Of Mice And Men

Reading Of Mice And Men in public drew some raised eyebrows from those around me; not because it’s anything like as controversial now as it has been in so many schools since it first became a noteworthy text, but simply because people were astonished that I hadn’t read it sooner! It’s a set text for so many younger high school kids, and somehow it was never taught in any class I was in. To be honest, I’m so glad that I wasn’t forced to read this in a classroom environment. John Steinbeck writes with a wonderfully dignified air of melancholy that perfectly compliments the characters and setting, and the gut-wrenching ending, to my mind, rivals any work of modern fiction. As I write this review, it’s been a few weeks since I finished the book, and yet George and Lennie’s relationship was so real to me that it still brings a small wave of emotion back each time I think about it.Read More »

Twelve Years A Slave – A review of the book and film

Every time I sit down to write one of these blog posts, I keep trying to think of new ways to push myself – little things, usually, like playing with language choices and structural devices, and other stuff that probably would never cross the minds of most of the people who read these. This week I’m aiming to be a little more explicit in my experimentation, by writing a combined book and film review. In line with my aforementioned “Best Picture Quest”, I chose to read and then watch Solomon Northup’s memoir of slavery in 1850’s Louisiana, Twelve Years A Slave.Read More »

The Beautiful And Damned

There was one question that kept coming back to me during The Beautiful And Damned: how much can you enjoy a book where characters you like are subjected to a prolonged though well-deserved fall from grace? Or a book in which principle characters spend most of the story feeling interminably bored and doing nothing about it? The answer, as it turns out, is “a lot more than you’d expect”. I think the main reason for this is that F Scott Fitzgerald is a brilliant writer of two things: prose, and deteriorating relationships.Read More »

The Handmaid’s Tale

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.

We lived in the gaps between the stories.

It’s finally here – the review of a book that was recommended to me by so many people that I accidentally bought two copies of it, and didn’t even realise until months afterwards. Easily the most compelling book I’ve read recently, The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian, speculative fiction of astonishing invention and dynamism. Like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, this a chronicle of downtrodden and oppressed women in an insidiously male-dominated world, but unlike Hardy, Margaret Atwood doesn’t simply content herself with pointing at her characters and going: “Look how awful this is! Look! Isn’t it horrible?! So horrible right?!?!”. Instead, Atwood, persuasively presents her ideas to the reader in an intellectually engaging way, creating a novel that is almost in dialogue with its reader.Read More »

Tuesdays With Morrie

“The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.”

There are two things I feel I ought to warn you of as I begin this review. Firstly, there’s no way I can write about Tuesdays With Morrie without breaking my 500 word rule; and secondly, I really, really loved this book for intensely personal reasons, and probably not for the reasons that Mitch Albom intended when he wrote it, or indeed for the reasons that most people loved it.Read More »

Tender Is The Night

One of the things I hated about English in high school was when teachers would attempt to explore the deeper themes of a text which was all surface and no substance. Trying to “uncover the author’s intentions” would turn into an exercise in wild speculation which would invariably have nothing to do with the author’s intentions or ideas, and would therefore be incredibly frustrating to study – like a game of Hypothetical Eye-Spy, except with more chance of being shot down by the teacher if you offered up an idea that was too tangential to their lesson plan.

The Great Gatsby was different. At 16 (the first year of A Level) I was finally studying a text that felt, for the first time, like even the deepest discussions only scratched the surface of the author’s intentions. Read More »