There's something about doing an English degree that really makes you lose your love of books. Having to speed read a few novels a week for three years means that after it's over, you don't want to see another book again. I think I might finally be over that feeling; in Iceland I read two books and I've consumed two more in quick succession since. I still need to be better at finding time to read, rather than just staring mindlessly at the TV every evening, but it would seem my love of books is right back on track.
Starter for Ten, David Nicholls
This is one of the rare occasions where I have seen the film before I read the book, although it was years ago. In my mind, this book would have something of 'The History Boys' about it - cute boys swanning around quoting poetry. How wrong I was. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it all the same but it was certainly was a surprise when I started reading! Instead, it tells the story of a boy who is somewhat of a loser, bumbling along making bad decisions and pining after an impossibly beautiful but impossibly arrogant girl, alongside the backdrop of the University Challenge - a staple British institution.
This book rather reminds me of Adrian Mole; or rather, the amount of cringing that I did whilst I read it reminded me very much of when I read Adrian Mole. That slow, tense cringing that makes you want to shake the main character and scream at them to stop what they are doing, immediately, and see the truth. It's a skill to make you feel that stomach knot of embarrassment, and David Nicholls has it down.
The ending is particularly cringe-worthy and it makes you want to cry. Or rather, the part before the ending. The ending itself is lovely, with the hero (if you can call him that) having a happy ending. I can't help but feel it was somewhat orchestrated, as the girl he ends up with feels too good for him, in my mind at least, but it's a satisfying read all the same.
Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, Helen Fielding
I feel like I have so much to say about Bridget Jones, I could write a whole post about it. The whole Bridget Jones phenomenon, and its relationship with feminism, is fascinating. Whilst there's a lot that I would say that would make me sound cynical about this book - and the accompanying film - there is another side of the story. That I love Bridget with all my heart. She is frustrating but she is very real, and you can't help but be carried along with her.
This review has a slight spoiler alert so if you don't know anything about the book, look away now. I sobbed like a baby at this book. Deep, wracking sobs. Every time she reflected on the death of Mark Darcy and having to carry on without him, I couldn't stop myself. I'm actually tearing up as I write those words. The story was implausible at points but it was still perfect. Although I thought that I could never recover from the death of Mark Darcy, what Fielding did was a bold move and it definitely paid off. If you enjoyed the original books and films, then I'm sure you'll love this, too.
Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
A classic, but one I'm ashamed that I've not picked up before now. I found it lurking on the shelf and questioned Paul about it. His two sentence review was dismissive, but since we have rather different taste in books (he's a philistine) I figured that I would still give it a go. I'm glad I did, because it's exactly the kind of book that I love - a beautifully written piece which captures a moment and a character with perfection. Where nothing much seems to happen, but by the end of the book everything has changed; you've changed as a result of reading it. It's brilliant - just read it, okay?