Top Ten Tuesday: Spring Cleaning Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.


Spring Cleaning – whether literal or literary – is not my forte! I am by nature a hoarder: like Smaug, I curl around my treasures and glower, glare and growl at anything that comes too close! The idea of getting rid of a book! Horror! And as a very much a mood reader I rarely officially DNF a book – put to one side, absolutely, but usually with the intention to come back to it at some point. So my books – physical and digital and audio – tend to accumulate. I wouldn’t say I stock pile or hoard books… but many others would!

And this last couple of weeks, my daughter has been searching for signs of spring on our walks: snowdrops have given way to daffodils, new leaves on bare branches, birds collecting twigs for nests… it has been a delight!

But this is also International Women’s Day which is perhaps all sorts of problematic (does it suggest that I as a man enjoy the other 364 days a year and can disregard my wife and daughter and the other 50% of the population of the planet? And that is before we look at gender identity issues!) but an opportunity to try to celebrate female writers – and hopefully those female writers who capture the freshness and cleanliness of what I imagine a spring clean might feel like – and books that celebrate nature, and the outdoors and new life. Especially with the Women’s Prize For Fiction longlist about to be announced this week!

Spring, Ali Smith

It should come as no surprise that Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet appears here as an exceptional – dare I say experimental? – writer celebrating but also challenging contemporary British society, from Brexit to Covid to Black Lives Matter.

In this novel she asks us to

picture a crocus in snow. See the ring of the thaw round the crocus? That’s the door open into the earth. I’m the green in the bulb and the moment of split in the seed, the unfurl of the petal, the dabber of ends of the branches of trees with the green as if green is alight.

How To Be Both, Ali Smith

A second book by Smith? Hell, yeah! She is absolutely worth is and this novel was wonderful. Smith describes nature as being

herself a bona fide artist of intent both dark and light.

which is a jolly fine description of Smith’s own language. Her chapters in Renaissance Italy here created a wonderful depiction of nature and of the light of the Mediterranean.

Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell

Yes there is so much tragedy and darkness and grief here, as the plague strikes through William Shakespeare’s household – but the flashbacks to the courtship between Shakespeare – the unnamed Latin tutor – and Agnes are a delightful contrast full of the joys of Spring. Indeed it is “on a morning in early spring” that they meet:

fifteen years or so before Hamnet runs to the house of the physician, a Latin tutor is standing in this place at the window, absently tugging on the hoop through his left ear… intent on the startling contrast between the sharply blue spring sky and the new-leaf green of the forest. The colours seem to fight, vying for supremacy, vibrancy: the green versus the blue, one against the other.

Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo

This was such an extremely powerful, optimisitic, complex novel – oh the epilogue is wonderful!
Every aspect of what it is to be and identify as a woman, as well as to be a human being and an immigrant and a person of colour. This is one of the most heart warming and beautiful novels in recent times whose message is of strength and the power of life.

And from that point of view, absolutely spring like.

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson

Whilst born (over and over) into the “snow” of winter, the novel is such a bright, wonderful thing!

It does use spring time on 11th February 1910 to deliver the following wonderful moment of characterisation

A single, half-frozen snowdrop drooped in the bud vase on the tray. ‘Oh, a snowdrop!’ Sylvie said. ‘The first flower to raise its poor head above the ground. How brave it is!’

Mrs Glover, who did not believe that flowers were capable of courage, or indeed any other character trait, laudable or otherwise, was a widow who had only been with them at Fox Corner a few weeks.

Circe, Madeline Miller

A gorgeously written re-imagining of the story of Circe, giving her a voice from the island on which she is exiled, and yet still takes part in and engages with a surprising number of those Greek myths.

The description of the island and of its plantlife and teeming vibrant world is so wonderfully lush it touches all those notes of spring time.

Half of A Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

A wonderful exploration of the effect of the Biafran civil war in Nigeria in 1967.

It has been a whilst since I read this – before beginning the blog! – but I recall a vivid sense of place and nature, of villages and university campuses and high class urban apartments.

Redhead By The Side Of The Road, Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler’s quiet little novel does raise the question of what we value in life, and what sustains us.

It’s protagonist, the slightly odd Micah, is given a second chance at the end of the novel and the passion with which he grasps it is wonderful.

Daisy Jones and the Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid

If Spring is about surviving through the challenges of winter and finding those reserves of strength needed to make a fresh start, then Daisy Jones – mesmerising superstar of the 1960s rock scene and helpless addict who is her own worst enemy – encapsulates that!

Is the conclusion a little too positive? Maybe. But Daisy was genuinely captivating as a character.

The Girl of Ink and Stars, Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s mythic novel bursts with a vibrant sense of place and of nature, and of something beyond our comprehension.

I’d love to have included Hargrave’s The Mercies but, in terms of seasons, that novel is so embedded in its frozen wintery island! This book with its lush jungles and mountains bursts with that natural imagery.

So, there we have some wonderful female authors! And some gorgeous novels that celebrate new life, second chances and nature. Happy TTT and Happy International Women’s Day!

  • March 16: Books On My Spring 2021 TBR
  • March 23: Funny Book Titles
  • March 30: Places In Books I’d Love to Live
  • April 6: Books I’d Gladly Throw Into the Ocean (submitted by Beauty & Her Books)
  • April 13: Book Titles That Sound Like They Could Be Crayola Crayon Colors (Take a moment and Google some of the crazy Crayola crayon colors that exist. Can you think of any book titles that sound like they could also be a crayon color? It might be fun to include a description of the kind of color you’re picturing.)
  • April 20: Colorful Book Covers
  • April 27: Animals from Books (these could be mythical, real, main characters, sidekicks, companions/pets, shifters, etc.) (Submitted by Paige @paigesquared and Jennifer Y. @ Never Too Many to Read)
  • May 4: My Ten Most Recent Reads (maybe share a one-sentence review to go with?)

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