‘Animal Farm’ – Book of the week

As a bit of a history buff George Orwell’s classic ‘Animal Farm’ really struck a chord in me. Not only is it a stand alone fantastically gripping tale, but it also tells the story of one of the most famous political events in history: the Russian Revolution. There is a great three-part documentary series on the history of Russia if anyone is interested called ‘Empire of the Tsars: Romanov Russia with Lucy Worsley’. Orwell is mainly known for his classic ‘1984’ which spookily accurately predicts a future where the government is spying on us (and all our emails). However, ‘Animal Farm’ is equally as celebrated for its clever use of a fable to tell one of the most convoluted and bloody political events in history.

Plot:

The prize boar at Manor Farm, Old Major, has an epiphany one night. He gathers the other animals to discuss how man is the only creature which does not produce anything, he only takes. He tells them that the only thing between the animals and a free and righteous life is to overthrow the humans and take the farm for themselves.

One night the farm animals drive Farmer Jones out. They rename Manor Farm ‘Animal Farm’, and lay down the laws of animalism, which has seven basic rules:

  1. whatever goes upon 2 legs is an enemy
  2. what ever goes upon 4 legs, or has wings, is a friend
  3. no animal shall wear clothes
  4. no animal shall sleep in a bed
  5. no animal shall drink alcohol
  6. no animal shall kill any other animal
  7. all animals are equal

Two pigs named Napoleon and Snowball start ruling the farm. One day, the humans attempt to take back the farm, but the pigs lead the other animals into battle and chase away the humans.

Napoleon and Snowball argue over whether or not to build a windmill. Napoleon sees it as a waste of resources and time, but Snowball believes it will be a benefit in the long run. When the other animals start siding with Snowball, Napoleon gets angry and chases him off the farm. Another pig called Squealer tells the animals that Snowball was nothing but a traitor, and that is why he is no longer allowed at the Animal Farm.

Napoleon changes his mind and realises that perhaps a windmill is a good idea. He gets the other animal to slave away building it. The pigs realise they need human tools to build the windmill, and so make a deal with the humans to do some trading so they get what they need.

Overtime, the seven rules laid out originally seem to change. Little by little at first, but eventually they are unrecognisable from the start. Only one rule appears to remain, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.

Eventually the pigs get so crooked that they almost appear to be human. They walk on two legs, drink, wear clothes, sleep in beds and are in cahoots with the humans.

Quotes:

“Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers”

“Man is the only creature that consumes without producing”

“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and man from pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which”

Review:

‘Animal Farm’ is a fable for the Russian Revolution. The Old Major is a mixture of Lenin and Karl Marx, Napoleon is Stalin and Snowball is Trotsky. The Old Major’s initial rules for Animal Farm come from a good place and look to empower the oppressed, which reflects how communism was originally meant to help poorer people (proletariat) become more equal to the rich (bourgeoisie). Lenin wished to overthrow the oppressive and murderous Tsar and replace his ruling with a socialist government, much as Old Major looked to overthrow the farmers who did nothing but take. Napoleon represents Stalin, someone who allowed power to corrupt him and the ideology of communism. Napoleon was given an inch and so took a yard. He gave himself and the other pigs priority over the animals and made exceptions and bent the rules for them. Stalin went so far in his oppressive reign that he no longer ruled by respect but now with a whip, and the Russians could not tell the difference between him and the Tsars. This book is so short and simply written, but the key message of it is still heard loud and clear. The use of the farm and the animals makes the story easier to understand and access as a reader who is unfamiliar with Soviet history. The political rivalry and tension is felt, and the transformation from Utopian communist society back into distopian fascist society is clear and present. No wonder this book is considered a classic, and it will only take perhaps a day or even an afternoon to read so I recommend it to anyone who is a fan of ‘1984’ or is a history buff like me.

Thank you for reading my summary and review, I hope you enjoyed! Let me know in the comments what you think and if you have any book requests you would like me to cover!

Lots of love, Evie x

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‘Of Mice and Men’ – Book of the week

Note: Apologies for not writing anything at all last week. Work has gotten very busy and on top of that I am feeling a little fluish. I have gathered the energy to write my weekly book review, and promise that regular weekly posts will now continue. During my absence I have also come up with some more article ideas and recipes, so subscribe if you haven’t already to get immediate updates when I post!

‘Of Mice and Men’ is a GCSE classic, and it is easy to see why. A simple yet well written piece with a gripping plot, even teenagers will enjoy it. I never studied it at school myself, yet I envied my friends who did as their text seemed a great deal more fun than what I was made to study. I only read this book recently as it was on my list of “book to read before I die” and I have to say it did not disappoint. The shocking twist at the end was spoilt for me by a friend, however I still enjoyed the build up to it.

Plot:

The story follows the lives of two farm-workers: a skinny man named George, and a great large (yet mentally challenged) man named Lennie. Lennie is kind-hearted and has a passion for animals, yet he is so big and strong that he squishes and accidentally kills them when petting them.

George and Lennie arrive at their new jobs tending to a farm. George tells Lennie that once they have worked hard and saved enough money they will buy their own farm. He tells Lennie he can have as many rabbits as he wants living on the farm.

They meet their boss’ son, Curly, and his wife. Curly makes fun of Lennie being simple-minded. George warns Lennie to stay out of Curly’s way.

Lennie and George discuss their future plans to buy a farm. An elderly farm-hand, Candy, overhears them and offers to give them some money if he is allowed to live on their farm, too. Lennie and George are over the moon as this means they only have to work for a month now to save up the amount of money they need to buy the new farm.

Curly’s wife finds Lennie alone and starts flirting with him. It is established that she is not the most loyal of wives. She teases Lennie to play with her hair. He gets excited and grabs on to it hard. She screams in agony which freaks Lennie out and he accidentally breaks her neck and kills her. Lennie realises what he does and runs away. Curly finds his wife dead and gets his friends together to hunt Lennie down and make him pay for what he has done.

George finds Lennie by the stream and is told of what he has done. Lennie asks George to talk about their farm and rabbits to calm him down. George promises Lennie that he will never have to work hard again and he can just spend his life petting all the animals he wants. As George is promising Lennie all this, he shoots Lennie in the back of the head.

Quotes:

“I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s
why.”

“As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.”

“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”

Review:

‘Of Mice and Men’ sheds a harsh light on the American Dream and exposes it for what is really is: nothing more than a dream. The nature of capitalism has it so that no matter how hard they work the poor get poorer while the rich get richer. Curly was a bad man, yet he got to own the farm and boss around George and Lennie while not ever doing any real labour himself. George and Lennie were never going to get that rabbit farm, and it is clear throughout the novel that George understands that truth. Lennie was not built for the harsh realities of the world, and George knew that the accidental killing of Curly’s wife would mean Lennie would be imprisoned which would push him even further away from his dream. George killing Lennie while discussing the rabbit farm was done out of kindness, as now Lennie would never have to live in a world where that was never a reality. Lennie is now preserved in the version of the world where the rabbit farm was just a few weeks away. This novel reflects the theme of capitalism explored in ‘Death of a Salesman’ (link to my review: https://evierichards.blog/2018/07/27/death-of-a-salesman-book-of-the-week/ ) where Willy had to die in order to be free of the harsh reality of the American Dream. Although a sad book, ‘Of Mice and Men’ is definitely one to read. It is short and powerful, and I refuse to believe there is ever anyone who walks away from it with a dry eye.

 

Thank you for reading. Let me know if you have any questions or comments below, and do you have any texts you would like me to review?

Love from Evie x

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‘Metamorphosis’- Book of the week

“When Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed into a monstrous cockroach in his bed.”

The opening line more or less sums up this short story from Franz Kafka; bizarre. I spent my entire first reading of ‘Metamorphosis’ trying to find the meaning of it all. What is the significance of turning into an insect? Why is he a giant cockroach, rather than a regular sized one? What does this all allude to or represent? I will try to unravel the mystery of this short story in my review.

Plot:

Gregor Samsa awakes one morning to find that he has turned into a gigantic insect. He tries to roll out of bed but realises that his new body will not allow him to do this. He reflects on how miserable his life is as a travelling salesman and how he would quit if only his parents and sister did not rely on him for money. He looks at the clock and is worried as he is late for work.

His mother calls him him and he tries to reply, but his voice is nothing more than an insect screech. On the other side of his bedroom door his manager tells Gregor that he is not happy that Gregor is late to work, and that he needs to work harder. Gregor tries to protest but the manager can not understand him. Gregor opens the door to talk to the manager but upon seeing this giant gross insect the manager runs away. Gregor’s dad shoos Gregor back into his room with a newspaper, and is seemingly unphased by Gregor turning into a cockroach.

Gregor spends his life living under a sofa. His sister, Grete, feeds him rotting food which he happily eats as a cockroach. He listens in to his family discussing how bad their financial situation is now that Gregor is a cockroach and can not provide for them, and he feels guilty.

Gregor’s mother sees him for the first time climbing the walls and passes out. Gregor’s dad returns home from his new job and mistakes Gregor for attacking his mother and throws an apple at him. Gregor scatters back into his bedroom.

Gregor’s family slowly falls into poverty. They have to fire their maid and hire a cheap cleaning lady. They take on three boarders in order to have some extra income. However, one day the boarders spot Gregor and are disgusted. They move out because of the poor conditions of the house. Grete tells her father that they have to get rid of Gregor or they will continue to lose money. Gregor’s father agrees and said he wishes that Gregor could understand them and move out of his own accord. Gregor does understand, and decides to die as it would be the best thing for his family.

When Gregor’s family finds his body they feel relieved. The cleaning lady throws him out. The family manage to gain some money and Gregor’s parents try to find Grete a husband.

Quotes:

“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.”

“You are at once the quiet and the confusion in my heart.”

“I can love only what I can place so high above me that I can not reach it.”

“I usually solve my problems by letting them devour me.”

Review:

Have you ever heard of the term ‘Kafkaesque’? Kafka’s writing had such a strong theme and style that a new term was developed for it. Kafkaesque describes an overly complicated and frustrating experiences. Kafka used to be an insurance broker, and the complex excessive administration and bureaucracy involved inspired his most famous works such as ‘The Trial’ (leave a comment below if you would like a review of that) and ‘Metamorphosis’. ‘Metamorphosis’ can be considered a Greek myth, but for the modern industrious age. When Gregor Samsa awakes to find himself an insect rather than a human, he is more concerned about being late for work than his life-changing transformation. Gregor spent his entire life working hard for his family to provide for them, with little thanks. So, when Gregor becomes unable to work due to his condition, thy turn on him. They do not provide for him the way he provided for them, and eventually try to get rid of him. Working hard with little thanks and love made him less and less human, until he was little more than a small bug to both his boss and his family. It is possible that Gregor’s transformation could be a metaphor. He did not turn into a bug, rather he had been s**t on his entire life made him suddenly mentally unable to work. Suddenly he cannot get out of bed, he cannot communicate and he cannot work. Without being able to work he is useless to his boss and his family, and so they value him better dead than alive.

 

Thank you for reading this review! I hope it cleared up this absurd book for you. If you would like me to review ‘The Trial’ (or any other book) please let me know in the comments below.

Love from Evie x

‘Wuthering Heights’ – Book of the week

Heathcliff, it’s me, Cathyyy…

‘Wuthering Heights’ was one of the first novels I ever studied at A-Level, and it really did consolidate my thoughts on doing English at university. As you can tell from the cover picture, it is a well-read and well-loved book of mine. The story is close to my heart, and I recommend it for anyone who loves a compelling romance with a deep dark mystery involved. There is no wonder Kate Bush released a song about it as the story’s haunting presence is very on-brand.

Plot:

The story opens with a narrative from Lockwood after the events of the main story. He meets his brooding and enigmatic landlord, Heathcliff. Heathcliff’s mysterious persona drives Lockwood to ask his maid, Nelly, about his life story. The rest of the story is told through Nelly’s narrative.

The previous owner to Wuthering Heights, Mr Earnshaw, was a rich businessman. He found Heathcliff as a boy on the streets and pitied him, and so took him back to Wuthering Heights. Mr Earnshaw’s children Catherine and Hindley can’t stand Heathcliff at first as he looks weird (most likely is foreign) and barely speaks any english. But, after time, Catherine begins to fall in love with Heathcliff. Hindley still can’t stand Heathcliff.

When Mr Earnshaw dies, Hindley takes over Wuthering Heights and immediately dominates him. Hindley makes Heathcliff do manual labour all day, and works him like a slave.

Catherine’s eye is caught by her neighbour, Edgar, who quickly falls for her. Catherine realises she would have a more stable life with Edgar as he is very wealthy and Heathcliff doesn’t have a penny to his name, and so marries Edgar even though she does not love him. This angers Heathcliff and he runs away.

Heathcliff returns years later with lots of money, and wants to get revenge on Hindley, Catherine and Edgar. Heathcliff tricks Hindley into selling him Wuthering Heights, and Heathcliff treats Hindley like a slave just as Hindley did to him many years ago. Heathcliff then marries Edgar’s sister, Isabella, just to get back at Edgar and Catherine. Catherine dies in childbirth giving birth to baby Cathy, and at the same time Isabella gives birth to Heathcliff’s son Linton.

Years later, Cathy and Linton begin to fall in love. Heathcliff forces the two to marry. Linton is a sickly man, and dies just after the wedding. Heathcliff keeps young Cathy under lock and key at Wuthering Heights.

During Heathcliff’s later years, the ghost of Catherine haunts Heathcliff every night. Like the song says, “Too long I roam in the night, I’m coming back to his side, to put it right”. Every night she comes to his window to confess her love for him and to apologise for running off with Edgar. This constant haunting and heartbreak is too much for Heathcliff to bare, and he commits suicide.

Quotes:

“Whatever souls are made of, his and mine are the same”

“Be with me always, take any form, drive me mad! Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!”

“She burned too bright for this world”

“How cruel, you veins are full of ice-water and mine are boiling”

Review:

As you may be able to tell from a few quotes I have picked out, the core of ‘Wuthering Heights’ is an intense love story. Bronte does not shy away from exploring the idea of soulmates, and what exactly it means to be separated from each other and die of heartbreak. Despite the story being told in a framed narrative and so never hearing about their love from the source, their emotions are still able to be presented as raw and passionate. Many have critiqued Catherine for not truly loving Heathcliff as she married Edgar instead, however this opinion only comes with totally missing the point of the novel. Catherine had no choice as an orphaned woman at the time and needed financial stability or she would stand no chance. The fact that Catherine’s ghost is unable to move along and visits Heathcliff every night to apologise and confess her love for him reveals how much she regrets her decision. Heathcliff feels the same and commits suicide as he would rather be dead than be without Catherine. I very much recommend this novel for someone who is interested in reading a heartbreaking tale of pure love and pure sorrow. The intensity of the novel and the beautiful landscape and writing style make it easy to see why this novel is regarded as a classic.

‘Death of a Salesman’ – Book of the week

“Wait a second, Evie,” I hear you cry, “this is not a book, it’s a play!” Yes reader, it is. However, I thought perhaps instead of sticking only to prose I can branch out into plays and poems to mix it up a bit. ‘Death of a Salesman’ was on my mind as the book to review this week as it is set in the same time period of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (last weeks BOTW), the Great Depression. This 1920s economic Depression plays a large role in the play. Lets jump right in!

Plot:

Willy Lowman return early from work as a Salesman after crashing his car again. He realises that he probably should not be driving anymore. Linda, his wife, suggests that Willy should ask his boss for a local job as he can no longer work as a travelling salesman.

We learn about Willy and Linda’s two grown sons, Biff and Happy. Biff is a farmhand, and Willy thinks Biff purposefully is working a bad job to spite him. He thinks Biff should have been a salesman, too.

Linda opens up to her sons that Willy is struggling financially as he is a bad salesman. He has attempted suicide a few times and is starting to suffer from hyper-realistic flashbacks. Linda blames Biff for Willy’s depression as Biff was never as successful as he should have been. Willy joins the conversation and argues with Biff. Happy interjects and tells Willy that Biff has a job interview in the morning to be a salesman, this makes Willy and Linda very happy.

The next day goes very badly. Instead of being able to get a local job as a salesman, Willy gets fired by his boss. Biff’s interview did not go well either. He panics and steals his interviewer’s pen, and then runs away. Biff tries to explain to his father in a restaurant as to what happened, but Willy is delusional and refuses to believe that Biff did not get the job. It is here that the audience sees a flashback of Biff catching Willy cheating on his wife with another woman. This is why Biff did not want to become a salesman, because he lost respect for his father.

Willy reflects on himself and Biff being “failures”, and so he decides that the only way to make his family’s lives better is to commit suicide so that they can claim life insurance money. Willy gets into is car and a loud crash is heard.

At the funeral Biff realises that he wants to be a better man than his father and strives to get a good job. Happy wants to be just like his father. Linda is sobbing as the life insurance money was enough to pay off the mortgage that had loomed over the family throughout the play, and she says “I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there’ll be nobody home. We’re free. We’re free… we’re free…”

Quotes:

“Why am I trying to become what I don’t want to be… when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am”

“Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.”

“After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.”

Review:

‘Death of a Salesman’ is often viewed as semi-autobiographical, and this is clear when you watch it from the raw emotion in the play. Feelings such as failure, guilt and entrapment are explored throughout the story. Like real life, there is no real clear solution for these problems. Willy represents every working father in the 20th Century, feeling the pressures of providing for a family. When he is fired from his job, Willy deems himself as worth more dead than alive (because of his life insurance) and commits the ultimate sacrifice in order to keep his family afloat. The credit crunch last decade would have made this text even more relevant to some families. Miller is exploring the impact of capitalism and what happens if it goes wrong for the average family. How money and status can deeply impact a family relationship, and drive people to do crazy things to protect the people they love. Biff represents a rejection of capitalist ideologies. He is seen as a “failure” by others, as the system is not designed for people to simply not follow it. Happy is called ‘Happy’ as he is, you guessed it, happy as things are. He has accepted and embraced the capitalist system, and hopes to one day be like his father. He has not yet felt the pressures of capitalist society, and refuses to acknowledge his father’s suffering, and so is ready to jump head first into the workforce. Linda is a representation of 20th Century women, unable to get a decent payroll and has to watch helplessly as her sons and husband struggle to put bread on the table. She can see how the Depression is damaging her husband’s mental health, but all she can do is ignore it. Linda is probably well aware of her husband’s cheating in the old days, but remains in her role as the timid housewife and keeps it to herself. This is not a play for the faint-hearted, but is fantastic if you have an interest in raw human emotion and the role finance plays on family life.

‘To Kill a Mocking-bird’- book of the week

‘To Kill a Mocking-bird’ was the first book that I had ever read which was not written in the 21st Century, and ignited my passion for classic literature. I would have only been 13 years old, and so was closer to the ages of the main characters in the book. Although the plot surrounds children, it is by no means a child’s book. Issues such as race, rape and mental illness are explored in this novel, but through the ever-curious eyes of a little girl. I think this is what makes the novel so compelling and unique, and certainly worth a read.

Plot:

This novel is set in Alabama during the Great Depression. It follows two years of the lives of Scout, a six-year-old girl, her older brother Jem and her lawyer father Atticus. Scout and Jem befriend a boy called Dill and they play together during the summer. Dill is new to the area, and becomes fascinated by a spooky house at the end of the road called Radley Place. It is owned by Nathan Radley, and his brother Arthur (the kids call him Boo as they think he is scary) resides there and never leaves.

The kids return to the house one day and realise some gifts have been left for them in the tree outside. Scout, Jem and Dill make up a story about Boo Radley and imagine him as a terrifying old creepy man who hates children. Atticus tells the children off for being so mean about a man they have never met, and urges them to try and see it from Boo’s perspective. The children do not listen as they are too young to understand what it means to hurt someone’s feelings. On the last day of summer they break onto the Radley property, only to be shot at and chased away by Nathan.

Atticus teaches his children to shoot a gun. He tells them that they can shoot any bird except a Mocking-bird as they do not dig up gardens or bother anyone. It is a metaphor for not attacking or killing a vulnerable or oppressed person because they have not done anything wrong.

That winter, Jem and Scout find more gifts left by Boo in the tree, but they still do not trust him. That night, there is a fire at one of the houses on the road and Jem and Scout have to leave their warm house and go into the cold to safety. As they watch the fire, Boo sneaks up behind them and puts a blanket around their shoulders to keep them warm.

Atticus is a Lawyer and acts as defence for a black man named Tom who has been accused of raping a white woman. Because of how racist Alabama was, Jem and Scout get bullied at school because their dad likes helping Black people. The black community welcomes Scout, Jem and Atticus with open arms and even invite them to their church. One night, a mob comes to Tom’s door to lynch him. Atticus and the children guard the door and do not let them in.

At the trial, Atticus gives clear evidence that the prosecutors (Mayella and her father Bob) have framed Tom out of shame. Yet, despite the hard evidence proving Tom innocent, the all-white jury find him guilty. Tom panics and runs away, only to get shot dead. Bob feels as if he has been made a fool infront of the town and swears vengeance. That Halloween, he attacks Jem and Scout with a knife. They are saved by Boo Radley, who kills Bob with his own knife. Atticus wants to tell the town about how Boo is a good man and is a hero and saved his children, however Scout stops her father and explains to him that Boo would not be able to deal with the attention and it would drive him crazy. By making Boo Radley a hero is to kill a Mocking-bird. Atticus smiles as he know the lesson he hoped to teach his children has been learned.

 

Quotes:

“People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.”

“Atticus, he was really nice.” “Most people are, Scout, when you finally see them.”

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”

Review:

If you have not read this book then I urge you to go do so now. The character arch we see in Scout is so compelling- to see her change from a naive young girl to an understanding and compassionate person is fantastic. This novel opens a compelling discussion surrounding how we treat people based on our perceptions of them. Scout and Jem for example are afraid of Boo from stories they have been told, and yet they slowly learn that he is a kind man who simply has some social difficulties. The relationship between Boo and the children act as a metaphor for the race issues America was facing at the time. White people would make assumptions about Black people and so took away their voice, and it was only when Black people campaigned for their rights and showed White people how they were wrong did White people realise that Black people are humans too. Scout is a child and can understand this concept, so why can the adults in the novel not see this? This is a question that arises again and again throughout the novel and is a theme that can sadly still been seen today. The relevance to now is what makes this book not only interesting to read, but important.

Let me know down below if there is anything you want to add or if there are any books you want me to summarise and analyse!

Love from Evie x

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ – Book of the week

Oscar Wilde is one of my all-time favourite writers and people. His sassy one-liners and subversion of hetero-normality suggests that he was a highly intelligent man. Despite suffering through a dark and difficult life as a gay man in Victorian England, he was able to inject such life and comedy into the world. ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ was the first novel of his that I ever read, and there is a reason that it is a classic.

Plot:

Dorian Gray is an absolutely beautiful man, and so to immortalise his beauty he commissions Basil to paint him a portrait. Basil is encapsulated not only by Gray’s looks, but also his intelligence and charm. It is suggested that Basil develops perhaps a crush on Gray.

Lord Henry, Basil’s witty friend, sees Basil’s painting and describes it as a masterpiece. Gray also loves the painting as it perfectly captured his beauty. However, when Henry goes on about how beauty is meaningless as it does eventually fade, Gray tosses the painting into the attic as he is worried it will remind him one day when he is old and wrinkled of how beautiful he used to be. In anger, Gray pledges his soul if only the painting could bear the burden of age, allowing him to stay forever young.

Gray at this time is in love with an actress named Sibyl Vane. She realises how much she loves Gray and gives up acting as she believes she can no longer pretend to be in love now that she has actually experienced it with Gray. However, Gray loved Sibyl because of her acting, and so breaks up with her in a horrible way. He finds out later that after this, Sibyl kills herself. Gray sees his portrait again and notices that it now sneers.

Lord Henry influences Gray to live a life of sin and corruption. He seeks pleasures with no regard of morals nor consequences. His reputation gets worse and worse as a sleaze bag. Eighteen years pass of this sinful life, and Gray stays young and beautiful. Basil confronts Gray about his bad reputation, and Gray simply shows Basil the portrait. It is now ugly and hideous. Basil begs Gray to repent and try to fix his reputation, but this only angers Gray and he kills Basil.

Gray realises what he has done and blames the portrait. He stabs it. When his servants enter the room they find an unharmed portrait of Dorian Gray looking young and beautiful, and a wrinkly old man lying next to it with a knife in his heart.

Quotes:

“Some things are more precious because they don’t last long”

“To define is to limit”

“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing”

“Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing”

Review:

This novel is of particular importance as it was used in a trial as evidence that Oscar Wilde was homosexual. There is certainly a homoerotic undertone, especially in regards to Basil’s feelings towards Gray, however Wilde was talented enough to include this subtly so that the novel was eventually disregarded as evidence.

‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ is a fantastic story surrounding morality and beauty. Wilde was amongst one of the first in the movement of Aestheticism, which challenged the traditional Victorian views of sexuality, politics and art. A novel with a running subplot of an artist being obsessed with the beauty of another man is the epitome of an Aesthetic novel. Not only are hetero-normative romantic relationships being challenged and subverted, but also art is being used as the means to do so (both the physical medium of the the novel that the story is being told to us by, but also the painting). It is subversive art withing subversive art. Not only is the plot interesting and though-provoking, but the implications behind the story are huge. This is what makes reading this particular novel so thrilling as it is a part of something much bigger. I really do hope that you, reader, will find time to give this novel a go. You will not be disappointing.

Love from Evie x

‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ – book of the week

This book is a stray away from my regular reviews as it is a lot more modern rather than a traditional classic (however, I do believe that this novel is a classic in its own right). Futhermore, this novel is not one of love nor marriage, but one of murder and confusion. This book is written in epistolary form from the perspective of Eva, the mother of a school shooter.

Plot

The plot of ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ (known hereforwards as WNTTAK) is complicated and fragmented, possibly reflecting the mind of Eva as she learns to cope with what her son has done.

It begins after the murders, and we learn that the recipient of the letters (Eva’s husband Franklin) was killed by Kevin. Eva talks Franklin through her side of life. Eva never felt love for Kevin when he was born, and first realised they would never have a good relationship from the moment he refused to nurse from her. As Kevin gets older he pulls Eva’s hair, squirts her and her belongings with grape juice. Eva thinks there is something dark in Kevin, but Franklin does not see it. She feels isolated.

Kevin wears a nappy until he is 6, and Eva is convinced he does actually know how to use a toilet, but he is purposefully using the nappy as he gets a kick out of watching her have to clean him.

One day, Kevin wrecks his mum’s study. She gets mad and throws him across the room, where he breaks his arm. Eva is worried she will get in trouble, but to her surprise Kevin covers for her. However, this is not a turning point in their relationship, as Kevin keeps getting worse as he gets older. He gets in with the wrong crowd, exposes himself sexually to Eva, and even accuses a teacher as to sexually assaulting him (they didn’t). Franklin still does not see that Kevin is bad.

Eva decides to have a little girl, and she loves her with all of her heart. Celia is beautiful, sweet, and actually loves her mother. However, one day when Kevin is supposed to be watching Celia she has an unfortunate “accident” and loses an eyeball. Eva is unsure about whether or not this is really an accident, but Franklin brushes away her uneasiness and says she is just trying to look for fault.

Finally, we arrive at the day of the murder. Kevin is 16 and shot 9 of his classmates and teachers, and also Franklin and Celia. Kevin has been given a reduced sentence as he is a child, but will be transferred to regular prison when he is an adult.

Skip forward two years, and Eva is visiting Kevin. He admits to Eva that he is scared about going to regular prison, and that he is unsure of why he killed everyone. Eva decides to stop trying to reason Kevin’s attack to help her cope, and rather to love him. She prepares his bedroom for him for when he finally comes back home.

Quotes:

“It’s far less important to me to be liked these days than to be understood.”

“I thought at the time that I couldn’t be horrified anymore, or wounded. I suppose that’s a common conceit, that you’ve already been so damaged that damage itself, in its totality, makes you safe.”

“You can call it innocence, or you can call it gullibility, but Celia made the most common mistake of the good-hearted: she assumed that everyone else was just like her.”

Review:

If you haven’t read this book then I am unsure of how much justice my little summary has given it. This 416-page novel is full of so many twists and turns. Written around the time of the Columbine shooting, one that absolutely rocked the world, this material gave a whole new perspective to the horrors of school shootings. After these instances, people would always claim “it was the parents fault”, and Shriver offers a chilling perspective that greys this argument. Did Eva treat Kevin like a psychopathic killer because he was one, or did Kevin become a psychopathic killer because he was treated like one? Shriver puts a spin on the nature vs nurture debate, and the answer is never solidly concluded throughout the novel. Absolutely give this novel a read if you can, or at least watch the fantastic film with the same title (it is very true to the novel, and Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller do the main characters justice). I would also recommend watching a TedTalk by Dylan Klebold’s mother (one of the Columbine shooters, and inspiration for this novel). She gives a very real look at what it is like to live with the knowledge that your son is a mass murderer, and whether or not you can really see the signs. I will link the video below:

 

Comment below what you guys thought of this novel or review, and let me know if there are any books you want me to look at in the future!

Love from Evie x

‘Frankenstein’ – book of the week

I did an essay on Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ recently as one of my end of year assessments for uni (which I got a first in) and so I do feel like a bit of a pro on it now. However, books for me tend to get ruined if I over-study them, so hopefully as I am writing this I do not get flashbacks of me end of year panic writing fest. This truly is an interesting story, and I hope after reading the plot and some quotes you will see just how far the cinematic reimagining of ‘Frankenstein’ is from the original.

plot:

‘Frankenstein’ begins on a boat in the Atlantic and is told through the first-person episolory narrative of Walton, who writes this story to his sister. He describes meeting a strange man called Victor Frankenstein, who takes over the narrative (now a framed narrative) and tells us about how he was always obsessed with science and reanimation. He tells us about how he reanimated a body (made out of various corpses), however he feared what he hadn’t created and fled. The monster escapes and roams the country, while Victor hides in a tavern. Victor comes home to find that his little brother has been murdered by strangulation, and his housekeeper Justine is framed for the murder. Victor knows it was his creation that killed William, yet he keeps quiet because he is worried about everyone finding out what he has done and Justine is executed for the crime she did not commit.

The creature and Victor cross paths, and the creature tells Victor about how he understands language as he spied on a family for months. When the creature goes to make friends with this family, he is chased away as he is scary looking. He recounts a few other occasions which highlight how rejected the creature feels by society. He demands that Victor “make me a mate of my own” so that he can go live with her in South America. Victor agrees, yet changes his mind halfway and tears her apart and throws her away. He’s worried that they will make creature babies. The creature is upset by this and swears he will get his revenge.

Victor gets married to his life-long sweetheart Elizabeth. However, on their wedding night, Victor finds her strangled in her bed. Victor gets so angry at the creature that he chases him around Europe and Russia, and finally to the Arctic where he meets Walton and the story begins.

Victor is on his death bed now, and Walton is taking care of him. The creature comes in and briefly tells Walton his side of the story. Victor dies, and the creature disappears.

 

Quotes:

“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful”

”Live, and be happy, and make others so”

”if I can not inspire love then I will cause fear!”

”Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it“

Review:

‘Frankenstein’ is more than just a horror story. It’s a story of love, society and morality. Note that throughout the plot explanation, I tried to keep away from using the term “monster” to describe the creature. To reduce the creature to just a “monster” or a villain to be feared would be to completely overlook the tormented soul and complexities that lie beneath the scary surface. The creature and Victor are often seen as reflections of one another. They have a complicated relationship with science and religion (note, John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’ is alluded to throughout the novel), both attempt reanimation and both have their lover taken away by the hands of the other. I would be foolish to talk about Shelley without noting her feminist activist mother, Mary Wollstonecraft. Although Mary never knew her mother, feminist issues can be seen between the lines of her novel, suggesting Mary was at least partially influenced by her iconic mother. ‘Frankenstein’ is the story of man when they remove women from important issues (At the time the women would have been campaigning for suffrage, but in this example Shelley uses reproduction). Man creates a scary and disgusting creature, which wreaks havoc and murder. And why does Victor refuse to make a female creature? He is scared of reproduction.

And now I leave you with the age old question: who is the monster, the creature or his creator?

‘Jane Eyre’ – Book of the week

Reader, I married him.

Plot:

Jane starts off in this book as a young orphan child, a is lives with her cruel aunt and cousins. Jane defends herself against her cousin who bullies and attacks her, and for punishment she is locked in the Red-Room where her uncle died. She sees her uncle’s ghost, screams and faints. She is sent away to boarding school.

Jane’s time at her school starts off bad. Her only friend dies, and her headteacher is cruel and steals funds from the school. However, after the school comes under new ownership, Jane’s time is a lot better. After graduating from school, Jane trains and becomes a teacher for two years.

Jane accepts the job as a governess at Thornfield for a girl called Adele. Her employer is a dark, brooding man called Mr Rochester. They are opposite characters, and cannot see eye to eye on anything (so naturally, they fall in love). Jane saves Mr Rochester from a fire, and from that their love grows stronger. Rochester proposes to Jane, who accepts.

On the day of the wedding, it is discovered that Rochester already has a wife. Her name is Bertha, and she is kept locked up in Rochester’s attic as she is crazy. The wedding party witness Bertha scurrying around on all fours like an animal. Bertha was the cause of the fire as she wanted to kill Rochester for locking her up. Upon hearing this, Jane flees Thornfield.

Jane comes across three siblings who invite her to live with them called Mary, Diana and St.John. It turns out that these siblings are her cousins, and she has been left a large fortune from their late father (her uncle John Eyre).

One night, Rochester comes to Jane in a dream and calls out for her. She knows that she must go to him as he is in danger. Jane gets back to Thornfield to find that Thornfield had been burnt down by Bertha, who had died in the fire. Jane saves Rochester however he loses his eyesight and a hand. He proposes to her and they get married.

After two years of blindness, Rochester regains his sight and is able to see their first-born son.

 

Quotes:

“I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”

“Your will shall decide your destiny.”

“All my heart is yours, sir. It belongs to you: and with you it would remain, were fate to exile the rest of me from your presence forever.”

Review:

‘Jane Eyre’ is a buildungsroman semi-autobiograhy of Charlotte Bronte herself. The Bronte sisters have always been a favourite of mine, and ‘Jane Eyre’ was the first that I had ever read. The doubling between Jane and Bertha is intriguing and a strong theme throughout the novel. While Jane has to act prim and proper, repress her emotions and be a lady. Whereas Bertha represents a total rejection of the societal expectations enforced onto women. While Jane is spoken down to and not believed, Bertha is feared. When Bertha takes Jane’s veil and “rent it in two parts”, it alludes to how Bertha and Jane both would be married to Rochester. This mirror theme can be seen throughout the novel, and helps give it a dark enough tint to keep it interesting. ‘Jane Eyre’ has a bad stick for being a chickflick, however it is so much more than that. There are comedy elements, supernatural, female empowerment, drama and mystery and so there is something there for everyone.