‘Enduring Love’ – Book of the Week

First of all, I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Joyous Kwanzaa/Happy Holidays! Terribly sorry that I didn’t write for a while. I had a lot of essays to complete (including on this novel) however I could not write about it until after I submitted my essay in case I was accused of self-plagiarising! Anyways, I have a lot of posts lined up to make up for my absence!

The reason I focused my essay on ‘Enduring Love’ by Ian McEwan is because it asks more questions than it answers. While our narrator is telling us about how everyone is crazy and obsessive, we as a reader are left to wonder whether it was actually our narrator who was the mad one?

The main concept of the story is that Joe and Clarissa are having a picnic in a field when they notice a hot air balloon carrying a small child goes out of control. Joe and four strangers rush forwards to hold onto the balloon and save the boy. The balloon gets whisked into the air and four of the men drop off, yet a man called John Logan lets go too late and falls to his death. Joe is unable to rationalise the events that happened. One of the other attempted rescuers, named Jed, falls desperately in love with Joe despite them knowing one another. The rest of the text follows Joe making sense of the balloon event, and also trying to prove to Clarissa that Jed is obsessed with him.

McEwan drops so many clues within his twists and turns that cause the reader to doubt everything they read. Joe himself is proven untrustworthy as he contradicts himself and constantly lies to the police. What is going on here?  Is Jed really obsessed with Joe? Is Jed even real? Why does Clarissa not believe Joe for so long? I think you can really see that I enjoyed the uncertainty of this text.

The text also raises issues to do with philosophy, Science vs Religion, Game Theory, mental health and, as the title suggests, love. ‘Enduring Love’ could allude to Joe having to endure Jed’s love, which he does not want nor reciprocate. ‘Enduring Love’ could also suggest that Joe and Clarissa’s love has to endure the difficult events that take place in the book. McEwan plays with form; stream of consciousness, epistolary, various viewpoints and even an appendix with psychological case studies.

I very much recommend this novel to anyone looking for something that will really make them think. Although McEwan’s writing style is fairly simplistic and easy to follow, his actual content holds a great deal of ambiguity and forces the reader to truly think and fill in the narrative gaps. I love a book where I am forced to question not only everything I am told, but the actual narrative-voice itself. I would adore to hear what you thought in the comments down below!

Lots of love, Evie x

‘North and South’ – Book of the Week

Just a quick one!

‘North and South’ by Elizabeth Gaskell particularly caught my eye as its perception of the North/South divide (in England) is still a widely discussed subject to this day. The North/South divide is a common phrase used and is the topic of many comical commentaries of English Society. The people of the North in the novel, as stereotyped today as well, tend to be; friendlier, drink more, poorer and tougher. Southerners are typically seen as stern, rich, well-educated, feeble and that stereotype of British people that America is in love with (think Hugh Grant). Though of course applying character traits to certain groups of people simply because they were born in Chelsea or York is hugely unfair and inaccurate, they are strong stereotypes which have lasted the test of time due to the relevance of ‘North and South’.

This book explores ideas of capitalism and socialism, left-wing and right-wing, class issues and cultural identity. Gaskell throws her hat into the ring of old money vs new money. A rich Londoner Margaret travels to the North and learns to see the beauty in the simplicity of the working-classes. She meets a business owner, Thornton, whom she expresses her distaste in his lack of welfare. He points out to her that he “started from the bottom now we here” (Drake) and that if he can do it with no help or handouts then so can anyone. This idea of a self-made rags-to-riches story is key in our social and political discussions nowadays. Lord Sugar of the UK’s Apprentice came from humble beginnings and now is a self-made billionaire. However, the argument could be made that perhaps people need a little boost in life to get them to where they need to be. Let’s take Donald Trump of America’s Apprentice (oh, and POTUS). Trump was given from his father a “small loan of a million dollars” and now is estimated to be worth $3.1 billion.

For Gaskell to summarise the debate of welfare would be to ignore the masses of pros and cons on either side and to close the book on one of the ongoing issues of the political sphere. I feel Gaskell used her novel in order to explore ideas on both sides, and exposed her characters to the other’s perspective. Although Gaskell lands on a fairly pro-welfare note by having Thornton increase the wages and working conditions for his employees, she does not overlook the importance of rugged individualism and self reliance. These issues explored are rather relevant even today, and that is why I recommend this novel to anyone interested in exploring politics in a narrative form.

 

Lots of love, Evie x

‘The Time Machine’ – Book of the Week

“Oh wow, you are blessing us with a second ‘Book of the Week’?” I hear you praise. Yes reader, I feel I need to make up for my sporadic (and by that I mean pretty much not at all) posting recently. Plus, I just finished this book and wanted to share with you my thoughts.

Hollywood owes a great deal to H.G. Wells’s classic ‘The Time Machine’. It has been the inspiration of works such as ‘Doctor Who’, ‘Planet of the Apes’, and even ‘Men In Black III’. Wells was a pioneer of the concept of Time Travel and used his writing to bring it into the mainstream consciousness.

The story goes that an unnamed time traveller goes to the year 802,701 AD and discovers than humans are the shared ancestor to two new species: the Eloi and the Morlocks. The Eloi, the time traveller finds out, were the ruling classes. They are small, fair, beautiful, kind yet also very weak and stupid. The Murlocks were the working classes who now live underground. They are hairy and scary and speak only in grunts and screams. The time traveller spends his time with the Eloi as they look the most human and therefore he feels he can connect with them better. Yet, when he learns more about the Murlocks, he realises that he was unfair to judge them on their appearances as they are in fact closer to the humans the time traveller is used to. They may look like monsters, but they are intelligent and resourceful, and they are strongly family-orientated and hard-working. The time traveller then travels back to current day to tell his friends about his discoveries.

When I first picked up my copy of ‘The Time Machine’ I did not expect it to spark a deep conversation around class issues. A great deal of SciFi texts and films now are more focused on their special-effects, action scenes, and jamming in as many Pop-Culture references as possible instead of aiming to tackle bigger issues that society faces. In Britain today we do still have somewhat of a class structure, however nowadays it is more nuanced, less rigid and more allowing for social mobility. In 1895, when the text was published, ideas about welfare had only really been born. Before this time, the poor man was poor because he is lazy, or he is stupid, or he simply was not a good enough Christian. It was not because the nature of capitalism predisposes certain marginalised groups in society to be able to earn less money than others. Wells’s use of his notability in society to spread important messages regarding class certainly aided bringing the cause to the public’s attention and may have helped in the establishment of welfare and possibly even the free healthcare we benefit from in the UK. It is only a short book but it is packed full of so much whimsy and adventure, and I recommend it to anyone looking to liven up a rainy afternoon.

Let me know in the comments what you thought of this text, I would love to hear! Also, let me know in the comments below what book you would like me to cover next.

Lots of love from Evie x

‘The Psychopath Test’ – Book of the Week

I came across Jon Ronson about two years ago when I happened to click on a Ted Talk of his entitled ‘Strange answers to the psychopath test’. I have always had an interest in psychology, made stronger when I studied it at A-Level, and so in intrigued I clicked on it. Psychopathy, it turns out, is something I thought I knew more about than I did. It turns out that Psychopaths aren’t all violent serial killers or crazed sex offenders, and there is an estimated 1 in 100 (or 1 in 25 if you believe the psychologist in Shane Dawson’s latest YouTube series- which I highly recommend). They blend into society and could be you or me. In Ronson’s book, he explores the realm of psychopathy but also various other mental illnesses. He looks at the child psychology crisis; about how children are being diagnosed with ADHD and Austism at an alarming rate. He looks at anxiety and how on can not possibly be both a Psychopath and also suffer from GAD. Ronson talks to diagnosed psychopaths, psychologists, neurologists, journalists, sceptics and a variety of others to present a well-rounded exploration of the topic.

Now, you’re probably asking yourself, what is ‘The Psychopath Test’? Well, the name of the book is in reference to the Hare Psychopathy Test which is the formal test which is being currently used to define if people are Psychopaths or not. There are 20 items on the checklist, and with each item you will be awarded either 0, 1, or 2 points. At the end you count up the points and if you score 30 or above you are considered a Psychopath. Of course, this system carries many flaws (as Ronson explores) and should be carried out by a trained professional, but I will add the checklist below as I know you are dying to find out if you are a Psychopath:

  1. Glibness/ Superficial charm
  2. Grandiose sense of self-worth
  3. need for stimulation/ prone to boredom
  4. Pathological lying
  5. conning/ manipulative
  6. lack of remorse or guilt
  7. shallow affect
  8. callous/ lack of empathy
  9. parasitic lifestyle
  10. poor behavioural controls
  11. promiscuous sexual behaviour
  12. early behaviour problems
  13. lack of realistic, long-term goals
  14. impulsivity
  15. irresponsibility
  16. failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  17. many short-term marital relationships
  18. juvenile delinquency
  19. revocation of conditional release
  20. criminal verstility

I do absolutely recomend this book if you are as interested by Psychology as I am. It packs in so much information and knowledge, while also maintaining an investigative and engrossing style. Below I will add the original YouTube video I watched. This video has one of the many stories in the book in it, so if you find it intriguing then there is a lot more where that came from.

Let me know down below your score from the test! And also mention in the comments if there are any books you recommend.

Lots of love, Evie x

‘Pride and Prejudice’ – book of the week

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!”

 

’Pride and Prejudice’ (1813) is the absolutely iconic classic novel from the queen of romance herself, Jane Austen. With glamorous balls, family drama and Mr Darcy who could ask for more?

Plot:

It follows the story of Elizabeth Benett, the second eldest sister (out of 5). Her family are invited to a ball where they meet Mr Bingley, who becomes rather smitten with the eldest sister Jane, and his enigmatic and brooding friend Mr Darcy. Mr Darcy is rather a catch as he earns £10,000 a year and is a handsome batchelor! Yet, he is overheard telling his friend that he doesn’t fancy any of the Benett sisters.

Bingley invites Jane to his house, where Darcy is staying as a guest. However, Jane quickly falls ill and is too poorly to leave Bingley’s house for a while, so Elizabeth travels to go be with her sister. Elizabeth and Darcy spend some time together and although on the surface they appear to not be able to stand one another, there is some romantic tension building here.

When Elizabeth and Jane return home they are greeted by Mr Collins, a young clergyman, who proposes to Elizabeth. She declines, hurting his pride.

Some military men are in town, and Elizabeth’s eye is catch by Mr Wickham. He tells Elizabeth that Mr Darcy cheated him out of his inheritance by manipulating his father, and this causes Elizabeth to distrust Darcy even more, despite him being alluring to her.

At the beginning of winter, Bingley and Darcy leave Bingley’s mansion and go to London. A further shock arrives with the news that Mr. Collins has become engaged to Charlotte Lucas, Elizabeth’s best friend. Charlotte explains to Elizabeth that she is getting older and needs the match for financial reasons. Charlotte and Mr. Collins get married and Elizabeth promises to visit them at their new home.

Jane decides to visit Bingley in London as she misses him, but he does not turn up to visit her which upsets her.

Darcy and Elizabeth meet again and Darcy tells Elizabeth that the reason Bingley didn’t visit Jane was because Darcy told Bingley that Jane only wanted to be with him because of his money. Darcy then shockingly proposes to Elizabeth, which she quickly rejects and scolds Darcy for his actions.

Elizabeth receives a letter from Darcy apologising for meddling in Bingley and jane’s relationship and claims he only did so as he was looking out for his friend. He also explains that Elizabeth should be weary of Wickham as he eloped with Darcy’s sister when she was only 15 and took advantage of her. This causes Elizabeth to reevaluate her feelings towards Darcy, and she acts coldly towards Wickham.

The Bennett’s are shocked to find out that Elizabeth’s 15 year old sister, Lydia, has eloped with Wickham. Upon hearing the news, Darcy steps in and saves the day.

Bingley and Jane begin courting again and marry, and upon Darcy’s second proposal Elizabeth says yes. Everyone ends up married and happy.

Quotes:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (The iconic first line)

“Their eyes instantly met, and the cheeks of both were overspread with the deepest blush.” (This one makes me smile)

“What a delightful library you have at Pemberley, Mr Darcy!”

“It ought to be good,” he replied, “it has been the work of many generations” (I like this because he is not talking about the actual library taking generations to build, rather hundreds of years of literature and story telling)

“They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was to much to be thought, and felt, and said, to attention to any other objects”. (A classic lovely fairy-tale ending to the novel. Again, makes me smile)

Review:

I don’t know if you can tell, but I really love this book. I have read it about 3 times and I always get that fluttery happy feeling when I read about the quaint villages and the exciting character arc of Mr Darcy. It is the perfect book to cosy up to on a cold winters day around Christmas time with a cup of tea. There is a reason this is seen as a classic. The story is pleasant, with just the right amount of drama to keep it exciting. The Benett parents are the perfect injection of comedy into this world. Mr Darcy is the original Edward Cullen and Christian Grey: he’s dark, brooding and oh so intriguing to find out his secret. I think people are put off of reading old classic as perhaps the story will not be gripping or the language will be too complicated, however there is no need to worry about that in this book as it is an intriguing story and the language is easily-understandable and accessible. Austen actually received negative feedback when she published the book as it was seen as low-brow literature! You are immediately transported back into 19th century rural England. The text isn’t terribly long, and I absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for a feel-good classic novel!

Also, if you decide to watch it instead of reading, I 100% recommend the TV show starring Colin Firth. Not only is it the best adaptation as it actually uses a great deal of the dialogue from the book, but having it as a TV show rather than a film allows the story to take its time and not feel rushed. The slower pace fits the genre and time period better, and gives it a more book-feel.

Hope you enjoyed my first ever book review! Comment below what book you’d like me to do next.

Love from Evie x