GEH Wellbeing reading group review of What July Knew by Emily Koch

We’d saved What July Knew by Emily Koch to read in July with our wellbeing reading group. Purely because of the name! Our readers enjoyed this book for the most part. There were some parts that were difficult to read, or to accept, but it had a unique charm and we responded to that.

Book cover- What July Knew by Emily Koch

July is a 10 year old in 1995 and she knows 18 things about her late mother, including that she died when hit by a car. July lives with her father and her stepmother and stepsister and is determined to fid out what actually happened to her mother, and to work out why her family is lying to her. The story is partly a page-turning mystery and partly a devastating account of a girl who is being physically and emotionally abused by her father. Who July loves completely, and is desperate to please.

We found July’s voice absolutely convincing. Several of our readers fell in love with her and her individual take on her life. So often books that are written by adults in children’s voices sound stilted, but this felt true.

We didn’t ask our group to disclose their ages in the 90s, but we enjoyed the 90’s nostalgia included in the novel and the Spotify playlist that sits alongside it was a joy. It felt like an authentic trip into the decade and made the book lighter despite its sometimes dark subject matter.

Scan the QR code for a Spotify play list of July’s favourite tunes.

Not to giveaway too much, but there were twists in the novel, and some of our intrepid readers had inklings, but not all of them were guessed. We were sympathetic towards her stepmother and her stepsister Sylvie, and our feelings towards them changed through the novel, as July’s awareness of them and their experiences widened. We were less forgiving of Shell, July’s grandmother, we felt she let July down. Our discussions took us to whether July was let down by adults in her life who should have noticed what was happening to her, and whether it was just easier for them not to see the truth.

We would recommend the book, with a trigger warning about the content, it was very well written and surprisingly easy to read despite the difficult topic.

Our next read is The book of form and emptiness by Ruth Ozeki and copies are available now to pick up from the library at GEH. Our next meeting is on Teams on Thursday 7th September from 12.30-1pm, and we’d love to see you, get in touch and we’ll send out the invite!

Find out more about our reading groups here

Take a look at the blog posts for our previous reads here.