Summer Reading Challenge – August Part 2

I Feel a Breeze: Read a book that takes place at a nudist colony or features nudists

I seriously cheated at this prompt. I don’t care though because I literally could not find a book that I thought I’d like which actually had nudists in it, or had nudity as a central theme. Does anyone even have any suggestions that aren’t porn or nudist manuals or something?

Anyway, yeah I gave up on this prompt and just threw in a book that I’ve wanted to read for a long time now: Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. At the time I argued to myself that there’s bound to be some sort of nudity in a poetry book or even if there’s not there will be stripped bare emotions or something like that, but really it’s just because I had it in my mind and decided that even though I’m doing a reading challenge I really don’t want to be reading something I have no interest in at all. There’s a difference between forcing myself to finish a book I might not be enjoying as much as I thought and forcing myself to read a book that I know I won’t like.

I’d read a few of Rupi Kaur’s poems here and there, online and while leafing through her books in bookstores (I do this often), so I knew that I’d already like them. I love short poems, short poems done well, and how they can be so powerful, so perfect and precise, in their phrasing and construction. I keep critiquing poetry through comparison (I’ve always said that out of the main forms of literature – novels, short stories, poetry and dramas – I am the least knowledgeable, or the worst at understanding poetry, so comparison for me is the easiest way to judge how I like poetry) and I actually went to a poetry reading the other day at the Book Festival here in Edinburgh so I have lots to compare. The poets on stage seemed quite forced, strained, and their poems were very chronological. They were more like very short stories which happened to have a line that rhymed or a particularly pleasant phrase somewhere within them. There was also a moment where I realised I could hear the amount of punctuation in the poems, there was that much in them. Kaur’s poems have absolutely no punctuation in them at all, not even capital letters, it is just the words on the page and the breaks between them which hold almost as much importance as the word-filled space.

Not that punctuation is bad for poetry: I remember analysing a poem by Philip Larkin in High School and how I could write a whole page on the use of full-stops, commas and dashes and the meaning that structure brought to the poem. Now that I’ve gone through the whole uni process I could probably write more than just a page if I really tried.

As I expected, I loved Milk and Honey. It wasn’t as I expected in terms of the subject matter, because I go around in a little optimistic bubble, but it was how I expected it to make me feel. I knew it would hit me hard in some places because I knew already that she could write simple, purifying, truthful lines that do just that.

This was a terrible review, if you could even call it that. Please go read a proper review if you’re looking for something like that, or just read her poems and judge for yourself.

Sand Between My Toes: Read a book that takes place in or around a beach/ocean

Here I go with yet another book that’s been made into a film. This time I haven’t seen the film, but this book was in my head because me and my mum tried to go and see it and unfortunately were unable during the time that she was visiting.

This is also a book that I wasn’t going to read initially, but with the end of August approaching I quickly picked this up since it’s so short. My first choice for this prompt was also recommended to me by my mum but she also said that it was such a fantastic read that I should take my time, instead of rushing to meet a deadline. For the record, I have been trying to take my time in reading all these books and absorbing as much of the writing and the story as possible, I am just a very fast reader and have been sacrificing my tv watching, my obsessive planning and my other useless ‘hobbies’ in order to read. I’m also incredibly privileged to have a job which allows me a book during the down, quiet times. Another thing that helped, although unintentionally, was being on holiday and my partner being sick, I kind of just left him to it to sleep it off for five days while I read beside him.

So this book was On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan.

I’ve never read Ian McEwan before, but he is a really beautiful writer. I was also sceptical about how entertaining a book about two people trying to have sex on their wedding night would be, but turns out that is an entertaining topic! I found it also very fun just getting so frustrated at their inability to properly communicate with one another and actually get down to business.

This next bit may contain a wee bit of spoilers but in a very vague way if you’re planning to read it, but I loved how the climax of the book was a, y’know, climax, and how as the reader you don’t really get that much relief at the end, it is an unsatisfying ending, although a fair ending to the story and the characters. *spoiler* I think if they did end up having sex at the end of the book it would have made the rest of the story tired, if that makes sense? You would have this feeling of ‘Finally!!!’ and wouldn’t be able to focus on the rest of the story.

There are a lot of possible sexual interpretations of this book, I didn’t realise until I started writing them down.

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