My April reading was predominantly PhD focused, which means that I actually only read two works of fiction. It also means that, when you gather all my brief reviews together, it becomes very clear that I am not very creative when it comes to reviewing academic books!

My favourite reads this month were Neo-Victorian Fiction and Historical Narrative: The Victorians and Us by Louisa Hadley and History and Cultural Memory in Neo-Victorian Fiction: Victorian Afterimages by Kate Mitchell. Apparently I like books on Neo-Victorian fiction.

Falling in Love Again (Sweet Dreams #23): Barbara Conklin
P.S. I Love You is the best of the Sweet Dreams books I’ve read in my re-read, and this is a sequel to that book, so I’m not surprised that it’s also above the usual calibre of book found in the series. Mariah’s actually a likeable protagonist and the story doesn’t rely on misunderstandings or lack of communication. That said, it’s definitely lacking the emotional depth of the original and I would have liked it if we got to see more of Mariah’s feelings about moving on from Paul—she seemed remarkably free of guilt!

Independent Women: Work and Community for Single Women, 1850-1920: Martha Vicinus
This focuses on several specific options open to English middle-class single women in the period, instead of the more informal communities spontaneously created and maintained between women. It wasn’t as personally useful/interesting as I had hoped due to this, but is nonetheless well researched and argued.

The Historical Novel: Jerome de Groot
A good overview of the genre over time. I did find that there were a LOT of long quotes, which made it feel more like a collection of existing scholarship at times.

The Good Earth: Pearl S. Buck
I can see the objectively good literary technique in this, but I utterly hated reading it because it’s so relentlessly bleak and the protagonist is so horrible. The only main characters I found bearable were O-Lan and Ching.

History Meets Fiction: Beverley Southgate
Clearly and interestingly written. I particularly enjoyed the opening chapters but was less personally excited by the subsequent discussion about how historians and historiography are represented in fiction.

Neo-Victorian Fiction and Historical Narrative: The Victorians and Us: Louisa Hadley
This was excellent. Clear, engaging prose, thorough scholarship and insightful discussion of examples.

A Poetics of Postmodernism: Linda Hutcheon
I generally don’t enjoy books about theory, because they tend to be over-long and repetitive, and that was my experience with this one. Thoroughly researched with a plethora of examples to support the author’s arguments, but just not my thing at all.

This Book Is Literally Just Pictures of Cute Animals That Will Make You Feel Better: Smith Street Books
It is what it says on the tin 😉

Trixie and Katya’s Guide to Modern Womanhood: Trixie Mattel & Katya Zamolodchikova
I was a little worried that this would be 99% photos, but there’s actually quite a lot of text in here. The guide to life thing has been done before, so while they did put a bit of a different spin on that, the bits I enjoyed the most were the “conversations” between the two of them, because they felt more specific to Katya and Trixie, instead of to the advice genre.

Postmodernist Fiction: Brian McHale
As is generally the way of things for me encountering book-size works on theory and poetics, this hurt my brain. That said, it’s extremely thorough, and McHale does a good job of supporting his basic premise that postmodernist fiction is ontological, as opposed to the epistemological drive of modernist fiction.

Victoriana: Histories, Fictions, Criticisms: Cora Kaplan
A good collection of essays, although I admit I skimmed the one about The Piano, as I’m not really interested in critical discussion of films.

History and Cultural Memory in Neo-Victorian Fiction: Victorian Afterimages: Kate Mitchell
A strong argument, well-supported by references and in-depth analysis of six representative novels, and written in a very readable style.

Neo-Victorian Biofiction: Reimagining Nineteenth-Century Historical Subjects: Marie-Luise Kohlke & Christian Gutleben (eds)
This is a very good collection of essays on biofiction, that I found very engaging for about the first 250 pages. After that, I started to find things a little repetitive and struggled a little more to maintain excitement!

The Fiction of History: Alexander Lyon Macfie (ed.)
Comes at the topic from a range of perspectives, which means that it’s covered from multiple viewpoints but also means that the average reader is definitely going to be more interested in some sections than in others.