The Pinhoe Egg is the only Chrestomanci book I have never read before; it was released when I was already well into my teens. But I decided to give it...moreThe Pinhoe Egg is the only Chrestomanci book I have never read before; it was released when I was already well into my teens. But I decided to give it a read and see what I thought of it - and to try and guess whether I would have liked it if I'd read it as a child.
The premise is a very interesting one; as does The Magicians of Caprona, the book features several feuding magical families, which is always a fun plotline. Cat Chant also makes a return in this book, which is something I'm sure many fans were eager to see.
Though the plot was enjoyable, and Jones' writing as wonderful as ever, I couldn't help feeling a little disappointed with the other main character, Marianne. There were so many opportunities to have Cat and Marianne interact, and work together to solve the mysteries surrounding the Pinhoe egg. I would have liked to see her play a larger role in the resolution of the story, but unfortunately it was not to be. Though I can't say for certain, I'm pretty sure my younger self would have felt the same.
The Chrestomanci series was one of my absolute favourites growing up. I must have read these books at least half-a-dozen times. So I decided to see wh...moreThe Chrestomanci series was one of my absolute favourites growing up. I must have read these books at least half-a-dozen times. So I decided to see whether I still found them as enjoyable now as I did back then. Needless to say, I found myself almost as enchanted today as I did ten years ago. I did pick up on a few disturbing gender and racial issues - I found out the book was actually written in 1977, and at some points it definitely shows - but they were not very frequent or obvious. Diana Wynne Jones was a fabulous writer, and incredibly inventive. Though there were a few things I had reservations about, I couldn't resist getting wrapped up in the story.(less)
I can't remember the last time I finished a series so quickly. This book was definitely the most gripping of the three, and if Beth Revis were ever to...moreI can't remember the last time I finished a series so quickly. This book was definitely the most gripping of the three, and if Beth Revis were ever to write a companion series continuing the series, I'd be there faster than you can say 'futuristic fiction with an exciting plot twist'. This series has rekindled my passion for sci-fi in a big way. I can't wait to see if there will be more. (less)
I hadn't originally planned to read CINDER, but I stumbled across it at the library and thought it might be good to see what all the fuss was about.
I...moreI hadn't originally planned to read CINDER, but I stumbled across it at the library and thought it might be good to see what all the fuss was about.
I wasn't blown away by the first half of the book; there were a few awkward moments, language-wise, which bugged me. But by the end of the book, particularly the ball scene, I began to appreciate the author's manipulation of the Cinderella fairy tale. That particular scene subverts some elements of the well-known story in very interesting ways. I read the last few chapters almost in one breath. I'm definitely looking forward to the next book in this series. (less)
I don't know if I'm especially receptive lately, but I've just been blown away with some of the books I've been reading. First Aristotle and Dante Dis...moreI don't know if I'm especially receptive lately, but I've just been blown away with some of the books I've been reading. First Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and now this. I couldn't put either of these books down, and I think I actually forgot to breathe reading the last few chapters of this book. A really, really great read. (less)
Sadly, I didn't enjoy this nearly as much as I enjoyed the first book. Though the scenes with the gods were still amusing, Maggie wasn't a particularl...moreSadly, I didn't enjoy this nearly as much as I enjoyed the first book. Though the scenes with the gods were still amusing, Maggie wasn't a particularly compelling main character. The plot felt a little repetitive, and a few times I found myself losing interest. I still love the first book in the series. I think if Harris took her interest in Norse mythology in a different direction from these first two books, it would make for a very interesting book.(less)
A very well-fleshed-out book. I love Norse mythology, and this book had me from the first line: "Seven o'clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years...moreA very well-fleshed-out book. I love Norse mythology, and this book had me from the first line: "Seven o'clock on a Monday morning, five hundred years after the end of the world, and goblins had been at the cellar again." Hooked me right away.
Also - am I the only person who didn't realise this was written by the same lady who wrote CHOCOLAT until they got to the 'About the Author' page at the end?(less)
It's always nice to imagine your favourite fictional characters living out the perfect lives of endless youth implied at the close of so many...more3.5 Stars
It's always nice to imagine your favourite fictional characters living out the perfect lives of endless youth implied at the close of so many books. Which is why this book, in a lot of ways, was a cold, hard dose of reality. Although Helen Fielding still has the ability to make me laugh out loud (even, embarrassingly, on the bus last night, earning me quite a few nervous stares and a few carefully-edge-away-from-the-crazy-girl decisions from my fellow passengers), I think my problem with this book was that it was difficult to relate. At the age of twenty-one - or even the age of sixteen, when I first read Bridget Jones - reading about a thirty-something unmarried woman's forays into the dating world and her issues with her body is still relatable, even if it is set in London in the 1990s. But reading about a fifty-something unemployed widow with two children is a bit more of a stretch. There were amusing parts, undoubtedly, but I couldn't help feeling that a little of Bridget's voice, which Fielding created so well in the first two books, is somewhat lost. Whether this is the fault of the author, the natural process of time, or a reflection of modern society (the way we communicate naturally having an impact on our own internal monologues, perhaps?), I'm not sure.
Even this, I think, I could have overcome. A far bigger problem with the book was the love interest, Mr Wallander, who is more or less a carbon copy of Mark Darcy, but with all of the characteristics I most disliked about Darcy enhanced to new and worrying levels. His possessiveness and almost aggressive urge to organise Bridget's hectic life are very similar to Mark Darcy's behaviour in the previous two books, but Mr Wallander takes them to military-like extremes. I noticed about halfway through that Bridget barely manages to get a word in edgewise when she's around him; two seconds after he appears he's telling her what to do and organising her children so effectively one wonders what her function even is anymore. It's a little worrying that this is the fantasy man that women of Fielding's generation are dreaming up. I really, really hope it's not the same for later generations of readers.
I think for the moment I'm going to stick to re-reading the first two books whenever I feel like I need a good cheering-up and a hearty laugh, and leave this book for later in life. Maybe I'll one day come to appreciate it more. Or maybe I'll just stick to the old reliables: Bridget v. 1.0 and 2.0, and leave Mr Wallander and his 'it's not sexism if you acknowledge it' attitude by the wayside.(less)
Though I'm a little uncomfortable dismissing a book that has taken someone half a lifetime to write, I can't help but think that when it comes to The...moreThough I'm a little uncomfortable dismissing a book that has taken someone half a lifetime to write, I can't help but think that when it comes to The Seven Basic Plots the author's time could really have been better spent. There were points where this book outright insulted me; as a literature student, as a feminist, as a psychology major, and as a lover of stories in general.
The idea of applying Jungian theory to literature is not new, but reading this book often had me wondering whether such a reductive approach is actually useful. Booker doesn't really offer any compelling information which enhances my experience of literary criticism or of literature in general.
In fact, I had so many problems with this book that I think it's probably best to just list them in no particular order:
1. Booker's prose is at times very poorly crafted. For a writer who has a chapter entitled 'The Rule of Three: (the role played in stories by numbers),' he seems to take a kind of perverse delight in presenting the reader with endless sentences listing countless plot examples without pausing for breath. My advice? Give that poor semicolon a break and focus on putting 'the rule of three' into action.
2. I was about halfway through this book when I realised that just about every story examined in-depth in this book (barring folk and fairy tales) was written by a man. And I'm not the first person to pick up on Booker's gender and cultural bias either.
3. On the above point, the moment when I honestly thought I was going to hurl this book at the wall. Booker's analysis (or, more accurately, his outright dismissal) of two of the best-known female English novelists of all time was absolutely insulting to the intelligence. He begins by adopting the tiresome and oh-so-ignorant line that Jane Austen was desperately in love with her Irish cousin Tom Lefroy, and that the entirety of her writing career was her attempt to compensate for the fact that she would never marry him and have all of his babies. As I've mentioned before, this sentimental (and degrading) little folly is an invention of the Victorians and later of Hollywood, in an attempt to explain just why Austen was so good at writing about love and marriage, given that she apparently had no experience in either field. As just about any serious Austen scholar will tell you, there is absolutely no evidence that Austen was overcome with love for a boy she met only once or twice in her life, and for only a few weeks at a time. What Booker does is latch onto this sweet but irritating little story as a way to explain why a woman would want to be a writer - not just in Austen's day but at any point in history. Austen is 'acceptable' to Booker because she is trying to compensate for her supposed 'inability' to complete the archetypal journey from childhood to parenthood by re-creating her failed romance in a new setting which she can manipulate toward a new, 'happy' ending. This portrait of one of the most well-respected and loved English novelists of all time - male or female - is degrading. Booker does not given Austen credit for being an extraordinarily intelligent woman, a perceptive social critic, and an accomplished writer in all aspects of technique and style. In the few instances Booker does turn his attention to the writing of women throughout history, he constructs them as somehow 'piggybacking' on the fame, intelligence or inspiration of significant men in their lives. He does this with Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, and though he doesn't analyse Bronte directly, when he looks at Jane Eyre he wilfully misinterprets plots and characters in order to fit it into his overall design.
4. Which brings me to another point. There is a lot of subtle twisting of plots in order to make them fit into Booker's overall plan. If a situation, ending, scene, or character doesn't fit in with his scheme, then it is conveniently ignored. A quick Google search using only the book's title as a keyword threw up an article which points out that Booker ignores the final chapter of Middlemarch and the character of Stephen Dedalus in Joyce's Ulysses. So it's not just me that has this problem. Of course, all literary analysis does this to some extent, but Booker so wilfully ignores it that reading The Seven Basic Plots you begin to wonder if you read the same version of these books as he did.
5. Why on earth does Booker feel he has to retell the entire plot of popular fairy tales in excruciating detail? Who doesn't know the plot of Cinderella?!
6. The book also promises to explain 'why we tell stories'. The answer to this question, according to Booker, is quite infuriatingly simple (we are trying to re-create the generational transition of child becoming parent, growing into their 'place' in the world) but takes so long to actually answer that the point (however unexciting it may be) is lost.
7. At the risk of sounding like a literary snob, it is vital that anyone who reads this book takes note; Booker is NOT a literary critic. Neither is he a psychologist. This is important to remember because what becomes apparent very quickly is how little citation there is in this book. It's a reflection of the assumption that to become a literary theorist or critic one simply has to read a lot of books. As someone working towards a degree in literature, I can honestly state that most of literary criticism involves reading around the text. Citing the Introductory Notes to The Thousand and One Nights just isn't going to cut it. The few references which do crop up are so ridiculously out of date that it makes the reader feel like Booker is too cheap to buy new books and too lazy to visit the library; instead his references seem to be solely those he can download free off Project Gutenberg or books he bought when he was an undergrad at university and never got round to throwing out.
8. The thing which bothered me the most: the fact that Booker dismisses any story which doesn't follow the archetypal pattern as 'wrong' or 'bad' fiction, that it is somehow a failure. I just... I can't even begin to talk about this one.
9. Where is postmodernism to fit in all this? Reading this book one would assume that the last sixty years of literary development never happened. Either Booker is too traditionalist to even crack open the cover of a postmodern novel or else he wilfully ignores them because he knows they refute his argument. Is everything that literature has become in the past few decades also 'wrong', because it doesn't fit neatly into Booker's personal preferences for literature?
There are a few interesting points in this book, but ultimately, I don't think it contributes meaningfully to our understanding of storytelling. It is an out-of-date book full of unenlightened ideas and little to really challenge the reader. Read it if you must, but be warned; finishing this book may bear a startling resemblance to the outline of Booker's 'Overcoming the Monster' plot.(less)
Earlier this year I spent two weeks re-reading the Harry Potter series for - quite possibly - the hundredth time.
Over the past few years, I've found m...moreEarlier this year I spent two weeks re-reading the Harry Potter series for - quite possibly - the hundredth time.
Over the past few years, I've found myself turning back to Harry Potter over and over again. If I'm bored, depressed, or so terrified from watching a scary movie/documentary/reality TV show ('X-Factor, I'm looking at you) that I can't even close my eyes for fear, I turn to Harry Potter. Why? I ask myself this same question every single time. And I'm not sure if I've come up with a satisfactory answer just yet.
Perhaps it's something nostalgic; it reminds me of a time before Joyce and Kafka and Hugo, when literature was easy and comfortable and most of all fun, unapologetically and endlessly fun. For adult readers it's not considered quite 'proper' to lose oneself in a book to such an extent that the lines of reality begin to blur. This seems to hint at a kind of unacceptable childishness.
Now, I'm not disputing the fact that modernist and postmodernist writers create important, amusing and intelligent works of art which can be very enjoyable to read. But one is rarely allowed to reach the point where one can lose oneself in the narrative. That, most 'serious' modern writers argue, is for children, for people who don't want to think when they read.
This is also forgetting that the Harry Potter series does tackle some very interesting themes about death - understanding, fearing, and finally accepting it.
Yet another reason why I turn to Harry Potter; as I've grown I've started to regard it as a bit of a puzzle. I can't stop myself from asking 'what is it?' What is that special element in Rowling's writing which has captivated thousands of children across the globe? What is it about her writing that makes for such effortless reading, such universality in theme and character?
I think this puzzle is one of the biggest things that brings me back to Harry Potter. The literature student in me wants to dissect it, to decide what it is about the writing that has this effect on readers. And the scribbler in me wants to decide whether this effect can be reproduced by another writer.
But as much as I approach the books in the spirit of discovery, telling myself that this time I will read it as a serious critic, it is just impossible to read the series as an impassively. Each time I try to I find myself getting lost in the story, any thoughts of conducting serious literary study gone. Perhaps this isn't a bad thing. I am very interested to see whether Harry Potter will have the same effect on me when I'm eighty as when I was eight. For my part, I certainly hope it does.(less)