At the end of 2018, I decided that I needed to read more books on Wicca and witchcraft, and magic in general. I also have an ongoing intention to read more books by women, queer people, Black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour. Here are the books I have read in January.
The Golem and the Djinni was excellent and had magic, mystery, tragedy, oodles of period detail and a really great plot.
I didn’t enjoy Disobedience as much as I did The Power (by the same author). I just didn’t care enough about the characters, despite the promising subject matter.
At the start of 2019, I read The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. It took me a while to get into it, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. The story highlights the pain of diaspora, and the pain of Indigenous people and displaced people from other post-colonial cultures, and the violence and oppression visited upon immigrants and Indigenous Peoples by white supremacy. It’s brought to the reader’s attention but not in a didactic way; it’s there as part of the background of the story.
My next book was Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold, after reading Mike Finn’s review of it. It was very enjoyable science fiction exploring the clash between two cultures. I really liked the two main characters, Naismith and Vorkosigan, both of whom are honourable people (hence the title). All the characters are well drawn and their motivations are subtle.
After that I read the sequel, Barrayar. The thing I really liked about it was that it takes pregnancy and childbirth and biology seriously, unlike many other novels. The clash of Betan and Barrayaran culture continues, as Cordelia observes the patriarchal culture of Barrayar with increasing bafflement. Highly dramatic and original plot, too.
Next up was Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a Generation of Swashbuckling Jews Carved Out an Empire in the New World in Their Quest for Treasure, Religious Freedom–and Revenge, by Edward Kritzler. This is a fascinating though slightly rambling book about the attempts of Sephardic Jews to escape from and defeat the Inquisition. It’s not sufficiently critical of the colonization of Turtle Island, in my view, but it sheds light on a previously obscure aspect of history, and importantly, rescues the Jewish people from being depicted as bookish urban types with not much agency. And the Jewish pirates of the title are fascinating.
Then I picked up The Fairy’s Tale: A Novel For People Who Don’t Trust Fairy Tales, by F D Lee. I only got a few pages in and then my iPad decided to update itself and I couldn’t do it because I was on the plane to the UK. So I haven’t finished it yet.
At the airport, I bought The Queen of Bloody Everything by Joanna Nadin, and The Accidental Further Adventures of the Hundred Year Old Man, by Jonas Jonasson.
The title, The Queen of Bloody Everything refers to the Goddess Gaia, but she doesn’t get much of a look-in. This is a coming of age story set in the seventies and eighties, so there was a lot here that I recognized, as it was the period of my childhood and adolescence. The narrative is addressed to the narrator’s mum, who is a bit of a fay hippie type with lesbian leanings. The narrator just wants to be normal. I wasn’t sure if I liked the narrator.
The Hundred Year Old Man book is the sequel to The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared. It’s every bit as enjoyable and picaresque as the first book. As before, Allan Karlsson stumbles into world events and meets several world leaders under bizarre circumstances. The bits about Angela Merkel and Margot Wallström are particularly good.
Whilst in Petworth, Sussex, I picked up a copy of Help the Witch by Tom Cox, so I’ll probably read that next.