This book is a first love. I was about 15 at the time and it was the first book I ever stayed up all night to read. Literally--7pm to 7am. Couldn't he...moreThis book is a first love. I was about 15 at the time and it was the first book I ever stayed up all night to read. Literally--7pm to 7am. Couldn't help myself.(less)
**spoiler alert** This is the first book I've read that made me feel so queasy I had to lie down or risk fainting. Must be getting soft. I'll blame it...more**spoiler alert** This is the first book I've read that made me feel so queasy I had to lie down or risk fainting. Must be getting soft. I'll blame it on pregnancy. But seriously, Part III needed to cut me some slack. It was more than just the physical torture, it was the fact that it went ON and ON, getting more and more grungy and depressing, and then ending at a point of total hopelessness. I was glad to finally close it.
Much like Animal Farm, 1984 is a piece of political writing. It's not a particularly good novel as far and plot and characters (and even writing) are concerned (although it's better than Brave New World in this sense). However, Orwell does an excellent job at making his message clear: a lot of power in the hands of a few = not a lot of anything good.
I was really into it to start with. The following quote by Julia to Winston about halfway through the book made me hopeful: 'It's the one thing they can't do. They can make you say anything--anything--but they can't make you believe it. They can't get inside you.' I was hoping that Winston would, in the end, prove that quote to be true. It reminded me of Viktor Frankl, jewish concentration camp inmate during Nazi Germany. In his 1946 book Man's Search for Meaning he writes the following: 'everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.' Making a statement like that, after what he must have been through, is really saying something. And yet, despite my hopes, we're left with...
'He loved Big Brother.
Haha. Awesome. Orwell wins the prize for hammering his point home to the last. Big Brother and INGSOC--so out of control (or in control) that there is just no chance of anyone overcoming them, ever. That's some serious power. Hardly realistic, but it is a work of fiction. I think that Orwell's appeal for human freedom is clear and genuine, and I am a big fan of anything that speaks out against control and manipulation in any form that it may take. So, despite the fact that this book is insanely black and gritty, and didn't quite meet my expectations, I give it 4 stars for 'anti-control factor' and 'founding-giant of political dystopia status'. I do think I preferred Animal Farm though, so maybe 3.5.(less)
I can't believe it has taken me this long to finally pick up To Kill a Mockingbird. It seems to be a popular choice in American high schools, but not...moreI can't believe it has taken me this long to finally pick up To Kill a Mockingbird. It seems to be a popular choice in American high schools, but not so much in New Zealand. I thought Harper Lee was a man. (Was stoked to find the opposite as I generally prefer the writing of female authors.) And I knew it had something to do with racial issues in the south, but the rest was all a surprise to me.
I will try not to give anything away for prospective readers, but I just want to list a few of the things that I love about this book:
1. Atticus Finch. My new favourite protagonist. It's all about him really, isn't it. The model father. The model of character. The model mercy giver in spite of the faults of the people he is granting it to. The epitome of courage. Harper Lee must have had some amazing man in her life to write Atticus. I don't think he is too perfect because he reminds me of a couple of people I know in real life. It is not often that a fictional character makes me want reread the story purely to soak up more of them.
2. Scout Finch. A very endearing protagonist. I loved seeing her world from her perspective. I think it was a clever move by Harper Lee to write about such heavy themes from Scout's point of view. There is something untainted about the mind a child and seeing life through their eyes can strip away baggage and provide a fresh perspective (as well as allowing for a little more humor).
3. It surprised me. I think I must have been expecting a literary version of A Time to Kill or something--plot driven and with a heavy focus on racial issues and the court case--so at first I was wondering where the story was headed. The case doesn't begin until over half way through and is far from the sole focus of the story. The book is much more about life in small town Alabama in the 30s. It is about people and prejudice. It dips in to the themes of politics, justice, law, religion, class systems, racism, gender, parenting, child abuse, the state school system, societal pressure and the right to personal freedom (among many) yet, as a reader, I did not feel particularly weighed down or preached at. I loved Boo Radley and Maudie Atkinson, both of which Lee uses to touch on the theme of personal freedom amidst societal pressure. Both Boo and Maudie are fantastic characters.
There is more to this book than I expected and I love it for it. Want to reread.
A couple of quotes:
'You are too young to understand it ... but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of--oh, of your father.' Maudie Atkinson
'I hope and pray I can get Jem and Scout through it without bitterness ... I just hope that Jem and Scout come to me for their answers instead of listening to the town. I hope they trust me enough.' Atticus Finch
'It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.' Scout Finch
'I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.' Atticus Finch
And the last quote sounds cliche but it is so true and I love that throughout the novel Atticus does this with any character despite their being sympathetic, misunderstood or purely wretched:
'You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view--until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.' Atticus Finch (less)