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Post 15 – A character who you can relate to the most

As ever, thanks to Blogs of a Bookaholic for creating this challenge.

Golly gosh, this is another difficult question to answer. The only character I can think of who I can relate to is Pippi Longstocking.

Is that wrong?

I mean, I’m not saying that I have “the strength of 10 policemen”, am unable to read and write or that I’m a princess of a tropical island (especially not the last one- I’m not a fan of the Colonialist perspective, even when it appears in a nonsensical story). However there are a couple of similarities.

Firstly, I am intensely loyal to my friends. In the past, I’ve left places I’ve really wanted to be in order to spend time with a friend who’s texted or called to say they’re feeling sad or lonely. Also, whilst I do ridiculous and sometimes slightly dangerous things, such as spinning fire, hitch-hiking and accepting sweets from strangers (even now, in my twenties, strangers still offer me chocolate and sweets in the street and, like the 5 year-old I am, I accept and talk to them about their lives for a little) I would never let my friends get into any threatening or dangerous situations.

Secondly, whilst I don’t embellish tales about my travels, I will happily craft an exciting adventure story out of the closest words to hand (think goths in love cutting down trees in order to show their feelings for each other, “My love for you is beautiful, natural and decomposing little by little every day, Enyamina”. Or, “did you know that a spider created the first harp? Let me tell you about it. Well, one day in the cloud forest in Montezuma, I came across an angry crab spider…”).

There’s also a chest of drawers back at home that contains an assortment of interesting objects that I’ve collected, magpie style over years of adventures that I seem to get sucked into, even when I’m not looking for them. Sometimes they even come in useful. 🙂

So yes, that’s today’s post.

 

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Post 14 – A book that made you cry

As ever, thanks to Blogs of a Bookaholic for creating this challenge. 🙂

Here’s a little secret that only people like my closest friends; Tavi, Ellie… and a couple of cinemas-worth of people know: I cry really easily over books, films (although to a lesser extent now), poetry and songs.

Each book’s a new friend to me and so the characters’ concerns and endings can haunt me for days, weeks or even years- on a day walk last Sunday I started to well up simply because I saw a green light at the harbour and was reminded of a quote from the Great Gatsby:

“I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him.”

It’s not only the sad moments that make reduce me to tears. Happy endings and the promise of forever – na zawsze, kochanie – can also do the same, although those are happy tears and come far less frequently.

So yes, I’m ridiculously sentimental, to quote Fitzgerald again (I’m in a Fitzgerald mood today, apologies to all), “a sentimental person thinks things will last, a romantic person hopes against hope that they won’t.”

It is that quote that’s guided me in my choice of book today.

Letter From an Unknown Woman – Stefan Zweig

‘To you who never knew me… my child died yesterday’.

The story:
on his birthday, a famous writer receives a letter from a woman he does not know but who has loved him since she was a girl. As her life ebbs away at each stroke of her pen, he learns about a love he never believed could exist.

I read and reviewed this novella back in March 2012 and goodness, it was heart-breaking to read. Imagine loving someone for the whole of your life and knowing that they’ll never really notice you, even when you’re conversing with them. Even if you spend the night together, for them it’ll be meaningless. Even if you send them a bunch of their favourite flowers on their birthday every year, they won’t ever care to find out who they’re from.

OK, I’m welling up just thinking about this story. Time to get on with less unhappy things. 🙂

 

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Post 13- A book that disappointed you

As ever, thanks to Blogs of a Bookaholic for creating this challenge. 😀

There are those books that have been on my TBR pile since the first moment I heard the title whispered reverentially by a fan of said book. Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov was one of them.

It is also, sadly the subject of today’s post.

This was through no fault of the book or its author and I know exactly why I was disappointed by this one and am taking slow baby steps towards improving myself so as to thoroughly enjoy it the 2nd time around.

How many times have you seen a penguin at a funeral?

Blurb (from goodreads as it’s unbiased)

Viktor is an aspiring writer with only Misha, his pet penguin, for company. Although he would prefer to write short stories, he earns a living composing obituaries for a newspaper. He longs to see his work published, yet the subjects of his obituaries continue to cling to life. But when he opens the newspaper to see his work in print for the first time, his pride swiftly turns to terror. He and Misha have been drawn into a trap from which there appears to be no escape.

So how on earth could a book like that disappoint me? It’s about a journalist who has a pet penguin. A penguin that runs around in a happy, splashy way, eats fish and ends up working as a professional mourner for goodness’ sake! Place a penguin in front of me and you could brain-wash me into doing almost anything.

Well firstly, it’s because of the title and yes, that sounds fatuous but really, it is the case: that title is a hard act to follow.

In the words of Alice from the Vicar of Dibley: “The title says it all

Secondly- and most importantly- I was disappointed because I didn’t understand what was going on sub-textually (is that even a word?). I’m English, so subtext is basically as important as the actual text, if not more so. As y’all know, satire’s all about the subtext and due to my paucity of knowledge about Ukraine’s political system, lots of bits that I’m pretty certain are dead funny and spot-on just soared over my head like a pair of large helium-filled balloons or some other large, soaring creature that sounds more majestic than a humble balloon.

The current political situation in Ukraine’s given me the push I needed to get started on reading up about their political and bureaucratic systems and I aim to be able to understand a little more (OK, a lot more actually) of what’s going on in the next few months.

Expect a euphoric review in the next year or so. 🙂

 

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Post 12 – A book you wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t

Goodness, this is a tough one as my TBR pile is, let us say, extensive. And that list’s made up solely of books I could think of off the top of my head. Every book I read seems to serve as a letter of introduction to at least a dozen more and—oh, you know how it goes!

At this precise moment in time, the book I’ve wanted to read for a long time but still haven’t is the remainder of the Barchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope. I powered through the first three after watching the BBC adaptation (with Alan Rickman playing the odious Rvd. Obadiah Slope) but never got around to finishing the series for some reason. :/

Alan Rickman as Rvd. Obadiah Slope. Is it wrong to fancy his eyebrows just a little bit?

So why do I want to read the rest of the series? Well, Trollope wrote rather satirically about the abuses of power within Cathedral and Hospital Trusts in the fictional cathedral city of Barchester (which he purportedly based on Salisbury). A dry subject, you may think, but when approached with Trollope’s wit and brilliant characters the subject becomes as intensely exciting as… well… as an Anthony Trollope novel can make it, which is to say; very exciting indeed!

In addition to the afore-mentioned ecclesiastical power struggles, there are also love stories that tug the heart strings, various financial problems and class struggles. It’s all so quintessentially English as the majority of the ‘drama’ does not unfold through peoples’ words but instead through the softly said understatements and the unspoken.

Darn, I want to finish that series now. :/

 

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Post 11 – Favourite classic book

As ever, thanks to Blogs of a Bookaholic for creating this challenge.

OK, first things first; I cannot do this question the same level of justice as the creator of this challenge. Click that. I’ve even included the link a 2nd time, just in case you don’t fancy scrolling up a few millimetres to click the 1st link.

Read it. Fall in love with Wuthering Heights either for the first time or all over again.

And now, for my favourite classic. As I mentioned before, I have two favourite classics, one book of poetry, In Memoriam A.H.H. by Tennyson and one novel. As I’ve already blogged about the former, this post is going to be about the latter. So, without further ado, allow me to present the book that I fall in love with again every time I read it: North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

So what makes this classic so awesome-sauce? I think it’s because (and forgive the analogy) at the end of the day, I like my books like I like my men– no naughty jokes please!- not just interesting and entertaining but also with some substance; something that will make me aware of the world around me and appreciate my own situation.

It is here that Gaskell really delivers the goods: she was an author whose writing addressed burning contemporary social issues and problems that appeared because of industrialisation. As the wife of a minister in Manchester, Gaskell would have been able to move amongst different social echelons and would undoubtedly have seen and heard the arguments and concerns of both the masters and hands about whom she wrote.

Many of the problems she mentions have yet to be solved, despite the hope expressed that ‘young industry’. If anything, I worry that in some instances, the situation has actually got worse. One example of this is the lack of power of many unions in the UK nowadays. Whereas the Union in North and South is a formidable opponent with the power to cause strikes that seriously affected industry but also won support for their cause (living wages that kept in line with inflation), when unions occasionally attempt the same action for exactly the same reason in this day and age, they are frequently mocked and denigrated, especially by the younger generation.

What I’m trying to say is what Gaskell wrote 159 years ago: ‘the union is a great power: it’s our only power’ and this power seems to be diminishing as people forget that, “It’s the only way working men can get their rights, by all joining together. More the members, more chance for each one separate man having justice done him.”

Well I got carried away there…

The icing on the cake is the romance between Mr Thornton and Margaret Hale. It’s approached so beautifully that some sections gave me goose-bumps and the sexual tension at some points made me go a little fluttery.

They start off as two good in people in their own rights, even though they have different outlooks on life, different experiences and somewhat different values and become- it is implied- the sort of couple that will bring out the best in each other.

 

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Post 10 – A Book You Thought You Wouldn’t Like But Ended up Loving.

As ever, thanks to Blogs of a Bookaholic for creating this challenge. 😀

Also, apologies if this is more of a ramble and less of a direct response. Last week was a nightmare and I just want to blather about nothing. 😛

The book: The Rake and the Rebel Mary Brendan

As anyone who’s read this post knows, erotica and romance have never really been my thing. Indeed I was only introduced to Mills and Boon at the end of 2007. The other people in my French Literature class (all 3 of them, including the teacher) started taking the Mickey of the company when we were discussing Maupassant (no, I can’t remember how we made that jump either). Extensive references were made to different books and series.

It sounded amusing- and totally different from anything I’d read before- so I went to the local library, took out as many books as I could from the different Mills and Boon series, read them all in a week and came back to class on Monday with a better understanding of what the hell everyone was going on about.

Yes, I was that cool. Yes, I do still do that otherwise I really would be unable to talk to most of my peers about ‘what’s hip’. What can I say? It’s just how I roll when I don’t fancy sticking my arms out, my head between my legs and leaning forward.

I digress.

Most of the books didn’t appeal to me. Some made me wonder if love really was a many-splendoured thing. Others made me cringe and go ‘ewwww’. Yes, I really was that mature a 17 year-old.

By the time I got on to the last one, my mind had become slightly misted and fuddled by a combination of earnest writing and ideas that I wasn’t sure I agreed with, such as: ‘He’d been crazy to wait this long. He should have known sex was the fastest way to ensure a relationship settled.‘ Really, the Marriage Bargain?

The Rake and the Rebel either pushed me over the metaphorical edge (hehe!), or it was well-written for the genre. Or maybe it’s because it falls into the ‘historical fiction’ category and I have a major soft spot for that.
The story-line wasn’t radically different from other modern-day romance/ erotica novels out there: there was a feisty heroine, a rake-turned-romantic gentleman and moments of peril and misunderstanding before the pair settled down together.

Somehow it won me over and whilst I haven’t yet reread it, I did purchase a copy from my local library when they decided to sell it on to make room for more Mills and Boon with the intention of doing so at a later date.

 

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Post 9 – Most overrated book

As ever, thanks to Blogs of a Bookaholic for creating this challenge.

My initial instinct was to groan about the Fifty Shades Trilogy or The Alchemist. Then I thought about it for a few minutes and remembered the book that left me feeling about as disappointed as Margery Tyrell on her wedding night to Renly Baratheon.

Allow me to present the one, the only, the (in my opinion) overrated Lady Chatterley’s Lover. And my issue with it is not just the sex scenes. In fact, my issue is more with the author than the text…

OK, so my main issue Lawrence is his rather Nazi view of what should be done to those weaker and worse off than him. In a letter, written in 1908 to Blanche Jennings, he said:

“If I had my way, I would build a lethal chamber as big as the Crystal Palace, with a military band playing softly, and a Cinematograph working brightly; then I’d go out in the back streets and main streets and bring them in, all the sick, the halt, and the maimed; I would lead them gently, and they would smile me a weary thanks; and the band would softly bubble out the “Hallelujah Chorus””

Whilst I know that one’s judgement of a piece of literature should not be coloured by one’s opinion of its author’s political ideology but that quote has somewhat coloured my opinion of him and, by extension, his work. The thing is that in Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Lawrence’s ideology does influence the text. He mocks and disparages those characters that he dislikes including Clifford, who belongs to ‘the maimed’, whom he wanted to dispose of earlier. As such, I feel vindicated in allowing my judgement of his ideology to colour my reading of the text.

If you catch my drift?

My second reason for finding this book over-rated is what some might refer to as “the inherent sexism of the text”. Whilst it has been called into question over recent years because of this letter, there are parts that still make me feel uncomfortable. Much in the same way that Blurred Lines makes me feel uncomfortable even though Robin Thicke has repeatedly stated that he believes that it’s ‘a feminist movement within itself‘.

If there hadn’t been so much furore surrounding the novel and the eventual ‘obscenity trial’, that further raised its profile, I do wonder if less people would know about it now and if it would have been excluded from a couple- not all, but one or two- ‘books you have to read before you die’ lists.

What do you think?

 

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