Let's just call this a "need to reread" book. I remember thinking it was just okay when I read it. But then, that was back in high school when the tea...moreLet's just call this a "need to reread" book. I remember thinking it was just okay when I read it. But then, that was back in high school when the teachers made us pull it part and dissect the language. I was bound to hate it. And everyone seems to love Gatsby, so hopefully a revisit will help me see why.(less)
In terms of language and style, Romeo and Juliet might possibly be the best of all Shakespeare's work. It's crammed full of some of the most beautiful...moreIn terms of language and style, Romeo and Juliet might possibly be the best of all Shakespeare's work. It's crammed full of some of the most beautiful poetry I've ever had the pleasure of reading. But the story of lust-filled teens sacrificing themselves because of an extreme burst of instalove? Never really been my cup of tea. (less)
I've just finished rereading this book for my book club but, to be honest, I've liked it ever since my class were made t...moreKids are evil. Don't you know?
I've just finished rereading this book for my book club but, to be honest, I've liked it ever since my class were made to read it in high school. Overall, Lord of the Flies doesn't seem to be very popular, but I've always liked the almost Hobbesian look at the state of nature and how humanity behaves when left alone without societal rules and structures. Make the characters all angel-faced kids with sadistic sides to their personality and what do you have? Just your average high school drama, but set on a desert island. With a bit more bloody murder. But not that much more.
In 1954, when this book was published, Britain was in the process of being forced to face some harsh realities that it had blissfully chosen to ignore beforehand - that it is not, in fact, the centre of the universe, and the British Empire was not a thing of national pride, but an embarrassing infringement on the freedom and rights of other human beings. Much of British colonialism had been justified as a self-righteous mission to educate and modernise foreign "savages". So when put into its historical context, alongside the decolonisation movements, this book could be said to be an interesting deconstruction of white, Western supremacy.
This is not a tale of "savages" who were raised in poor, rural villages... but a story about upper middle class, privately-educated, silver-spoon boys.
I can understand why some people interpret this book as racist. The racial aspect is a big factor, Golding establishes from the very first page that Ralph is not only white, but WHITE. And Piggy even asks "Which is better - to be a pack of painted niggers like you are or to be sensible like Ralph is?" I'm not going to argue with anyone's interpretation, it would be difficult to say exactly what Golding intended, but I think there is room to see this as the opposite of racism. For me, I always saw it as Golding challenging the notion of savages being dark-skinned, uneducated people from rural areas. With this book, he says screw that, I'll show you savages! and proceeds to show us how these little jewels of the empire are no better for their fancy education and gold-plated upbringing.
I think that seemed especially clear from the ending when the officer says "I should have thought that a pack of British boys - you're all British, aren't you? - would have been able to put up a better show than that." Golding's way of saying that human nature is universal and no one can escape it.
Some readers say that you have to have quite a negative view of human nature already to appreciate this book, but I don't think that's true. I'm not sure I necessarily agree with all the implications running around in the novel - namely, the failure of democracy and the pro-authority stance - but it serves as an interesting look at the dark side of human nature and how no one is beyond its reach. Plus, anyone who had a bit of a rough time in high school will probably not find the events in this book a huge leap of the imagination.
The fascinating thing about Lord of the Flies is the way many historical parallels can be drawn from the messages it carries. You could choose to view the charismatic and manipulative Jack Merridew as a kind of Hitler (or other dictator) who takes advantage of a group of people at their weakest. Dictators and radicals often find it easy to slip in when a society is in chaos... we do not have to assume that Golding believed that everyone everywhere is evil, only that we all have the capacity for it when we find ourselves in unstable situations.
Still a fascinating book after all these years.(less)
“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”
I was walking along earlier today with Jacquie and discussing the important things like, you know... books. And the subject of our top favourite books of all time came up. Oddly enough, two of our top three were the same - Wuthering Heights and Crime and Punishment. Then Jacquie said her third was a book that I hadn't thought about in a very long time. That book was Frankenstein. It hit me like a shot of good literature: I had forgotten all about this classic that had so affected me, made me think and completely torn my heart out multiple times.
Frankenstein? I said. I must go review that right now.
You see, though, the best and worst thing about this novel is how distorted it has become by constant movie adaptations and misinformed ideas about the nature of Frankenstein and his "monster". For years I thought Frankenstein was the name of that slightly green dude with the bolts in his neck. Nuh-uh.
Did Frankenstein scare me? Did it have me staying awake and sleeping with the light on, jumping at every slight creak in the house? Was I terrified of the monster and technology and the dangers of playing God? No. Because the beauty of this story is that it isn't the one so many people think it is. Which is almost my favourite thing about it. This book is not a Halloween kind of story with Halloween kind of monsters. This story is nothing short of heartbreakingly sad.
“...once I falsely hoped to meet the beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding.”
The book offers many interesting avenues of philosophical exploration if one is so inclined to ponder such things; for example, allusions to religion and Genesis, possible criticisms of using science to "play God", the relationship between creator and creation. All of these things interest me, yes, but it is the painfully human part of this book that has always so deeply affected me.
Because the sad thing, the really sad thing, is that pretty much everyone has heard of Frankenstein's monster... but so many don't know how human the character is. Created as a scientific experiment by an overly ambitious man, he comes into a frightening and hostile world that immediately rejects him on sight. Even the man who made him cannot look upon his creation without feeling horror. It's that same thing that gets me in books every time: things could have been so different. If people had just been a little less judgmental, a little less scared, and a little more understanding.
This being, created from different parts of corpses, seeks love and finds hatred, so he instead decides to embrace it. Fuelled by his own rage at the unfairness of the world, he gradually turns towards evil. Everyone knows him as "the monster" so it's hard for me to call him anything else, but I basically always saw him like this:
He belongs in my own little mind category with the likes of Heathcliff and Erik (aka The Phantom of the Opera). Scared, angry villains who were made so by their own unfortunate circumstances that plunged them into worlds where they couldn't find a place. The kind of characters you simultaneously hate and love, but most of all hope they find some kind of peace.
So call it science-fiction, if you will. Call it horror, if you must. But this story is brimming with some of the most realistic and almost unbearably moving human emotion that I have ever read.
After hearing all the hype about this book, I couldn't wait to read it and discover how amazing it is for myself. I was greatly disappointed.
How has t...moreAfter hearing all the hype about this book, I couldn't wait to read it and discover how amazing it is for myself. I was greatly disappointed.
How has this book become such a worldwide success? It's slow, boring and there is no real connection with any of the characters. I found myself disliking everyone in the book. The overall idea could have been very good, even though it isn't exactly original, but I just thought the author didn't make the most of this great idea that she had. The best part of the book, without meaning to sound gruesome and morbid, was the death scene at the beginning. I admit that it was creepy and well told, I read that and geared myself up for a good book. But for me, it was as if the story ended there and the rest was a load of slow-moving waffle. The great idea had come along, happened for a while, and then died a painful death with the protagonist. The characters weren't interesting enough to hold up the rest of the story, I was just relieved when I finally got to the end. It was a painfully boring book... and I've lost count of the times people have told me how much they love it - why? Did I miss something? I honestly feel like I've read a completely different book from everyone else... I do not understand it's popularity at all.(less)
As we all should know, reading and enjoying a book is largely about interpretation. People are not the...moreNow, this is going to be embarrassing to admit.
As we all should know, reading and enjoying a book is largely about interpretation. People are not the same and we all view things differently, one individual might see a relationship in a book as "passionate" while another could see it as "damaging". When characters make bad decisions, some will view it as stupidity and others will view it as an accurate representation of humanity's imperfections. Not only that, but time often changes the way one person sees things. A teenager does not usually have the same outlook on life and relationships that someone of thirty does, and neither of them have the same outlook as someone of seventy does.
So it's time that I admit, when reading this at thirteen, my younger brain actually romanticised Humbert's depravity and saw the relationship between him and Lolita as some tragic love affair that could never work out for the obvious reasons. It was (surprise, surprise) Tatiana's review that made me wonder if I'd had a screw loose when reading this years ago, her interpretation was so far from what I remembered that I simply had to find time for a re-read. This summer, I did just that. I am going to point my shameful finger of blame at my age when I first read it, I was as fooled by Humbert as the young Lolita was.
Humbert is not a reliable narrator, his declaration that Lolita was responsible for seducing him is repulsive and wrong. Because, in the end, an adult has no excuse for having sex with a child, even if they're walking around half-naked and offering it up - adults have a responsibility not to take advantage of children, and I now realise how this case is no exception. This is not some tragic romantic tale about forbidden love, it is the story of how a grown man repeatedly raped a young girl. The fact that it is so easy to be taken in by him either says something about how brilliant a writer Nabokov is (which he is), or how much society still loves to blame the victim.
I don't know whether to feel better about my original feelings or be horrified that even the description for the audiobook describes the novel as: "a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness." And I also know that I have no right to criticise other people who saw it in such a way, but I would ask you to read it again, to look beyond Humbert's snivelling and self-pity, to see the man who considers murdering a woman so he can be free to have sex with her twelve year old daughter, the man who feels sorry for himself when a pubescent girl doesn't want to have sex with him because she's still hurt from the last time. Is that love? Maybe it was for a thirteen year old looking through Humbert's perverted eyes, but I'm glad I understand it better now.
Nabokov has written a brilliant and disturbing novel, my opinion of it hasn't changed in that respect. I found it surprisingly easy to read and became absorbed quickly - even all those years ago. His portrayal of Humbert's perverted mind is scarily good, perhaps even too good if people can so easily be convinced to side with a paedophile - which is often regarded as the ultimate crime of all, isn't it? Even cold-blooded murderers go after prisoners who've messed with kids. And, as much as I feel ashamed for being so taken in by Humbert, I know that it's not just me who was fooled. Hell, even the GR description proves it. But, believe me, Lolita is a victim and no amount of saddening flashbacks to Humbert's past can change that.
In certain crowds, my rating and the words I'm about to write (well, type) would probably get me shot. But The Hobbit is still, to this day, the singl...moreIn certain crowds, my rating and the words I'm about to write (well, type) would probably get me shot. But The Hobbit is still, to this day, the single most boring book I have ever read. That's including The Globalization of World Politics. And Moby-Dick. I feel like I'm missing something with all of Tolkien's work. I don't get the love :((less)
The Brontes fuelled my love for reading and convinced me that the classics weren't all mean, nasty books that fascist teachers made you read in school...moreThe Brontes fuelled my love for reading and convinced me that the classics weren't all mean, nasty books that fascist teachers made you read in school just to torture you. I grew up with Austen and Dickens, whom I loved, but the Brontes always seemed to come out on top for some reason. Jane Eyre is my second favourite after Wuthering Heights. I love the darkness and sadness of their novels, but the more... simplistic style than you'd find in Dickens's wild tales of orphans, drunks and epic family betrayals.(less)
This was the book that started my love affair with the dystopian genre. And maybe indirectly influenced my decision to do a politics degree. I was onl...moreThis was the book that started my love affair with the dystopian genre. And maybe indirectly influenced my decision to do a politics degree. I was only 12 years old when I first read it but I suddenly saw how politics could be taken and manipulated to tell one hell of a scary and convincing story. I'm a lot more well-read now but, back then, this was a game-changer. I started to think about things differently. I started to think about 2 + 2 = 5 and I wanted to read more books that explored the idea of control.(less)
This is not the best book ever written. It is unlikely to affect you on any deep emotional level and you probably won't spend sleepless nights just th...moreThis is not the best book ever written. It is unlikely to affect you on any deep emotional level and you probably won't spend sleepless nights just thinking about it.
But it's a simple, humourous sci-fi adventure. It won't do something for everybody but I'm a massive fan of Douglas Adams' and his sense of humour. Come on, like it or not, Adams' has some awesomely quotable sayings (not all of these are from this exact book):
"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
"For instance, on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much—the wheel, New York, wars and so on—whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man—for precisely the same reasons."
"The Guide says there is an art to flying", said Ford, "or rather a knack. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss."
"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."
"Would it save you a lot of time if I just gave up and went mad now?"
"The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don't."
There are only a small handful of books that have affected me in a REALLY personal way. In a way that I always try to put into words and always, ultim...more There are only a small handful of books that have affected me in a REALLY personal way. In a way that I always try to put into words and always, ultimately, fail. I have read a lot of books over the years and I've liked many, disliked plenty too, loved and hated a smaller amount... but out of the thousands I've read, there's less than ten - maybe even less than five, now I think about it - that honestly hit me so hard that I would go so far as to say they changed me.
The Handmaid's Tale is a book that changed my life.
I know, I know, big dramatic statement to make. I hear you. And normally I wouldn't say that, even about books I give five glowing stars; but with this book it is nothing short of the truth. This book was the spark that turned me into a feminist. It was the spark that made me interested in gender politics and, through that, politics in general. One of my favourite teachers in the world gave me this book and said "I think you'll like this one."
She was so wrong.
I didn't like this book; I loved it. And I hated it. I lost sleep over it. I lived in it. I was so completely absorbed into this world, into this dark but oddly quiet dystopian reality. There is something about the tone of Atwood's novels that works like a knife to my heart. Quiet, rich, the drama just bubbling under the surface of the prose. Atwood doesn't waste words, she doesn't sugarcoat her stories with meaningless phrases, everything is subtle and everything is powerful.
This dystopia is a well-told feminist nightmare. An horrific portrait of a future that seems far too reminiscent of aspects of our own society and its very real recent history. The best kind of dystopian fiction is, for me, that which convinces me this world might or could happen. Atwood's world-building may be sparse and built up gradually as the story unfolds, but she slowly paints a portrait of stifling oppression and injustice that had me hanging on her every word.
For someone like me who was so caught up in Offred's experiences, this book was truly disturbing. In the best possible way. There are so many themes and possible interpretations that can be taken from this book - plenty of which I've literally written essays on - but I'll let new readers discover and interpret the book for themselves. I will issue you one warning, though: the ending is ambiguous and puts many people off the book. But, for me, it's one of the very few cases where an open ending has worked 100%. It made the story even more powerful, in my opinion, and guaranteed I would never be able to forget Offred and, indeed, this whole book.
“We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.”