A Miscellaneous Compilation 2

Currently, I am experiencing a feeling of sheer exuberance, admittedly coupled with (and yet not diminished by) an undeniable fatigue. I am tired, so very tired; every fibre in my body needs rest, and I can think of no better way to express my present desire than to say that right now, all I want to do is some major chilling! And yet despite this, I simply cannot rid myself of that excitement which is only to be felt at this particular time of year by everyone between the ages of 4 and 18: for indeed, after barely recovering from an arduous examination period before being plunged head first into five weeks of studying for my A2 courses, I have finally finished for the summer holidays. Although I admit that the level of anticipation is somewhat tainted by the near hysteria-inducing prospect of personal statement writing and making my final preparations for university applications, I can nevertheless see seven and a half weeks of blissful relaxation, socialising, and of course reading, stretching out before me. I cannot wait to while away whole days by idly sprawling under the sultry sun and devouring novel after novel. I cannot wait to get my teeth stuck into essays, articles and books of literary criticism to challenge myself and explore more deeply those areas of fiction which are of particular fascination to me. I cannot wait to re-read my set English texts (Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice) and consider potential comparative titles in preparation for next year’s coursework. Bearing in mind the amount of reading I will therefore be doing, I decided that now is the perfect time to move forward in reviewing some of the books I have read recently by compiling a few of those about which I have less to say into a single post. As usual, SPOILERS may be included. Continue reading

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‘Northanger Abbey’ by Jane Austen (read 22/4/14 – 27/4/14)

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One of my earliest, most fondly nostalgic memories is of sitting in my Grandma’s living room on a wintery evening during a visit up north to see her, my five-year-old self seeming incongruously tiny compared to the old-fashioned, green velvet-upholstered armchair on which I am perched, and the way that my straightened legs barely transcend the mighty cliff-boundary that is the chair’s edge no doubt looking endearingly ridiculous to my older family members sitting around me. The room is filled with the heartening heat radiated by the bars of the aesthetically realistic electric fire, and the ornate carriage clock on the mantelpiece above it ticks and tocks with comforting regularity. On my lap, a chintzy china plate of Marmite on toast; on the old television set, most importantly of all, the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice is playing. Continue reading

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‘The Child In Time’ by Ian McEwan (read 19/4/14 – 21/4/14)

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After what has felt like countless hours of pain-staking revision, weeks of increasingly high stress levels and a whole year of work and build-up, I finally finished my AS examinations on Tuesday, an internal fanfare of celebration and jubilation resounding in my head as I put down my pen (black ink of course) to that final “You must stop writing now.” Needless to say the rest of this week has been one of absolutely blissful relaxation which, other than sleep, I have been most prominently filling with leisurely reading, the sensation of being able to do so without that nagging sense of guilt one feels when one has a more pressing task to do feeling to me unfamiliar and bizarre yet simultaneously something which I have been relishing. The speed with which I have therefore been getting through those unread titles sitting on my meticulously ordered bookcase – not to mention my imminent return to lessons to start my A2 courses on Monday meaning I will have less time to blog come next week – has thus left me to conclude that now is a good time to carry on charging through my ‘reviews’ of the books I have read, the next in line being the novel The Child In Time by the genius that is Ian McEwan, a man who is undoubtedly one of my favourite contemporary authors and in my opinion one of the finest writers in the world of late 20th/21st century fiction. Continue reading

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‘Brave New World’ by Aldous Huxley (read 10/4/14 – 12/4/14)

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“Oh, wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world, that has such people in’t!” Thus proclaims the character Miranda in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest upon seeing fellow human beings for the first time in a life that has seen her exiled since infancy on a remote island with only her father for company, the dramatic irony which Shakespeare so artfully employs here being that the men whom Miranda’s lack of human interaction incite her to wonder at and deem as “goodly creatures” are in reality treacherous, corrupt and, unbeknownst to her, the very ones responsible for the banishment of her father and thus the life of isolation which she has so far known. It is this speech and all its thrilling irony which is the inspiration behind both the title and the premise of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World; published in 1932, this book is now commonly thought of as one of the classic dystopian novels, a status which I would say it has acquired, having now read it, absolutely deservedly. Continue reading

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‘Mrs. Warren’s Profession’ and ‘Pygmalion’ by George Bernard Shaw (read 9/4/14 – 10/4/14 and 27/4/14 -28/4/14)

Although I do profess to being a ‘novel-girl’ at heart in terms of my favoured literary form, it seems that of late I have been delving into the world of ‘the play’ much more frequently; while admittedly the increase in my perusal of the dramatics may only really be discernible to me by the basis of my own personal standards, recently I feel somehow increasingly accustomed to reading texts where the description is minimal and the dialogue in abundance, for not only have I lately commenced progress on one of my life’s goals of reading the complete works of Shakespeare (progress that is going steadily yet surely, with The Tempest, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Merry Wives of Windsor having already been read and giggled over at the time of writing this post) but I have also been enjoying the works of playwrights such as Oscar Wilde and more recently George Bernard Shaw. Indeed it is this latter playwright and his plays Mrs. Warren’s Profession and perhaps his most famous Pygmalion which I have chosen to write about in this post (which unfortunately I cannot guarantee will be quite as ‘dramatic’ as the content of its subject matter), yet although I have decided to combine the two plays here I will be dealing with each one individually when sharing what I thought about them. As usual, SPOILERS may be included! Continue reading

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‘Wars of the Roses: Stormbird’ by Conn Iggulden (read 6/4/14 – 9/4/14)

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After tentatively venturing through the barren terrain of the perilous quest to Mount Doom in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and frequenting the “big smoky place” that is the industrial town of Milton in the novel North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, my reading journey through the literary genres encountered yet another twist in its path as I chose to follow that fork in the road sign-posted ‘Historical Fiction’. Considering my forthcoming examinations which seem to be creeping closer and closer with every passing hour (but please, let us not dwell on the prospect for any longer than is necessary for fear of reigniting my temporarily alleviated stress), it was of no surprise that the majority of my Easter holidays passed in a blur of revision notes, and yet it must be admitted that no matter how busy I found myself to be I still managed to find the time to curl up with a cornucopia of great books. However, so as to relieve that incessant guilt I felt whenever I was not revising and to make myself feel that even my leisure could be somehow productive, I decided to start with the novel Wars of the Roses: Stormbird by Conn Iggulden, thereby tying in with my History revision of those 30 years of civil war which destabilised the government of 15th century England at its very core. A SPOILER warning is appropriate at this point (although, given that it is history, it’s not as if one doesn’t know what is coming…). Continue reading

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‘The Understudy’ by David Nicholls (read 25/2/14 – 2/3/14)

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Best-sellers are by no means a rare occurrence. Indeed it seems that you cannot walk into any major bookshop without rows upon rows of the latest shiny hardback gleaming proudly back at you from up amidst the colossal heights of the fiction charts. Be it J.K. Rowling’s latest offering into the world of grown-up fiction or the newest Hilary Mantel-esque historical novel, it cannot be disputed that there is something that little bit extraordinary (in the most literal sense of the word) about these books, something that really elevates them in the eyes of the reader and which renders them undeniably deserving of their significant success – for indeed why else would so many people buy them if there wasn’t? – and yet nevertheless the title ‘best-seller’ is not automatically synonymous with a work of truly great fiction. But every once in a while one discovers a best-seller that will not only provoke a startling metamorphosis in the reader, transforming them from a rational-thinking human being into a compulsive page-turning machine for a day or two, but will in addition have a deeper emotional resonance, that will touch you with the pure beauty of the story and writing and leave you remembering the reading experience long after you have turned the last page. Continue reading

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