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!

May Reading Wrap-Up

I’ll come straight out and say it – May was a really bad reading month for me. I got around to reading a total of 4 books this month, 5 if you include the one I’m part way through and only one of those was a book on my May TBR so I didn’t do very well on the reading front this month, but I endeavor to do better in June. I am going away twice later this month so if all goes to plan I’ll be able to catch up on plane journeys a little bit!

But without further ado, the books that I did get around to reading were:

  1. HeynostadamasHey Nostradamus by Douglas Coupland. This was the one and only book on my May TBR and this was on my TBR because I recently ‘rediscovered’ Douglas Copland’s writing after reading Life After God and fell in love, again. I picked up this and powered through it with much the same sense of wonder and appreciation for his wit and his dark humor and I just loved this book. This follows for separate peoples perspectives on a high school shooting and looking into questions of faith and guilt and regret. It’s just a very thought provoking, creative look at the human condition and human emotions and how they’re often very complex and I gave it a 4 stars.
  2. 276750I then read a short story collection – The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter. I bought and read this first back in college, my second year I think, on a recommendation from my English teacher and I don’t really know why but I somehow figured I’d read this a second time this month. I must have been feeling the dark, Gothic vibe and if you like that kind of thing OR if you’re particularly into Gothic poetry then I’d recommend. If anything, I’d say this was more like a poetry anthology than a short story collection. Carter’s writing is very heavy and decorative and quite politically charged so maybe read this if you’re in the mood for dark, heavy, symbolic, ornate.
  3. Immortality by Milan Kundera. The third book I read this month was Immortality. I picked this up for a bit of a funny reason. So basically, after I read The Body by Hanif Kureishi I was really enjoying reading about mortality and aging and looking ba28634ck at life and wasted opportunity and the brevity of youth and it almost hit me more than it ever really has that I’m getting older all the time. Weird I KNOW, but true. So when I spotted this in the charity shop I picked it up straight away and I actually really enjoyed it even though it terrified me. Rather than being specifically about mortality, as I assumed, this was actually about legacy, and the idea of building a history that stays around once you’re gone. So Kundera looks at art for example and loads of different aspects of manifestations of the self and our memories. Again, a very heavy philosophical book but a really good one all the same!
  4. Then for the best book I’ve read in SUCH a long time: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. I’ve had my eyes on this for the longest time, and when I saw this was 6604712half price on Amazon with free shipping it was pretty much a no brainer for me. I read this in about 12 hours flat and I just loved it. I may have vested interests because I eat a vegan diet and it’s something I’m very passionate about, but I really do feel that this is required reading for all humans capable of eating anything at all. Part informative non-fiction, half memoir and a small part animal-eating dictionary, ‘Eating Animals’ builds upon and challenges our cultural associations with food, questioning why our beliefs are as staunch as they sometimes are and suggesting ways in which we might aim to revise our ethical considerations. Foer looks specifically at factory farming; the mass production of animal products, animal rights or the disturbing lack thereof and the institutionalized cruelty often at play across the US – the mass cruelty and abuse we prefer to turn away from. It’s grizzly, hard to hear stuff. Yet what Foer has achieved with ‘Eating Animals’ stands far apart from the ‘exacting force’ of pro-vegetarian activism (perhaps supposed by many upon reading the title) and instead digs to the core of dietary ethics, in(conveniently) mapping a complex moral and ethical debate with a mild-mannered objectivity. It’s just so incredible, I couldn’t sing its praises enough.the-kite-runner-by-khaled-hosseini-cover-page
  5. And the book I’m part way through, well, half way through is The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. This is another book that’s been on my radar for a while and I’m finally reading it. I read A Thousand Splendid Sun’s by the same author and even though that was a very long time ago, it remains one of my favourites. I can’t really say much about this as I’m not finished, but so far it’s very sad but I’m enjoying it a lot.

So that’s all for my May Reading Wrap-up. Despite not having read very much, I was happy with the things I did read and I can’t really say I didn’t enjoy anything, which is good. Keep an eye out for my June TBR, which will be up shortly and let me know what you got around to reading this month! H x

Eating Animals by J. S. Foer | A Book Review

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“Not responding is a response–we are equally responsible for what we don’t do. In the case of animal slaughter, to throw your hands in the air is to wrap your fingers around a knife handle.”

Nothing I could write in terms of a review for this book could do it the justice it deserves. More than most, I’m terrified of letting this one down. Let me first say that this book stands out to me as a book every single person who eats meat should read. Let me follow that up with a revision: This is a book that anybody who eats anything should read and I would encourage anybody and everybody to pick this up if they get the chance.

As with all questions in life, I wonder how much we can truly understand about our own ethics before we’ve acknowledged the things which threaten to destabilize them. How fully can we take ownership of our beliefs without knowing why it is that we defend our right to them? With a comprehensive look at the human act of meat eating, and it’s butterfly-effect ripples into society, Foer holds us accountable with ‘Eating Animals’ in a way that’s at once sympathetic, utterly disarming and quite unlike anything I’d read on the subject previously.

Part informative non-fiction, half memoir and a small part animal-eating dictionary, ‘Eating Animals’ builds upon and challenges our cultural associations with food, questioning why our beliefs are as staunch as they sometimes are and suggesting ways in which we might aim to revise our ethical considerations. Foer looks specifically at factory farming; the mass production of animal products, animal rights or the disturbing lack thereof and the institutionalized cruelty often at play across the US – the mass cruelty and abuse we prefer to turn away from. It’s grizzly, hard to hear stuff. Yet what Foer has achieved with ‘Eating Animals’ stands far apart from the ‘exacting force’ of pro-vegetarian activism (perhaps supposed by many upon reading the title) and instead digs to the core of dietary ethics, in(conveniently) mapping a complex moral and ethical debate with a mild-mannered objectivity.

Foer ponders the moral complexity of eating animals and the ethical justifications for doing so with an honorable amiability, though that isn’t to say this book doesn’t serve its own agenda. Though Foer presents a thoughtful and disturbing line of ethical reasoning, written without force or judgement, he also takes us through the meat processing journey as though on some horrifying whistle stop tour through the factory farms of America, signalling disturbing scene after disturbing scene and thus building a pretty comprehensive argument for ethical veganism. Foer opens our eyes to many a difficult truth – perhaps that broilers are artificially and genetically modified to exist as FOOD to the point that the rates of growth in broiler chickens often render their legs useless and they can hardly take a breath as they’re crushed under the weight of their own breast muscle, gives just one example, not to mention the horrors of slaughter and unimaginable suffering inflicted upon cows, pigs, chickens, geese, layers. The list goes on. With the benefit of a large step back, Eating Animals gives us a sense of the true power of the successfully posed rhetorical question – that delicate device of Foer’s which breaks apart our belief systems without attacking or undermining them.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter | Book Review

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories

First a disclaimer: I’m very nervous to undersell such a clever, enchantingly unique gem of a book yet figuring out where to start with this review is a formidable task. So long it’s been since I’ve read a short story collection of this caliber, I really want to do well by Carters clear ambition. Yet however spell-binding this collection may be, and however ornate Carter’s narratives, I can’t help but hold back on a few points. These shorts are commendable, yes, but untarnished? I’m not so sure.

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From the first retelling of Bluebeard, Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories outlines a clear aim, to reshuffle the traditional perspectives on the ideologies and values of folklore and traditional mythology. So powerfully political and sexually charged, Carter’s collection in this way rears its head unapologetically, embellishing such familiar stories and settings with a uniquely challenging voice.

Throughout, Carter maintains an elaborate penmanship, often very complex and at times a little convoluted. It’s on this point that I’m divided, for on the one hand, I appreciate Carter’s flamboyant, almost poetic descriptions, but on the other it often feels as though the strong political intent is compromised. That said, the lyrical quality of her writing, so peppered with Gothic symbolism and raw eroticism, contributes to the collections bewitching effect.

Primal and atmospheric in tone, her collection delves confidently into themes of gender theory and morality, sexual liberation, agency and lust, thus shattering established understanding and reclaiming traditional fairy tale telling with a force that had me marveling at each pages end. Carter’s female characters especially are portrayed as strong and powerful and with each short Carter manipulates our own deeply embedded, and often misguided perceptions of gender roles, sending forth familiar heroines to shrug the shackles of folklore with a distinct feminist angle. It is in this sense at once so deeply sensual and sophisticated, yet it retains the hard edges of depravity and violent sexual desire that sets this work aside stylistically.

Thematically, while so well intended, I didn’t enjoy the stories very consistently – I hated a few whilst some I enjoyed a lot more. I feel that in many places, the true ambition contained within this little book fell short of recognized, or else was lost on me as I tried to keep up with a spiraling narrative, tangled with long sentences and elaborately punctuated passages. Final verdict? A very clever, valuable book, yet one from which I hoped to have taken that bit more satisfaction.

3.5/5