Bookish Chatter | Dark Academia and an Early Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction

Hello friends! Even though it’s only Wednesday, we’ve had such a variety of fall weather this week. We woke up to a cloudy and rainy Monday and a sunny and warm Tuesday; I loved both of them! We’re back at school this week and I am always in awe when the transition is smooth. It’s such a nice contrast to our earliest days of homeschooling. But our topic today is, of course, reading! So let’s catch up.


FINISHED THIS WEEK:

I first read The Secret History in 2016 and had a hard time finishing it. Who knows why other than the fact that I wasn’t enjoying much of anything in 2016! But it was begging to be read again and a ton of other Fiction Matters members were interested in reading it so here we are. I’m relieved to report that it was SO GOOD this time around!! I talked about it a bit in last week’s post and that still sums up why I enjoyed it so much, so I won’t say too much about it here. I’m still working my way through the Once Upon a Time… At Bennington College podcast (I’m on episode 7) and am just now getting to the mysteries of Donna Tartt, who is a fascinating person. This was such a great pairing! And now I’m wanting to read all the dark academia I can get my hands on, but my reading life in October is already booked up. Added to the future docket: Babel, finishing up Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, and rereads of The Ninth House and The Likeness. Any other suggestions for me?

Fugitive Pieces was the 1997 Women’s Prize Winner (back when it was known as the Orange Prize) and nearly made my heart stop with it’s painful and gorgeous writing. This book is about the poet, Jakob Beer, who fled the Nazis in Poland as a young boy. He’s saved by a Greek geologist, Athos, one of the most fascinating people you’ll come across in literature. Jakob is haunted by his lost family his whole life and writes poetry to summon them. The second part of the book is about Ben, the child of Holocaust survivors, who meets Jakob at a party in Toronto. Grief, trauma, and inherited trauma are all intertwined in this novel, which is especially interesting given the conversations about epigenetics I’ve been having. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend my reading energy on a book from the late 90s, but am so glad I picked this up and committed to it. I think Jakob will be haunting me for quite a while.

SLOW AND STEADY:

Yup – still working on Lonesome Dove. I’ve started the third and final section and am just over 750 pages in. I’m reading from one of the mass market paperback editions and while the pages are small, the font is also very small! There is a LOT of text on every single page. Anyway – we’ve finally met Clara, the love of Gus’s life. She lives in Ogallala with her two young daughters on a horse farm. Her husband had an awful accident and was kicked in the head by a horse. He’s alive, but with severe brain damage and bed-ridden. Clara takes care of his every need, which must be beyond exhausting given everything else she’s suddenly in charge of. And now Gus has arrived in Ogallala and it’s the night before he’s going to see Clara for the first time in about 15 years. I am so excited!

I have around 250 pages left and I’m not sure if I’ll be finished by the time we chat next Wednesday? While I’m still enjoying Lonesome Dove, I’m anxious to get back to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which I’m planning to tackle for my next slow and steady reading project.


Here’s a reminder of my TBR stack in October. I’m really trying to stay focused but it’s been hard – there are just so many books in the world. The purple checks are the ones I’ve finished, the purple dashes are the ones I have in my current rotation (Lonesome Dove, Beloved, and The Wild Hunt.) I’m trying to tackle my library books first because they have due dates, but that’s what I always do and then never get to the books on my shelves! There’s a lesson here. Stop buying books! My reading life is usually stronger when I’m borrowing a lot from the library because there’s the (soft) pressure of due dates. It works for me!


Please share any dark academia recommendations for me in the comments because I’d love to pile them into my TBR for the new year! I hope to be back on Friday with an update on our week – until then, take good care.

16 thoughts on “Bookish Chatter | Dark Academia and an Early Winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction

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  1. You read so much! I remember I used to read more when my children were younger. I used to stay up way late reading, now I’m ready for bed before 9. I’m glad the return to school went smoothly, your children must be enjoying school. Happy reading!

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  2. Dark academia! Love it. Fugitive Pieces sounds haunting. I admire your persistence with Lonesome Dove. Sounds like quite an endeavor. I LOVED Jonathan Strange. If you haven’t read Paranesi, you might want to add that to your TBR list. Very different from Jonathan Strange, but just as wonderful.

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    1. Thank you for the recommendation! I read Piranesi back when it was nominated for (and won!) the Women’s Prize, but I’ve been thinking about rereading it. I listened to it on audio and would also like to try it on the page. I began reading Jonathan Strange again over the weekend and am LOVING it. I don’t know what my block was in April??

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      1. Oh, sometimes we’re just not in the right space for a particular book (or movie). During the depth of the pandemic, I only wanted to read books that were as light as fluff. Too much heavy stuff in real life. Thankfully that phase has passed.

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  3. I seem to remember taking a long time to read The Secret History, too, but I suspect that’s because I was only reading it at night before bed, so my time was limited. Speaking of Dark Academia, have you seen this sweater that just came out this week? https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/dark-academia

    I’ve never even heard of Fugitive Pieces, but it sounds amazing. And my library has it! I’ve tagged it so I’ll remember to go back and read it once I’ve tackled a bit more of my TBR list.

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  4. Wow! What a great reading week, Katie! You are deeply immersed in big books! My reading has slowed dramatically. I am listening to a book… poor choice, I should be reading it with my eyes instead… but I just have a few hours left. Then maybe my reading will pick up again!

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  5. I struggle so much with staying focused! This is why I usually have 5+ books on the go. I too also prioritize library books over ones I own. I think it’s going to be a resolution to work on these habits ๐Ÿ™‚ I love seeing your book stacks and reading your reviews!

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    1. Thank you, Sarah! The trouble for me is that even though I don’t buy as many books as many people, I DO buy too many for my budget and desire for a more minimal lifestyle. I wish I was better about asking for interlibrary loans!

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  6. Oh I love when people share what they are reading! I may get around to doing that again on my blog. I used to quite frequently. Right now the reading is slow but my son and I are reading the Hatchet (Brian) series by Gary Paulsen and I’m reading a few books here and there on my own including a small book about the Amish and another one on Healing Your Wounded Soul. I haven’t done a lot of fiction lately but I have read a few mysteries by Agatha Christie.

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    1. We started Hatchet as a read aloud last week thanks to one of your earlier comments! Thank you again! I love it when others share their reading, but I also know that it can be difficult to work it into the blogging rotation sometimes! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  7. I continue to be amazed by how much you read and how many books you have pegged to read (this month or the next). I have no idea where you find the time! It’s good though that you are enjoying it all. Have fun!

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