books and rain

The last day of term was spent traipsing round book shops, astounded at the amount of freedom we suddenly had and convinced we all deserved a treat to celebrate our survival. I walked out with 4 books, of which I probably won't have that much time to read and probably shouldn't have bought, considering my card was subsequently declined twice later that evening.

I'm struggling with being home and alone and having empty time, a sort of microscopic relapse of September 2017, but these emotions feel so alien, despite having consumed so much. I'd forgotten what it felt like to want to cry, to have my brain overthink to the point of combustion, but these feelings are okay. I'm consumed with guilt (eating, not exercising, not earning enough, not being productive enough) and need to tackle these emotions which I didn't realise were actually still there?!? But I think one way to do this is perhaps through exposure. Force myself to sit and read in the day, and understand that it is okay, that bad consequences did not arise. 
SO anyway. I bought some books. I feel sad and stressed. I'm going to force myself to read the books to try and help. 
Here are the books. 



Black Tudors–Miranda Kaufmann 
A black porter publicly whips a white Englishman in the hall of a Gloucestershire manor house. A moroccan woman is baptised in a London church. Henry VIII dispatches a Mauritanian diver to salvage lost treasures from the Mary Rose. From long-forgotten records emerge the remarkable stories of Africans who lived free in Tudor England...

One of my modules this year is Tudors/Stuarts and as simplistic and banal as it may sound, I think this'll give a new insight and approach. I've been thinking and reading a lot about the new approaches to the study of history, how a 'history from below' is emerging and challenging our perspectives and understandings. Much of what we know and learn about from the 16th and 17th c's is based on the literature of the elite and therefore sort of neglects the actual experiences of the people. Books like this will hopefully challenge said perspective and help establish a new 'history of the people'. I also want to appear more studious than I am lol. 

The Dream Life of Sukhanov–Olga Grushin 
Stepping out into the dusk of a warm Moscow evening, esteemed art critic Anatoly Sukhanov feels on top of the world: his career is glittering, his wife is beautiful and his children are clever. But the year is 1985 and the air is heavy with change. Sukhanov's future will be haunted by doubt. Beset by heartbreaking visions of a past he gave up, he questions his choices: in swapping a precarious life as a brilliant underground artist for comfort and security did he betray his dreams? And if his dreams re lost, what does he have left?

Oxford has an insane selection of second hand book shops and I've already committed myself to visiting more next term. This was purchased in the Oxfam on Turl Street on a whim, as many of my books are. I, as I've said so many times, am obsessed with Soviet history, especially that relating to the collapse so this felt to be calling my name. From its blurb, it seems to me somewhat reminiscent of A Gentleman in Moscow, which I loved and it has mint reviews, so I am hoping for good things. 

The Immortalists–Chloe Benjamin  
Its 1969, and holed up in a grimy tenement building in New York's Lower East Side is a travelling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the date they will die. The Four Gold children, too young for what they're about to hear, sneak out to learn their fortunes. Such prophecies could be dismissed as trickery or nonsense, yet the Golds bury theirs deep. Over the years that follow they might attempt to ignore, embrace, cheat or defy the 'knowledge' given to them that day–but it will shape the course of their lives forever.

This one was a total whim. We'd been in Blackwells for hours and were on a tight schedule to cook pesto pasta before drinking disgustingly strong vodka-coke from bowls because no one washes up and dancing until 3am to the trashiest music in the best/worst club in Oxford. 
I needed a final book to complete my 3for2 and my friends were offering endless suggestions and I was s-t-r-e-s-s-i-n-g. They were sent out the shop lmao so I could choose in peace. Anyway, this sounds light and kind of trashy, just what I need on these winter days. Again, it has insane reviews so hopefully it'll be a nice surprise. 

Enigma Variations–Andre Aciman 
From a youthful infatuation with a cabinet maker in a small Italian fishing village, and a passionate yet sporadic affair with a woman in New York, to an obsession with a man he meets at a tennis court, Enigma Variations charts one man's path through the great loves of his life. Paul's intense desires, losses and longings draw him closer, not to a defined orientation, but to an understanding that 'heartache, like love, like low-grade fevers, like the longing to reach out and touch a hand across the table, is easy enough to live down'. Andre Aciman casts a shimmering light over each facet of desire, to probe how we ache, want and wave, and ultimately how we sometimes falter and let go of the very ones we want the most. We may not know what we want. We may remain enigmas to ourselves and to others. But sooner or later we discover who we've always known we were.

This was the main purpose of our trip. I'd noticed someone reading it in college and knew it had to be devoured over Christmas. I've already started it and its fragile and delicate and leaden with nascent desire, probably perpetuating my sadness. Its made me think a lot about love, which of course sparked existentialism, and growing up and familial relationships but more than anything it echoes that dry warmth of Italian summers which my body craves. When I've fought off the weighing guilt, I'm going to plough through this and treasure Aciman's lingering word because he is a literary genius. 

So, alongside the world of late antiquity and the roman empire divided, this shall be my reading material for the christmas break. I've also got a copy of Crazy Rich Asians which I know will provide a mindless disappearance into a world of trash. My fave.

As I finish this post, I am sitting in the library, writing a timeline and looking out onto a backdrop of grey. It is the bleakest day. The rain is ceaseless, which I sort of like. I still feel a bit all over the place, but my day has been better than I anticipated and maybe I'll see my friend later, but I also dream of crawling into bed and reading, where I know the wrath of exhaustion will take over. Wow, what a few months it's been. 

What are you all reading?

2 comments

  1. Ooo, thanks for these !! Black Tudors and The Dream Life of Sukhanov sound really good/interesting - will have to add them to my list. Loving the positive vibes. But generally feeling all over the place is so relatable right now!! I need to get to a stage where I have 0 deadlines and can just sleep. Literally only then will my whole entire body relax. I just finished reading 'Trumpet' by Jackie Kay, which is honestly one of the BEST books i have ever read. I may be biased because Jackie Kay is literally one of my favourite writers, but yeah. I feel like you would maybe like her style of writing? Her collections of shorts are really good too! I've just started 'Animal Farm' by Orwell, which was so overdue. Only read the first chapter and I'm already like "this is deeep" haha. Hope you have a lovely Xmas break! <3 <3 <3

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  2. Black Tudors sounds so interesting! I want to read Enigma Variations but alas, I do not own it yet!x

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