• Isabelle Osborne

A Year of Reading: July 22

We've passed the half-way point of 2022, which means the thought 'where has the time gone?' is constantly crossing my mind!

This month, I read four books, all of which are from very different genres: there's a contemporary thriller, a memoir, a historical fiction mystery novel, and a 'self-help' guide. Three of the four were highly enjoyable reads, whilst the remaining one was slightly more of a challenge, for reasons I go into below...

An Accident In Paris, Gavin Collinson

Trigger warnings: violence, murder.

It was a privilege to be sent a copy of this new release EDPR and Welbeck Publishing. I won't say too much here, as my review will be coming out as part of the bloggers tour on 11th August, but to offer a brief overview: this thriller follows private detective Marc Novak as he tries to get to the bottom of what happened when Diana, Princess of Wales, was fatally killed in Paris 1997. The novel is based on the true events that took place 25 years ago, and it illuminates some of the facts that were kept out of the narrative surrounding Diana's tragic death. I can't wait to share my full review next month!

‘The internet is awash with details about Diana and, given time, anyone can get to know her better than they could a close friend or family member. The problem is, the ‘facts’ about her are often contradictory.’

A Child Of The East End, Jean Fullerton

Trigger warnings: references to mental illness.

Another book I was delighted to receive from EDPR and Corvus Books, this memoir tells the story of Jean Fullerton's childhood and adolescent years in the East End of London. It's a warm, cosy read that shows the highs and lows of growing up in one of the most famous city districts in the world, one which I frequent often yet realised I knew nothing about until Fullerton opened my eyes to it. It also fosters some really interesting and important historical discussions around health and the treatment of women, which I'll go into in more depth in my full review. The memoir is out on 4th August, and I'll be publishing my review here on 7th August, so stay tuned!

'Being an East Ender is in your very marrow and your heart until it beats its last beat.'

Picnic At Hanging Rock, Joan Lindsay

The first one in this wrap up that I can talk about in more detail given that I won't be writing a full review of it, Picnic At Hanging Rock was the first book on the list for a book club my friend Erin and I began as we ended our studies at UCL. We chose one book from each of the 'decade' lists that the BBC and The Reading Agency created to form 'The Big Jubilee Read'. Each list spotlights 10 books by Commonwealth authors published in a particular decade of Queen Elizabeth II's reign. This novel comes in the second decade, 1962-71, as it was published in 1967.

It follows a 'College Mystery' that takes its name from the mysterious events that saw three students and a teacher from Appleyard College go missing on a visit to Hanging Rock. I didn't hate this book by any means, but I would describe it as a 'slow burner', and a great one at that. There are some beautifully lyrical passages in this novel and gorgeous images, but I found it rather underwhelming overall. I didn't feel anything for the characters, the plot promised a lot but didn't quite deliver with a fast-paced, intrigue-laden reading experience, and sadly I think it will go down as a novel that wasn't particularly memorable for me. It is disappointing that this has been included in the Jubilee list at the expense of other books, as it hasn't left much of an impression unfortunately.

'...the inhabitants of Lake View, unaware of their allotted places in the general scheme of joy and sorrow, light and shade, went about their personal affairs as usual, unconsciously weaving and interweaving the individual threads of their private lives into the complex tapestry of the whole.'

Happy Mind, Happy Life, Rangan Chatterjee

The final book of the month was all about how we create a happier, healthier life and version of ourselves. Dr Rangan Chatterjee packs in so much tried and tested wisdom that is backed by his own experience of using these practises in his daily life, in addition to his knowledge from being a medical professional for over twenty years and scientific research. Some of the things he talks about are how to treat yourself with respect and kindness, improving your relationship with your phone, the importance of showing others compassion, redefining success, and why we should take a 'daily holiday' every day.

I found this book immensely thought provoking, and it has made me see how we can incorporate methods into our daily lives that will help us reduce stress and improve our life and perspectives both physically and mentally. His concept of 'Core Happiness' is also fascinating: it considers how 'Contentment' (being at peace with the life you lead and the decisions you make), 'Control' (feeling that you have ultimate power over your life) and 'Alignment' (being the person you want to be inwardly and outwardly) are the key components that make up a life we are proud and happy to lead. I agreed with these three concepts before I opened the book, and now I have read it I can see exactly how important it is to ensure we are content and aligned and feel in control of our lives. He compares this kind of happiness to 'Junk Happiness', which is when we are drawn to things that 'numb the inevitable pain of living', and although these pleasures are not 'always bad', he notes that engaging 'in these behaviours regularly' will have a negative impact on our lives. Chatterjee also tells some really moving stories in this book, including his father's relationship with work, and these moments really bring the lessons and teachings together into something that feels raw, human and, in many ways, comforting.

I'll definately be taking some practises away and using them in my own life, and will most likely return to this book when I need to tap into Chatterjee's wisdom. I also love his podcast, 'Feel Better, Live More', and will be diving into more of those episodes in due course.

'So what's your decision? Do you want to be happy? Do you want to be healthier? Do you want to flow through life with ease and calm? If so, read on.'