It's really more like 3.5 stars, but it's Diana Wynne Jones, so I was always going to be erring on the generous side. This book hasn't quite grabbed m...moreIt's really more like 3.5 stars, but it's Diana Wynne Jones, so I was always going to be erring on the generous side. This book hasn't quite grabbed me. I loved the universe, I loved the different types of magic, I loved the idea of the Magids keeping an eye on them all, and of course Romanov - free agent extraordinaire. I loved how Roddy got the magic from the past uploaded onto her brain, there was a lot I loved about the world mechanics. I just didn't hugely love the story, or the main characters.(less)
This is not going to be a review. This is going to be a confused ode, a drug-induced paean, an out of tune song and a nonsense fairy tale about this i...moreThis is not going to be a review. This is going to be a confused ode, a drug-induced paean, an out of tune song and a nonsense fairy tale about this incredible book; because that’s the only way I know how to talk about it.
I read a lot. I rarely truly dislike a book, even if I don’t think much about it, there are very few one-star ratings in my reading history. Most books sit comfortably on 3 or 4 stars because that’s how I feel about most books I read. Enjoyable but forgettable get 3, ones that stick in my memory for a long time score 4, ones that I truly love for whatever reason earn 5 stars (and I’m not even attempting impartiality, my feelings dictate the ratings, not literary knowledge or text analysis). But rarely, once in a blue moon, comes along my way a story which cannot be bridled by any ratings. Yes, I give it five stars because that’s the limit, I’d give it a hundred if I could and it still wouldn’t be enough.
I just finished reading “The House, in Which…” (no English translation as yet, so that’s what I’m calling it) and I feel both elated and devastated, and like I never want to read another book again. Because no other book will ever be this - this stunning, dreamy, terrifying, nightmarish, beautiful, more real than reality, more fantastic than any fantasy, playing on my heartstrings like a virtuoso guitarist, seeping into my mind, my blood, deep under the skin to never quite leave, half-remembered dream of a tale.
It’s a book I recognized immediately, from the very first pages, to the very end, which even with rationing the pages like a miser during a famine, so that I can stay in the House a bit longer, came much too soon. What are measly not-even 700 pages? I wish it were thousands, millions, so that I never have to cease reading it, never leave! And I don’t mean recognized, as a copy, as a trope, as a repetition of a well-known motif. I mean recognized in the depths of my imagination, the core of my heart, as a dream I once nearly dreamt, as a story which I have never known about but which I so almost weaved from the beads, the feathers, the scraps of wool, and tiny rodent skulls, and all the magical things, songs, books, poems, rain, fog and wind and bits of chalk. And now it came to me, both told and unspoken, simultaneously complete and never ending, forever circling the House, the Forest, the Other Side. And all I could do is gasp in awe and jump right in the middle, never, not for a moment doubting it, like Blind, knowing the House immediately, like I must have been there before, recognizing myself in it, and whatever it took, not wanting to leave.
I know there are and will be people who read this book and don’t get it, don’t love it, find faults, and analyse it to death, speak of superficial similarities with this book or that one, Lord of the Flies, or whatever. And it’s not scorn, or superiority that dictates my words, because I know we all have our own tales, and everyone resonates to a different song, but all I can think is: you poor Pheasants (if you haven’t read the book, I’m not confusing the words and not meaning ‘peasants’), you have lived in the House, but somehow managed to miss it altogether, the House never touched you, or else it repulsed you, or perhaps scared you… And maybe that means that you’re healthy and normal, and well… But I wouldn't trade with you.
The fact that this is a debut novel leaves me speechless... To Mariam Petrosyan who wrote it, I have just one thing to say: Thank you! Thank you for this unforgettable gift, for your white heron’s feather. For bringing me into the House (although of course, I've never left it anyway). Thank you, you incredible, magnificent, poor bitch! How can you ever write anything else, if this book is your first? What could you possibly follow it with? What goes on in your head that allowed you to tell me (and by the looks of things to many, many others) that story which feels like it has always belonged to me, though I wasn't aware of its existence until you wrote it, and I read it?? (less)
Anne of Green Gables is one of these childhood books I always eventually return to, particularly when I'm not feeling too well. It's been a few years...moreAnne of Green Gables is one of these childhood books I always eventually return to, particularly when I'm not feeling too well. It's been a few years now since I've read the whole series last and as ever I was astonished at how much I do still enjoy it. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry and invariably cheers me up.
I've always wondered a bit at why this particular book (or series of books to be precise) became so much beloved by me. It is such a girly classic and I wasn't much of a girly girl when I was younger. My go to in those days would be books about pirates, soldiers, adventurers, travelers, wizards, robots and spaceships - heroic deeds and exploration. And yet Lucy Maud Montgomery has enchanted me, not just with the Green Gables stories but pretty much all her other books as well.
Upon inspection it of course really isn't much of a mystery at all. Anne, like so many other heroines of L.M.M, doesn't really fit in, she's not like the others around her, and yet she makes this otherness, this thing that separates her, the very thing that people love and cherish about her the most. I was such an odd little child, and felt much like I didn't fit in either. High-strung, precocious, highly imaginative, feisty and proud, idealistic and starved for affection (though not due to such lonely childhood as Anne's had been) and decidedly odd in a small and largely conservative community - I recognized all of those Anne traits in myself. I too read a lot, I too wanted to write, I too loved the world of nature. I desperately wanted to have 'bosom friends' and was always on the lookout for 'kindred spirits' all around me. I guess these books gave me some courage and determination to keep looking, even when at first I didn't seem to succeed.
Later, when I was older, I read about the author and her struggle with depression, something I have been coping with myself for years now, and it has brought me back again to her novels. And once again I've recognized something of myself in her writing. Anne, I think, is who L.M.M. wanted to be, whom I, in some respects, want to be too. She takes all the best traits of us, without being irritatingly perfect and flawless, and she makes them work. Anne largely makes her own happiness, despite the struggles and obstacles she encounters on her way. She continues to find some beauty even in the unlovely, some brightness in the world, even if she is 'in the depths of despair' and she isn't annoyingly pollyannish about it, she makes it believable. And though it could be said that these novels are by now truly old-fashioned and very naive, there is this idea behind them, that I find as relevant today as ever. Something, that anyone, but particularly someone like me, finding it so hard to see the light sometimes, needs to believe in - that there is always a road behind the bend, and though we can't see it at times, we must believe, there will be beauty and happiness behind it. "(...) My future seemed to stretch out before me like a straight road. I thought I could see along it for many a milestone. Now there is a bend in it. I don't know what lies around the bend, but I'm going to believe that the best does. It has a fascination of its own, that bend (...). I wonder how the road beyond it goes - what there is of green glory and soft, checkered light and shadows - what new landscapes - what new beauties - what curves and hills and valleys further on."(less)
Lovely bit of brain fluff which has cheered me up considerably on a couple of rather crappy days. I may not agree with Caitlin on some matters, but 4...moreLovely bit of brain fluff which has cheered me up considerably on a couple of rather crappy days. I may not agree with Caitlin on some matters, but 4 stars for her unashamed love of Doctor Who, Sherlock and Ghostbusters ("I think if you thought about it a little while longer, you'd realize that you'd far rather be a Ghostbuster: a nerd in New York with an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on your back, and a one-in-four chance of being Bill Murray." YES! YES to that. I'm now having flashbacks to my childhood years when my 3 cousins and I spent a considerable amount of time being Ghostbusters - highlights including a clever plan to trap Santa with our proton packs, force him into a trap and steal ALL THE PRESENTS!), the hysterical reviews of Downton Abbey and her lovely, self-deprecating humour throughout the whole book :)(less)