This month was a really busy month. At the start of the month I was in London for two weeks working at a publishing company and the following week I was in Leuven, Belgium. I didn't have much time for reading but I finally finished The Three Musketeers! It's very long, but the last third of the book was really gripping. I also read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, the first volume in Maya Angelou's autobiographies in the last week in May, shortly before she passed away.
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
I was inspired to read this when I watched the BBC TV series starring Luke Pasqualino of Skins fame as D'Artagnan and Peter Capaldi, the new Doctor Who, as the Cardinal. The Three Musketeers is set in Paris, and the main characters are three of the king's musketeers, Atos, Portos and Aramis, and D'Artagnan, a younger Gascon who is keen to join them. The book follows D'Artagnan and the musketeers on their adventures as they face opposition from the Cardinal, who abhors their street fighting and the king's poor leadership. The Musketeers is a ripping boy's adventure; D'Artagnan leaves the provinces for the big city to seek his fortune and find adventure, friendship and love. The men constantly tease each other, very much like 'banter' today, and yet surprisingly perhaps, more innocent in content (there are a limited number of sexual / profane jokes). One of the central characters is the archetypal femme fatale, Milady, who is a fantastic character; an incredibly smart and skilled woman, and is so central to the plot/action she has several chapters dedicated to only her at the close of the book. I was struck with how funny and accessible the book is and how much it would make a great school play. The story is based in history, featuring King Louis XIII, Anne of Austria, the Duke of Buckingham and his assassin, Felton (not of dog-walking fame ;) ). It was interesting, when I was visiting the National Portrait Gallery in London, to see paintings of the characters, and have the historicity of some events confirmed. I would recommend this book to those interested in historical fiction, but for those who are only interested in a ripping story, I would suggest an abridged version.
Something for the Weekend by Terry Wogan
I picked this up at work and read it while travelling this month. It's a collection of Terry Wogan's weekend columns for The Sunday Telegraph over the past ten years (2004 - 2014). It was a different kind of book for me, but was good to dip in and out of when on trains, as each column averages only two pages. Whenever I opened the book the subject matter of the column it fell upon seemed to match my activity at that time, for example, when on the Eurostar, I read the column on the difficulties of checked baggage when travelling, and on Eurovision weekend, I read the article on a past year's contest, as Wogan used to commentate Eurovision for many years. Something for the Weekend fairly accurately sums up British feeling on certain social changes / events over the past ten years, but with a slightly right wing / old school mindset (the columns were published in the Telegraph). I would recommend it to prior fans of Wogans and the hardback edition would make a good Christmas gift, as a book that anyone can pick up and have a quick read.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
This was my favourite book of the month by a long way. It also happened to be the month in which Maya Angelou passed away. She has accomplished so much in her life, and her autobiographies, of which this is the first one, are an illuminating and interesting read. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, upon its release in 1969, was an defining text in increasing the visibility of African American female his(her)tory. Maya uses her education, both academic and pastoral, combined with a child's natural curiosity, to bring to the reader a revealing, insightful and intelligent description and analysis of life, and how circumstance and history shape it. In Caged Bird, Maya describes her childhood growing up in Arkansaw and later San Francisco, detailing her life up to the age of 17 and the birth of her first son. The content can at times be disturbing, particularly her rape as an eight year old, which is told from a child's perspective. The book's themes include racism, identity, language, and rape, and the language is poetic and sentence structure beautifully constructed. You can read my full review of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings here.
That's it for this month. To browse more of my monthly reading round-ups, click here.