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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Toronto chapter.

All descriptions are spoiler free.

Depeche Mode by Serhiy Zhadan

Depeche Mode is a work of Ukrainian fiction by Serhiy Zhadan, though I read the English translation (thanks to Myroslav Shkandrij). Zhadan is not just a novelist, but is also part of a ska band called Zhadan i Sobaky, and is also a fairly active social activist in Ukraine. The story follows a group of teenage boys at the bottom of society who embark on an adventure to find another friend of theirs to tell him that his stepfather is dead.

This book is on my nightstand because I finished it some time ago, but since I read it for class, I’m using it for an essay. As a result, I frequently flip through it while working or even before bed to get a sense of the world. The novel is extremely interesting if only for the fact that it is full of paradoxes: an anti-Semitic Jewish man, a communist who is an entrepreneur, and the only female character in the novel – whose name is a Ukrainian form of the western name Mary – frequently has sex. Despite the intriguing characters, the plot mostly follows a trail of vomit and vodka, so readers who are sensitive to such topics should avoid it!

The List by Yomi Adegoke

I finished The List recently, which is a Good Morning America book club book, and a nominee for multiple awards. Though these accolades tempted me to pick it up in the first place, I was left bitterly disappointed.

The premise of The List is captivating: a list of men accused of sexual assault comes out and a prominent feminist reporter sees her fiancé’s name on it. He swears he didn’t do anything but how can she believe him without betraying her readers — and can she even believe him at all?

Unfortunately, I found the book tiresome and boiled down to stupid tropes that, in my mind, should not have been included. The book also teetered on the edge of feeding into rhetoric that the world could do without: the idea of people making up false accusations about others just for revenge, which is extremely harmful, especially for a book as highly publicised as this one.

It was also highly problematic in my eyes due to the nature of the plot twists, which skirted around topics that I didn’t like being used for shock value. Overall, I was less than impressed by the book and wish it had been reworked to have not just a different ending but also a different middle and beginning as well. A reader looking for books that cover similar subjects might do better with I’m a Fan (which I have not read, but have heard good things about), Bright Young Women (scroll down for more information on that one!), and a book that I enjoyed, Yellowface, which is very different from The List’s explicit subject matter but does dive deep into the world of social media like Adegoke tried to.

The List is actually only on my nightstand so I can remember to give it to my local second-hand bookstore.

Castle Dor by Daphne du Maurier (and Arthur Quiller-Couch)

Daphne du Maurier is one of my favourite authors, having penned novels such as Rebecca (my favourite of all time), Frenchman’s Creek (a sort of pirate rom-com), and My Cousin Rachel (a beautifully written story of love and (potential) betrayal. She also helped to write Castle Dor, which author Arthur Quiller-Couch left unfinished. I expected another du Maurier delight — but, regrettably, this novel did not quite meet expectations.

Du Maurier did her best with the first half she was given and I liked the second portion much more than the beginning. As I wrote in my Goodreads review, Arthur Quiller-Couch is weirdly obsessed with using the word ‘breast’ — to the point where he muses on just the twelfth page of the novel: “This most ancient cirque of Castle Dor, deserted, bramble-grown, was the very nipple of a huge breast in pain, aching for discharge,” a sentence which certainly disturbed me! The rest of his part read the same (that is to say, entirely too convoluted and rambling for any comprehension to be made of it).

Even the skill of du Maurier could not rescue this book from its bad beginning. The novel is reminiscent of the tale of Tristan and Iseult (or Tristan and Isolde, depending on which version you know). This was fine for me as I knew the tale but not all the specifics of it, but readers who are more familiar with it will find the novel borrows from it quite heavy-handedly. By the end, though, I was gripped by the book, and I found du Maurier’s half fairly riveting.

Though this was still a fine read, I would recommend checking out du Maurier’s other works first, including the ones mentioned above, but I am quite privy to Hungry Hill by her, too.

Poems 1962-2012 by Louise Glück

Louise Glück died last year at 80 years old. Whenever I go to a bookstore, I see a giant brick of a book: Poems 1962-2012. Glück won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature and she was the first American poet to win this award since Eliot. Glück’s poetry is somewhat confessional, some of which is inspired by her marriage with John Dranow. It was these poems in particular that I wanted to read, but I also wanted to read other parts of her collection, so I bought her entire works as of 2012 to read instead.

I am about a fifth of the way through now, over 100 pages in. The entire book totals over 650 pages, so this is quite a feat, and I am enjoying it so far.

Most of her poems have interested me and hooked me to the end; even more than that, they have enthralled me. I’m taking this one slowly so as to savour it, and would definitely recommend it to other poetry fans out there, particularly fans of confessional poetry (think Sylvia Plath as one example).

Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll

Bright Young Women is another one I’m currently reading. The novel is fictitious, but is inspired by real-world events: a serial killer who attacked women in Seattle. The novel centres around the women in the tale and less on the serial killer, which I like.

I’m halfway through this one, and I show no signs of stopping. The book is highly emotional for me, sparking frequent anger as I read about the way the press handled the case, and the attitudes of most of the characters in the novel. I really love the main characters however, and am totally stuck in as I follow their story.

Though I am an avid reader (usually reading 150+ books a year), I rarely give out 5 stars. 6% of the almost 800 books I’ve logged on Goodreads over the last 3-4 years are rated 5 stars there, of which most are actually 4.5 stars for me. Already, I’m getting a 5 star feeling about this book, and that is the best gift I can receive.

Other books I’ve given 5 stars to that I haven’t already mentioned here (Rebecca, Frenchman’s Creek, and Hungry Hill being notable mentions) include Shakespeare’s Othello, Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun, and, most recently, A Study in Drowning by Ava Reid. If we have similar taste — or even if you just enjoy a good thriller, particularly one centred around the voices of women — this could be the book for you.

Lily May Mengual is a writer at Her Campus in her first year at the University of Toronto pursuing an English major and, at present, minors in History and Creative Expression and Society. This is her first year in Toronto — and Canada! — as she grew up constantly moving to different places in South East Asia and, eventually, Hong Kong. Beyond Her Campus, Lily has links to numerous other clubs and societies on campus, but is most passionate about writing. Not only does she write full-length novels she hopes to publish one day, but she also writes terrible poetry, and her creative writing has been published at numerous different prints both on campus and off. In her free time, Lily writes (of course!), and is also an avid reader and reviewer. She also enjoys the occasional arts and crafts session, watching video essays, or taking general knowledge quizzes. Lily also enjoys travelling and exploring different places, looking at interesting exhibits in museums, and listening to angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion (she also loves rom coms).