book review · books · literature · reading · review

The Underground Railroad

Colson Whitehead’s tale is one of persistence and bravery. The Underground Railroad follows Cora, a slave from Georgia born into a life of suffering and the desire to escape to freedom.

As introductions go, Cora comes from a line of strong women, her grandmother Ajarry, stolen from her West African village, ferociously protective of her three-foot patch of earth, and her mother Mable, the only slave who has successfully escaped the plantation. When Cora is asked to escape with Caesar, part good luck charm, part companionship – the tale begins with the first trip on the underground railroad.

The journey continues to be one of suffering, small glimpses of hope and a chance of freedom — but the life of a slave can never truly be free. Hunted out by the renowned slave catcher Ridgeway, Cora may at times be physically free, but her time as a slave will forever haunt her. Aided by non-believers of the enslavement regime, the underground railroad becomes a symbol of hope, of kindness and most importantly the opportunity of freedom -— it’s a long ride to take.

An incredible tale of desire and truth, of raising the coloured question when the coloured question was at its most dangerous. It shows the strength of slaves and abolitionists alike, in a quest for freedom that can still be felt today.

book review · books · fiction · literature · review · Shakespeare

Hag-Seed

Margret Atwood introduces her Shakespearean spin-off in this clever tale; beautifully captivating the strength and hope of human life.

We begin with the Felix putting on The Tempest at a Canadian theatre festival, but things quickly don’t go to plan. While he is ousted by a colleague he goes off the grid for a quiet life, plotting revenge as he goes. His own daughter, Miranda, echoed as a ghost in his small abode follows him as he begins to work under a pseudonym.

The story opens out into a tale of hope, of humans pushed to the edge as Felix begins a production of the Tempest inside a correctional facility. Inspiring the inmates to put on the show in time for a visit from his previous colleague Tony. A slice of revenge served twelve years later… what could possibly go wrong?

A clever portrayal of human emotions wrapped around one of Shakespeare’s famous plays, it’s certainly one to read.

book review · books · classics · fiction · literature · reading · review

Love Story

We are surrounded by love stories before we even learn to read; fairy tales and Disney princesses condition our expectations of true love. It’s an emotion that influences every tale, evert text and narrative as we try to define this complex emotion.

Erich Segal’s Love Story is an American classic, Jenny and Oliver are an unsurprising couple brought together from two different paths in life. But the power of love is something that is beyond human comprehension. It’s a tale of love and loss; of gaining parental approval and choosing your own way in life.

There is something in Segal’s writing that manages to capture the character’s depth across the short tale. The writing is at times brutally honest in its depiction of the unfair problems of life, but also the moments of pure happiness are intertwined with more romantic prose.

If you’re looking for a short novel for an upcoming summer holiday — this is certainly one to read.

books · fiction · review · writing

The Wonder

the-wonderHaving been encapsulated with Emma Donoghue’s writing since reading Room, a must if you’re yet to read this masterpiece. The Wonder takes us on an altogether different journey, one of mystery, religion, and a suspected lie.

We move back to the 19th century across the Irish Sea with Lib, a Nightingale Nurse, who has been chosen to watch the miracle of the fasting girl. Suspicion is clear from the beginning of this tale. It’s not possible to live without food, certainly not to have survived four months on a daily spoonful of water.

Through Donoghue’s writing we become absorbed in the small Irish village life, and a mystery that seems impossible to discover. Lib’s matter-of-fact mannerism allows her narration to appear honest, as she tries to make this miraculous girl eat again. It’s a tale that puts belief and religion into the structure of this girl’s world, unearthing additional secrets at each turn.

Based upon the stories of the real fasting girls dotted throughout Irish history, this novel brings together the moral questions and desire for forgiveness that will cross most of our paths. It shows that things are never truly what they seem, life is full of secrets.

It’s certainly an intriguing read.

books · fiction · literature · reading · storyteller

Thoughts on the storyteller

There’s an aspect of life that we often find hard to explain. We may understand the  expectations of life, yet we are often left searching for the meaning.

Before you assume this is a philosophical questioning of life, the world, and the universe. It isn’t. I’m talking on a slightly smaller scale. Instead I reach for literature, theatre, film or music as a manner of expression. They hold the form of storytelling at their core, a manner of expressing life as we know it, but managing to turn it upside down too. It gives us a comparison. A metaphor if you prefer, for the heart of life.

Literature allows us to escape to a new story, but one that holds enough similarities to make it appear real — elements that hold meaning and parallels to our own lives. It gives us a platform to feel, to love, and to learn. It turns the everyday into the adventure we crave. Literature places this all back into perspective, we view another life, a story, and compare it to our own. We give an interpretation on the story placed in front of us, an interpretation that we wish to mirror in our own lives; big or small. Afterwards we decide to follow our own dreams, and be above all, the very best versions of ourselves.

If literature can tell us all of that, and be a form of education, inspiration, and entertainment it’s something we maybe should hold in higher esteem.

book review · books · fiction · literature · review

The Little Paris Bookshop

Sometimes I feel as though I can never find a good book, that’s probably why I reread my favourites again and again. But when I spotted The Little Paris Bookshop sat upon the shelves, I thought I couldn’t go too wrong.

The Little Paris Bookshop was an encapsulating read, comfortably set within a bookshop itself (could the setting be more perfect?) it takes you on a tale of adventure, love, and time. Although this bookshop is not one you’re used to walking into off the streets. The Literary Apothecary in a barge bookshop, and its owner can tell what book you require — without any previous description.

Ultimately the best thing about a barge bookshop is its ability to travel. The adventure of Jean is certainly amusing in his decision to cast off without any money, ensuring all necessities must be exchanged for books. Yet, there are more serious undertones to the novel, as Jean desperately travels to seek his forgiveness 20-years too late. The unopened letter previously forgotten holds a past that must be revisited, with intriguing turns to the tale.

This is a witty and funny book at times, with some serious questions on life and death, a book for those who seem to have read everything.

book haul · books · classics · fiction · language · literature · war

September Book Haul

September is in full swing, and unlike the rest of the working world I’m only starting to admit that summer is over. My third and final year has arrived, so here’s a selection of what I’ll be reading across my first semester. img_7932

My first module focuses on the First World War – the literature from within it and also the literature that reimagines the war. This seems to cover quite a range of literature, film and TV (of which Downton Abbey’s involvement may have persuaded me to pick this course). It’s interesting to view the literature that covers such a complex time across the century; from the days of post war Britain to the celebrations surrounding the centenary.

Engaging and a little different to the literature I’ve encounter so far is my experimental literature course; more specifically women’s experimental literature. It covers questions on how women’s writing must differ in its position as experimental and the often misconception that only women’s writing can hold feminist concepts. It’s trying to move away from viewing experimental writing as a failure, and instead show how literature can take any form, genre or purpose.

As you can see I’ve got quite a bit of reading to do as the nights begin to draw in, what are you reading this autumn?