Posted in book reviews, books, reviews, TBR

Book Review: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Oh this book is just something else! Words just do not do it justice, but I can honestly say that this is my new favourite book. That’s how good it is.

How can I best describe it? It’s like childhood summertime in the English countryside. It reminds me of growing up in my home town and I find it a goddamn shame that I only just discovered it now because this is something that younger me would have really needed.

It’s a coming of age tale about two sister Cassandra and Rose. However, the books perspective is from Cassandra and it is her journals that we are reading from. They are very much the thoughts of a seventeen year old. She lives with her quirky family including the vivacious and extravagant Topaz (her model stepmother) and her father whose been suffering with severe writers block for several years. They live in an old tumble down castle in the Sussex countryside and endure an interesting but poor life. That is until two American chaps come to town and sweep the girls off their feet.

There are a myriad of other characters involved in the framework as you travel through Cassandra’s first experience of the real world and adulthood (other than what she’s read in Jane Austen novels). You go through it all with her and get wrapped up in love triangles and late night swimming.

Like I said I cannot do this novel justice enough so I shall leave you with a couple of quotes, snippets of my favourite lines from the novel.

The thought came to me that perhaps it is the loving that counts, not the being loved in return- that perhaps true loving can never know anything but happiness.

-Page 267 : Realisations about the nature of love.

And I knew she was gone forever… she makes me think of the corpse of a dressmakers doll.

-Page 294 : In reference to losing imaginary friends from childhood, when reality ensues.

It is part of a follow-my-leader game of second best we have all been playing… It isn’t a very good game; the people you play with are apt to get hurt.

 

It isn’t enough to give. Not for the giver

– Both from Page 406 : Cassandra understands the cruel nature of unrequited love and how each of us falls victim to it at some point or another.

As you can see it is a very thoughtful novel which manages to be both witty, wise and real with the theme of love. I am in awe of Smith’s writing and intend to read more of her book, especially her autobiographies.

This would also be a good novel for anyone doing Love Through the Ages at A-Level for your coursework or even to use as a comparison in the exam for unrequited or lost love.

5 stars all round!

-E

 

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Posted in book reviews, reviews

Book Review: The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

Where do I even begin with how good this book was? It was my first time reading any of Carter’s work and I will admit that since then I am now currently in the middle of devouring Nights at the Circus!

The work is a collection of short stories, all re-workings of fairy tales but each with a twist. Most, appeared to have some feminist moral behind them but I wouldn’t say that this is the most central thing although admittedly it is the most raved about.

Rather, I enjoyed the tales because not only were they unique in a short and sweet kind of way but they all had an individual tone. No two were the same.

My favourites were probably The Bloody Chamber, Puss-in-Boots and the Lady of the House of Love. Like I said, the stories range from melancholy and foreboding too jolly and happy.

Carter’s writing is vivid and entrancing in how she creates her stories, the imagery is so detailed that it’s very difficult not to get dragged into the fairy tale yourself – and that’s probably why this is the best short story collection that I’ve ever read by an author. They all ranged in styles and lengths and none of them were carbon copies of the other or the original tales. She definitely brings something extra to the table when it comes to writing!

The only other thing I have to say is that I love how unapologetically crude and experimental she is in her writing and vastly ahead of the game and era. She’s not scared to show us the true gothic undertones that lie in the original Anderson and Grimm tales that companies like Disney have muted to make more child friendly. Rather than shying away from it she embraces these elements and uses them to meet her own ends as a writer.

Overall, I give this collection 5 stars and look forward to finishing Nights at the Circus and updating this blog with my opinion on that too.

See ya!

-E

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’sΒ Republic.Β 

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, TBR

Book Review: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

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