Welcome back to the Daisybutter Reading List! And firstly, may I start by saying a huge ‘thank you’ for the incredible response to the first instalment! Books are totally going through a resurgence at the moment and I’m just loving it. My bookish content over on Instagram is doing SO well, so I definitely feel encouraged to continue sharing mini reviews.
Let’s dive in to what I read last month…
Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok
After absolutely falling in love with Kwok’s Girl in Translation, I wanted this novel to feel equally as representative, raw and nostalgic, but unfortunately it fell short on several accounts.
Mambo in Chinatown tells the story of Charlie Wong, a Chinese girl living in New York with her widowed father and younger sister. She earns her way by cleaning dishes at the Chinese restaurant her Dad also works at, and generally leads a miserable life. Then, her sister sees a job opening as a receptionist at a dance studio. She takes it in the hope it’ll bring her closer to her late mother who was a ballroom dancer.
For me, the novel felt predictable and rushed. It’s a typical coming-of-age story, so maybe I’ve just fallen out of love with this particular style. Charlie wasn’t a likeable or relatable character to me: I can see where the author was trying to ‘place’ her, but it just didn’t really work. Her sister was a more compelling character for me, but she was barely in the novel, considering she plays a large part in the second half.
As noted in the blurb, Charlie gains access to the glittering world of ballroom dance through her receptionist job. It’s the classic duckling-to-swan format, but is incredibly rushed in the storyline. One minute she’s a clueless receptionist and the next she’s seemingly great? The author is apparently a ballroom dancer herself, but she misses out huge chunks of dance development and in turn, you feel like you’re also missing out on something. And much like her debut novel, Mambo in Chinatown deals with Chinese culture, but in a way that feels boring to discover. I felt like I was being spoon-fed a story, instead of lead to discover it myself.
Marlena by Julie Buntin
This book was a tricky one for me. It’s another coming-of-age story that deals with grief, teenage friendships, parental conflict, drugs and more, and I found that I didn’t resonate with it much, if at all. It draws on themes of being completely engulfed in friendships in formative years and how they can gradually become toxic without you even realising. Our main character Cat is your everyday girl, trudging along her high school life until she meets fascinating Marlena, a little older, shrouded in mystery. We find out that in current time, she is dead.
Marlena was a slow burner for me. The first half or two-thirds were tough to get through and felt almost repetitive in how Buntin introduces the mundanities of Cat and Marlena’s lifestyle. It touches upon addiction in a slow, careful manner, perhaps revealing the slow way in which it can consume someone. The highlights of the novel, for me, were the present day parts, seeing Cat in her current self, dealing with the repercussions of everything that’s noted in the story.
The Vanity Fair Diaries by Tina Brown
I’m not a huge fan of non-fiction books. I’m probably not even a real blogger once I admit that coffee table books are not really my bag! However, I noticed this doing the rounds on Goodreads and decided to pick a copy up for myself. As a fashion journalism graduate and somebody that once lived to become a fashion magazine editor, I knew this would resonate with me, I just didn’t realise how.
I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron
Finally, I finished reading I Feel Bad About My Neck at the weekend and was pleasantly surprised. Again, this was a bandwagon read but I’m still glad I hopped on. The book is laid out in an essay collective manner, so it’s incredibly easy to digest and is one that you can dip in and out of. Nora Ephron is certainly a fascinating woman with a lived experience of everything she writes about, and this collection of essays will have you laughing out loud, feeling emotional and even tug at your heartstrings a little. After reading this, I definitely realised that I’m not a non-fiction girl at all, and yet I’d still recommend this to any friend in a heartbeat.
November Reading List
To Die For: Is Fashion Outwearing The World? by Lucy Siegle
Coming at a time when the global financial crisis and contracting of consumer spending is ushering in a new epoch for the fashion industry, To Die For offers a very plausible vision of how green could really be the new black.
Taking particular issue with our current mania for both big-name labels and cheap fashion, To Die For sets an agenda for the urgent changes that can and need to be made by both the industry and the consumer. Far from outlining a future of drab, ethical clothing, Lucy Siegle believes that it is indeed possible to be an ‘ethical fashionista’, simply by being aware of how and where (and by whom) clothing is manufactured.”
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
“In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival – scratching numbers into his fellow victims’ arms in indelible ink to create what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust.
Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a dandy, a jack-the-lad, a bit of a chancer – it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too.
So begins one of the most life-affirming, courageous, unforgettable and human stories of the Holocaust: the love story of the tattooist of Auschwitz.”
The Book of Lost & Found by Lucy Foley
“LONDON, 1986: Bequeathed an old portrait by her grandmother, Kate Darling begins to unpick the tapestry of her family’s secret history in a journey that takes her to Corsica, Paris and back to the heady days of the Roaring Twenties where it all began.
PARIS, 1939: Alice Eversley and Thomas Stafford meet once again in the City of Light. Tom is now a world-famous artist, Alice is much-changed too – bruised from the events of the last decade. Perhaps they can lose themselves in the love story that ignited by a moonlit lake all those years ago?
But sometimes there’s no place for happy endings – and there’s no hiding from the shadow of war.”
As always, please read along with me and let’s discuss these titles in the comments below or over on Instagram. I can’t wait to experience these fictional worlds together with you.