At birth Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was tossed aside into a pile of fish guts in the slums of eighteenth-century Paris. His mother believed he would beAt birth Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was tossed aside into a pile of fish guts in the slums of eighteenth-century Paris. His mother believed he would be a still born, just like all the others and quickly got rid of him to continue working. From birth Jean-Baptiste was a little different; born without a scent but grows into a man with an absolute sense of smell. He quickly found work as a perfumer, learning the trade. He wanted to capture the scents of the world, but more importantly the one that intoxicated him; the scent of a beautiful young virgin woman.
When first published in German in 1985, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (Das Parfum: Die Geschichte eines Mörders) was a literary sensation for author Patrick Süskind. Two years later it was translated into English by John E. Woods, who went on to win the PEN Translation Prize for his work with this book. The original cover (which sadly isn’t used now) was from the painting Nymphe et satyre by Antoine Watteau 1715-16, which in English translates to Nymphs and Satyr. The novel was the inspiration for Nirvana’s Scentless Apprentice, Rammstein’s Du riechst so gut, Red Head Girl by Air and so on.
The point I am trying to make is that this book was a huge success that went on to inspire many. This is actually a re-read for me and I first read this almost five years ago and found myself being completely captivated but the book. When I first reviewed the novel, I said that “I love an anti-hero and Jean-Baptiste Grenouille didn’t disappoint as the cold hearted, scent obsessed protagonist.” Which is true, but this time I wanted to look at the novel a little more in-depth.
Firstly, I found it interesting the way women where portrayed within this book. At birth and childhood, women are represented as carers but his mother, wet-nurses and the nuns all reject Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Then when he grew into a man, the role of the woman changed from carer to the object of desire. However, for Jean-Baptiste, the idea of acceptance by a woman remained strong throughout his life, but he remained alone, which made him feel undesirable.
I had been thinking about Perfume since first reading the novel and I came to the conclusion that scent worked as a metaphor for lust in this book. A lust that Jean-Baptiste had towards young virgins; which is so typical and boring but I was interested in the way Süskind used smell to explore this idea of lust. While this still rung true for me the second time around, I also began to look at smell as a representation for class; the higher the social standing the better you smell.
Both ideas seem to come together at the end, when Jean-Baptiste releases the fragrance everyone smells the same; become equals. When it comes to theme of lust, everyone is over come with desire and the scent makes everyone attracted to each other. No one has to feel the way Jean-Baptiste felt, rejected from birth. However this scene left me curious, if everyone becomes desirable and equal; why is everyone straight in this scene. There is no mention of any same sex coupling and I felt a little perplexed by this; it is not like everyone is straight or no mention that the scent only attracts you to the opposite sex.
It is an interesting experience re-reading a book, I don’t often do it but I am starting to see the appeal. First time around, I really focused on the plot and when I picked up Perfume again all that came flooding back which allowed me to explore themes and ideas within the book. I was able to take what I thought previously and dive deeper into the novel which I found so much more rewarding. I think I have converted myself into a re-reader; I have already started reading The Master and Margarita again.
The Secret History of Wonder Woman is the story behind Wonder Woman and her creator William Moulton Marston. The life of Marston is a fascinating andThe Secret History of Wonder Woman is the story behind Wonder Woman and her creator William Moulton Marston. The life of Marston is a fascinating and unconventional one, full of contradictions and this book really explores this in a bit more detail. The idea of Wonder Woman grew from the Amazons in Greek mythology and the feminist movement. Wonder Woman first appeared in All Star Comics #8 in 1941 and is now one of the most recognisable superhero’s to grace the comic book pages. Despite this fact, there has not been a major motion picture about Wonder Woman yet, The Lego Movie (2014) has been her first and only film appearance to date.
American psychologist, lawyer and the inventor of the Lie Detector, William Moulton Marston created Wonder Woman under the pen name Charles Moulton, but it is his life that seems to be the biggest influence on this caped crusader. Wonder Woman is a powerful feminist and this may have been a little problematic for the movement. First of all, Marston’s Wonder Woman was a powerful woman but she lost her powers when bound by a man. This could be considered a symbol of the oppressive nature of a male dominated society however the frequency use pointed to his a fixation of bondage and submission.
Originally William Moulton Marston called his character Suprema and she stated that she was a “tender, submissive, peaceloving as good women are, [combining] all the strength of a Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman”. This in itself shows the problems facing the creation of Wonder Woman and Marston was very controlling of his creation and the vision he had for her. While on the surface Marston was promoting the feminist movement, his personal life contradicted his ideals; living with two women, his wife and his mistress, he expected them to fulfil all there wifely duties at home while his wife was the main source of income for the majority of their lives.
The Secret History of Wonder Woman is an interesting micro-history that explores the life of William Moulton Marston and Wonder Woman. While some of what is revealed within this book is nothing new, Jill Lepore does a good job of bringing feminist history into the world of pop-culture. There is so much worth talking about here and this book asks the question, should Wonder Woman be recognised as a feminist icon? Well worth checking out if you are a fan of this superhero or are just interested in the history behind her.
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet tells the story of the Dutch East India Company’s trading post off of Nagasaki in 1977. Japan has been cut off fThe Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet tells the story of the Dutch East India Company’s trading post off of Nagasaki in 1977. Japan has been cut off from the rest of the world and the only outside influence was a small man-made island known as Dejima. Originally built by Portuguese traders, this island was walled off and used by the Dutch as a trading post from 1641 until 1853. This novel follows the story of Jacob de Zoet, a young clerk who has been sent to Dejima to uncover any evidence of corruption form the previous Chief Resident of this trading post.
My first attempt with David Mitchell was Cloud Atlas which probably was a terrible starting point; I had a lot of problems with the fragmented storyline. I know that Cloud Atlas was an experimental piece of post-modern fiction but for me it felt like a writing exercise to see what genres he was able to write in. With a little push, I was convinced to try The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which is a straight forward historical fiction novel that would allow me to discover Mitchell as a writer but try anything experimental again. I think if I read this book first, I would have gained an appreciation for this author and been more willing to see what he can do when he played around with genres.
This novel can be broken into two parts. The first half of the book establishes the world; we learn about the history of the Dutch East India Company, Japan and the island of Dejima. Mitchell spends a lot of time building characters and painting beautiful scenery. This is a nice slow-paced section that just explores the history and the culture clash between Japan and the Dutch; it also allows the reader to meet some of the characters. Then the book changes tone completely and everything becomes fast paced and thrilling which I won’t get into as this is where the bulk of the plot happens and I am not willing to give spoilers.
While this book does deal with the culture clash, it also looks at love and the human condition. Jacob de Zoet falls in love with a Japanese midwife, Orito and the plot does focuses a lot around this affection. Orito was a great heroine in this book. She pushes to learn how to be a midwife, in a time and place where the term midwife would have been unheard of. She is this strong willed and intelligent woman that just stole the show for me. I did struggle a little with Jacob de Zoet, he was this incorruptible man working on a trading post full of corruption. He just felt so good and kind, almost to the point of being fake. His prudishness and piety sometimes rubbed me the wrong way; as most people know. I do like characters that are deeply flawed so Jacob came across as too perfect. Having said that, I think this (somewhat) perfect protagonist was utilised well within the novel and helped Mitchell explore the themes around the human condition.
One thing I was curious about that I felt wasn’t explored enough was the language barrier between the Japanese and the Dutch. There was a great deal of exploration with the differences in cultures and how they clashed but when it came to language it was brushed over. There is so much there that was mentioned that I wanted more information about, for example when it came to the translators. The translators had the power to translate Japanese to Dutch and the opportunities for corruption was mentioned briefly and I would have loved to see these ideas explored more.
David Mitchell seems to have a keen interest in Japanese culture and the human condition, I felt like The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet was able to explore these topics far better than I think Cloud Atlas did. I am not trying to rip apart Cloud Atlas (I may re-read it one day), I just felt the emotions and character development were missing from that novel. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet has given me the confidence to try more books by David Mitchell and I am not sure what I will look at next but I am curious. If anyone wants to recommend me another Mitchell book, maybe something with a flawed character, please let me know.
Nina and Rose Dall have always dreamed of being rock stars. Influenced by her aunty Alannah Dall, a pop sensation in the 1980’s, Nina along with her cNina and Rose Dall have always dreamed of being rock stars. Influenced by her aunty Alannah Dall, a pop sensation in the 1980’s, Nina along with her cousin started a punk band known as The Bain-Maries until being signed and renamed The Dolls. Cherry Bomb tells the story of The Dolls rise to fame and the wild ride they faced while navigating the Australian music scene.
Cherry Bomb is told much like a memoir, where Nina Dall is recounting the career of The Dolls. This allowed Jenny Valentish the ability to write a coming of age story that mixes a “rise to fame” journey with a social commentary of the music industry. Before writing her debut novel, Valenstish worked as a music publicist and journalist with her time spent as a columnist for NME and an editor for Triple J’s magazine Jmag. This knowledge on the music industry allowed her to write a social commentary that focuses on the way woman are treated within the industry.
I picked up this book thinking it was a contemporary and fun read, which it mainly was; I was pleasantly surprised to find the social criticism. Cherry Bomb has shades of The Love Song of Jonny Valentine by Teddy Wayne and High Fidelity by Nick Hornby throughout the novel but for the most part it felt fresh. I was particularly fascinated by the playlist in the back on the book and would love to see a Spotify (Jenny Valentish does have a Cherry Bomb playlist, but it is different to The Doll’s playlist in the back of the book) playlist just so I can list to all those songs.
While this might be something different from what I normally read, I do try to explore all kinds of literature so hopefully people aren’t too surprised to see me read this one. However I will mention that I picked up this novel because the blurbs for the book were all done by Australian musicians, instead of other authors and I thought that was a unique concept and made me feel that Jenny Valentish may have captured the music industry correctly. Cherry Bomb is an entertaining read full of sex, drugs and rock and roll and I look forward to reading Valentish’s next novel.
Ivan Ilych’s life revolved around his career; as a high court judge he takes his job very seriously. However after he falls off a ladder, he soon discIvan Ilych’s life revolved around his career; as a high court judge he takes his job very seriously. However after he falls off a ladder, he soon discovers that he is going to die. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is a novella that deals with the meaning of life in the face of death. A masterpiece for Leo Tolstoy written after his religious conversion in the late 1870s.
Something that was fascinating about The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the drastic change in writing style when comparing it to Anna Karenina and War and Peace. I am not just referring to the length, but that does play a big part. I have read somewhere that Tolstoy intentionally made Anna Karenina and War and Peace so long because he wanted to replicate life and the journey the characters face. Allowing the reader to experience every decision and moral dilemma that the character is facing, exploring the growth or evolution of each and every person within the novels.
The Death of Ivan Ilyich takes a more focused approach, dealing with major questions revolving around the meaning of life, death and spirituality. Leo Tolstoy had a major conversion in the late 1870s and the questions in this novel were the questions he was asking himself. Whether or not Ivan Ilyich found the answers he was looking for is up to the reader but it is believed that Leo Tolstoy was still looking for the same answers well after finishing this novella.
There is a lot of pain and torment that appears in this book, which reflects the authors search for answers and that is what really stood out for me. Not only was I reading a spiritual/existential struggle of the protagonist but Tolstoy’s own feeling really came out within the pages. This is what makes this a masterpiece that explores the tortured artist in great detail. I don’t want to say much more, this is the type of book people have to read and make their own mind up about the themes presented, but it is worth reading.
When it comes to Christmas books, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is probably the first book that comes to mind. Published in 1843, this novellaWhen it comes to Christmas books, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is probably the first book that comes to mind. Published in 1843, this novella was an instant success and has been a beloved classic since then. I am not going to go into a plot summary because I believe most people know the story but if you don’t, go watch A Muppet’s Christmas Carol. Told in five staves (similar to stanzas or verses) this book has been adapted so many times that A Christmas Carol has just become a part of the Christmas period.
While compassion, forgiveness and getting into the Christmas spirit is the major theme of this novella, one thing that really stuck with me is Dickens’ ideas of isolation and loneliness. While it is true that Ebenezer Scrooge never indicates he is feeling alone, since the death of Jacob Marley seven years earlier there is a sense that he has falling in despair. Marley died on Christmas Eve and appeared to be Scrooge’s only companion, which leads to a disdain for the holiday period.
Charles Dickens wanted to emphasise the importance of being with friends and family, especially during Christmas. However I got the sense that he may have treated the idea of isolation poorly. Sure, Scrooge was a grumpy old man who was tight with his money but I got no real indication that he was unhappy to be alone. Scrooge could have been an introvert and enjoyed the quiet solitude; is that really such a bad thing?
Then all of a sudden Scrooge is cured from his rationality and becomes an extravert. This is a little strange, Scrooge’s emotional and psychological makeup might not be pleasant or agreeable to the popular worldview but they were his own thoughts. Scrooge was a financial supporter of The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 and didn’t want to give money to a charity that worked against his political ideology.
I am not bagging out A Christmas Carol, I do enjoy it but as I was re-reading this novella I kept wondering what this story is saying if we take out the element of Christmas. Basically this is the story of curing someone of his or her personality. I had a lot of fun looking at this book from another point of view, it just gave me a lot more to think about. A Christmas Carol is a nice quick story about the importance of being with your friends and family during this holiday period. Next year I might try Truman Capote’s collection of stories about Christmas.
Jake Whyte lives on an old farm on a small British island, tucked away from the world with her disobedient collie named Dog. However when her flock ofJake Whyte lives on an old farm on a small British island, tucked away from the world with her disobedient collie named Dog. However when her flock of sheep start dying from mysterious and horrific circumstances, Jake has to engage with the rest of the island in order to find out what is happening. All the Birds, Singing is about running and hiding from the past and dealing with isolation and loneliness.
The novel is told in alternating perspectives from the protagonist. One follows everything that happens after finding one of her sheep dead from mysterious circumstances. The other works backwards from that point and explores Jake’s past and why she is running away from it. It is a unique way to tell the story but it also serves as a metaphor for the way Jack is trying to distance herself from her past. However, while reading the novel, she also realise how much the past effects and stays with her, no matter how hard she tries to escape it.
It feels like Evie Wyld has an interest in the outsider and exploring a disconnection from a place/society. There is a struggle between Jake’s need to make a connection with her need to isolate herself from the world; this is what really captivated me about this book. Wyld was born in Australia and now lives in England and I am curious if this theme is something she has struggled with herself. I have heard her first novel After the Fire, A Still Small Voice deals with similar themes but I don’t think I will know for sure until her planned graphic memoir is released later this year.
All the Birds, Singing is a beautifully lyrical and atmospheric novel that deals with some pretty heavy themes. I put this novel off for so long, mainly because it won the Miles Franklin literary award and it was getting far too much attention. However it was picked for my book club in the middle of 2014 but because I was in America while this was happening I missed the chance to read and discuss the novel. I finally decided to pick up the book and I was blown away.
Moscow, Christmas Eve 1949; a man makes a phone call to the American embassy to warn them about the Soviet Atom Bomb project. This call was caught onMoscow, Christmas Eve 1949; a man makes a phone call to the American embassy to warn them about the Soviet Atom Bomb project. This call was caught on tape and quickly disconnected by The People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD). A brilliant mathematician named Gleb Nerzhin, was taken as a sharashka (known as zeks) prisoner and ordered to help track down the mystery caller. The zeks know that they have it better than a “regular” gulag prisoners but they are faced with the moral dilemma; to aid a political system they oppose or be transferred to the deadly labour camps.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is a Russian author as well as a historian; he was also a critic of Soviet totalitarianism which found himself in prison much like Gleb Nerzhin. He was accused of anti-revolutionary propaganda under Russian SFSR Penal Code (Article 58 paragraph 10) which is a ‘catch-all’ criminal offence that could be used against anyone that might threaten the government. During the period of Stalinism, the crime of “propaganda and agitation that called to overturn or undermining of the Soviet power” jumped from a six month prison sentence to seven years of imprisonment, with possible internal exile for two to five years. On 7 July 1945, Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to seven years in a labour camp for comments he made in private letters to a friend. After his sentence ended, Solzhenitsyn was then internally exiled for life at Kok-Terek, which is in the north-eastern region of Kazakhstan.
The First Circle was self-censored before Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn even attempted to get it published in 1968. Originally the book was 96 chapters long but the censorship turned the novel into 87 chapters. Some changes included the man telling another doctor to share some new medicine with the French instead of warning the Americans about the atom bomb. All mention of the Roman Catholics and religion was also removed. It wasn’t till 2009 a new English translation (not sure of the details on the Russian editions) saw the book restored and uncensored; now with the title In The First Circle.
The title alone is fascinating and it allows the reader to pick up on the whole metaphor before starting the novel. Looking at Dante’s Inferno, it is easy to find that the first circle of hell is limbo. In the epic poem Virgil introduces Dante to people like Socrates, Plato, Homer, Horace and Ovid. The time between Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is often referred to as the Harrowing of Hell, in which he descended into limbo and brought salvation to the righteous. However in Dante’s Inferno this meant that Christ saved people like Noah, Moses, Abraham and King David, but a lot of the intellectuals where left. This is metaphor for the penal institutions, making reference to all the intellectuals and political thinkers arrested under Stalin’s Russia.
This novel made me feel a lot smarter than I actually am, there is a lot of information within In The First Circle however Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn presented them in accessible way. Going into the book I knew a little about Solzhenitsyn’s life and the metaphor in the title was explained in the Goodreads synopsis. So I was able to witness how everything came together without doing any research. The book sometimes goes into Russian history; I was fascinated with everything I learnt.
I have read so many books set in Cold War Russia but I don’t think there have been many actually written by a Russian. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn has lead an interesting life and I am keen to read more of his novels before attempting The Gulag Archipelago, his three volume book on the history of a gulag labour camp. If you have paid attention to my best of 2014 list you would have noticed that In The First Circle did make the list. This was a wonderful book that was both thrilling and educational, I would recommend it to anyone interested in Russian history, especially the Cold War era.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a graphic memoir that chronicles the childhood of Alison Bechdel, growing up in rural Pennsylvania and her complicateFun Home: A Family Tragicomic is a graphic memoir that chronicles the childhood of Alison Bechdel, growing up in rural Pennsylvania and her complicated relationships with her father. Alison Bechdel is best known as the person whom the Bechdel test was named after. The Bechdel test is a simple method that can be used to determine if a work of fiction (or movie) is gender biased. To pass the Bechdel test there must be at least two women, who talk to each other about something other than men.
Fun Home is a non-linear account of Alison Bechdel’s childhood with a strong focus on her relationship with her father. A complex relationship, Bruce Bechdel was a funeral director and a high school English teacher. He was obsessed with restoring the family’s Victorian home and often viewed his children as free labour. He was often cold and prone to abusive rage, Alison’s relationship with her father was a difficult one. At 44, he stepped in front of a truck and was killed; while never confirmed, Alison believed her father completed suicide.
After his death, Alison discovered her father was a closeted homosexual who had sexual relationships with his students and babysitters. Alongside this, Fun Home follows Alison’s own struggle with her sexual identity,coming out to her parents before actually knowing her sexual preferences. The graphic novel centres on Alison Bechdel’s thoughts about whether her decision to come out triggered her father’s suicide.
This is a fascinating insight into the mind of Alison Bechdel, not only as a memoir but the struggles that she faced while trying to understand her own identity. Drawn in a gothic style, Bechdel uses blue shading to give her art a dramatic feel. She even uses childhood diary entries to help capture the mood and feel. The dramatic artwork and emotionally charged writing complement each other and really help drive the story.
While I enjoyed Blue is the Warmest Color more as a coming of age story and a struggle with sexuality, Fun Home still remains a wonderful graphic memoir than really packs an emotional punch. Graphic novels and memoirs often get pushed aside and disregarded as works of literature but every now and then comes a work of art that proves this idea wrong. It happened with Art Spiegelman’s Maus and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi; but Fun Home seemed to be the most common example that comics (I use the term comic as a catch all for graphic novels and memoirs as well) need to be taken more seriously.
I have been reading more comics of late and I have been impressed with the way art and writing can work together to tell a story. I like these graphic novels/memoirs that capture raw emotion, in the writing or art and I am trying to find more like this. While comics by Marvel and DC are a lot of fun, there are so many other works out there that explores this art from an interesting and new way. I really enjoyed Fun Home, it wasn’t a comfortable read but the experience was well worth the effort.
Rebecca Mead grew up in a coastal town in England and often dreamed of escaping to somewhere more exciting. She gained admission to Oxford and later bRebecca Mead grew up in a coastal town in England and often dreamed of escaping to somewhere more exciting. She gained admission to Oxford and later become a journalist in the United States. When she was young Middlemarch was a favourite of hers and now as she re-reads this classic she is sharing her story along with it. My Life in Middlemarch is told partly as a bookish memoir, but also explores the life of George Eliot and her novel Middlemarch.
This book started off really well; in the prelude the reader gets to discover a bit about the life of Rebecca Mead. Beginning like a bookish memoir this insight into the author gave a fascinating look into her relationships with books, especially with Middlemarch. However as I progressed with My Life in Middlemarch, the memoir elements became fragmented and I found myself yearning to return to this style. I love bookish memoirs, I have been reading so many of them lately and this had the potential to be great but it had two other strands to weave into this book.
My Life in Middlemarch also looks at the life of George Eliot, which allows some perspective about this author. Though I had already done some extensive research. I know that the life of Eliot played a big part in understanding Middlemarch so my autodidactic nature kicked in and I learned a bit about her. I was reading Middlemarch with a reading guide as well, so I had the added advantage of gaining some insight as I read. Apart from access to George Eliot’s journals, I didn’t gain much information; it was a very broad strokes look at her life and I would have gained that information from Wikipedia. I would have been better off reading a biography or her journals instead.
Finally we come to the literary criticism within this book and yet again I felt a little disappointed. I would have liked to know what Rebecca Mead got from the book but instead she just referenced others people’s criticisms on the novel. Having smarter people’s insight into Middlemarch is useful but I would enjoy a personal opinion mixed in with all the references. It reminds me on how I write a research paper for university; I pack it with quotes and references that say what I want it to say but don’t offer much in the way of personal opinion
Combine these three parts and you have an accessible look at Rebecca Mead and her life with Middlemarch but it felt like a huge generalisation. There are some interesting elements worth exploring in this book and I feel like it could have done so much more. We have three interwoven strands within the book but nothing of substance from any of them. This would be an enjoyable book for someone that has not read Middlemarch but for me, I had just finished the classic and I picked this book up because I was not ready to move on.
Every day Rachel takes the train into London and at a particular stop she likes to look out to the street and observe the row of back gardens. One houEvery day Rachel takes the train into London and at a particular stop she likes to look out to the street and observe the row of back gardens. One house in particular is of particular interest to Rachel; she likes to imagine the lives of the couple living there, in which she has named ‘Jess and Jason’. They seem so happy, compared to her on life, she views them as a perfect couple. Until one day the minute stop allowed her to see something shocking, which leads Rachel to become a part of their lives. Rachel becomes more than The Girl on the Train.
I have to admit that I was a little hesitant going into this book; I thought it was going to try and replicate what Gone Girl did. While in the same vain with the multiple perspectives between Rachel and ‘Jess’, whose real name is Megan, The Girl on the Train stands on its own. While this book is already being compared to Gone Girl, I would just like to say that The Girl on the Train shares more similarities to The Silent Wife than anything else.
This novel plays a lot with the ideas of relationships and perspective; what may seem like a perfect couple on the surface can be a deceiving. Without going too much into the plot, I want to look at the way ‘Jess and Jason’ are perceived by Rachel. Obviously Rachel is an unreliable narrator, she only sees the couple’s house for a minute or two a day and not always the couple. To pass the time on her commute, she makes up this whole idea of what is happening in their lives.
The Girl on the Train does go a little deeper with exploring ideas of relationship, with a focus on abuse. Emotional abuse becomes a key component in the book and Paula Hawkins dives into the previous marriage of Rachel and even adding a couple of chapters from her ex-husband’s new wife. This thriller mainly happens on a psychological level and the reader gets an insight into the effects of emotional abuse.
There is a lot to be said about The Girl on the Train and I think this would make an excellent pick for a book club. Unfortunately reviewing a book like this makes it difficult, I am too worried about giving out spoilers and this restricts me from diving deeper into the themes within the novel. This debut by Paula Hawkins is not without its flaws; I think there was a missed opportunity to dive deeper into the major themes, however I did enjoy my time with this novel.
Measuring the World reimagines the life of German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and geographer Alexander von Humboldt. The book follows a fictionMeasuring the World reimagines the life of German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss and geographer Alexander von Humboldt. The book follows a fictionalised account of their journey, along with Aimé Bonpland as they measure the world. Their methods where ground-breaking and this novel entangles their lives to explore their effects on science today.
This is not a book of science, this is historical fiction that explores the lives of two German scientists. While the subject matter may sound dull and fact heavy, Daniel Kehlmann handles the topic with skill. It is an impressive feat to make a subject that sounds boring come across exciting and interesting. Kehlmann’s writing skills turns the subject of science into a novel of elegance and beauty.
The two plots revolving around Carl Friedrich Gauss and Alexander von Humboldt worked well together and I found myself fully immersed in the whole experience. Having said that this is a book of science and German history so I feel hesitant in going into more details because I worry I will get the information wrong. That does make for short review but all I can really say is; read it.
Published in German in 2005 under the title Die Vermessung der Welt, Measuring the World turned into a huge literary sensation for the country. This book knocked bestsellers like Harry Potter and Dan Brown off the list. The only other German book that has achieved that (that I know of) was Perfume by Patrick Süskind.
This was a wonderful book and I learned a little about German and Prussian history. Carl Friedrich Gauss has sometimes been referred to as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time and Alexander von Humboldt as the second Columbus. Two great people of history I knew nothing about and I think the opportunity to learn something new while reading beautiful prose made for a wonderful experience.
Blue is the Warmest Color (Le bleu est une couleur chaude) took French graphic novelist Julie Maroh five years to complete. She started it when she waBlue is the Warmest Color (Le bleu est une couleur chaude) took French graphic novelist Julie Maroh five years to complete. She started it when she was 19 and thanks to the support of the community she was able to finish this coming of age story. It has since been adapted into a movie directed by Abdelatif Kechiche and went on to be awarded the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
Blue is the Warmest Color takes place in 2008 following the death of Emma’s partner Clémentine. At the request of Clémentine, Emma has been granted access to her dairies. The diaries start in 1995 when Clémentine was a fifteen old girl, confused about her sexuality. It is within the diaries we discover her struggle with her sexuality as well as the relationships she had with Emma.
This graphic novel takes all the nuance of a relationship and plays it out within the pages and it does it in a way that is never cliché. This depiction plays on the highs and lows of the relationship between Clémentine and Emma, which allows it to explore the struggles as well as all the tender moments they share. However before the relationship starts and even as it blossoms there is also the coming of age story where Clémentine is trying to find herself as well as understand her own sexuality.
I am not a lesbian so I could not speak to this struggle with sexuality, however it felt so raw and emotional. I could not help but think the struggle or the emotions experienced were all real and possibly autobiographical. Julie Maroh has a real way with capturing the emotions of this relationships and she allows the readers to experience them along with the characters. This makes for an intimate experience and I was able to empathise with both characters even when they were making silly mistakes.
Julie Maroh is also the artist for this graphic novel and the art is the highlight of this story. The line work Maroh has drawn on to each page captures both expression and details beautifully. Then with the added colours, the pictures in each frame just pop. I love the way Maroh draw this comic and the sparing use of colour, each frame felt breathtaking and I think I spent more time admiring the art work than actually reading the story. Blue is the Warmest Color was originally written in French so I have to compliment Ivanka Hahnenberger for the translation. It is a real skill of a translator to be able to present the text in a beautiful that allows the reader to forget that they are reading a work in translation, but Hahnenberger pulled it off.
I am not sure how autobiographical this graphic novel is, but it is hard to imagine anyone writing these emotions without first experiencing them for themselves. It is interesting to experience a life that is different to your own and I want to read a lot more graphic novels like this one. This is at times beautiful and at other times heartbreaking. Blue is the Warmest Color had plenty of tender moments and by the end I think I had a little dirt or something in my eye because they were leaking.