Posted in book reviews, books, reviews

Book Review: England, England by Julian Barnes

This was a roller coaster of a novel, and not just because it’s about a theme park *bad dum tish*.

This book was one that I wouldn’t have picked up on my own accord but seeing as we had to read it for my Literature course I had no choice. And for the most part it was quite a pleasant read, albeit one rather odd and disturbing scene.

The novel explores what we view as nationalism/ patriotism and how this affects our outlook. It delves into the idea of authenticity and replications- taking a few Platonic terms here and there with a modernised version of “The Cave” allegory in Plato’s Republic. 

To summarise, the novel is essentially from the perspective of a character called Martha. In the beginning we are introduced to her life and see her growing up. The story focuses on her relationships with her father as well as men in general and we get to see inside the inner workings of her love life and thoughts. This however is just one facet of the story. She goes to work for a man called Jack who plans to buy the Isle of Wight and turn it into an amusement park based off of all the better things about being English. The park then becomes so popular that it quickly steals all of the real England’s tourism custom and leaves it in disrepair. In this way the book introduces ideas about what are real vs. the expectations we place on things. And whether our nationhood is justly founded and where and why it originates.

I liked the books way of picking up on the ironies of patriotism and how it often overlooks key factors. In particular, the fact that it highlighted the ignorance that people can assume without actually understanding all the factors and details of the very thing that they are defending deeply resonated with me. Although this book was written in the context of the Scottish Devolution Referendum in 1997 I also feel that it is relevant today what with Brexit. I liked how it emphasised the need to be educated on a certain issue and how little we are told or care to know when we are force fed propaganda by the media.

Anyway I rate this book 7/10 – It was something that I felt I benefited from reading, but not something I would necessary pick up to read for fun or re-read.

Thanks for reading,

-E xxx

Posted in book reviews, books, reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Another book review, good progress right on this TBR list?

So this is the second time I am reviewing this book. That’s how much I love it, that I wanted to put it on this blog as well as for the university magazine. howl and sophoe

I found this book very nostalgic and a lovely break from the ever-so-hardcore university reading that I am subjected too. It certainly gave me flash-backs to summer holiday reading as a child and I loved the feel of the book!

Sophie Hatter is living her normal, boring life as the unlucky oldest child in Market Chipping. She doesn’t feel exceptional in any way whatsoever and her luck gets even worst when she happens to catch the eye of the Witch of the Waste. And then she gets turned into an old lady.

Yep, ladies and gents- but please don’t worry so much because as abnormal as she is she actually doesn’t mind being an old lady! In fact she uses it as a way of getting away from  her old life and thus starts the beginning of her journey with Howl.

So if you likold lady sophiee talking fire demons chilling in fireplaces, egotistical wizards with dating problems and life lessons in the means of self-discovery then this is the book for you.
Oh yeah, and you may have noticed that Ghibli adapted the book into a movie, which is actually how I first found out about it despite the original novel having been published since 1986.

I know this is a story that I’ll be revisiting and hopefully passing down throughout the years- that’s how good a book it is.

Also, you will totally fall in love with Howl’s character ( I know I said he was egotistical but he’s actually a good guy).

Five stars rating *****

Speak soon and stay awesome ;P

-E xxx

Posted in book reviews, books, reviews, TBR

Book Review: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

This is something that I’ve been meaning to do properly on this blog for  very very long time. And so here it is, finally!  *Warning slight spoilers*

I’m going to start my book review segment with a classic, Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. This was an especially interesting read because it aptly shows Woolf playing around with writing styles and form.

In her diaries she mentions literally basing the entire novel around a shape similar to that of the letter “H” and even argues that in the most literal sense it is incorrect to call the book a novel seeing as it contradicts everything we associate with one.

I had to read this book for my university course here at UON and honestly found that other people had very mixed reactions to it.

Personally, I loved it. Yes, it was difficult at times but that was part of its charm- the fact that you sometimes did get lost with who was narrating the story, what exactly had happened and the fact that Woolf chooses to emphasise stream of consciousness over other seemingly big plot points.

I especially liked the character of Lilly Briscoe and the entire psychology of her character. She is someone who in other novels would probably be more in the background, not entirely someone key to the progress of the novel- because it is after all focused around her development in particular and the finished piece of art and her analysis of the characters around her. Lilly is obsessed with her painting and the ideas that others put in her head of her never being an artist, because women aren’t good at art. At the end of the novel, she appears to battle through her own insecurities and finishes the painting stating, as she does, “I have had my vision.”

Other than that, as you read the book there are recurring references to the lighthouse in everyday objects, this is apparent as at times the description mimics it – “abstract arabesques” are described centring around pillars as well as other curves and shapes.

This obsession with a final destination, the idea that everything will be better once they reach it and the disappointment that James feels when his dad continuously dashes his hopes of going. In my eyes I saw it as a representation of the things we want but never get the chance to pursue. The focus on characters going to the window, the stability and reliability of it always being there even through the war and storms when some of the characters do not. It comments on mortality and how the characters view themselves and their roles within society.

I feel as though no two people get the same thing from the story and that it’s ambiguity leaves it open to interpretation. For these reasons some people don’t like Woolf’s writing but for someone like me who very much enjoys long musing ramblings from someone else’s internal thoughts- I found this book amazing.

I have Orlando on my shelf at the moment as well as some of her essays that I hope to get round to reading at some point.

Overall, if you’re interested in something a little different and unique to read then I highly recommend this novel. If you’ve read modernist work before then this is a great addition to make, and if not this is a very good example of the form.

5 stars *****

Chat soon!

E xxx