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Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

The moon, beautiful in its bruises. In which a mandolin helps a man emerge from a coma... A tangled tale, with some unlikely coincidences, in which a girl whose family is forced to live almost off the grid after they lose much in the Great Depression comes into her own, at one with the mountain she lives on.

Things I Don't Want to Know by Deborah Levy

…the reality she had bought into might just slaughter her …I wanted to be in exile from exile Deborah Levy speaks of her childhood as an adult, her recollections ending with preparing to write Swimming Home , a novel which is perhaps easier to make sense of with these memoirs. Many of Levy's childhood experiences appear to experiences that led her to knowledge she would have preferred to remain ignorant of. Hence, the title of her memoirs, I think: Things I Don't Want to Know . Although, of course, as she finds, she cannot unknow what she does know. The past is always in the present. It is never far behind, and it always catches up with one.

Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant

An imagining of life in a covent in Renaissance Italy. Through the tale of a young woman who has been shut up in a covent against her will, the novel deals with autonomy, pragmatism, and free will. There are repeated references to the Council of Trent and the counter-reformation, along with discussions sotto voce about sidestepping it. After all, rules and laws are nothing but words on paper by themselves, certainly important in the making but ineffective without implementation. Which, as the nuns in the convent realise all too quickly, involves interpreting the text of the written word and navigating the realpolitik of the implied word... The young woman, incidentally, unlike so many women through history who were virtually imprisoned in convents, did manage to make her way out with the guile of an older, sympathetic nun and the acquiescence of the abess who was both ruthless and compassionate.

Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

"If she knew that to be forceful was not the same as being powerful and to be gentle was not the same as being fragile, she did not know how to use this knowledge in her own life." Somehow familiar. "Women who walk into water do it with stones in their pockets." Through my reading of this short-strange novel, that line which I assume I once read somewhere played itself in my mind over and over again. Except it wasn't a woman grappling with unhappiness who died in the novel but a man who ostensibly wasn't. Each character is well fleshed out, so well fleshed out that they seemed slightly sinister to me reflecting, I thought, how pointless life can be. A book that deserves a slow re-read.

The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan

Two women with an interest in plants, one a perfumer and the other an illustrator, one the widow of an abusive husband and the other the illegitimate daughter of an aristocrat, brought together by when the botanical garden at Edinburgh is shifted around the time of a royal visit. Both are fettered in different ways, both find their freedom too, in vastly different ways: one through marriage, the other through the sale of a 'love potion' though perhaps both find freedom by being true to themselves rather than to societal expectations.

Super-Infinite by Katherine Rundell

A portrait of John Donne — rake, poet, priest and more — which brings out his vitality; a man whose life had been touched by despair but who chose to eke what joy he could of it, whose genius lived beside pettyness, whose immediacy and voraciousness for life and living and loving and books is apparent even today, who was politically circumspect (except perhaps once by accident in the throes of grief) and somehow radical too, who helped reshape the English language...

Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson

Finally read Constellations which I'd been meaning to; asked what I made of it, I said: I have to think that over. The author often uses a nice turn of phrase but doesn't have the lyricism I've come to expect of Irish authors and, too often for my liking, uses 'erudite' words.  She's into art and I'd not heard of some of the artists she's mentioned... *note for me to do some Googling* Her words on motherhood meant nothing to me. Much of the rest was easily relatable — a hodgepodge of everything that makes up a life, I think — but it seemed to me that it lacked depth — I suspect that that's because many of the issues she's engaged with are ones I've thought long & hard about, and that other readers may not have the experience I had reading it. For me, the words didn't provide new insights or new ways of seeing. It was more of hearing "and I see things this way too" while going for a walk with a friend & having a chat (whi