In the last month of the year, I only made it through two books. This was not due to lack of time: the second just happened to be 924 pages long. I loved both books. Once I look back at all I read in 2020, I’m sure they’ll make the top ten.
Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood
Atwood is one of my favourite authors, so it’s hardly surprising that I loved this book. I also love Shakespeare and the theatre, and Hag-Seed features both. Not only is the novel inspired by Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, the characters in the book put on the play. Hag-Seed is witty and sly and sweet and melancholic, with a great cast of characters. Like many of Atwood’s books, it’s set in her native Canada (incidentally my second book this month also takes place partly in Canada). Hag-Seed is also a testament to the power of literature, theatre, and art, as the central figure, Felix (this story’s Prospero) teaches theatre and performance to a group of prisoners, helping them find redemption, purpose, and life beyond incarceration. Another interesting adaptation of The Tempest (which is mentioned in the book too) is the version starring Helen Mirren as a gender-flipped Prospero (Prospera). It’s directed by Julie Taymor, no stranger to Shakespeare, having directed the brilliant adaptation of Titus Andronicus in 1999.
Until I Find You by John Irving
I’d read what is probably Irving’s most well-known novel, The World According to Garp, some years ago. I don’t remember it well, so I went into this book with no recollection of my opinion of Irving. I loved him. Until I Find You is one of those books you never want to end – and could easily carry on reading, no matter how many pages. The characters are so colourful and complex and richly-drawn, you want to stay with them forever. It made me realise again, that I love books that are heavier on character development than they are on plot. Until I Find You is also very meta. The main character, Jack Burns, certainly appears at least party based on the author. After all, the character wins a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in the book at the 2000 awards. And who won that award IRL? John Irving, of course. I’m definitely keen to read more of his work, or even go back to Garp.
And now for a new (hopefully healthier, happier, safer, less pandemic-driven) year, with more reading ahead.