T5W| Top 5 Characters I Wouldn’t Want To Be.

Hello everybody, HAPPY WEDNESDAY.

The theme for T5W this week is ‘characters you wouldn’t want to trade places with’ and as I only have a few minutes to get this typed up before Nathan drags me to the car to go climbing; I’ll dive right in.

I found this week’s list especially difficult to compile – in part because my morbid attraction to books with unsavory characters (that I definitely wouldn’t want to trade places with because they’re AWFUL) means that I had a lot of books to choose between and in part because I only had a few minutes to collect my thoughts. I did however pick 5 characters for this list that I could not be tempted to trade places with in a million years, be it because they’re generally unlikable, irredeemable people or because their situation or circumstances are so dire that I can’t imagine how I’d cope.

The first character I picked for this list came to mind immediately and they’re a pick of the situational variety – Ma from Room by Emma Donnoghue. Ma is the young narrator Jack’sroom_9780330519021 mother in Room and though the novel is told from his perspective, we get a really hard-hitting sense of what the situation must be like for Ma, who’s held captive in a room by a man called Old Nick and has been for seven years. Her situation is unbearable to say the least, I can’t even begin to imagine how she remains such a strong, admirable character throughout.

The second character who springs to mind, again because her circumstances are so horrific and terrifying that they send shivers down my spine is Agnes from Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites. Agnes is this novels protagonist and she’s awaiting her execution for the murder of her former boss, living out the remainder of her numbered days on a remote Icelandic farm in IMG_27781829, where she’s attended to by a priest who’s charged with her spiritual preparation for death. Pretty awful situation all considered. That said, it’s a beautifully heart-wrenching book. Amazing imagery, 10/10 would recommend.

My third pick for this list is Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, the only (but completely logical) reason being that he’s a sick and twisted psychopath who tortures and murders women in the most horrific and demented ways and has literally no redeeming qualities whatsoever. This was a really easy one.

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The next character on my list suffers unimaginable hardship and cruelty and that’s Lina from Between Shades of Grey. Lina is a 15 year old Lithuanian artist, taken in the beginning of the novel with her mother and brother to a labour camp during the second world war. Throughout the novel, she experiences how ugly humans can be to one another and loses almost everything dear to her and her situation is terrible and one that nobody would ever wish to be in.

betweenshadesofgreyAnd my last pick is Frank Wheeler from Revolutionary Road. I can’t express how desperately sad I feel for Frank Wheeler in Revolutionary Road. I think at his core he’s a good person, and a very normal, relatable person which is what makes Revolutionary Road so poignant but he embodies everything I’m scared of becoming, self-deluded and scared of perusing your IMG_2542dreams and living the life you want. I think it a nutshell, Frank
and April both feel incredibly unfulfilled with their lives, and they expect more from Suburbia and marriage and life in general because they feel like they’re owed a happiness that
they don’t want to work for; they aren’t really motivated enough to do anything about their frustrations and they pay the very human cost of that fool’s paradise.

So that’s all for my T5W this week, I’ll see you again next week! Now to go and climb some walls!

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The God of Small Things | A Review

It didn’t matter that the story had begun, because Kathakali discovered long ago that the secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings.”

On the face of it, Arundhati Roy’s debut novel The God of Small Things tells the story of a family tragedy in Ayemenem, India in 1962. Beneath a tragic storyline, Roy crafts a complex, politically charged examination of stolen innocence and human desperation – a rich, animated novel woven with some of the most spectacular descriptions I’ve read and held in place with a generous measure of almost unbearable misery. This is a novel with many faces, rattling with complex language, rich metaphor, political voice and a sense of premonition so strong it churns your insides and prickles the hair on the back of your neck.

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Seven year old twins Rahel and Estha live with their divorced mother Ammu, grandparents and Uncle Chacko, who recently returned from England after a divorce, leaving behind his ex-wife Margaret and young daughter Sophie Mol. When Margaret’s new husband dies in an accident, Chacko invites her and Sophie Mol to spend the holidays in Kerala. This sets in motion a fateful series of events which culminate ultimately in the death of Sophie Mol and alter the family irreparably.

Written in a dizzying, non-sequential narrative style, the story flits to and fro between 1962 and 1993. Roy delineates haunting scene after haunting scene with a genre defining mastery, spinning a compelling web of meanings, causes and consequences with each temporal shift and revealing at each stop the significance of each event in the timeline of the twin’s lives. Though the spinning pace and jarring structure take on an ever-so-nearly-disillusioning quality, Roy manages to reign in her narrative just short of completely confusing. Instead, The God of Small Things is guided to a different territory, where narrative structure cleverly reflects a fitting metaphor – that memories are rarely sequential and things don’t always make sense, especially from the perspective of a child!

Most enjoyable perhaps for me was that juvenile perspective and the unique voice given to Estha as events unfold. Roy’s depiction of innocence sets the reference point by which we experience the main events of the novel and so many of her adult themes are written with all the fragile innocence of early childhood, setting a poignant contrast. On the one hand we have brooding, atmospheric gloom waiting in ambush at every corner, yet this menace hides in the history of children, crouching in the shadows of a pretty, lyrical prose – a prose which serves to decorate an unforgettable message -the consequences of small things can be devastating, things can change in a day, and it’s best to be prepared.

T5W: Books I Want To See As TV Shows

The Wasp Factory

thewaspfactoryI remember reading this book when I was around 15 years old. It was a book on my dad’s bookshelf and so naturally it was something I was desperate to read growing up. When he let me borrow it one summer – I loved it. This is a novel about Frank, who’s a very disturbed, sadistic, young man living in rural Scotland. He’s not registered with the authorities, he doesn’t have a birth certificate, he doesn’t go to school – he just lives with his dad on a remote island. To fill his days, Frank has daily rituals of animal torture, abuse and murder. It’s a very dark and macabre story and Frank is an extremely problematic character but I really remember absolutely devouring this and really loving each turn and unveiled secret. In retrospect, I can really draw similarities between The Wasp Factory and the Netflix series Bates Motel. I think Frank and Norman are very similar characters and I think Ian Banks writes enough suspense into the Wasp Factory that it would make a really good, dark, series. Filmed well and with a good script this could pack the same atmospheric, gritty, thriller punch that I enjoy so much in Bates Motel .

A Series of Unfortunate Events

This next pick is a bit of a cheat, I’ll admit but I’m a-series-of-unfortunate-eventsincluding it non-the-less because I’m sure this particular selection of books is going to make a brilliant TV series when it comes out on Netflix next year! My second pick is  A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. These books are so so nostalgic for me. You know how rich and amazing the imagery from books you used to love when you were younger is, and how magical they are even into adulthood, it’s almost as though I’ve already seen a screen adaptation of this story. However, I CAN’T wait to see what Netflix does with this. The film version of these books I really feel didn’t do them justice so I’m fingers and toes crossed.

All the Birds Singing

The next pick I’ve included in this list is All The Birds Singing by Evie Wylde, and probably mostly because the setting, descriptions and the metaphors in this novall-the-birds-singingel are so rich and atmospheric, they’d translate fantastically onscreen. I think the reverse chronology of the narrative would lend itself really well to a TV series and the flashback element would keep it really interesting and mysterious, though I do think the plot
would need ironing out a little so that it felt more conclusive. I also really think the themes in this are very relevant to some current discussions in gender and mental health so I’d be very excited if this ever came to screen.

The Seamstress

In a word, The Seamstress made this list for how rich its plot is. This is such a multifaceted novel, with so many complex characters and sub-plots and twists and surprises. I really feel like this would make a brilliant, tense, ‘what’s going to happen next’,’who can she trust series’. Also, this is first in Madrid, Morocco, then Lisbon, and it features espionage and gunrunning and, love interests and friendships. ALSO, It’s set in the 1930’s so the costume design and set and general aesthetic for this as a TV series could be an absolute treat.

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Hotel Kerobokan

 For my last pick I’m imagining a slightly different sort of TV series, in the sense that I imaging that this book would make a fantastic documentary series or one off. This book is a nonfiction that deals with a Balinese prison and some of the complexities and struggles of Prison life and corruption and drugs. In my mind, this would make a perfect Louis Theroux style, documentary.

So that’s all for my T5W for this week. I’ll see you next week for another!

Tales From Nowhere

‘Many places can feel like nowhere: a desert, an isolated village, even the middle of a bustling, impersonal city. And then something happens: an adventure, a revelation, an experience that changes the whole landscape. The discovery that every place is the center of the world to somebody and has its own riches and wonders’.

Tales from Nowhere was my first Lonely Planet anthology; my book of choice for my own European adventures. It traveled with me in the door netting of my housemate’s camper van, nestled next to my Jungle Formula and paper packages of half eaten baguette, always in reach of my makeshift bed for our days driving south on D roads to the Verdon Gorge. 200 pages and some 643 miles later, I finished the collection, sat on a stranger’s bed, locked out of my house in the middle of the night and with sand still dusting my lap each time I moved my head. My own nowhere place. And a fitting finale for a collection so centered on the true nature of adventure.

Edited by Don George, the collection conglomerates 30 travel stories. Bound together under the expansive theme of nowhere, each tale takes us to a place so separate and yet so expressively relevant. Dazzlingly rich, but beautiful in their simplicity, modesty and innocent explorations of what it truly means to travel, these 30 stories wind from continent to continent, from the stretches of Icelandic wilderness to The Worst Country in the World, abstracting a sense of nowhere at each stop and illuminating the significance of our most (seemingly) arbitrary experiences. For me, this contrast is what made the book such a joy to read these past few weeks travelling south. Settling into each page, reading aloud to Nathan on the beach or by the light of my phone as we drove through the night to a mechanic in Troyes, I was transported from my own nowheres to the middle of the roads traveled by others. With these stories reverberating in my mind, I reminded myself again and again that the tiny mechanics shop, the squat toilet aires, watching the biggest great dane puppy I’ve ever seen in my life gallop across a service station car park at 6am, these nowheres were in those moments the center of my world. Those that made me wonder where is ‘nowhere’ when you are constantly ‘somewhere’.