**spoiler alert** Apparently when Sylvia Plath died, she was not the recognised name that she is today. Her poetry was little known, and 'The Bell Jar...more**spoiler alert** Apparently when Sylvia Plath died, she was not the recognised name that she is today. Her poetry was little known, and 'The Bell Jar' had been published a matter of weeks before her suicide. This made me wonder what was going through her head when she wrote it. As 'The Bell Jar' is supposed to be heavily autobiographical - Esther Greenwood representing a thinly-veiled Plath - one can perhaps assume that Esther's feelings of depression, bewilderment and despair reflect Plath's own emotions? Set in 1953, 10 years before it was written, we follow Esther/Sylvia over several months, learning about her attempts to carve out a career and a fulfilling life while battling with crippling depression. We witness her losing the ability to write, giving up her prestigious scholarship, and attempting suicide. Knowing that Plath committed suicide herself so soon afterwards, I wonder whether this book describes Esther/Sylvia as she really was in 1953, or is it closer to her self in 1963? The lines between fiction and reality are constantly blurred. Not only is the book marketed as autobiographical, and many of the characters were so recognisable that the marriage of one of its real-life counterparts broke down as a result, but from the very start it is set in a real-world time and place ('the summer they executed the Rosenburgs.') Add to this the fact that Plath originally published under a pseudonym, and it begins to be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction. I also found the foreshadowing of things to come to be subtle but clearly drawn. From the first page, the first sentence even, referring to electrocution, we are drawn into a world where society entraps us in its code. The fact that Plath chose to mention electrocution is surely no coincidence. The positive note to the ending may give readers hope, but knowing that Esther is Sylvia Plath, and knowing Sylvia Plath's eventual fate, lends a darker tone. As a feminist book, it is excellent, but as a book about life, living and mental health, it is essential.(less)
I knew when I picked this up that it would be a disturbing read, and it certainly was. It's hard to describe what I feel about it; while I can't say t...moreI knew when I picked this up that it would be a disturbing read, and it certainly was. It's hard to describe what I feel about it; while I can't say that I enjoyed it, due to the subject matter, I do thing it's a book worth reading and it's important that it was written. It's written in a fictionalised style, although it is a memoir, with no detail spared. I think this makes it all the more unbearable. Reviews have criticised it for embellishing conversations that Fragoso could not possibly remember in such detail, for being too graphic, and for seeming to empathise with or even exonerate a paedophile. However, I think the truth of her life is not lost despite the writing style, and her complex feelings about her abuser are honest and therapeutic. She leaves us with thoughts about the way that society views child abusers, with perhaps some helpful lessons about better prevention. Her thoughts may be controversial, but born out of bitter experience and understanding.(less)
**spoiler alert** Wharton's Ethan Frome is a story as bleak as the unforgiving landscape surrounding it. Not for nothing is the town called Starkfield...more**spoiler alert** Wharton's Ethan Frome is a story as bleak as the unforgiving landscape surrounding it. Not for nothing is the town called Starkfield. The snow starts off as something charming, bringing the chance for sledding etc, but soon takes on a more sinister, possessive character. It was fairly clear to me early on what would be the cause of the crash that had caused Ethan to be so injured, but I didn't foresee the curcumstances that led to it. This change from hope to despair mirrors Ethan and Mattie's journeys, particularly Mattie's. This is where the tragedy lies - that even the chance to escape is thwarted, leaving the characters irreparably damaged, worse than dead. Poetically, it had to be attempted suicide by sled, as that highlights the contrast in moods that the snow brings. This is a novel about being trapped, and is a bit claustrophobic therefore, so it's a good thing it's short! Definitely well worth reading. (less)
I found this book very inspiring and thought provoking. The first two chapters, in particular, were of interest to me (The Sound of Scripture, The Sou...moreI found this book very inspiring and thought provoking. The first two chapters, in particular, were of interest to me (The Sound of Scripture, The Sound of Lament) as Winkett draws on her extensive knowledge of church music to explore the value of this in litugy, but also where it can overpower and detract from the meaning. She, like I, has a love of Choral Evensong, but that does not mean that she elevates it above all else. "...broadcasting Choral Evensong ha[s] done for church music what Barbie had done for women." She also gave me a new perspective on dissonance - that in this uncertain and often cruel world, it is not appropriate for all music to resolve nicely. While sound is a good thing when used to communicate, inspire and elevate, it can also alienate and damage, and this is what I think Winkett means by sound being a wound. We can create sound, but we must also learn to listen and be silent in order to best serve our society and our planet. (less)
You know that feeling you get just after finishing a book when you can't really put into words what you think? I've sort of got that now, but I'm goin...moreYou know that feeling you get just after finishing a book when you can't really put into words what you think? I've sort of got that now, but I'm going to try to give my first reflections.
For the first couple of chapters, I wasn't really sure what it was supposed to be about. It seemed very narrative driven without much depth. And the main character kept banging on about how pretty she was, which was a bit annoying (envy maybe?) And I couldn't understand why such a mediocrity would be the subject of a book. But a few chapters in, I got on the book's wavelength and all the subtext suddenly was plain to see. Although I had guessed the ending quite a lot earlier (as another reviewer noted, it is very similar to 'Atonement') that didn't detract from the effect. This is very much a novelist's novel - very introspective (some might say navel-gazing) and lots of name-dropping of people that Ian McEwan probably knows very well. There's an appearance of a very recognisable Martin Amis, for example. It isn't really a book about spying at all, it's about writing a novel in those early days of the Booker Prize. Is the novelist a version of Ian McEwan himself? Quite possibly, but to say more may give the story away.
When I've settled down a bit, I might try and re-write this review with a bit more light of hindsight. But for now suffice to say that 'Sweet Tooth' could stand next to 'Atonement' any day. (less)
I'd been looking to read this for ages, but kept putting it off. This was partly because I'd struggled to get into 'Middlemarch' and also because of t...moreI'd been looking to read this for ages, but kept putting it off. This was partly because I'd struggled to get into 'Middlemarch' and also because of the end of 'The Mill on the Floss'. However, I'm so glad I eventually read this. Although some people do say that George Eliot can be a bit preachy, I generally found her messages to be ones that are very applicable to everyday life, making you think more about your decisions and their consequences.
The plot is very moving, particularly as it approaches the denouement. I found the first half of the book to be a little slow moving, but in a very short novel I suppose it can afford to have unusual pacing. In a longer novel, that first section wouldn't really be so long - it's just because it takes over 50% of the book that it feels a bit slow. But trust me, it's worth it.
**spoiler alert** I have heard a lot of people draw comparisons between North and South and Pride and Prejudice. There are certainly similarities - in...more**spoiler alert** I have heard a lot of people draw comparisons between North and South and Pride and Prejudice. There are certainly similarities - initial mutual dislike between hero and heroine born out of misunderstanding and social inequality, the hero making a marriage proposal which is at first rejected by the heroine, the hero doing something altruistic to make the heroine change her mind about him. And, as the strong silent type, Mr Thornton is a bit like Mr Darcy. However, I think in character it is Margaret who is more like Mr Darcy. She is the social superior, and throughout the book is described with certain masculine attributes, unlike her father who is very much a 'feminine' character. (Though, as a feminist myself, I do object to feminine values being seen as necessarily weaker and less reliable than their masculine counterparts. On a similar note, I'm not sure why the publisher of the edition I read felt that the best front cover illustration for this book was a portrait of a dewy-eyed, blushing maiden in a state of half undress. I have no problem with this in itself, but I'm not sure it gives the best indication of what the novel is about.) The main story is not really the romance between Margaret Hale and Mr Thornton. That is only really a device to illustrate the main message - that idea of North and South coming together, learning of each others virtues and blunting each others faults. Also, unlike P&P, we get here the voices of real working people, not just the middle-class gentry.(less)