exhibitions · London · Museum · review

London – The National History Museum

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.

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.

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.

London · Musical · review · The Book of Mormon · Theatre · West End

The Book of Mormon

I’ve wanted to see the Book of Mormon for quite a little while now, it’s a musical that I know very little about. Although it’s been in London’s West End for four years, it’s managed to keep its plot fairly secret if you don’t go looking too closely.

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Although I’ve stood in line for the lottery on two different occasions, failing each time to be the lucky one, I finally booked tickets for the show. It was certainly well worth the wait.

The show is a spectacular twist of comedy and musical – combining the very best of both. I’ve never laughed so hard while being sat in the stalls, and briefly I think even the actors corpsed on stage. Occasionally when at the theatre, you have an audience that heightens every emotion of the show, we laughed together, gasped in shock together, and stood together for a well-deserved standing ovation. It certainly added to the atmosphere and in response the actors put on a brilliant show.

The songs are incredible, brilliantly slotted into the plot of the musical. There are unexpected moments around every corner as the plot twists and turns at every opportunity. A hilarious and clever production.

 

 

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.

manchester · Musical · Palace Manchester · performance · review · Theatre

Billy Elliot

It’s not very often that we get great northern theatre — theatre based in the north but also about the north. Now that Billy Elliot’s tour has made its way to Manchester’s Palace Theatre the north is in for a treat.

The tale of Billy Elliot is heart warming from start to finish, it explore issues covering the miner strike of 1984/5 to one boy’s dream to dance. Yet it’s the little things that also matter in this tale, Billy’s desire to be accepted by his family and a community fighting for justice in amongst the ballet and boxing lessons.

billy-elliot

I am continuously amazed by the talent in these productions; Billy can sing, can act, and boy, he can certainly dance. You forget in each scene change it’s the same incredibly talented boy who has just danced, sung and acted weaving humour and emotions when required. The set too almost comes alive, and is amusingly mirrored during Billy’s audition at the Royal Ballet School.

This tale is certainly a treat and a wonderful introduction to musical theatre, if you’re around Manchester this Christmas, I would certainly recommend a trip.

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 review · books · fiction · review

The Help

the-help-stockettHaving just picked up The Help for the fifth time, I thought it was worthwhile putting pen to paper as to why I keep coming back to this book.

There’s something unique to Stockett’s writing that transports you instantly back to 1960’s Mississippi. Whether it’s Skeeter, Aibileen or Minny narrating we’re pulled back to a time of harsh segregation and a desire to alter the perspective of America’s racists.

I love how this book describes not only the real-time struggles of a coloured maid in the deep south of America, but the hope and resilience of people coming together. It’s a testament of friendship, hope and exceptions. It relies on a group of women willing to risk everything for a chance at making a difference.

It’s a book of defying the society we live within, that shows no matter how small, we can all make a difference.