February was another wonderful month for books. Read on to check out what I read and loved.
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
I decided to read this book because I saw the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation and was instantly smitten. I'm a sucker for a good romance and once I discovered the movie was based on a book, I zipped over to Barnes & Noble as fast as possible to get my hands on a copy.
The book tells the story of Louisa Clark, a goofy, artistic, witty 26-year-old who lives with her family in a small English town. After being laid off from her job at a cafe, she starts work as a caretaker for a quadriplegic man who lives in her town. His name is Will Traynor and, though he's handsome, quick-witted, and bright, he's deeply bitter about his restricted life circumstances. The two form an unlikely bond (or is it?) and things get pretty interesting from there.
I adored this book. Louisa as a narrator is relatable and likable, and her sense of humor is perfectly balanced with her tenderness. The story is sweet, insightful, and powerful all at once. It's a touching glimpse into the relationship between two very different people brought together by strange circumstances, but it's also a novel that uses its characters' beliefs and decisions to ask hard questions about morality, choice, dignity, and what it means to live well.
The story unfolded it in a different way than I imagined it would, but the direction Jojo Moyes took made for such a poignant, beautiful ending. I can't recommend it enough.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
I saw this book on Amazon and requested it for Christmas because it had rave reviews (there are nearly 20,000 reviews for it on the site and the book has a full five stars—unprecedented). Kristin Hannah tells the story of Vianne and Isabelle, two sisters who live in Nazi-occupied France during World War II.
Vianne, who lives in Carriveau with her young daughter, is forced to shelter two Nazi men in her home while her husband is fighting in the war. Isabelle, a fiery, impulsive 19-year-old who lives in Paris, is driven by a fervent desire to protect her country's ideals. Both sisters are forced to make choices and sacrifices in wartime that they never could have imagined.
Kristin Hannah does a brilliant job telling the story from two equally powerful and compelling perspectives, and does so with vivid, gorgeous language throughout. The first one hundred pages of the book were a bit slow for me, but once I got over the hump I was engrossed in the story.
I'm always drawn to books that take place during World War II. This period of history is rich with personal stories of endurance and sacrifice and survival, which makes it interesting enough to learn about, but I think these stories intrigue me so much because they stand in sharp contrast to my own life, the privileges of which have kept me so cushioned against cruelty and horror. I feel so far removed from this part of history and, though I'm grateful for that, there's also a morbid, innate curiosity in me that wants to know more.
I feel it's my duty as a human being to read the stories—even fictional ones—that capture the resilience and grit of the people who were affected by this war, the stories that reveal the human capacity for enduring such unthinkable suffering and torture, the stories that honor the love and bravery of millions of men and women.
It's a beautiful novel, one that highlights and celebrates the often overshadowed soldiers and heroes of wartime—the women left behind.
Euphoria by Lily King
This book takes place during the 1930s and follows a trio of anthropologists as they hunker down with indigenous tribes in New Guinea to study their lifestyle. Lily King bases part of the book on the real life of famed American anthropologist and all-around badass woman Margaret Mead. Sound boring? Trust me, it’s anything but. You don't have to be an anthropologist or scientist to appreciate this book—the prose is rich yet compact, and the story is juicy and provocative.
Fen, an aggressive, egotistical anthropologist from Australia, is married to Nell Stone, an American anthropologist whose recently published novel on the sexualization of children in the tribes of New Guinea has earned her international acclaim. Fen and Nell meet another anthropologist who studies near them, a depressive Brit named Bankson, and begin an interesting friendship with him, one predicated on Bankson's initial desperation for contact with Westernized people then propelled forward by his and Nell's mutual attraction and admiration for one another.
Cue a couple intellectual orgies, infinite pockets of brilliant observation on the nature of humanity, gripping dialogue dissecting love, possession and gender roles, and a few dark secrets, and you've got a fascinating, transfixing read.
Plus, the font is big and the margins are wide, so you can finish the whole novel in a day. Fun fact: the cover of the book is not in fact a beautiful painting, but an image of a rainbow gum tree from New Guinea.
Have you read these? Any incredible books I’m missing out on? Would love your recommendations!
P.S. More book recommendations right this way.