With more deadlines and a heavier workload, I was not expecting much from my reading in November. However I was able to find time to read three books, which pleasantly surprised me.
The first of these books was The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle. It is a short story in his very famous Sherlock Holmes series. It was a text I had to read for my literature module at university and I very much enjoyed it. I had previously read three other Sherlock Holmes stories so I was already familiar with the style of writing and the levels of plot twist Conan Doyle uses to intrigue and perplex the reader. The Speckled Band tells the story of Helen Stoner, a frightened young woman who seeks Holmes’ help over the suspicious death of her sister. The only significant clue she can offer is her sister’s last words about a ‘speckled band’. As usual, Holmes is fascinated in this seemingly impossible case and, along with his companion – and the narrator of the story – Watson, he sets off to investigate and solve the mystery. I read it at university in relation to feminist theory so it was very interesting to consider the themes of vulnerability and financial dependency of women in the story.
The second book I read this month was Illuminae by Australian authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It is a young adult science fiction novel set in the heart of a futuristic intergalactic battle between two giant corporations, and includes a surprise attack on a planet, a genetically modified super virus and an out of control artificial intelligence hell-bent on protecting its people and completing its mission. The book is laid out as a series of reports, transcripts and diagrams as a dossier of files about the events that take place within. It is the first of its kind that I have personally read and it was the layout of the story and the good reviews I had seen on YouTube that made me want to pick this book up. I thoroughly enjoyed it and now cannot wait to read the second book in the series. At first the style was hard to get used to but I soon picked up pace and raced through the book. It was fast-paced and incredibly gripping. I really enjoyed the various narratives created by the different layouts of information. It allowed for the right level of plot twist.
Finally I read Virginia Woolf’s famous feminist essay A Room of One’s Own. I had this book sitting on my shelf for a while but it took a lecture on feminist theory for me to eventually pick it up and read it. Virginia Woolf had been heavily quoted and referenced in this lecture which made me want to read something she had written. I knew about her basic opinions on feminism but not much further. Despite it only being about 130 pages long, it took me a few days to complete just because of how much information and emotion was packed into such a small amount of space. Woolf explains in detail how she reached the conclusion that a woman needs a good income and a room of her own to become a good writer. As it was originally intended as a talk at a conference, the style is very easy to read because it has a conversational yet formal style. It is as though Virginia Woolf is reading it aloud as your eyes skim the pages. As a classic feminist text, it was fascinating for me to read it and learn what has changed since Woolf’s time and what hasn’t. It has inspired me to one day read A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft, another fundamental feminist text.
With December comes colder shorter days perfect for getting cosy with a book and a hot drink. That’s my favourite thing about Christmas holidays every year. I’m hoping this Christmas period will bring lots of opportunities for reading as well.