I found dissatisfying and incomplete (Even though this doesn’t always bother me, see my thoughts on Leave the World Behind.).

I appreciate all of the Post-Brexit-and-2016-US-Election books coming out lately. This was clearly a response to those two elections – how deeply hate seeps into those around us.

If you’re in the mood for character studies and following the internal dialogue of people who are different than yourself, then you’ll probably enjoy this book. If you’re in the mood for a well-paced novel with a satisfying ending, then this book probably isn’t for you right now. Sadly, I fell into the latter category this time.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
“Illness isolates; the isolated become invisible; the invisible become forgotten. But the snail….the snail kept my spirit from evaporating.”

“My bed was an island within the desolate sea of my room. Yet I knew that there were other people home-bound from illness or injury, scattered here and there throughout rural towns and cities around the world. And as I lay there, I felt a connection to all of them. We, too, were a colony of hermits.”

“A last look at the stars and then to sleep. Lots to do at whatever pace I can go. I must remember the snail. Always remember the snail.”

Sorry for all of the quotes, but this was such a beautiful little book! When the author contracted a viral bacterial disease on a brief European holiday, her life changed forever. Before her illness, she lived an active life on a farm in Maine. There are times throughout her illness, which has a cyclical nature that is expected to continue throughout her life, that she can barely turn her head. One day, a friend gifted her with a wild snail in a flowerpot and this snail brought the author an infinite source of wisdom.

This book brilliantly intersperses fascinating nuggets of information about the life of snails with Bailey’s own self discoveries. This was a captivating reading experience because it was part memoir, part field journal, and part scientific research – a wonderful combination!

Piranesi by Susanna Clark
“Perhaps even people you like and admire immensely can make you see the World in ways you would rather not.”

This was shortlisted for The 2021 Women’s Prize for Fiction and it’s a strange little book. Piranesi is living in an infinite House in which tides flood the corridors, there are rooms full of statues and art, and he makes his own clothes from seaweed found throughout. He is a scientist and explorer of this world and keeps detailed and excellent notebooks to share with the Other – the only other person alive in the House. One day he meets a person who should not exist and his whole life is turned on its head.

The twist of the story is obvious fairly early on, but I don’t think it ruined the book. Instead, it ushered in a mystery and puzzle that I was trying to unlock. It had such a thoughtful message: how we can all be led to believe something absurd despite how smart we think we are. I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5 because the story could have benefited from a little more explanation about the house Piranesi explored, which felt unresolved to me (but maybe it was supposed to? Either way, I needed more!).

Women’s Prize for Fiction Shortlist Update:

✔️ The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett – ★★★★★

✔️ Piranesi by Susanna Clark – ★★★★

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller – (preordered on Kindle)

✔️ Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi – ★★★★★

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones – (currently reading and loving it!)

No One is Talking About this by Patricia Lockwood – (currently reading and hating it!)

My top contender: Transcendent Kingdom

Another exciting bit of bookish news: Mary is hosting Summer Book Bingo again! I participated for the first time last year and had so much fun. Are you joining in on the fun?

I hope to see you back here on Friday with a post full of joy. Take good care until then!


4 thoughts on “Reading | Week 18 in 2021

Add yours

  1. I am glad you are also reading the books on the Women’s Prize short list. I’ve only read Transcendent Kingdom and The Vanishing Half so far, but I’ve got the other three that are out on hold at the library (and now I know why I haven’t been able to find Unsettled Ground!). I am sorry Summerwater wasn’t for you, but I have certainly been in the place where everyone loves a book and I don’t. Isn’t it wonderful how we can always find something else to read?


  2. I am with you on Transcendent Kingdom! Gosh, what an incredible story! The writing is so good! The topics are so thought provoking! (and I listened to it and the narrator was excellent!)

    I am on the waitlist for a couple of the other books on the list as well.

    And my thoughts on Summerwater… I liked it. A lot. and here’s why… it seemed very much like I could relate, the characters in the story had bits “people I knew”, it just seemed very much how life is… not always fast paced with the ending I expect. It just struck a chord with me. I am sorry it did not for you!


  3. Thank you for the Bingo plug! I admit to scrolling right past what you wrote about Piranesi … my copy should arrive this week and I want to be totally unprepared when I read it! I’m still working my way through May bookclubs and should finish shortly … then Women’s Prize reading will commence in earnest. FWIW, Katie (my daughter) considered abandoning No One Is Talking About This … and was encouraged to keep going – she gave it 4 stars.


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