I read twelve books this month. I decided to split my wrap-up in two, and these are the books that I read with my eyeballs. And I will make a different wrap-up for the eight audiobooks I listened to. So these are the four books I read in physical or ebook form.
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfeg
Eileen was a big buzzy book in 2015, and it was nominated for the 2016 Man Booker award and I finally read it, I’m slow. Anyway. It’s about a woman named Eileen who is currently in her 60s-70s and is telling the story of something that happened when she was 24, in the 70s. She lives with her alcoholic father near Boston and she works at a boy’s prison. She is incredibly disgusted by her body and even though she is tiny she is terrified of being fat. She’s obsessive about the boys in the prison and one of the guards. And she’s fairly lonely and without friends. And then a woman arrives at the prison. She’s named Rebecca and she’s very beautiful and Eileen is obsessed with her. She feels like she has to be Rebecca’s friend. It is a thriller, sort of, but it’s more of a character study, the thriller-y bit doesn’t arrive until the end of the novel. It’s a study of Eileen and her strange obsessions. She talks a lot about her body and how disgusting she finds it, and the disgusting things it does. She likes stewing in her own filth. She also obsesses over one of the guards, but the idea of him or any other man ever touching her also repulses her. I thought it was fascinating, I found Eileen fascinating, and I really liked the writing. Moshfeg really leans into the disgust and the repulsion, and I thought it was great. I also completely understand why people wouldn’t like it.
A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers
This is a companion novel to The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. It’s about two people from that novel, and this might be a bit spoiler-y. But it’s about Lovelace and Pepper. Lovelace comes with Pepper to live with her. The chapters alternate being from Lovelace and Pepper’s perspective. It’s very different from The Long Way, but I really loved it. It’s a very quiet and slow novel. It’s not hard-core sci-fi. It’s more about what it means to be a person, and what that means, and learning to be a person, and what it means to be family and friends. I really loved it. I thought it was great. It’s really different from the other novel, but it’s so great.
Lazaretto by Diane McKinney-Whetstone
Lazaretto is set in the late 1800s in Philadelphia in the US. It focuses on Sylvia, a black woman who is learning to be a mid-wife, Meda a black maid who gives birth to her boss’s child, and Linc and Bram, two brothers who grow up together in an orphanage. The climax of the novel is set on the Lazaretto, a quarantine hospital where people who are entering the US have to go if they seem to be sick. It’s really beautiful. It’s a very interesting look at different ways of living in the late 1800s and different friendships and relationships between people. I thought it was really sweet and fascinating. I really like historical fiction. It sort of annoyed me, because it had a tendency to swap point of view within chapters. And that really bugs me. There’s nothing wrong about it, but I personally find it incredibly irritating. I still liked it, and I would definitely like to read another book by McKinney-Whetstone, because I loved the characters in this book and their stories. So, yes.
Transcendent: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction edited by K.M. Szpara
This is a collection of short fiction written by trans, genderqueer, agender and non-binary writers. They’re all speculative fiction, obviously. I thought it was good. In some of the stories gender and being trans was a very important of the story, and in some it was just a metaphor and not as important. I thought the stories were beautiful, and I really liked the different ways of exploring gender and sexuality. It was really cool. I’m going to look into the different writers in the collection to see if they have published work anywhere else.