December wrap-up (part 2)
A truncated wrap-up this month, since my reading took place in two separate jurisdictions - so please enjoy my brief recap of the reading I did in the latter half of December 2021.
La plus sécrète mémoire des hommes (5★/5), by Mohammed Mbougar Sarr: This year's Goncourt novel, a very difficult but very beautiful story. It's told from the point of view of Diégane Faye, a Senegalese writer living in Paris who is trying to track down a lost manuscript of a book that was infamous in the 1930s, written by another Senegalese author. This is a story that plays a lot with structure and ideas of perception, and needs to be read very closely because it is occasionally very difficult to follow; but it's worth the work because the language is simply stunning and I do love a central character with a complex moral code. Not yet available in an English translation, but I don't think will be far behind. In contention for the top of 2021 list.
Monsieur (5★/5), by Emma Becker: A story that I thought was just a complex romance but is actually an erotic novel, and one that is actually really well-written. The sex is crude and occasionally repetitive, but some very hot moments sprinkled throughout. It's more a psychological exploration of eroticism and obsession, and I very much enjoyed the fluidity that Becker used with her timeline. In contention for my top of 2021 (too). English translation available here.
The Love Hypothesis (4★/5), by Ali Hazelwood: A perfectly fine, enjoyable romance set in the world of STEM academia that I didn't even realise was based on Star Wars fan fiction. I recommend if you need a fluffy, easy romance that is not great but also far from being mediocre (the sex was hot, the male lead was suitably hot and brooding).
Le Collier de la reine (3★/5), by Alexandre Dumas: Far and away from being my favourite Dumas. The pacing was wildly off (800 pages of build up and then the big climactic scene happens off page?) and the characterisation and dialogues were far more melodramatic and soap opera-y than the plot actually warranted or deserved. Give this a skip, as far as I'm concerned.
Le Club des Incorrigibles Optimistes (5★/5), by Jean-Michel Guenassia: Made my top of 2021 list in the end. This is a rollicking good fun coming-of-age story set in 1960s Paris, centred around a chess club of Soviet political refugees and the thirteen-year-old boy who accidentally stumbles on them one day. His family is going through a difficult time, he's falling in love for the first time, and he's starting to notice the politics and history happening around him - but none of it is preachy or political in and of itself, rather it's the setting of someone learning his own way in the world. It's an utterly absorbing fresco of unforgettable characters and I loved every single paragraph.
Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism (5★/5), by Amanda Montell: A very interesting look at the linguistic tricks and tools of cults, and how you can tell the difference between persuasive language and manipulative language. Was in contention for my top of 2021 list right at the end because of how fascinating the topic is, and how engaging and fun Amanda Montell makes it. I've already started reading her other published book and I eagerly anticipate more.
Petit pays (5★/5), by Gaël Faye: A very dark, very compelling coming-of-age story set in Burundi during the days of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda, told from the point of view of Gabriel, an eleven-year-old boy growing up there. This book is grim and hard to read but there are some very beautiful passages, and I think it's one of those "everyone really should read this" books. English translation available here.
Gonna be lots of posts in the next few days as I do my wrap-ups for the year and set some reading intentions for 2022, so I will be posting fewer reviews for now, and my January wrap-up will also probably be chopped in two as well - back to regular service in the latter half of January though, I promise!