Review

Scoop, Evelyn Waugh

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When I was first given this book as a Christmas present, I wasn’t quite sure who Evelyn Waugh was.  I trusted the recommendation and the Observer review on the back described it as ‘the funniest novel ever written about journalism’ so I decided it was a good reading choice for bus journeys and in between coursework writing.

Scoop focuses on a particular newspaper, the Daily Beast, and satirically narrates the lengths that newspaper journalists and publishers will go in order to catch a story before anyone else.  The journalist chosen to represent the Daily Beast is countryman William Boot, who, through a case of mistaken identity, is caught up chasing a story about a possible war in the fictional African Republic of Ishmaelia.  The story achieves a large amount of its humour and plot through the constant switching of point of views, allowing the reader to explore more of the story than the characters themselves.  It is not until the second chapter that the reader is allowed to meet William Boot.  Before that point, the story seems to follow a John Courteney Boot, creating the comedy of errors element.

The novel contains many codes and vernacular used by the journalists to shorten telegrams and communicate quickly.  At first, like William Boot, I found it quite difficult to understand these messages but as the story went on, I tuned into them.  These indecipherable codes, and the way the journalists spend all their companies’ money on food, drink and souvenirs, really help to lightheartedly satirise the journalists and the industry as a whole.

It is worth remembering the time period that the novel is written in when reading the depictions of Ishmaelia.  It was written in 1938 when the British Empire began to slowly give back power to the countries they controlled.  This lead to many wars between those countries and the British, and even civil wars within the countries.  In this novel, Waugh includes a detailed account of the fictional country’s history and politics which reflects the view that British and European people had on Africa at the time.  Although I found some parts slightly uncomfortable to read considering the society we live in today, it does offer an insight into Waugh’s society and what they deemed acceptable.

Overall, Scoop was a funny and enjoyable read.  Despite being quite a short novel, the detailed accounts of Ishmaelia and the sections of coded telegrams makes it less easy to digest quickly but this doesn’t ruin the reading experience at all.

Review

Doing It!, Hannah Witton

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I had been waiting for this book for months!  I pre-ordered it as soon as I could, last year and had been watching the development of the book on Hannah Witton’s social media.  As I expected, this book was amazing!  I devoured it within two evenings and I am so glad I read it.

Hannah is a Youtuber and blogger who creates content mostly about sex, relationships and feminism.  I’ve been watching her videos for over a year now and have thoroughly enjoyed what she does and have been quite inspired by it.  It always pleased me how open she was about sex and relationships and how much she supported the campaign to improve SRE (sex and relationships education) in schools, and even make it compulsory throughout England and Wales.  It is something I am also passionate about and signed the petition to force the government to take action on it.

This is her first book and acts as an educational and inspirational tool to help create an open dialogue on these issues for people aged 14 and over.   It is full of anecdotes (both funny and embarrassing), information and helpful advice.  Witton has even included sections written by her friends, family, other bloggers and Youtubers and experts.  This helps make the content of the book more diverse and meaningful for more people.  I really admired how personal some of the anecdotes were.  By sharing her own stories, Witton has created the opportunity to break down some of the barriers in dialogue about sex and relationships.  Only good things can come from more open communication for young people on these issues.

I have always taken an interest in this topic, but more so recently.  This has led me to read books such as Sara Pascoe’s Animal and Laura Bates’ Girl Up.  Like those books, Doing It! has only reaffirmed by beliefs about the importance of educating young people properly on issues surrounding sex, gender, relationships and consent.  I would strongly recommend this book (and the other two I have just mentioned) to anyone who wishes to learn more about their body or the issues I listed above, or anyone who is simply passionate about the topics like me and Hannah Witton.

Review

Smoke and Mirrors, Neil Gaiman

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After reading Trigger Warning earlier this year, I was inspired to read Neil Gaiman’s other short story collections.  This one, Smoke and Mirrors, was his first.  I bought it soon after reading Trigger Warning alongside Fragile Things, his other book of short stories.

Most of the stories are thrilling and creepy.  Most are loosely themed on the idea of magic and illusion, and how they are created.  A few stories have this theme very explicitly used (including a story about an author inspired by Victorian magic tricks to write short stories whilst struggling with a film script in Hollywood) although all have some element of magic or fantasy included.  Some are humorous, some are not so humorous.

As always, I really enjoyed reading Gaiman’s writing.  I enjoyed the variety of content and forms of the stories.  Some are based on well-known fairy tales and stories, including a retelling of Beowulf with a werewolf hero and a monstrous sea creature.  Another is a twisted take on Snow White which suggests that maybe Snow White is not as innocent as it seems.  It portrays Snow White as a savage vampire-like creature who forces the Queen, her stepmother, to stop her and protect her kingdom.

Overall, it was another fantastic read from Gaiman.