It was National Poetry Day on Tuesday and to celebrate it I decided to read some poetry by Emily Bronte. I have previously read Wuthering Heights by Bronte but none of her poetry – despite hearing how good it is.
I do not usually read poetry. In fact, I hadn’t enjoyed reading it until I read Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (read my review of it here). After reading that collection I was then determined to read more poetry, especially by female poets. So when I saw a Bronte collection in the Penguin Little Black Classics series, I was intrigued to give it a go.
This collection of poetry is about love, death, nature and time, the usual themes of Romantic poetry in the eighteenth century. Bronte has the talent of portraying the deepest, most passionate emotions within carefully constructed delicate lines and stanzas. There is very little internal deviation from the structural styles and rhyme schemes Bronte has selected for each poem.
Each poem was a pleasure to read. They were all quite different in theme but had a similar style which brought them all together as a collection. Some were dark and melancholic whereas others were happier and lighter. Even the descriptions of nature varied from naturalist to gothic – a style Emily, and her sister Charlotte, are famous for using in their novels. My favourite poem of the collection is an untitled poem which first line is ‘The blue bell is the sweetest flower’. It felt appropriate in the lovely spring weather. (As I type this blog post now, the sun is shining and the daffodils are blooming. It is beautiful.) Another poem I particularly liked was Stanzas, an emotional poem about the mourning of a loved one.
Of all the texts I’ve had to read at university so far, this was my favourite.
Frankenstein is referred to as a gothic, proto-science fiction novel and paved the way for the two genres. The story is told through a series of letters sent from Arctic explorer, Robert Walton, to his sister Margaret back in England. Within these letters are mini narratives by Victor Frankenstein (and the monster) after Walton rescues Frankenstein from the frozen plains of the Arctic.
Frankenstein tells Walton of his childhood in Geneva and his fascination and obsession in the pursuit of the principles of life. Whilst at university in Germany, Frankenstein manages to create life but is so disgusted by what he sees, he casts out his creation. He then tells Walton how this one event affects the rest of his life and the lives of those he loves.
Before reading this book, I already had a good idea of what the story is about, and had wanted you read it for a while. It’s a well known book which has seeped into our culture and has shaped the science fiction genre that we know today. I had also watched the Kenneth Branagh film adaptation several years ago. This meant that I was prepared for a classic science fiction tale of mystical science and a murderous monster. However, that initial impression was wrong. Frankenstein is much more a reflection of human nature than it is a tale about a monster. In fact, there is no real explanation as to how the monster was created in the first place.
Through Frankenstein’s desire to act like God and the monster desire to be accepted by society, we can learn what it means to be human. The themes of morality and sin are very captivating and thought provoking. The account of the monster’s acquisition of language and human behaviour is fascinating and moving. Considering how short this book is, it really packs in a lot moments that force you to think.
Throughout the novel, there are references and allusions to Milton’s Paradise Lost. This reinforces the themes of evil and morality, and often creates a parallel between the monster and Satan. Both rebel against their creators because they feel like outcasts in society. As I had also read Paradise Lost for the same module at university, I was especially interested in this.
Overall, Frankenstein is an incredibly captivating and intelligent book. I only wish I had read it sooner.
As I’m studying English at university, it is no surprise that I am really fascinated by words: the meaning of words and where they come from. I have been trying to read more and more books about language outside of my university course and this was one of them. This book, written by lexicographer Susie Dent, discusses how your job or hobby can change the language you speak every day and more specifically among like-minded people.
The book is divided into sectors and individual groups and jobs, or tribes as Dent calls them. Some of these tribes include politicians, cyclists, actors, paramedics and home bakers. It surprised me how many words and phrases I have heard or have used myself originate from specific groups of people. Some words are codes to avoid others outside of their circle knowing the meaning of their speech whilst others are nicknames and abbreviations used to simply speed up communication.
Susie Dent’s commentary is very witty and full of interesting facts. She gives a very good explanation behind each term and the general environment of the tribe that uses it. It is this context that really adds to the book. It was a really engaging book for me because of my love of language and words, although Dent’s simple, funny style of writing makes it easy for anyone to read and enjoy.
In 2016, I read the first and second book in the ‘Spinster Club’ Trilogy. You can read my review of Am I Normal Yet? here. After thoroughly enjoying them both, I just knew What’s A Girl Gotta Do? would be good.
This book follows the final ‘spinster’ Lottie as she decides to set up a feminist social project, called Vagilante, to call out every bit of sexism she witnesses. The decision was made after she realised the reality of everyday sexism and how it was affecting her life and the lives of those around her. Lottie’s journey through her project certainly isn’t simple, especially not when she’s facing the normal pressure of a 17 year old girl. Has Lottie bitten off more than she can chew? Especially with increasing amounts ofcoursework, revision and university applications.
There’s laughter, tears and, like the previous novels, a rather large quantity of cheesy snacks. Holly Bourne’s portrayal of Lottie is honest and raw. She has many dimensions to her personality, just like every teenage girl does. She’s cocky and confident one minute, she’s anxious and afraid the next. As the novel progresses, her voice and character shine through. Despite, it being fiction, it feels very real and it was very easy to connect with Lottie and her friends as they tried to do what they believed was right.
It was such an easy read. The words practically rolled off the page and it was an incredibly difficult book to put down. The aim of the book, Holly Bourne said herself, was to highlight the need for feminism and to encourage girls (and anyone really) to stand up for themselves and each other. It’s hard not to be inspired by Bourne’s stories and characters in that way. I, for one, am very much inspired.
One of my reading goals for 2017 is to read more journalism. Find my reading goals here.
Here are the things I’ve been reading this past week:
National Geographic. Gender Revolution.
This was a really fascinating read. A whole magazine on the topic of gender and sexuality, something I think is very important to talk about. There were articles about FGM and sexual violence, worldwide gender inequality, what it means to be a boy or girl for nine year olds across the world, the rise in acceptance of the gender nonbinary and what the future holds for gender.
The Huffington Post. MPs Vote Against Compulsory Sex and Relationships Education for Schoolchildren
This is something I’ve been passionate about for a while now. I found it quite disheartening that it was voted against but there is some hope. Articles like this one and the campaign created by Laura Bates, author of Girl Up, will help raise awareness of the important of good sex and relationships education in schools.
Refinery 29. If Ryan Gosling’s Speech Was Sexist, What Isn’t?
Whilst no one has to agree fully with the points raised by the writer of this article (I certainly don’t), it’s definitely an interesting one to read. It relates to the ongoing issue of whether a woman should put her career on hold to look after a child whilst her male partner continues working as normal. I recommend reading the comments of this article for a more detailed and balanced debate.
Irish Examiner. Louise O’Neill: Maybe our outrage is the attention trolls so desperately crave.
This article written by Louise O’Neill, author of Only Ever Yours and Asking For It, and discusses whether the protests and public displays of anger in things millennials believe in actually make it worse instead of better. Is it better to be the generation who safely do nothing or the generation who are vocal but attract attention for the trolls in the process? Definitely worth a read. Expect some deep thinking afterwards though!
This was certainly a good choice to kick off my 2017 reading. I’ve been a fan of Neil Gaiman since I first read Coraline as a child. The fantastical elements Gaiman is able to weave into our own world blew me away then and still blows me away now. Since then, I have read 5 of his novels and now one of his short story collections. Until this point, I had not read many short stories. I liked the idea of it – testing the very limits of descriptive language by condensing whole tales and worlds into as few words as possible – so I decided it was a style of writing I must try to read.
Trigger Warning is Gaiman’s latest collection of short stories and contains pieces he has written over a number of years and two previously unseen stories. The last story in the collection is an American Gods sequel and follows the main character, Shadow Moon, on one of his many journeys after the events of the novel (I read American Gods over 2 years ago and very much enjoyed it).
Each story varies in length and style. Some are structured like poems and one is even in the style of an interview questionnaire. I really enjoyed the variety in the collection. Not one story felt the same as another which meant it was refreshing and exciting from start to finish. In the introduction, Neil Gaiman explains that, whilst most collections are linked by an idea or theme, this one wasn’t. He believes this helps the reader experience stories they ‘would have otherwise never read’.
Shortly after finishing this book, I went out and bought two more of his short story collections. I am looking forward to reading them very much. I also feel my eyes have been opened to the potential wonders of short stories as a genre of writing, something I hope to explore further in the future.
Happy New Year! For last week…
It has been a while since I have posted on this blog but that is about to change. I don’t usually set myself new years resolutions – I think they are often too ambitious and can set yourself up for failure – but this year, I will set myself some reading goals. By reading goals, I don’t mean challenge myself to a certain number of books for the year, I just mean give myself ways to make sure I spend more time enjoying reading and really thinking about what I am reading.
I will have lots of set texts to read at university very soon which will mean I’ll have less time for casual reading. Like last year, I still hope to read on the bus and in the evenings when I can so I can still enjoy the books I want to read as well as reading for my degree. This makes my first reading goal of 2017 a continuation of one from 2016. Easy start!
I already read a reasonable range of books, non-fiction and fiction, but I hope to increase the variety as the year goes on. I would like to read more diverse books from authors from around the world. I feel this will improve my cultural awareness and understanding of the world even through fictional works. I would also like to keep reading books around the topic of my degree, English, to better my knowledge and improve my university experience.
Something I’ve learned more recently is that there’s a lot more to reading than just books. Throughout school, teachers nagged us to read more newspaper and magazine articles which I never understood because I used to think studying English was all about books and literature. That was until now. So my final reading goal for 2017 is to read more journalism. Newspaper articles, online opinion pieces, historical journalism and even Twitter. Over the course of the year, I hope to read a wide variety of journalism to better understand the style of writing in a linguistic sense, and to just be more aware of the world around me. I really like the way Emma Gannon lists the articles she has been reading that week on her weekly newsletter and I feel I may adopt a similar style on this blog or simply on Twitter. I hope that over time, I will be able to create strong opinions on some articles, especially the controversial ones, and use this blog to voice them.
I hope these goals will be simple enough for me to keep up with them throughout the year, but challenging enough to make me really think about what I’m reading. I hope that the more I read, the more I’ll write about reading so the more I will post on my blog. Here’s to a good year ahead!
With more deadlines and a heavier workload, I was not expecting much from my reading in November. However I was able to find time to read three books, which pleasantly surprised me.
The first of these books was The Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle. It is a short story in his very famous Sherlock Holmes series. It was a text I had to read for my literature module at university and I very much enjoyed it. I had previously read three other Sherlock Holmes stories so I was already familiar with the style of writing and the levels of plot twist Conan Doyle uses to intrigue and perplex the reader. The Speckled Band tells the story of Helen Stoner, a frightened young woman who seeks Holmes’ help over the suspicious death of her sister. The only significant clue she can offer is her sister’s last words about a ‘speckled band’. As usual, Holmes is fascinated in this seemingly impossible case and, along with his companion – and the narrator of the story – Watson, he sets off to investigate and solve the mystery. I read it at university in relation to feminist theory so it was very interesting to consider the themes of vulnerability and financial dependency of women in the story.
The second book I read this month was Illuminae by Australian authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. It is a young adult science fiction novel set in the heart of a futuristic intergalactic battle between two giant corporations, and includes a surprise attack on a planet, a genetically modified super virus and an out of control artificial intelligence hell-bent on protecting its people and completing its mission. The book is laid out as a series of reports, transcripts and diagrams as a dossier of files about the events that take place within. It is the first of its kind that I have personally read and it was the layout of the story and the good reviews I had seen on YouTube that made me want to pick this book up. I thoroughly enjoyed it and now cannot wait to read the second book in the series. At first the style was hard to get used to but I soon picked up pace and raced through the book. It was fast-paced and incredibly gripping. I really enjoyed the various narratives created by the different layouts of information. It allowed for the right level of plot twist.
Finally I read Virginia Woolf’s famous feminist essay A Room of One’s Own. I had this book sitting on my shelf for a while but it took a lecture on feminist theory for me to eventually pick it up and read it. Virginia Woolf had been heavily quoted and referenced in this lecture which made me want to read something she had written. I knew about her basic opinions on feminism but not much further. Despite it only being about 130 pages long, it took me a few days to complete just because of how much information and emotion was packed into such a small amount of space. Woolf explains in detail how she reached the conclusion that a woman needs a good income and a room of her own to become a good writer. As it was originally intended as a talk at a conference, the style is very easy to read because it has a conversational yet formal style. It is as though Virginia Woolf is reading it aloud as your eyes skim the pages. As a classic feminist text, it was fascinating for me to read it and learn what has changed since Woolf’s time and what hasn’t. It has inspired me to one day read A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft, another fundamental feminist text.
With December comes colder shorter days perfect for getting cosy with a book and a hot drink. That’s my favourite thing about Christmas holidays every year. I’m hoping this Christmas period will bring lots of opportunities for reading as well.
Before starting university a month ago, I set myself the challenge of reading at least one novel or two novellas/shorter novels a month. I wasn’t sure if I would do it because I didn’t know how much time I would have between university and a job. To my surprise, I managed to find the time to read 3 books in October!
The first book I read in October was The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. I started this book for Banned Book Week and continued it through the start of October. You can read my review of it here.
The next book I read last month was In the Dark, In the Woods by Eliza Wass (the British title version of the Cresswell Plot). I very much enjoyed this book. It was very dark and gripping and I managed to finish it within a day. It follows the story of Castley, who is hidden from the world along with her five siblings by their father. The story centres on the theme of religion and what it is like to start questioning the beliefs that have been given to you by your parents. The story is loosely based on the author’s own experiences of growing up which makes the story even more emotional and harrowing. I felt quite emotionally connected to Castley because despite her home life and beliefs being different from the other people in her school, she simply wanted to lead a normal life as a teenage girl.
The last book I read in October was The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie. This was the fourth Agatha Christie book I have read but the first one in the Miss Marple series. I have watched lots of the television adaptations – even this one but I always manage to forget the ending which meant that it was like reading a brand new story! I love the multiple narratives in Christie’s books as it allows us as readers to learn about the mystery from different people and gather together the whole story by the end. The twists and turns kept the story exciting at all times and made it very hard to put down. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is thinking of exploring the works of Agatha Christie or just to anyone who just wants an exciting mystery.
I am hoping to read around the same amount for November as I now really enjoy reading on my bus journeys to university and work and occasionally in the evening to relax.