Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín (4*) - I'm not a massive reader of historical fiction, but when the film buzz first arose (with a bunch of my favourite actors attached to the project) it really whet my appetite for this one. It's the story of a young Irish girl, Eilis, who travels from Enniscorthy to Brooklyn in the 1950s to start a new life full of expanded opportunities and interesting people. The novel explores her growth from a timid girl to a poised young woman, and the way she is torn between her Irish roots and American lifestyle. It's written in a slightly detached tone, and the ending was a bit too abrupt for me (albeit realistic), but I loved Eilis's journey and the many little details that brought her experiences to life, whether it was the rough crossing to New York, working in a department store, Christmas at the local parish hall, or spending the day at the beach with friends. A compelling, subtle little novel that didn't rock my world, but made me very glad I picked it up and gave it a chance. Just one word of warning - don't (re)watch the movie trailer if you plan to read it; it spoils (and therefore ruins) one of the most important plot points of the whole novel!
P.S. I watched the movie last night and it was BEAUTIFUL. The music is to die for, it streamlines some of the fussier strands of the original, and the slight air of detachment in the novel gives way to a deeply emotional screen adaptation that ends on a perfect note. My only issues with it were that some of the key characters lacked the depth and spark they had on the page, and it skipped over most of the novel's romantic scenes that served to heighten the stakes in Eilis's dual lives and make the necessity to choose between them all the more poignant.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (4*) - Yup, I finally read it - which is good, because I was starting to feel like the last person in the universe to pick it up, and it's been on my shelves for TWO AND A HALF YEARS already. I didn't like it as much as Attachments, but I appreciated the slow-building and refreshingly joyful nature of the relationship between Cath and Levi, and I loved Reagan's sass and Mr Avery's dry wit (I was imagining him as Stanley Tucci all the way through!). The focus on the Simon Snow fandom brought back some great Potter memories, and given my Carry On purchase last week it's probably a good thing that I preferred Cath's fanfiction to the 'real' Simon book excerpts peppered through the novel. Overall I think it was maybe a little longer than it needed to be, but it finally succeeded where Anna and the French Kiss (and others) failed for me - it's a fun, bookish college novel full of interesting and multifaceted characters and different types of relationships and issues, and has a self-awareness and charm that help to excuse its more clichéd moments. Bring on the next Rainbow!
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini (5*) - This book's been on my radar for the longest time (you know how much I love a good mental health novel) and HOORAY, it was so worth the wait! First of all, let me say that it's quite refreshing to read one of these stories from the perspective of an average guy; not a painfully innocent or shy boy, or a kooky girl, but a regular, testosterone-driven, vaguely worldly fifteen year-old who likes video games, pot and jerking off. Craig's description of his five days in a mental hospital, which he checks himself into after a long battle with depression and a night of suicidal crisis - is not only pithy, warm and very realistic (it is drawn from Vizzini's own experiences), it is also, as the title suggest, really kind of funny. It's filled with wonderful characters and it's possibly the most relatable mental health novel I've read yet; I've scrawled so many notes and hearts and stars in the margin to mark passages to go back to next time I need to feel that I'm not alone and that other people have had the same weird thoughts as I'm having. I also watched the movie adaptation, which is quite faithful to the book and put a big smile on my face by the time the credits rolled. Highly recommended!
Aaaaand that was my March... Hope you all enjoyed your reading this month too!