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 · 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.

fiction · literature · reading · review

Swing Time

This novel is an incredible depiction of friendship; of differences and similarities, competition and support. It begins in London at a dance class where two girls come together through their aspiration to be dancers and similarities in skin colour.

It’s a bold book that covers race and class, poverty and the rich, mixing each world together with tremendous ease. Smith captures the unique pull of Africa, the sense of community and spirit that embodies the narrative, in contrast to the bright lights of New York and London. There’s a feeling of authenticity in her writing, a world totally believable and accessible to anyone who opens the page.

The novel is able to explore friendship with accuracy, something that not many narratives tackle. It’s a relationship that is often tried and tested, and the separation that follows is difficult to overcome; when two very different paths are chosen, it’s hard for them to merge together once more.

This may have been the first Zadie Smith novel I’ve read, but it certainly won’t be the last.

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.

books · classics · crime · fantasy · fiction · literature · modern classic · reading · young adult

An ever-growing collection of books…

Now it may not come as too much of a surprise that I like to read, and I read a lot. As such even my bookshelves are starting to overflow, piles of books are appearing around my bedroom and even I feel the books around my bed may soon become a tripping hazard.

Yet I can never feel the urge to give away, throw away or even lend out my books. I’ve invested too much time into each page, learnt to love or hate the characters and been, for a while, part of their story. Most of the time I revisit these books, wishing to be drawn back into various worlds and escape into a story.

I’m currently re-reading a vast array of my favourite novels, getting through a story week after week. It may be from the freedom of university, that once again I have the choice to pick up any book I please. I want to read stories that I’m certain I’ll enjoy – novels that are well-written, plots that are complex and character’s that I know. I don’t want to be disappointed by the next book I pick up.

I’ll continue picking up my books full of well-thumbed pages, and enjoying each story again, and again.

books · classics · fiction · literature · reading · review

Nineteen Eighty-Four

This morning I grabbed one of the first books my hand came across as I headed out the door. It’s been at least a couple of years since I’d last read Orwell’s masterpiece, and I’d quite forgotten the treat I was in for.1984

Nineteen Eighty-Four is now a much-loved modern classic, it contains ideas and words we forget were created entirely for the novel. Big Brother and Room 101 still hold power over the everyday public, with little acknowledgement for Orwell’s creation. Similarly, Winston Smith sits as a well-known character, and the tale’s fist line is often featured in a pub quiz. Not to mention the linguistic heaven of Newspeak, an entirely reimagined version of English- a way to control not just our language but our very thoughts. Orwell was incredible.

It’s a story of rebellion, revolution and self-control. But also of love, finding happiness and a desperate search for truth. Orwell encapsulates the desire for justice and a life of honesty. The laws that surround this world, open your eyes to the freedom we have today, not just freedom of speech, but freedom of thought and expression.

Although the world still has a long way to go, this tale allows the importance of truth and integrity to overcome everything, no matter what the cost.

books · classics · crime · detective · fiction · literature · reading

100 Greatest Novels of All Time

The guardian has a long established list depicting the 100 greatest novels of all time. Although the list is in its 13th year, it continues to be regarded with high esteem so I thought I’d see how many I’ve managed to get through in my twenty years.

I’ve placed a little heart ♥ by the books I’ve managed to read as, after all, who doesn’t love a great book? My grand total may only be seventeen, but I don’t think that’s too bad a starting point, I’ve got a lot of books to get through…

The list:

1. Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes

2. Pilgrim’s Progress John Bunyan

3. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe

4. Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift

5. Tom Jones Henry Fielding

6. Clarissa Samuel Richardson

7. Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne

8. Dangerous Liaisons Pierre Choderlos De Laclos

9.  Emma Jane Austen  

10. Frankenstein Mary Shelley  ♥

11. Nightmare Abbey Thomas Love Peacock

12. The Black Sheep Honoré De Balzac

13. The Charterhouse of Parma Stendhal

14. The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas

15. Sybil Benjamin Disraeli

16. David Copperfield Charles Dickens

17. Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë  ♥

18. Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë  ♥

19. Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray  

20. The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne  

21. Moby-Dick Herman Melville

22. Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert

23. The Woman in White Wilkie Collins

24. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland Lewis Carroll  ♥

25. Little Women Louisa M. Alcott  ♥

26. The Way We Live Now Anthony Trollope

27. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy

28. Daniel Deronda George Eliot

29. The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoevsky

30. The Portrait of a Lady Henry James

31. Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain

32. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson  ♥

33. Three Men in a Boat Jerome K. Jerome

34. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde ♥

35. The Diary of a Nobody George Grossmith   

36. Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy

37. The Riddle of the Sands Erskine Childers

38. The Call of the Wild Jack London

39. Nostromo Joseph Conrad

40. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame  

41. In Search of Lost Time Marcel Proust

42. The Rainbow D. H. Lawrence  ♥

43.  The Good Soldier Ford Madox Ford

44. The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchan

45. Ulysses James Joyce

46. Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf

47. A Passage to India EM Forster

48. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald  ♥

49. The Trial Franz Kafka S

50. Men Without Women Ernest Hemingway

51. Journey to the End of the Night Louis-Ferdinand Celine

52. As I Lay Dying William Faulkner

53. Brave New World Aldous Huxley  ♥

54. Scoop Evelyn Waugh

55. USA John Dos Passos

56. The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler

57. The Pursuit Of Love Nancy Mitford

58. The Plague Albert Camus

59. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell  ♥

60. Malone Dies Samuel Beckett

61. Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger ♥

62. Wise Blood Flannery O’Connor

63. Charlotte’s Web EB White ♥

64. The Lord Of The Rings J. R. R. Tolkien

65. Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis

66. Lord of the Flies William Golding

67. The Quiet American Graham Greene  

68 On the Road Jack Kerouac

69. Lolita Vladimir Nabokov

70. The Tin Drum Günter Grass

71. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe

72. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark 

73. To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee  ♥

74. Catch-22 Joseph Heller ♥

75. Herzog Saul Bellow

76. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel García Márquez

77. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont Elizabeth Taylor

78. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy John Le Carré

79. Song of Solomon Toni Morrison

80. The Bottle Factory Outing Beryl Bainbridge

81. The Executioner’s Song Norman Mailer

82. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller Italo Calvino

83. A Bend in the River VS Naipaul

84. Waiting for the Barbarians JM Coetzee

85. Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson

86. Lanark Alasdair Gray

87. The New York Trilogy Paul Auster  

88. The BFG Roald Dahl ♥

89. The Periodic Table Primo Levi

90. Money Martin Amis

91. An Artist of the Floating World Kazuo Ishiguro

92. Oscar And Lucinda Peter Carey

93. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Milan Kundera

94. Haroun and the Sea of Stories Salman Rushdie

95. LA Confidential James Ellroy

96. Wise Children Angela Carter

97. Atonement Ian McEwan

98. Northern Lights Philip Pullman

99. American Pastoral Philip Roth

100. Austerlitz W. G. Sebald ♥