One Minute Book Reviews: Winter Reads

9 Mar 2024

One minute book reviews

By chance, I’m writing this on World Book Day. My son is at nursery today; he doesn’t normally go on Thursdays, so I only realised I needed a Where’s Wally costume yesterday afternoon and as a result, my first attempt at the whole WBD costume shenanigans, which I’m learning is apparently a Big Deal in the parenting world, was not a success. Unless you count a black and white striped top and a grey bobble hat (both of which he wears all the time) as a success… Where’s Wally: The Emo Years? No? Ah well, there’s always next year. 

Shall we talk about some books? 

Good Material by Dolly Alderton

We started the year with a good’un. A relationship break-up told from the male perspective: failing comedian Andy can’t understand why his ex-girlfriend Jen stopped loving him and why everyone around him seems to have grown up when he wasn’t looking. Completely adrift, he clings to the idea of solving the puzzle of his broken relationship. Really enjoyed this, it made me both chuckle and tear-up. Felt it perfectly captured both heartbreak and that time in your thirties where it feels like there’s a dramatic shift into adulthood, and friendships can seem much harder to maintain, but the male perspective was a fresher take on the themes. 4.5/5

Sourdough by Robin Sloan 

A quirky little novel about Lois, a software engineer stuck in the daily grind, the only highlight of her day the sourdough sandwich she orders every night from two brothers running a hole-in-the-wall eatery. When the two brothers have to leave San Francisco due to visa issues, they leave their sourdough starter to their favourite customer and Lois must keep it alive and thus, her sourdough baking journey begins. This was a charming read, but I enjoyed the first half a lot more than the second. It went off on a slightly odd, fantastical tangent which I wasn’t entirely convinced by. 3/5

We Had To Remove This Post by Hanna Bervoets

A novella about a woman working as a content moderator for a social media platform. Her job involves reviewing offensive videos and pictures, rants and conspiracy theories, and deciding what needs to be removed. She spends all day viewing the very worst of humanity, but she’s made new friends and found a girlfriend amongst her colleagues so it’s not affecting her that bad. Or is it? I liked the premise of this and felt like it achieved the unsettling, low-level disturbing feeling the writer was probably aiming for, but the ending was so abrupt (almost like the author had simply just stopped writing) and unsatisfying that I was left feeling like I’d only read half the story. 3/5

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I am ashamed to say I have had this book sat on my bookshelf for years, it has moved between three different homes, and I can’t believe this unread treasure was there all this time. The intertwining stories of a blind French girl and orphaned German boy trying to survive the devastation of World War II. When war breaks out, Marie-Laure and her father flee Paris to Saint-Malo where they accidentally become a part of the resistance. Meanwhile, Werner’s talent for building and fixing radios is enlisted to help bring down the resistance. Ultimately a story about all the ways that people, against all odds, try to be good to one another. The writing was beautiful, and I loved every detail. Honestly, I thought this was an absolute masterpiece of a novel. 5/5

Piglet by Lottie Hazell 

A word of warning: the food descriptions in this book are mouthwatering, so please do read with snacks to hand. Piglet (an unfortunate childhood nickname) has curated the perfect life for herself with her job as a cookbook editor, her upper-middle class fiancĂ©, Kit, and her house in Oxford. But then Kit confesses to a betrayal thirteen days before their wedding. Torn between the life she has always wanted and the ravenous feeling that she is not getting what she deserves, Piglet and her perfect life begin to unravel. Told almost entirely through exquisitely described cooking scenes or excruciatingly detailed vignettes (the wedding dress scene, oh my god), the story examines class differences, a woman’s sometimes complicated relationship with food and the lies we tell ourselves. A very impressive debut. 4/5

The Food Almanac Volume II by Miranda York

From various writers and artists, a lovely collection of stories, recipes and illustrations for each month in the kitchen. A great gift should you have a foodie in your life (or for yourself if you’re the foodie). I enjoyed this just as much as Volume I and am hoping for a third. 4/5

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano 

Dear Edward is one of my favourite books of recent years so I was keen to pick up the author’s latest novel. Seemingly inspired by Little Woman, it tells the story of the four Padavano sisters growing up in Chicago in the 1970/80s. Julia, the eldest sister, marries William Waters, a rising basketball star, and has their lives perfectly planned out. But when William has a breakdown that Julia cannot understand, it is her sister Sylvie that becomes his confidant, and the ensuing betrayal will tear the sisters apart and affect generations to come. The author does characterisation so well; they were all believably flawed and human, and you can’t help but love and root for them. A beautiful family-saga. 5/5

Happy reading folks x