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women read

women read

By Freya & Mel
Each episode a woman chooses a book she loves and reads the first chapter aloud.
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Sára reads Jennifer Clement

women read

Sára reads Jennifer Clement
Name: Sára Reading: Widow Basquiat, Jennifer Clement Why did you want to read this? This is one of my all-time favourite books. It travels well and doesn't age. It was given to me by a musician friend. The atmosphere and the people in the book have a loud pulse that doesn't fade. I love that Clement uses prose to write a memoir so close to the skin. It is also an excellent book to read to someone on a romantic stroll through a cemetery with famous graves - true story. How did you record yourself? I recorded it first thing in the morning when my speech tends to be at its calmest. I sat by the window overlooking the garden and a school, finishing just before the mayhem of recess erupted in the background.
January 12, 2022
Jessica reads Shirley Jackson
Name: Jessica Reading: We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson Why did you want to read this? I'm curating a new programme that is centred around issues of place and belonging. Shirley Jackson takes any uneasiness around these things and slowly, skilfully amplifies it into horror. I decided on We Have Always Lived in the Castle because that first chapter does a whole hell of a lot. How did you record yourself? My bedroom is the quietest room in the house so I do most of my audio recording in bed. I recorded this on a frosty morning with a cup of coffee in my hand and my dog in my lap.
December 08, 2021
Claire reads Anna Kavan
Name: Claire  Reading: Ice, Anna Kavan  Why did you want to read this? Ironically this narrative about the world turning to ice was first recommended to me via a paper napkin scribble by my best friend one hot summer day. Now, due to the oncoming bleakness of a British winter, it feels seasonally appropriate. I recommend the thrill of reading this book on its own terms, and waiting to read about Kavan’s life afterwards – both are strange rides.  How did you record yourself? On my sofa with my laptop, reading from my favourite edition (by "Peter Owen Cased Classics").
November 24, 2021
Ellen reads Maggie Nelson
Name: Ellen Reading: Bluets, Maggie Nelson Why did you want to read this? Bluets shares the qualities of many of my favourite books – experimental in form, collapsing the lines between prose, poetry, essay and memoir. 240 numbered paragraphs make up this fragmentary, rhythmic meditation, which explores art, literature, grief and female desire through the tinted lens of Nelson’s love for the colour blue. How did you record yourself? In bed, warmed by morning sun; my favourite place to read – and often to write (desks are overrated, comfort is underrated).
November 10, 2021
Blue reads Sarah Moss
Name: Blue Reading: Ghost Wall, Sarah Moss Why did you want to read this? I read this book earlier this year and was totally gripped by the seething suspense, seeing patriarchy and power through the eyes of a teenage girl. It touches upon questions that I feel are incredibly important if you become too enamoured with history or the past as inspiration for art or a way of life. How slippery and sinister it can be.  How did you record yourself? My beautiful partner set up a microphone for me to read the book from the comfy sofa.
October 27, 2021
Sophie reads Primo Levi
Name: Sophie Reading: The Periodic Table, Primo Levi Why did you want to read this? It’s one of the best books I read in my life so far. It’s extraordinary and stays with you for a long time.  How did you record yourself? Outside, a rare sunny evening, on the steps in front of our house. I hope the road in the distance is not too loud, I think at some point a freight train passes which was not great.
October 13, 2021
Rebecca reads Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Name: Rebecca Reading: Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning Why did you want to read this? When I first read Aurora Leigh, I felt like this nineteenth century gem had been hidden from me. Elizabeth Barrett Browning beats most of her contemporaries in the vitality of her language, and the poem carries me throughout with the force of its energy. I find the depiction of young Aurora Leigh's grief, and her turn back towards life, moving. It is a politically rich story, a novel in verse which sets Aurora's ambitions as a writer within the social struggles of her time and place. A tour de force, basically. How did you record yourself? On Zoom audio in my bedroom, with a cup of tea.
September 29, 2021
Seo Hye reads Cathy Park Hong
Name: Seo Hye Reading: Minor Feelings, Cathy Park Hong Why did you want to read this? When I was choosing a book to read, I was considering picking one of my favourite classic literature books, but instead I chose something I have read much more recently and is written by a woman of POC. This book was initially recommended by Asian American friends and I wanted to share something that may be not so familiar in the UK. As someone who lived in US for years, I wanted to show an insight of Asian American experience regarding race and emotional issues with friends and family which resonated with me.  How did you record yourself? I recorded this with my phone in a small living room at my home in Somerset, UK, with a wool blanket over me as it’s been unusually chilly August weather.
September 15, 2021
Vaska reads Robert Macfarlane
Name: Vaska Reading: Underland, Robert Macfarlane Why did you want to read this? This past year I discovered some beautiful non-fiction books and Underland was one of them. Macfarlane shines a light on places most of us will never have the opportunity to visit and really makes them come alive on the page. He writes beautifully about the underground places themselves, but also explores what the deep, the hidden, means to our cultural imagination, our psychology, and our relationship to the world and to life itself. His chapter on the catacombs in Paris is particularly visceral and unforgettable! How did you record yourself? This was easier said than done! I had wanted to record myself in a beautiful old churchyard but the wind was too strong and the chatter of other people too loud, so I plumped for my bedroom - which was a challenge as I live next to an unofficial but busy bus station! So it involved me partially hiding under my duvet cover, on the floor, shutters closed, and regularly pausing the tape when the engines got too loud. I think a cheeky seagull and some sirens might have snuck into the recording!
September 01, 2021
Lindsay reads Annie Dillard
Name: Lindsay Reading: Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard Why did you want to read this? Pilgrim at Tinker Creek holds reverence for nature, yet is unafraid to describe its cruelty. Annie Dillard wrote this in 1974, when she was about 30 years old, my age. I think of her when I walk in the neighborhood or hike outside the city where I live, and I try to locate beauty in the way she does. How did you record yourself? I recorded myself with my laptop on a hot summer evening, sweat trickling down my face, in my bedroom, in low light.
July 28, 2021
Larissa reads Anne Carson
Name: Larissa Reading: Eros the Bittersweet, Anne Carson Why did you want to read this? sappho is my favourite poet and anne carson looks at her writing in such a beautiful way. it is such a beautiful way of thinking and writing about poetry. it also talks about love and desire, which are themes i deeply care about. How did you record yourself? sat on bed, the sun shining on my legs, with the laptop on my lap.
July 14, 2021
Bettina reads Elena Ferrante
Name: Bettina Reading: The Lying Life of Adults, Elena Ferrante Why did you want to read this? I loved Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, and this is Ferrante’s most recent book, set in Naples again. The book allows you to inhabit the inner turmoil of adolescent Giovanna who enters the lying life of adults... I revel in the idea that Ferrante’s prose feels totally uncensored. How did you record yourself? Sitting on my bed with my laptop and hardback copy of the book.
July 07, 2021
Sarah reads P.D. James
Name: Sarah Reading: Death Comes to Pemberley, P.D. James Why did you want to read this? I was given this book as a present from my Mum - the joy at unwrapping a continuation of one of the most beloved stories of all time AND with a detective twist?! The perfect story for anyone who watched the BBC dramatisation of Pride & Prejudice so many times when it came out as a teenager (and probably far too many times since) they could recite most of the show line for line - and loves a Poirot/Dalgliesh etc novel. How did you record yourself? At home in my new office/yoga space at Heligan Mill in Cornwall. Where the floor slopes unreasonably, the walls and most of the floorboards are painted white, and you can see a tropical woodland garden from the window. Seated on a high stool at my standing height desk, I read from a hardback copy direct into my mac book pro.
June 30, 2021
Monica reads Clarice Lispector
Name: Monica Reading: Agua Viva, Clarice Lispector Why did you want to read this? Because I love Clarice and the cryptic power of her introspective, impressionistic worlds! Her novels and their inhabitants are always so bold & strange. I think she’s a writer who is hyperconscious of language, always searching within it, determined to reconcile it with reality and vice versa. Of her works, this search feels most urgent in Água Viva, and I wanted to feel and share some of this fragmented searching by reading it out loud. How did you record yourself? At my desk at home in London, with a tea and warm water next to me. I also propped up an Ursula Le Guin book that I’m currently reading, with the author photo facing me, as I was told I would sound better if I read as though speaking to someone.
June 23, 2021
Emily reads W. G. Sebald
Name: Emily Reading: The Rings of Saturn, W. G. Sebald  Why did you want to read this? I was loaned Rings of Saturn on a trip to Norway. At that time, I had never been truly alone in a foreign country. As I was walking along the shore of Sydspissen, Tromsø coming to terms with the loneliness and isolation I felt, The Rings of Saturn proved a curious companion. It combines two of my favourite things; travel and rambling meditations on seemingly unrelated things. It's a book that feeds my curiosity, is thought provoking, poignant and bewildering at times. Essentially, a jumble of things that reflect the jumbled state of my emotions in early 2014 and late 2020.  How did you record yourself? In my very patient boyfriend's makeshift studio in our spare room.
June 16, 2021
Zanna reads Nigella Lawson
Name: Zanna Reading: How to Eat, Nigella Lawson Why did you want to read this? I wanted to read this, because I love how Nigella talks about her love for food. You so rarely hear people talking about the joy of actually eating, and I love how simple that idea is. I also thought it might be a fun thing to read, and that if I get any of the reading wrong, I can pretend it's pronounced that way, like 'microwahveh'. How did you record yourself? I recorded myself in a music studio, using some quite complicated technical recording gear and absolutely no idea how to use any of it, but it was very fun (mostly due to the patience of the owner of said studio and some very good instructions).
June 09, 2021
Elizabeth reads Arundhati Roy
Name: Elizabeth  Reading: The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy  Why did you want to read this? I love Roy’s tidal, circular writing, and the textures of her eccentric characters. This was brought out vividly when reading – you might hear me stumble over some of her dizzying, alliterative sentences. When I first read the novel, I was a teenager drawn by the John Berger epigraph, and I remember being spellbound at her use of structure: the overlapping of multiple seasons, memories, people, and breathless monsoon days. I had never read anything like it, and have not since.   How did you record yourself? I was lucky to get access to a small recording studio – so it was a weirdly VIP experience! I was cocooned from the outside world save for getting water from the small kitchen – where like Roy’s characters I was met with the lives of small creatures, could hear birds making nests in the old roof.
June 02, 2021
Julie reads Virginia Woolf
Name: Julie Reading: The Waves, Virginia Woolf Why did you want to read this? I chose to read this as I love the sea in literature, as I do in my own life. It always feels a blank canvas on which to project so many thoughts and metaphors. As well as being mysterious and beautiful, Virginia Woolf’s writing is extraordinary to read but not always easy. In the opening to The Waves I am astonished by how she enters the minds of the children and describes their inner worlds and imaginings. And she conjures up the garden, sea, woods and school room on a summer’s day. How did you record yourself? I recorded myself in a comfortable chair looking out onto plants and flowers. I used my phone and found myself aware of every background noise like the clock ticking and next door’s dog barking!
May 26, 2021
Isabella reads Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Name: Isabella Reading: Les Liaisons dangereuses, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos Why did you want to read this? I wanted to record this for the pure delicious wickedness of having these words in my mouth. In these last months, I have read so many letter-exchanges: Nin/Miller, Jonker/Brink, Acker/Wark, Bachmann/Celan, Camus/Casares, Bowen/Ritchie, Vita/Violet/Virginia, Kafka to Milena and Shklovsky's Zoo, and I've found great solace in reading how other people write to their distant and impossible loves. But they don't quite match the dubious thrills of a book that was itself condemned by a criminal court... How did you record yourself? I recorded this in sections over several weeks, as it was almost impossible to get time where some sort of noisy activity was not taking place. I recorded it in my studio, with my dog for company, thinking about my own correspondence.
May 19, 2021
Fiona reads Isaac R. Fellman
Name: Fiona Reading: Breath of the Sun, Isaac R. Fellman   Why did you want to read this? I love the depth of world-building in this book, and the satisfying way it’s spooled out throughout the story, both by the narrator and interjecting footnotes and edits from others. It’s about trying to climb an unknowably tall mountain that reaches into space, and science, and faith, and the complex, intense relationships that the narrator has with the people around her, alive and dead. It’s one of my favourite fantasy novels.  How did you record yourself? Sitting in my kitchen/living room with my laptop. I used my headset from work, since the microphone is (slightly) better. 
May 12, 2021
Viv reads Eileen Chang
Name: Viv   Reading: Half a Lifelong Romance, Eileen Chang   Why did you want to read this? I read this a few years ago after a slump in reading non-fiction. I'd realised that all the non-fiction I was reading was by white or Japanese men, I was pretty sick of it, so I made a point of looking for books written by East Asian women. It was also around that time when I saw my mum more often in person. She remembers reading Eileen as a teenager, and is one of the few Hong Kong writers whose work has been translated into English for a long time. It made Eileen a natural starting point, and I loved getting lost in the historical drama of it all - somehow for me it's both 1930s Shanghai and 1970s Hong Kong at the same time.   How did you record yourself? I wanted to play with a new microphone I bought recently when I got myself set up to teach online - so I read from my desk, surrounded by piles of books and scraps of paper. The book has been sat at my right arm for about a week.
May 05, 2021
Gillian reads Elizabeth Bowen
Name: Gillian Reading: A Time in Rome, Elizabeth Bowen Why did you want to read this? I wanted to read A Time in Rome because Rome is my first city, in every sense (I went aged 17 and lived there for six months; I’d never been out of England before), and Elizabeth Bowen is a peerless writer, a near favourite. Yet I only discovered it before my most recent visit. 1959, 2018, same Rome. How did you record yourself? I recorded myself on Voice Memos on my iPhone, in a nice soft armchair in a carpeted room with the door shut. I struggled how to share the recording but, with persistence, did it!
April 28, 2021
Catherine reads Jean Rhys
Name: Catherine   Reading: Good Morning, Midnight, Jean Rhys   Why did you want to read this? I wanted to read Good Morning, Midnight because it has been my favourite book since I first read it, over ten years ago, aged 19. It’s hard to explain why something is your favourite book, like asking why you love someone, but I think the tragedy of the story appeals to me. I’m drawn to Sascha the downtrodden woman, roaming around Paris remembering the humiliations of her youth and railing against other people who seem to be able to keep it together in a way that she can’t.   How did you record yourself? I recorded myself on my phone sitting at my desk in my room.
April 21, 2021
Stella reads Jane Austen
Name: Stella Reading: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen Why did you want to read this? I studied this classic book at school and loved it, aided by an excellent English teacher. I enjoyed the antiquated but relatively accessible language/wit as well as the colourful ensemble of characters. Of course, my naive teenage self fell in love with the lively heroine, Elizabeth Bennet (see also, Jane Eyre!). It's been quite comforting to rediscover this book again! How did you record yourself? Laying on my sofa using my phone and a mic cocooned in cushions, fighting the sound of seagulls and cars outside.
April 14, 2021
Kelly reads Ruth Reichl
Name: Kelly  Reading: Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl   Why did you want to read this? It had been several years since I'd read Tender, but it was the first book that came to mind. A memoir by American food writer Ruth Reichl, it’s filled with stories that make me laugh and at times almost cry. It was maybe the first 'food writing' I enjoyed reading. One of the most tender themes of the book is Ruth's relationship with her mother - something she shares from the first chapter. Many parts of the book resonate with me, even more so since moving 5000 miles away from my family.    How did you record yourself? I sat on my couch with my laptop beside me, propped up on a blanket to bring it a little closer to my voice. I used Audacity (as recommended by you!) since I hadn't previously recorded myself so didn't know how else to do it!
April 07, 2021
Olga reads Svetlana Alexievich
Name: Olga Reading: Second-hand Time, Svetlana Alexievich Why did you want to read this? I am interested in the idea of compiling alternative archives and subverting the ‘official’ narratives. The voices in this book belong to a particular time and place, but at the same time speak outside of history; their desires are very human: simultaneous desire for a greater purpose and for a comfortable life, for freedom, for love even when tanks are under the windows. How did you record yourself? Sitting cross-legged on a cushion underneath Antonioni's Zabriskie Point film poster. I did a few sittings over a Sunday afternoon with long tea breaks in-between.
March 31, 2021
Fiona reads Maeve Binchy
Name: Fiona  Reading: Circle of Friends, Maeve Binchy   Why did you want to read this? This is one of the most comforting books I've ever read. It reminds me of my mum; years after she had passed away, I found this on a bookshelf and it opened up a whole new world of books for me. Maeve Binchy has been described as a quiet feminist in the past, and while some of the narratives in this book are a bit catholic guilt'ish and archaic, when I think of it being published and how sex, bodies, and women's roles are fleshed out into stories, Binchy did a lot for Irish women. For me reading it is like going home, and thinking about my mum.   How did you record yourself? I have one of those short attention spans now. It took me three sittings to record this, the first time, sitting at my desk staring out the window. The second and third time in my bed, with coffee surrounded by smoke because I have an addiction to burning Palo Santo.
March 24, 2021
Jade reads Hazel Waters
Name: Jade Reading: Racism on the Victorian Stage: Representation of Slavery and the Black Character, Hazel Waters Why did you want to read this? I love reading aloud, and therefore took this opportunity to read aloud for my pleasure, which also, given my anxiety around lack of time, and reading about slavery and racism (which we do so much of alone, and that I can only do intermittently - I am a slow reader of non-fiction), I took as an activity that would allow me to ease into both of these non/work necessities, that is to prioritise reading around my subject area and history that directly effects my lived experience. I read it through aloud, on reading for the first time, and I would say that specialist words are clumsily mispronounced, among other regular hesitations and interruptions (from Hilda, my puppy, occasionally). How did you record yourself? Because the chapter is so long, I recorded myself at intervals from my drawing desk (an old engineers’ desk), on my MacBook Pro using the QuickTime Player feature, reading with both hands holding the book, but trying not to let it cover my mouth too much.
March 17, 2021
Sinae reads Raven Leilani
Name: Sinae  Reading: Luster, Raven Leilani  Why did you want to read this? Luster is a book that makes you laugh. You might hear me giggling under my breath while reading it. Of course I have read this chapter before and many in fact since I stuttered too many times. Yet, it still make me laugh. It is about being poor, insecure also wanting more for life and demanding for that in an unapologetic way which I loved. I wish you enjoy it!   How did you record yourself? At my quiet studio on the weekend. I used my phone and read from the kindle app on my phone at the same time so you might hear an awkward pause in between at times my finger slipped somehow! 
March 10, 2021
Shirin reads Kathy Acker
Name: Shirin Reading: Don Quixote, Kathy Acker Why did you want to read this? To me Kathy Acker’s writing represents possibility. Her work taught me that everything is possible: rules can not only be bent but forgone entirely. Acker’s stories are deeply rooted in our violent heteropatriarchal capitalist reality, but often veer toward an oneiric dimension which I like to think a reminder to wield the powerful gift of imagination to create new, collective-oriented, love-filled futures. Don Quixote is no exception. The famous knight is now a woman who sets to save the world by looking for love. Since I first discovered Acker’s work many years ago, I’m almost constantly in the process of rereading her writing.  How did you record yourself? With a microphone and my laptop at my desk on a Sunday afternoon while staring at the bookshelves (books apparently help reduce echo more than being inside a closet does).
March 03, 2021
Mel reads Lucy Ellmann
Name: Mel Reading: Ducks, Newburyport, Lucy Ellmann Why did you want to read this? Ducks has been mine and freya's beloved lockdown companion. My attention wanders as often as the narrator's and I feel less bad about myself while reading pun after excellent pun. I'm sure ducks is actually a fancy magic trick. Whatever you have been thinking about will appear in the pages you read - a chocolate pudding, the sunlight through leaves, a pandemic. How did you record yourself? Propped my phone on a pile of cushions on the sofa.
February 24, 2021
Freya reads Deborah Levy
Name: Freya Reading: Things I don’t Want to Know, Deborah Levy Why did you want to read this? I’ve been a bit fan-girly about Deborah Levy since I first read this - slowly reading my way through all her books ‘cos I knew I’d be sad when I’d finished them. There is something about her writing that makes me feel like I’m being sucker punched at intervals -- the observation is just so RIGHT, argh, you got me -- totally poised, yet also casual and funny as though it just fell out that way. I’ve been waiting for the last instalment of this trilogy to come out, and decided to re-read the first two books while I wait. How did you record yourself? In bed on Sunday morning with my zoom recorder.
February 16, 2021