I picked these books up around November – December time. They were engrossing and marvellous and shocking and bewildering and I adored them all.
Right now, I’m suffering through mock exams for my a levels (help!) so I don’t have too much time to read but, when I can, I’m making my way through the mad but brilliant ‘The Magic Toyshop’ by Angela Carter. It is bizarre and, at times, quite frightening. The story follows 15-year-old Melanie whose vulnerability I find is quite unnerving. After the trauma of losing her parents, she enters a strange, new world, lost and lonely. The tale is full of the uncanny and is undeniably unsettling but so entrancing. I can’t wait for mocks to be over so I can finally finish it!
If you haven’t read this yet, you need to. I think it might be my favourite Shakespeare (I’ve read Much Ado, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet). At times, it can be impossibly frustrating to read. The betrayal stings. It really hurts actually. Some characters are so wicked and manipulative and yet others are so considerate and innocent. It’s cruel and harrowing. Yet, it teaches you so much about the importance of love and loyalty and family. Just read it.
‘It’s funny, isn’t it, this whole process – how various dialects bleed into each other; how every language is a graveyard of languages, how every language is a storehouse of history’
I was lucky enough to meet Kei at an event when I volunteered at the British Library. He spoke about the current issues of racism in the Caribbean, how they are changing and read from a recent essay. He articulated his views so clearly and effortlessly, I was in awe. So, when I came to read his book, I wasn’t surprise when I found a masterpiece.
I think this may be my favourite book on this list.
This novel is short and addictive and mysterious and complex and exquisite. It is a vivid, colourful portrayal of Jamaica’s history with lyrical, thought-provoking language that expresses the reality of the character’s shocking situations and overwhelming emotions. It is a tapestry of fascinating people- young, old, black, white, strong, weak. Each individual is so impressively crafted and memorable and so easy to distinguish. Embedded with religious stories and snapshots of history, the novel is marvellously didactic, tremendously heartbreaking and an honest social commentary on the issues of class, racism and sexism in a country where a blatant divide separates the rich from the poor. The #blacklivesmatter campaign is so central to this story. Yet, it is a hopeful novel that demonstrates the power that a community possesses to bring people together and help those individuals find their independence and resilience. It is an astonishing, violent and frustrating book that everyone must read.
‘What she feels is nothing, but a kind of everything nothing that is full of everything, the way the colour black is full of every colour’
The Castle of Otranto
I’m currently studying the Gothic genre as part of my English Literature A Level so I read this as helpful context for my upcoming exam. Even though I wouldn’t have picked it up if it hadn’t been related to revision, I ended up really enjoying it. Most parts were hilarious! Even though the fainting, passive gothic female archetypes made me roll my eyes at times and the lack of speech marks was a little perplexing, I was engrossed in the melodrama and shocking twists. It was so dramatic!
Oranges are not the only fruit
I had been meaning to read this in what has felt like forever and Winterson did not disappoint. It is a fluent, absorbing novel about isolation, betrayal, religion and love. It is certainly essential reading about the LGBT community- what it is like to come to terms with your sexuality and find that you will never be accepted within the community that you called home. The coming of age tale is delicate and raw and the way in which she articulates feelings of loneliness and loss are unparalleled. Winterson’s style is so so compelling.
The introduction was gorgeous:
Write what you know is reasonable advice. Read what you don’t know is better advice. Reading is an adventure. Adventures are about the unknown. When I started to read seriously I was excited and comforted all at the same time. Literature is a mix of unfamiliarity and recognition. The situation can take us anywhere – across time and space, the globe, through the lives of people who can never be like us – into the heart of anguish we have never felt – crimes we could not commit. Yet as we travel deeper into the strange world of the story, the feeling we get is of being understood – which is odd when you think about it, because at school learning is based on whether or not we understand what we are reading. In fact it is the story (or the poem) that is understanding us. Books read us back to ourselves.
On Chesil Beach
After reading ‘Atonement‘ twice and falling in love with everything about it, I absolutely needed to read something else by McEwan. I picked ‘On Chesil Beach’ as I’m so keen to watch the film adaptation and I always think it’s best to read a book before watching the movie. I was so surprised by it. It felt so different in style and manner to ‘Atonement’. It was uncomfortable and intrusive. Not exactly the story about first love that I’d had expected. I certainly preferred ‘Atonement’. Yet, I devoured it in a couple of hours and am now desperate to read more McEwan. ‘The Cement Garden’ sounds just as unsettling!
I adore both Dolly and Scarlett so so much. I have been reading their work for quite a while now so when these books came out I knew I just had to read them as soon as I could.
Everything I know about love
I have listened to practically every episode of the “Love Stories” podcast and am a major fan of “The High Low”. Dolly’s book was easy to read and funny and warm and emotional. It was meaningful and thoughtful but something light to look forward to after an exhausting day. It is so full of shocking anecdotes as well as heartwarming episodes that it really exemplifies the rollercoaster motion of life. Dolly makes it really clear that her life hasn’t been perfect and that she has messed up. It is a frank account of her encounters with love and I personally love her for her honesty. It probably wouldn’t appeal to all but certainly suited me.
Feminists don’t wear pink and other lies
I think Scarlett is so insightful and intelligent and her book was exactly what I wanted and expected it to be. It made me feel empowered. It made me feel supported. It made me feel stronger as a woman than ever before. Thank you so much Scarlett Curtis for this feminist bible. Everyone involved in the book was so overwhelmingly inspiring and I haven’t stopped listening to the podcasts that have been made in addition to the book (check them out if you can!). My favourite essays were from Lolly Adefope, Jameela Jamil, Keira Knightley and Deborah Frances-White. But, they are all so great. The sections on the history of feminism were so informative- a useful education that I definitely needed!
Have you read any of these books? If you have, let me know in the comments! What did you think of them?