Hello and welcome to a new series of posts: What I Read. Each month I am going to wrap up my reading for the month (or the highlights). Here’s February… a little late, March will be coming at you next week!
My goal for February, what with it being love month and all that, was to read as many books with a romantic theme. This wasn’t difficult for me because my automatic reflex is to turn to a romance novel. Want to relax? Read romance. Want to cry? Read romance. Want to generally feel things? I. Read. Romance. In February, I decided to go for extra comfort (and test out the new reread function on Goodreads) by revisiting some of my favourite books, as well as a cute, new to me graphic novel.
Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
This was the first novel I read in February and it’s no secret that Rainbow Rowell is one of my favourite authors. I’ve loved her writing ever since the first time I read Eleanor & Park when I was at university. I swiftly went on to read Fangirl, Attachments, and snapped up Carry On as soon as it came out a couple of years ago. Her writing is addictive and her characters are wonderful. I also read Kindred Spirits this month, which was Rainbow Rowell’s short story for World Book Day in 2016 (It’s great. It’s about Star Wars. You should read it.).
Eleanor & Park will always have a special place in my heart. I associate it almost with the rekindling of my love for YA. I was at university, reading all these highbrow, “academic” books, and was starting to lose my love of reading. I downloaded E&P to my kindle and read it in a couple of nights. It reminded me that reading doesn’t have to be a slog. You can read what you want, not just what you think you should. Realising this helped me to incorporate books I really loved into my university essays, alongside those staple “classics” that you have to read (but don’t necessarily enjoy that much…). And so I ended up writing essays about fantastic YA novels like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Delirium by Lauren Oliver, as well as Shakespeare, Keats, D.H Lawrence, George Orwell and Arthur Miller. My education began to feel more rounded and it’s strange to think that all that was sparked by one little book…
Eleanor & Park is, as you might have guessed, about a girl called Eleanor and a boy called Park. It’s an incredibly sweet, slow burn love story that depicts a pair of 17-year-olds experiencing love for the first time, overcoming challenging home lives and personal demons. Eleanor has low self-esteem, she’s the new girl in school and is immediately bullied for her strange fashion sense, big red hair and large size. Park, on the other hand, despite getting along pretty well with kids at school, is insecure about his size and his Asian heritage. They meet on the bus to school when Park, much to his chagrin, lets Eleanor take the empty seat next to him. They don’t speak to each other for weeks, but eventually their relationship evolves from a shared love of graphic novels and music. The prose is beautiful, lyrical and heartbreaking. This book will hurt you.
Soppy by Philippa Rice
I read Soppy next, although perhaps “read” isn’t the right word?
Soppy is a collection of comics and illustrations about Philippa Rice’s real life relationship with her boyfriend, using, primarily, the colours of red, white and black. Her style is striking and incredibly cute.
My favourite thing about this book is how intimate it feels to see snapshots into someone else’s relationship in this way. This, as I mentioned in my Christmas book haul post, is the perfect little book to flip through or dip in and out of, but I read through the whole thing in one or two sittings. It’s a read that will make you laugh and warm your heart.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
Finally, I read the ultimate in romance novels: Jane Eyre. I read this book when I was about 14 years old and obsessed with reading classic (or cult classic) books. I remember struggling with it massively and I’m not entirely sure if I ever finished it. Around that time, I also read (and loved) Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and felt disappointed that I couldn’t get into Jane Eyre in the same way.
In February, I undertook two weeks of work experience at Penguin Press. I commuted in and out of London every day, with train journeys taking up 3-4 hours of my day. Perfect opportunity, I thought, to get stuck into a book I’d always wanted to revisit. And let me tell you, it was perfect. I don’t know what was wrong with me before but I’d been missing out for 10 years. Jane Eyre is a new favourite. Jane is a headstrong and admirable character and there wasn’t a moment where I felt bored following her story. I wasn’t wishing for scenes to pass quicker so I could get to a scene with Mr Rochester, I was savouring every moment. It probably helped that I’d seen film adaptations (as well as an absolutely amazing web series adaptation) and could keep up easily with the story.
The novel follows the character of Jane Eyre, from her life as a young girl living at Gateshead with her cruel Aunt and cousins, her education at Lowood school and then, later, her role as a governess at Thornfield. It explores the people she meets through her life and how she learns to tame her passionate character and become a well-educated and level headed young woman. It is also a love story, perhaps one of the world’s most famous, of Jane Eyre and her employer, Mr Rochester. The writing is incredible and completely ahead of its time. The book strikes me as a feminist novel, which is nuts considering the fact that feminism wasn’t even really a thing in the 1800s. Jane makes her own decisions, is her own person and doesn’t let Mr Rochester or, later in the novel, St John tell her how to live her life. They often disagree with her choices and try to persuade her against her decisions but, as Jane says herself: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”