The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #2

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #2

The Sunday Poet #2

This week’s poem comes from Identity Parade: New British & Irish Poets, which I bought for my course then slightly regretted when I could find all the material I needed on-line. However I haven’t even used it for studying yet and I’ve already fallen in love with it – great range and variety of poets included, and it is also a surprisingly purse-friendly size for an anthology! And that is important for someone who carries a tome of poetry at all times. Anyway this poem is a little bit of whimsy, because when don’t we need that?

PugNick Laird

i.

Bruiser, batface, baby bear,

bounce in your moon suit

of apricot fur with some fluff

in your mouth or a twig or a feather.

Emperors bored you.

You with the prize-winning ears,

who grew from a glove

to a moccasin slipper

and have taken to secrecy

recently, worming in

under the furniture.

To discover you here

Is to keep still and listen.

The settee begins wheezing.

                                                                          ii.

Hogarth loved the fact

that for your first half-year

you hardly differed from a rabbit.

When you’re over-excited

you tend to get hiccups.

You squeak when you yawn

and your tongue is unfurled

in a semi-circle, salmon-pink

on coastal rock, that trilobite

embedded in the slate

roof of your open mouth,

perfect for the mascot

of the House of Orange.

Your weapon of choice is the sneeze.

iii.

Above the winter garden

a hair-thin moon, reflecting.

You are as open as a haiku,

All karumi, hint and sigh.

The Buddha would’ve liked you.

Watch us from your separate dream

then pad across to clamber through

the plastic flap and plant your paws

four-square again on grass, like this.

Your hackles bristle and you ridge

your back and bark and bark and bark,

at shadows and the fence,

at everything behind the fence,

the cuttings and the railway foxes.

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I couldn’t resist including a picture of these cheeky critters! Thanks Google for providing me with hours of entertainment searching “pugs in costumes”!

The Sunday Post #2

What I’ve read…

And the rest…

This week actually involved another trip to Manchester Food and Drink Festival, to see a friend of ours and his band play. Naturally this involved another round of yummy food – this time from Viet Shack. I’ve been meaning to try their food for absolutely ages now, and it was well worth the wait! I plumped for lemongrass chicken, which was deliciously smoky, served over noodles and a lovely fresh carrot salad with chilli, mint and basil. For a naughty evening out I was impressed with how restrained I was food wise! This week also heralded the official start of my MA – with an induction meet and greet over all the English courses. It was really lovely to meet people before actually starting the course, and to also get a glimpse into what other people will be studying over the year. Next week the teaching starts properly and I am so so excited! How was everyone else’s week? What have you been reading?

Becqui

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Book Review: The Running Man – Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman)

The Running Man – Stephen King (Richard Bachman)

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The Running Man was first published in 1982 by Stephen King – but writing under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. I have to admit, this is only the second Stephen King novel I have read – the first was 11/22/63 which was a massive, complicated yet enthralling text.  Naively I thought that all Stephen King novels would be similar so when I ordered this one off Amazon I was surprised to see what a slim volume it was.  When I got tucked up in bed one evening and prepared to read it, I wasn’t expecting a reading marathon – yet I was wholly engrossed in the story and it was so easy to read I finished it in two hours!

Set in a dystopian America, the scene this novel paints is bleak. The world’s economy is in free-fall, there is no job security or indeed employment rights– we see how workers in menial jobs work in dangerous conditions, which result in severe injuries or even death. These conditions have created a large population of people living in poverty – unable to afford even proper food they live off supplement pills, and we see the main character’s wife resort to prostitution in order to pay for basic medical care. Bizarrely the only things that seem to be cheap and available to everyone are television, cigarettes and marijuana.

Living in these slum conditions is Ben Richards, who is currently unemployed and black listed from his relevant trade. We discover that this is because he refused to carry on working without adequate protection from the radiation he worked with that left many workers infertile, he refused to continue taking that risk knowing that his wife desperately longed for children. Now, having been sacked from his job, his eighteen month old daughter is sick with pneumonia and Richards is unwilling for his wife to continue prostituting herself in order to pay for medical care. In desperation Richards enters The Game Centre – a television station which runs twenty-four hours a day. It specialises in violent, unethical reality television programmes. One example which Richards narrates is a programme in which people with a heart problem are put onto a treadmill and rewarded with cash sums; earning more money for the longer they stay on it – for their medical bills. Inevitably many of these contestants collapse and/or die.

After vigorous medical as well as psychological testing Richards discovers he has been chosen to take part in one of the Game Centre’s most extreme games. He is to be let loose in the city and given a head start before being tracked down by a group of savage Hunters, who aim to kill him. Richards is sent on his way with some cash in his pocket, a camera and videotapes, which he is to use to make twice daily recordings which are then televised. His family receive money for every hour that he lives and if he manages to evade his pursuers for thirty days he gets set free and a jackpot of $1 billion. The current record holder for the games lasted only eight days. Armed with this knowledge Richards is released and the hunt begins…

Ok, I won’t give away what happens; suffice to say that it is a fast paced chase with sufficient twists to keep it interesting. This book wasn’t what I was expecting at all – I was looking forward to some more of the Stephen King I had already experienced – a large knotty story to get your teeth into. Instead this was incredibly easy reading with just enough of a dystopian theme to satisfy me. I woke up the morning after feeling a bit cheated that the book had passed by so quickly (does anyone else get that feeling?) but sitting down to type up my thoughts made me realise just how much I enjoyed it. So if you are looking for a novel you can easily get caught up in for a few hours without having too much of a “fluffy” read, this is the one for you!

Becqui

Book Review: Derek Jarman – Modern Nature

Derek Jarman – Modern Nature

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Six years ago Derek Jarman, the brilliant and controversial film-maker, discovered he was HIV positive and decided to make a garden at his cottage on the bleak coast of Dungeness, where he also wrote these extraordinarily candid journals. Looking back over his childhood, coming out in the ‘60s and his career in films, MODERN NATURE is at once a volume of autobiography, a lament for a lost generation and a celebration of gay sexuality.

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I knew absolutely nothing of Derek Jarman before reading this book, and have to admit I was hesitant to start it. The blurb (above) sounded interesting, but I was worried it would focus a lot on his illness and the physical symptoms – I didn’t think I could face anything too bleak. Add this to my general uneasiness towards “diaries” and I wasn’t sure it was my cup of tea. However this is a beautifully written diary, packed with evocative natural imagery that at once manages to span the breath of Jarman’s life whilst keeping the reader aware of his worsening condition.

Jarman ‘s memoirs span eighteen months through 1989 to 1990. The entries start as long passages, sometimes several entered for the same day but towards the end when he is ill and struggling with severe medical problems (being the first in medical history to lose sight in both eyes due to toxoplasmosis) they become short terse entries detailing endless rounds of night sweats, weight loss and increasing physical fragility. Though this was the part of the text I feared reading, I think as I grew to like Jarman through his entries the emotional investment was bitter-sweet; I felt guilty at being so captivated by someone’s real pain. However I was immensely relieved to learn that he lived for three years after these were written – during which he continued to produce work.

I’m not familiar with his films, so I can’t pass comment on where he was with producing them or the impact his illness had. However through this you get a sense of the struggles he has had through coming out as gay, whilst being a film director; he refers to one actor who after appearing in one of his early films never including it on his resume and indeed ignoring Jarman himself.

The awareness that these diaries are going to be published and the potential that this affords shapes Jarman’s crafting of this text. Having embarked on the creation of a garden on the coast of Dungeness the earlier part of Jarman’s memoirs weaves together descriptions of the garden, and the forces wreaked upon it by the elements, with memories of his childhood – growing up and coming out to his friends and family. For me I felt that the garden was a way for him to almost work through his memories – as he does in this text; he sifts the beach for articles to put in his garden much as he sifts through his memories and orders them. It is this blend of description and memory that really captivated me, made me empathise with Jarman – I end up wanting to know more about him. This blend of memory and natural imagery is captured perfectly in the following passage –

Childhood flowers, dewbowed peonies, dark red, along the paths at Curry Malet. The ivy stencil veins of the crocus purple and white, stamens yellow for painting. The buddleia covered with tortoiseshell butterflies, peacock and humming-bird hawks. Purple mulberry – should you eat it? Scarlet geraniums, jasmine, scent of the night stock, Aloe variegata, the camellia – exotic in February; wisteria on old stone walls, wallflowers – wild and draught-defying – balsam poplars brown purple; celandine with yellow brimstone flashing across the lawn…

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Have any of you read this book? I found this review difficult to write, because there wasn’t a straightforward plot to explain! I’ve tried to put my feelings across as honestly and clearly as possible as this book really captivated me. The pictures included are just ones I found on the internet of Jarman’s garden – isn’t it an amazing thing?

 Becqui

The Sunday Post // The Sunday Poet #1.

Happy weekend everyone! I’m still new to this whole blogging malarkey and posting regularly hasn’t been my strong point. I noticed lots of people have a certain post or theme that they run with every week, so I thought if I do that it might make me post more consistently.  I also wanted to be posting more than just book reviews on here, as I read a lot more widely then the fiction I’ve been sharing. So every Sunday I will be sharing a poem that encapsulates my week along with a little update of what I’ve been up to and what I’ve been reading. I hope you like these posts; do let me know either way!

The Sunday Poet #1

Demi-Jour en Creuse – René Char

Un couple de renards bouleversait la neige,
Piétinant l’orée du terrier nuptial:
Au soir le dur amour révèle à leurs parages
La soif cuisante de miettes de sang.

Translation by Nancy Naomi Carlson

A pair of foxes, disrupting the snow,
Were trampling the edge of the nuptial den:
At dusk, their hard love reveals to surrounding brush
Their burning thirst in crumbs of blood.

René Char is a French surrealist poet, whom I greatly admire. I became interested in his work through the philosopher and social theorist Michel Foucault who cites him in several of his texts. The poem I’ve included above was included in Foucault’s funeral – I’m not sure if it was read out or just as a memorial, but I really love it – and enjoy the connection between two writers that I admire. I’ve been thinking about René Char this week as I am currently preparing for starting my MA and sorting through all my notes from my degree found several lines from this scribbled down. If you like it then definitely look up some more of his poems, they are so haunting and interesting to read.

The Sunday Post #1.

What I’ve read…

  • Wicked by Gregory Maguire
  • A Critical Introduction to Queer Theory by Nikki Sullivan : again preparing to return to university expect to see a lot of this theoretical stuff cropping up. I think this is a great introduction to anyone studying or just interested in queer theory as it breaks the topic down into easily digestible chapters.
  • Modern Nature by Derek Jarman: I’ve nearly finished reading these haunting journals which are written after he discovers he is HIV positive and decides to make a garden for his cottage upon the coast of Dungeness. Expect a review shortly!

And everything else…

I’ve been working loads at the café this week, trying to cram in as many hours as possible before returning to uni – need those pennies for the millions of books I’m going to buy! However we had some friends staying with us so on Saturday night took a little wander to Manchester Food and Drink Festival. There was a great atmosphere and it was so much busier than I expected it to be – also the weather perked up whilst we were there so we caught some lovely evening sunshine. I had a “Festival Dog” from The Splendid Sausage Company which was possibly the most incredible thing I have ever eaten – a locally produced sausage topped with bacon, black pudding and Lancashire cheese and then onions in Vimto chutney. Truly decadent, but as a lass who hates hotdogs – I have to say they have converted me.

I’ll leave you with a snap of the Town Hall from that evening, hope you enjoyed catching up with my week.

Becqui

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Book Review: Gregory Maguire – Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

Gregory Maguire – Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

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Wicked ‘hype’ is something that hit pretty hard amongst my friendship group, I know a great many girlies who absolutely loved the musical adaptation of this novel – however I was not amongst them. Not sure why, but it passed me by. Truth be told, I didn’t even know that there was a novel! When browsing a charity shop back in Yorkshire recently, I recognised this cover from the posters and advertising that I had seen splashed around various cities. Intrigued and curious as to what started this phenomenon I decided to give it a read. And I’m so incredibly glad I did.

This novel by Gregory Maguire revisits the world of Oz as depicted by Frank Baum in his stories The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Wonderful Oz amongst others. I read the originals about a year ago and was charmed by them; they sketch out a whimsical world inhabited by flying animals, a whole host of vivid creatures inhabiting different lands as well as witches (good and bad) and an all-powerful wizard. Maguire offers us a different perspective on this world, transforming idyllic scenery into an intensely political competition – full of religious zeal, sex, and superstition. The main political undercurrents that affect the protagonists are those concerning Animal rights. Animals are rational sentient beings with a voice capable of undertaking the same tasks as humans, and the difference between them and animals as we know them is marked by the capitalisation of the term (Animal vs animal, Goat as opposed to goat ect.). However this is not being recognised in Oz, and their rights are being stripped from them.

Following the Wicked Witch of the West’s life the novel begins with her birth. Elphaba as she is christened is born to a deeply religious father and superficial mother under a cloud of superstition. She is born green, an ailment which will afflict her for life. Painted as an unusual little ‘monster’ of a child, she arrives into the world with a mouthful of sharp teeth and spends much of her childhood mute. Desperate not to have another green child Elphaba’s mother takes potions throughout her second pregnancy intending to prevent such things; however her second child Nessarose is born as pink as a summer rose but without arms!

The novel skips forward sixteen years and introduces the character of Glinda (the good witch in Baum’s stories) who is travelling to the distinguished Shiz University. Separated from her chaperone due to a medical emergency upon arrival Glinda has no-one to represent her in room-mate arrangements. She thus ends up being room-mates with Elphaba who is ostracised from the other girls due to her skin colour. Although initially Glinda finds her strange the two end up becoming firm friends.

Through a Goat who tutors biology at Shiz, Doctor Dillamond, the two girls discover the injustice being done to Animals under the Wizard’s reign in Oz. Doctor Dillamond uses examples such as Animals are being forced to return back to jobs in fields, as well as travel separately (in pens) on public transport. The widespread nature of the attitudes towards Animals is discovered when the headmistress of Shiz uses university resources to further the propaganda. Elphaba becomes extremely close to Doctor Dillamond throughout her time at the university – he becomes a mentor and guiding figure for her.

However this all draws to an end with the murder of Doctor Dillamond whilst he is on the verge of proving the genetic links between Animals and humans. With Glinda’s help Elphaba discovers that it is the president of the university who has arranged for the murder to take place. Glinda and Elphaba travel to Oz in order to petition to the Wizard the importance of Animal rights. They are rebuffed by him, and it is with this that Elphaba decides never to return to the university.

I loved this explanation of Elphaba’s early life; for me it was the most interesting part of the book. From here on in she becomes increasingly drawn to political activism, which results in her attempting an assassination and then having to hide fearing discovery.  All the actions which lead to her being portrayed as a witch are a result of her becoming more and more confused and disorientated as events happen which are out of her control. I have to admit I found sections of this book a little complex as so much was happening, and it frequently took up storylines and characters from Elphaba’s childhood to explain the consequences in her adult life. This little touch made it a very clever read but I think as I was reading it whilst travelling it made it a bit tricky to follow.

The ending, with the introduction of Dorothy which results in her accidentally killing Elphaba is brilliant! The whole story of Oz as we know it; with Dorothy travelling with her companions to the Wizard, is wrapped up in a very short chapter. Dorothy is a perfectly nice, good country girl – if a little simple minded but not at all the main character in the story. Her appearing at the end only serves to underline the wit in this book; it questions the depiction of good and evil in fiction. What is true and real? Elphaba is portrayed as evil, but in this reading of a classic tale we see her passion, her righteousness and the unfortunate circumstances which lead her astray.

Have any of you seen the musical? I think I would really enjoy watching it now I have read the book; I’m so intrigued at how it would translate to stage!

Becqui

Studying an MA

Studying an MA

So this post is a little bit different and I guess it’s a bit more personal as well. Over the next twelve months I will be undertaking an MA in English Studies, and as its going to inevitably crop up quite a lot on the blog I thought I would explain my motivation for continuing with education as well as what I will be doing on the course. Let me know what you think of this post – if you find it interesting then I will potentially keep the blog updated with how my studies are going.

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Just a few of the books/films I’ve bought from my reading list so far.

 I graduated this summer and since then the question that everyone asks is, ‘So have you found a job yet?’ When I say that I miss university, and intend to study further most of them think that I’m joking. It seems that after three years of studying many people have had enough of it, or are just tired of being poor and are ready to take on a full-time job. However I’ve worked throughout my degree, and I think that as the three years of English and Philosophy progressed I felt increasingly more fulfilled by my studies but also by balancing them with a job. I’ve always enjoyed writing and researching but it is only in my third year that I realised just how much pleasure I took in doing so, my dissertation was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done (is that really lame?) which made me think it was feasible that academia could be a career path. So that is what this year is all about, furthering my enjoyment of studying and hopefully discovering if academia is the place for me!

For the MA that I chose to take, as it is a taught course it offers the option to specialise in one of two pathways these being The Gothic or Contemporary Literature and Film.  Initially I didn’t think I was going to specialise in either, and instead take a more general pathway – however after looking at the various modules I have opted to take the Contemporary Literature and Film pathway. Therefore this autumn the two modules I will be studying are:

Representing Contemporary Cultures 1:

This unit begins with the sense of how difficult it is to define the ‘contemporary’ and does through by exploring which events have shaped our perception and definition of the contemporary. Postmodernism is explored, and then post-postmodernism leading up to the events of 9/11 and the dramatic affect that they have had upon literature and film. I’ve studied the postmodern already on my undergrad course, but really didn’t get on with it – however I think that it will be really interesting to see how it changes and develops through world events. The film that is going to be used for this first unit is Pulp Fiction, one of my favourite films so I think that studying that will be particularly interesting.

Contemporary Queer Cultures:

This unit analyses the ways in which same-sex desire is expressed, represented and received in contemporary cultures. The last two decades saw a shift away from the recently consolidated concept of gay ‘identity politics’ to a more material concept of ‘queerness’, and ‘queerly negotiated’ reading practices gained academic respectability. The politics of same-sex desires stretched to include transsexuality, bisexuality, and a range of other non-normative activities. A politics of assimilation was, in part, replaced by a politics of the margins. The ‘gay movement’ was also radicalised through the recognition of AIDS. Arguably we are now entering the era of the ‘post-gay’. This unit addresses these issues, and texts may be selected from film, television, literature or culture more broadly. Areas for study include: the impact and representation of AIDS; Queer politics vs Gay Identity politics; the development of New Queer Cinema; ‘queer spectatorship’; the commodification of same-sex desire; the concept of the ‘Post-Gay’.

I have to admit to copying and pasting that last section from the unit handbook, I think that this module is going to be extremely challenging – I wrote about the aesthetics of gay identity in my dissertation, however this is an ever-growing area of study and there is so much information to take in. It’s the module I am most excited to get underway, and I have loads of films to watch for it!

Alongside these there are research modules and literature reviews to be cracking on with and  the year concludes with original research dissertation which you present to the rest of the the MA students. As you might have gathered from my descriptions of the modules, I am challenging myself with what I am studying this year, some of it is relatively new territory and I know that my work is going to have to be of an extremely high standard. But like I said, I love studying and I think that this year is going to be great fun. My main challenge is going to be organisation, my notes for the whole three years of university were basically a box stuffed full of paper – but I don’t think that’s going to cut it somehow. So I plan to have a Dictaphone and type up lecture notes after each session, thus going over it all twice effectively. Hopefully that will help me keep on top of things!!

Do let me know if any of you are planning to do an MA, I’d love to meet some people in the same boat as me. And chuck any study/organisation tips my way; god knows it’s going to be a struggle! Hope you enjoyed this little post; I will keep you up to date with how everything is going.

Becqui

Book Review: Radclyffe Hall – The Well of Loneliness

Radclyffe Hall –The Well of Loneliness  (1928)

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Such a bargain on my Kindle!

Way back at the beginning of this year when I was writing my dissertation (in which I looked at the aesthetics and self-authorship of gay identity) Amazon began sneakily recommending a lot of gay fiction to me. Of course I am a sucker for those blinking little adverts, especially when they are for astonishingly cheap e-books. Thus, I bought The Well of Loneliness on my kindle where it has languished up until this past week. Published in 1928 this novel was seen as controversial due to its depiction of relationships between women, despite there being no explicitly sexual scenes (the most risqué mentions are those of kissing) it does specify that the bonds between the women are those of lovers.

The protagonist Stephen Gordon is christened Stephen because her parents were expecting a boy, and thus decided to stick with their already-chosen name. Almost as if this defines her growing up Stephen proves to be a child more interested in masculine physical pursuits such as riding and fencing, setting her apart from other girls who mimic their mothers in dress and play with dolls. She develops a crush on the housemaid – Collins, and her devotion to her borders on disturbing; Stephen kneels for hours on end in the hope that by damaging her own knees she might absolve some of the pain from Collins’ bad knee. This girlish crush is destroyed when Stephen finds Collins kissing a footman.

Her devastation over Collins, Stephen knows is somehow unspeakable – as many of her feelings are. However her father seems to understand her, he is close to her and supportive throughout her life. As she reaches her teenage years Radclyffe Hall portrays him as reading literature to do with homosexuality, or ‘inverts’ as they are called in the text. It is hinted that he suspects the nature of Stephen’s feelings however he never reveals this to her. Upon his death Stephen is left alone aged eighteen, with her mother whom she has never been close to.

Stephen’s first adult love affair is with a neighbour’s wife – Angela Crossby. We suspect this is more from boredom on Angela’s part however it is wholly devotional love that Stephen once again offers. When Stephen discovers Angela is having an affair with a man, Angela panics that her husband will also discover her infidelities and shows him letters that Stephen has sent her – claiming it is all lovesickness on Stephens part. These letters are then sent to Stephen’s mother who is furious with Stephen. Feeling increasingly alienated in her childhood home of Morton Stephen leaves and travels to London where she becomes a writer, producing a brilliantly received first novel. She then struggles with a second one, and it is suggested to her by an acquaintance that this is because she is denying herself of her true feelings – and that the only way to write good novels is through experiencing these feelings which will then translate to great writing. Thus emboldened she moves to Paris, and begins to experience the ‘invert’ culture.

I’ll leave the ending out of this recap, suffice to say that Stephen does find love but it does not end happily. I found this an interesting read for many reasons; firstly the depiction of Stephen – she is determinedly masculine, oft expressing her wish to be a man throughout her childhood and in later years adopts male dress, indulging in expensive tailoring instead of dresses. She struggles throughout with her identity, and it was intriguing to see how the war affected and enabled her. For the first time many women were able to take up male jobs and Stephen is one of these – she drives an ambulance and indeed finds herself working amidst the actual fighting. Historically this development was a landmark for women’s rights, but I had never considered its importance to the lesbian or transgender woman before.

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Loved the photographs of the author, even on Kindle they still looked great. 

Written a long time ago I think that this is still an incredibly relevant book; Stephen worries throughout the time spent with her partner about how society is going to react to them, how this will affect their relationship and how powerless she is to provide her partner with the children, home and family that she deserves. I think that this is reflected particularly in the ending of the book, as it is quite distressing and you really get a sense of how helpless Stephen feels. As a reader you feel helpless too – I personally had a deep sense of the injustice done to Stephen in that she wasn’t able to live openly with her feelings, and this sentiment was all the more real as I’m aware that homosexuality is still not tolerated globally.

Have any of you read this book? I think some might be put off by when it was published, and admittedly there are points that seem dated within the narrative – however overall the message is just as relevant today.

Becqui

Book Review: Lionel Shriver – We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lionel Shriver – We Need to Talk About Kevin

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I absolutely raced through this book, staying up late two nights in a row until I had finished it. It’s the first bit of reading I have done for my MA which starts this month so I am beginning to feel a little more prepared now. Not that that’s the reason why I read it so quickly, I genuinely couldn’t stop turning the pages!

The tale is told from Eva’s point of view, in a series of letters written to her husband Franklin. Initially this style (as in, it’s all letters) irked me, and the first few felt awkward to read however I quickly got into the flow of the writing and it was actually quite easy going. The letters detail the life of Eva and her family; from well before the birth of their first son Kevin, then their daughter Celia up until the present day. Eva is working through her thoughts about Thursday, the day that Kevin lured members of his school friends and teachers into the gymnasium then murdered them in a horrific school shooting.

She does this through tracing her relationship to Kevin as he grows and his personality develops.  From birth, he was a difficult baby – so difficult that they could never get nannies to stay for more than a couple of weeks. The assumed natural bond between child and mother never materializes, realising this and determined to forge that connection somehow, Eva gives up her job as a travel writer and instead stays home with Kevin. Despite her matyr-like behaviour Kevin’s sociopathic behaviour prevents Eva from loving him. She describes how he wasn’t toilet trained until he was six. He also ruins, albeit at an early age Eva’s study by spraying the walls with ink – the only place in their ultra-sleek modern home that she really feels comfortable in. Then when Ceilia is born, her pets go missing and there is an incident which results in her losing an eye due to an accident with drain cleaner. Both of these times Eva believes Kevin is responsible.

However she also describes how Kevin’s attitude would change around his father Franklin, he would ape his behaviour, being cheerful and hearty – involving himself in Franklin’s interests. As a result, Franklin believes the problem lies with Eva – she is too quick to blame Kevin, too neurotic. As a result their relationship deteriorates and we discover that shortly before Thursday they agree on a divorce. These alternate sides to Kevin’s personality can be read as either him displaying the habitual lying and deceitful nature expected, or as Eva being paranoid and comparing her inability to have a relationship with Kevin against the relationships he has with others.

These memories from the past are interspersed with the descriptions of the tense relationship that she and Kevin currently have – she dutifully visits him in prison however, these visits are strained and tense.

I don’t want to give everything away, as there were a couple of points in the plot that really shocked me. Eva’s letters are cleverly crafted, you think you can decipher what Kevin’s personality is leading to – there are small hints, but never quite what you expect.  What I found to be the main strength of this book is having Eva as a narrator; her relationship with Kevin is clearly strained, but I found myself wondering how central she was to Kevin’s behaviour. Through the letters she reveals her own secrets, such as how she once was so violent towards Kevin that she threw him across the room and broke his arm. The unreliability of the narrator made me even more interested in the story; I want to probe at it more and know different viewpoints but am prevented from doing so.

Overall I think this is a great, compelling read. It’s extremely dark, but that’s what makes it interesting. Watching how Kevin’s personality develops resulting in the eventual atrocity raises the age old question: nature vs nurture? Was Kevin born that detached from reality, or was it as a result of his surroundings. I think that the book wants you to believe that he is born that way, certainly Eva is absolved from all guilt, however I for one don’t think that his family life helped at all.

Has anyone seen the movie? I hear it’s equally good and pretty disturbing! Let me know what you thought…

Becqui

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ps. did anyone else find the way she signed her name really creepy?

 

Book Review (s) – Brian Jacques: Mariel of Redwall/Salamandastron

Hello everyone! If you saw my to-read post earlier this month you will know that I had these two lined up. I read and re-read these many times over my childhood and early teenage years, so these aren’t full reviews – more like quick refreshers! If you are new to the Redwall series then I highly recommend you give it a go – no matter what age you are. However, BE WARNED, during these re-reads I had a watch of the animated television series which I apparently missed whilst growing up. And it was pretty naff, the illustrations on the covers of these books are far more suited to these stories then cartoons – however that’s just my opinion. Let me know if you have read or watched this series!

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Mariel of Redwall – Brian Jacques

This book is the fourth in the Redwall series and has always been one of my favourites because of its feisty female protagonist. Mariel is a young mouse, and whilst travelling with her father Joseph the Bellmaker to deliver a bell he has made to the badger lord at Salamanastron their ship is captured by Gabool the Wild – a pirate searat. He makes them his slaves, and places the bell in his castle. However Mariel upsets him and he ties her to a stake before throwing her  into the sea She washes ashore barely alive, with no memory of who she is. Fighting seabirds with a knotted rope she christens herself Storm Gullwhacker. Storm is found by three hares of the Long Patrol from Salamandastron who decide to escort her to Redwall Abbey – a place of safety.  It is here she makes new friends – a young hedgehog called Durry Quinn, Dandin a young mouse, and Tarquin a hare of prodigious appetite who is madly in love with Rosemary of the Long Patrol. An old riddle read by the gatekeeper of the Abbey unlocks Storm’s memories, and with only the riddle as a guide the new friends set off to avenge Storm and her father. However in their absence the Abbey comes under threat from searats who have deserted Gabool’s horde, and the peaceful Abbey creatures are hard pressed to defend themselves…

That was quite the synopsis ey?! I’m impressed with myself; I always find them hard to do. Anyway, this book was a cracker. The riddle from Redwall that ties the whole adventure together is intriguing, and definitely fun to try and puzzle out. What makes the book though are the hilarious characters – Mariel is so feisty and fierce, but grows up throughout the story. I think my favourite characters are the hares Tarquin and his lady love the Honourable Rosemary (Rosie). Rosie’s earsplitting laugh ruins secretive plans on more than one occasion and Tarquin constantly composes ditties about his two loves – Rosie and food.

Salamandastron – Brian Jacques

Fifth in the Redwall series this book tells the reader more about the badger lords who rule Salamandastron and their links with the Abbey. Mara a badgermaid, adopted by Urthstripe the ruling badger lord, is disgruntled at how Urthstripe treats her and along with her hare friend Pikkle leaves Salamandastron. Naively she becomes friends with a young weasel – who is the son of the leader of a great army of searats and vermin named the ‘Corpsemakers’. This army plan to trap the young pair, however the plan is foiled and Mara and Pikkle escape – only to be captured by a ferocious tribe of newts. Using the information gleaned from Mara and Pikkle the vermin horde begin to lay siege to Salamandastron. Whilst this is going on back at Redwall Abbey a young squirrel named Samkin and his mole friend Arula find themselves in trouble. Two stoats are preying on the hospitality of the Abbey folk and, after accidentally killing a member of the Abbey, flee with the famous sword of Martin the warrior. Framed for the death Samkin and Arula set off after the stoats, determined to prove their innocence and retrieve the sword. Another quest is underway as back at the Abbey Dryditch fever takes hold, and it is up to the otter Thrugg and a stowaway baby dormouse Dumble to bring back the cure from the distant mountains.

These three stories converge, and make for a great adventure! I really do love both of these books, and I think they make a great introduction into a fantasy world for children. They are filled with the most amazing descriptions of food – the Redwall feasts are legendary. And the different types of animal speak in various dialects – the hares are all ‘top notch old chap, I say! Wot’ wot’!’ whereas the moles speech is more rural. I have to admit, I did catch myself lying in bed acting out the different voices to a non-existent audience!

Did any of you read the Redwall books when you were younger? Have you been tempted to revisit them? For me the experience was just as enjoyable a good ten years after first reading them.

Becqui

 

Flat Tour: Things I Love

Flat tour: Things I Love

Hello! So this is something a little bit different, today I’m going to show you some peeks of the areas I love in my flat.  We (me and the boyfriend – Dan) recently moved in, less then two months ago; and whilst it is beginning to feel  a lot more like home we still have some big things to sort out. Mainly the bedroom as we needed more furniture, and whilst we managed to grab some bargains in a sale the delivery date keeps on getting delayed – so annoying! I also have a reading nook to furnish, as together our book collection overspills the bookshelves. If you like this post, I’ll show you some more of the flat when it is finished. Anyway as we’ve been moving our own stuff in I noticed how much of our interior is influenced by either books or television shows. I love reading, Dan loves computer games and we always have a television show on the go – so it’s not surprising really.

 

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01. This is above the dining table, and there is a matching print of Londinium on the opposite wall. These are fictional travel posters from the television series Firefly. Dan introduced me to the series with the words, ‘it’s a space-western’ and I loved it immediately. I think these posters look really nice – but I definitely need some bigger plants on the table to fill that space.

 

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02.I couldn’t decide where to put my orchid for ages, and moved it all around the living area. However I was looking for something to pair my quote (from Alice in Wonderland) with and I think that this is perfect. The whimsy of the orchid blossoms sets it off perfectly – and it’s at the foot of my bed, to remind me in the morning to dream of impossible things.

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03. Lastly, I suppose this isn’t really décor but this cocktail book my friend got me is brilliant! Such good fun. Is it cheesy to love themed cookbooks?

 

What did you think of this post? Interesting or not? I’d love to know what geeky décor you have in your home!

Becqui

Ps. If you want to have a look at the interior design that inspires me, then check out my Pinterest – I add new pictures pretty much every day and have a whole board dedicated to books, reading nooks and libraries.