Occasionally you can stumble upon a book that stops you in your tracks, a novel that makes you think. Matt Haig’s How To Stop Time did just that.
Haig elegantly mixes history and fiction, allowing our protagonist, Tom, to struggle with the wisdom 400 years on earth has tormented him with. It breaks down the human traits we recognise, and weaves them throughout history.
Tom Hazard was born in the late 16th century, yet he’s still alive in 21st century London. His many lifetimes span generations, from playing with Shakespeare and The King’s Men to life in 1920’s Paris. He joins Captain Cook on The Endeavour but it is the search for his daughter that truly keeps him alive.
There are large periods of Tom’s life where he is surviving. He is disjointed from the world, living his life in the shadows; neither connected to a person or a place. It’s a hard way to live and a lonely life too. But that can change with one person, a single piece of hope to carry you through the hard days. At the end of the day it’s our relationships with others that makes life worth living. Our shared experiences and in turn our shared history. A connection, a memory and a desire to live.
Beautifully written, this is book everyone should read.
This past month has been quite a busy one, I’ve moved to London and in a typical fashion of exploring a new city took the first opportunity to be a tourist. While I’ve visited the majority of London’s museums, most of my memories are ten years old. It seemed the perfect time to take the tube to South Kensington and visit the National History Museum.
I expected the dinosaurs, the fossils and grand scale of the exhibitions – one thing that surprised me was the architecture. Hintze Hall was astonishing, a masterpiece of the victorian era and something my younger self hadn’t noticed or appreciated. Regardless of the displays and taxonomy this room now held, it was the stonework, bridges and arches that held my attention.
The experience from start to finish was impressive, entering through the Earth’s core and being taken on a journey across the atmosphere from the Earth’s beginning to today. It’s a perfect spot for half term this week with a range of exhibitions everyone will enjoy.
I’m currently in middle of a module on 20th Century African American Literature, and it’s got me thinking of the way we categorise literature, place labels upon it, in a way to control it further.
Early 20th Century African American Literature is often placed as political work. That an African American who is able to express himself for the first time since slavery, must, and often this is the case, want to write about the world he has discovered himself in. A world of racism, prejudice and violence. His work is used to express this rejection, this removal from society; somewhere across this line literature and politics collide.
Literature becomes a place to express ideas, experiment with an ideology and look towards a new world. It’s a place of freedom we sometimes take for granted, yet it can also act as propaganda, have high influences upon our current lives. It makes you think of the importance literature can play, and its impact, on politics, on history and everything in-between.
It’s made me appreciate how much literature has and continues to play a part in our lives. Whether this be freedom of expression, of tackling innovation or it’s ability to somehow go against the status quo. Literature is incredible, and holds a large proportion of our lives in its hand.
Hopefully this wasn’t too deep a topic for a Sunday morning, if you’re interested in these topics I certainly would recommend a few titles:
- The Souls of Black Folk – W.E.B. Du Bois
- The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man – James Johnson
- The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin
- Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
Friday evening saw me taking advantage of the V&A’s late opening and head to their Shoe: Pleasure and Pain exhibition.
Although I’ve had an interest in fashion for quite a while, I’ve never thought shoes had the same appeal. That for some reason they weren’t as detailed, descriptive of really differed from one another. I have been clearly proven wrong.
Shoes throughout time have altered with fashion, and as our tastes change we’ve gained shoes of every shape, colour and texture. Shoes with platforms, heels and straps. Shoes made for the tiny binded feet of Chinese woman. Shoes that showed status through their inability to allow you to walk. There’s such a history to our fashion choices, with reasons behind our choices of style that we mostly remain oblivious to.
The exhibition portrayed the story of the shoe, not just in its evolution and history, but the designing and manufacturing processes. We were given an insight to the designer’s world, explanation to why a heel shape is chosen or a range is created.
Following the organised and aesthetically pleasing style, the V&A is famous for, this exhibition, regardless of your knowledge of shoes, is a must.
Shoe: Pleasure and Pain is at the V&A until January 2016.
With March now with us, and spring finally feeling closer (yet I write this from a wet and windy Manchester) it seems right to begin anew. So I am challenging myself to read five new books this month of which three are entirely for myself and two are required reading for my course.
The Silkworm (Robert Galbraith)
After a long wait for its paperback release I’m looking forward to reemerging myself into some crime fiction, ex-solider turned detective Cormoran Strike is embarking on a murder investigation once again, with an author’s unpublished manuscript holding coincidental similarities to his own murder it’s going to be a good read. I greatly enjoyed J. K. Rowling’s first book under Galbraith’s pseudonym and hope her detective skills are once again proven.
The Shock of the Fall (Nathan Filar)
Having won costa book of the year and jumped out at me on the shelf a few times I had to buy Filar’s first novel. I know nothing more then the blurb instructing me about Simon’s death. But this book intrigued me, so we’ll have to wait and see.
The Miniaturist (Jessie Burton)
Another book on fate and discovery through the replication of a doll house, added mystery entices me into this read. With the added bonus of being set in Amsterdam, a city that greatly intrigues me, and beginning in 1686 is a slightly different feel to the more modern day literature above but with such critical acclaim how could I not place this on my bookshelf?
Lyrical Ballads (Wordsworth and Coleridge)
Not too surprisingly this is on my reading list for this semester, beginning the English Romance period and intertwining politics, revelation, class, age and literary history into emotive language. It will bring new light to my interpretation of history and how it can alter literature.
Castle Rackrent (Maria Edgeworth)
With rebellion forming the main theme of Edgeworth’s first novel, the political tension of Ireland of the 1790’s could run parallel to itself three hundred years later. Another book on my reading list giving once again a new view on the history it represents.
Let me know if you’ve read any of these titles, or challenging yourself to some new books this spring!