In June, I read not two but five books! Hello, free time! I was in a serious romantic comedy mood at the start of the month and then switched gears a bit by the end. Here’s what I thought of The Flatshare, Normal People, The Gown, City of Girls, and The Kennedy Debutante
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary—THIS BOOK IS SO CUTE! It is exactly what I was in the mood for. A happy, well-written romantic comedy that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. It’s about two people who, down on their luck, share a 1-bedroom apartment—and share the bed in that bedroom—without actually meeting each other. He's a night nurse, she has a regular 9-5 schedule. Eventually, their paths cross. I read this book in three days and constantly faced the dilemma of simultaneously not being able to put the book down while not wanting to finish it too quickly. If you’re looking for a page-turner of a rom-com, this is your book. Go read it now!
Normal People by Sally Rooney was a different type of love story. It was actually a little painful to read, but just as, if not more, gripping than The Flatshare. I finished it in under 24 hours. Normal People follows the relationship of two people from their high school days in County Sligo, Ireland, to their university days in Dublin, tracking how they change, individually and together. Their story made me a little sad, and I thought the male protagonist was a little bit of a jerk, but I still kept rooting for them. The author does a good job of capturing the growing pains of adolescence to adulthood and finding yourself, independently and in a relationship, as you go through change. I’d definitely recommend this book as well. It’s well-written and a fast read.
The Gown by Jennifer Robson was a departure from the love-centric books I read earlier in the month and honestly, it kind of fell flat. It tells the fictional story of two women who made Princess Elizabeth’s—now Queen Elizabeth II—wedding gown. One woman, Ann, has lost her family in WWII and finds refuge in her work as an embroiderer for Norman Hartnell, the leading dressmaker in England. The other, Miriam, arrives from Paris, escaping a horrible past and looking to make a new life in a new country. The two women become friends and advance in their work to be the head embroiderers on the princess’s gown. I felt like the character development was a little weak, and what should have been the significant parts of the book felt…insignificant. This book was on my list for a while and I finished it feeling disappointed. It was too boring. I wouldn’t recommend.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert surprised me! I really, really enjoyed this book. I haven’t read any of Gilbert’s other books but have seen the movie Eat, Pray, Love. City of Girls was nothing like it. For one, it’s a work of fiction. Second, it takes place in New York City in the 1940s. I mean, that alone sounds fun, doesn’t it? The book is about nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris arriving in NYC and taking it by storm. Her story is fun and glamorous and wild. Gilbert does a good job of portraying what it’s like to be that young and reckless, and what it feels like to mess up and get back up on your feet. I liked Vivian Morris and how reckless she was, and how she came to evolve to lead a strong and interesting life in New York throughout the 40s, 50s, 60s, and beyond. This book was different from the romantics I read earlier this month, The Flatshare and Normal People, because Vivian didn’t need a man, or marriage, or love to get by. She needed sex, though, and wasn’t afraid to go after it—which was a fun and abnormal perspective to read about from that time period. I know that Vivian is a fictional character, but she felt real. Her story read surprisingly feminist to me. And it wrapped up nicely at the end, with Vivian as an old lady. It made me cry a little bit, but in a good way; in a way that made me want to take advantage of everything that life has to offer. City of Girls did take me a little bit of time to get into it (I wasn’t sold for the first 10%), but I’m glad that I pressed on, because it’s one of my favorite books of the year.
The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher was okay. I thought that the character development was a little weak, but I suppose that can be a result of writing a novel about such a famous family—you can’t take too many creative liberties. The Kennedy Debutante told the story of Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy, starting off with her pre-WWII life in London with the rest of her family when her father was the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. She falls in love with the country, and eventually her future husband, the Marquess of Hartington, who was set to be the future Duke of Devonshire. Like so many of her eight siblings’, Kick’s life was laced with, and ended in, tragedy. What made me so sad about her story was how long she waited to get married to the love of her life because of their differing faiths; she was a Catholic and he was Protestant, and neither would convert. They eventually found middle ground (after almost six years!) and got married in a civil ceremony. I don’t want to give too much away here, but their married time together was too short. And if there’s anything I hate in this world, it’s wasted time. I’m not sure how I feel about recommending this book; again, the writing itself was just okay, but I did appreciate reading about the rebellious life of Kick Kennedy and learning more about her family as a whole. So, if you’re interested in the Kennedys, you might enjoy this book.
Here are book reviews from months past: