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IN A NUTSHELL:
I'm Fran, a lover of reading and books turned English secondary-school teacher.
My nutshell-reviews are for anyone in search of inspiration for a next read. Each nutshell-review shouldn't take more than 5 minutes to read and is strictly spoiler-free. In my mind's eye they are an ice-cream spoonful that will help you decide whether or not you want more.
'My take' is a longer, more personal and detailed but still brief analysis of the text in question, in case you need help with your final verdict on the free taster.
Nutshell-lists suggest reading around a theme, a place or a time. I like to follow reading arches, so as to get a wider picture and different points of view on whatever picks my interest.
I hope you enjoy reading my reviews!
Digging deeper for those who are wondering, here's some more about me. I am a bit of a collector (read hoarder). I love books as physical objects, their smooth covers and rough edges, I love carrying them around in my bag so that when I see them later on sitting on a shelf they remind me of all the places we have travelled together. Mostly I love books as companions. Some of my books have followed me along multiple moves, across counties and countries (back and forth between England, Wales and Italy). I cherish my books dearly and sometimes I indulge the ever-so-slightly morbid phantasy of organising my funeral as a book-browsing event, with everyone going home with a book of choice in their hand, a little token of my enduring friendship and love.
I am an avid, albeit sometimes troubled, reader. As such, I tend to focus on fiction by women about women, which I guess reflects my life-long and ongoing questioning of what it means to be a woman, and how to be one (though my ideal future society is one where gender no longer poses challenges to the definition of one's sense of self). I have always rejected the label of feminist, for some unclear reason, but now I embrace it. Recently, thanks to the Covid pandemic and the isolation it brought about, I have also started to enjoy reading critical theory again, something I had not done since varsity days, and I feel that has sharpened my thinking process. Which leads me to the genesis of this blog.
I have been toying with the idea of having my own blog for ages, but being a cyclothymic Scorpio I obsessed about the idea every other month, created a couple of rough drafts that went straight to the trash folder, beat myself up about it as one of my many failures, and in the end nothing came of nothing, which brought me back at the beginning of the cycle. Part of the problem was that I lacked a leading idea of what I wanted to do. There are so many blogs about books, why write one more that no one might ever read? Well, I am still haunted by that question, and I also question my ability to keep the momentum going, but throughout the years I have realised I do rely on reviews, and I do regularly look for lists to expand the frontiers of my reading world. So, why not contribute my dime and share with others the fruits of my curiosity.
I am indeed very curious, first of all as a person, and reading for me has always meant the unique chance to see reality through different eyes, and thus discover worlds, views and thoughts entirely new to me - whilst at the same time contradictorily longing to find my own feelings and struggles voiced on the printed page. Within my fairly specific reading interests, I love exploring different latitudes and times. I go through phases. At one point I became fascinated by Caribbean women writers (which led to my PhD thesis), then 18th century forgotten women novelists, followed by Canadian greatest female authors, Italian 20th century out-of-print novels by women, and more recently Latina literature. I can read Spanish fairly fluently and a little French, so I tend to stick to works written in these languages in order to avoid translations - with a few necessary exceptions (most notably my youth passion for all stories Dostoevskij). The 'nutshell-lists' section is dedicated to all fellow obsessive readers - please give me a shout if you are out there!
To conclude this very long introduction, I hope you enjoy reading my nutshell reviews. Please do get in touch or leave a comment if you have any thoughts, reactions, or reading recommendations!