Lake District

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Showing posts with label literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label literature. Show all posts

Recently Read

I realised recently that it's been absolutely aaages since I did a book post!! I suppose it's just been down to the fact I haven't had as much time for reading in the last few months so I'm not really getting through books the same way I was this time last year, which is a shame. Thankfully my life is starting to get a little less busy now with my Year Abroad paperwork all done and university (albeit in Spain) back in full swing, so I'm looking forward to having a lot more reading time.

Would you believe I only managed to conquer two books this summer, one of which I absolutely loved; the other, not so much...

Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

She was of the stuff of which great men's mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, feared at tea-parties, hated in shops, and loved at crises. 

As I've mentioned on my blog before, this was the first Thomas Hardy novel I've ever read and I completely adored it. The novel tells the tale of Bathsheba Everdene, a beautiful and spirited young woman who inherits a farm and small fortune from her uncle following his death. Soon after arriving in the town of Weatherby, where she has gone to assume her place as the estate's sole proprietor, she attracts the attention of three men of very different stature who all set about trying to pursue her.

I think the thing I love most about classic British literature is the way it allows you to escape to a different time and place. I'm sure everyone knows by now that I am absolutely mad about the British countryside, so the county of Wessex that Hardy describes, full of sweeping green hills, forests, and ocean, really appealed to the anglophile in me. His engaging use of sensory description also really allowed me to picture every shifting and varied rural scene in incredible detail, which I loved.

Bathsheba herself has taken a firm place among my favourite literary characters of all time. Despite an unflappable exterior (and a pretty face), she is infinitely flawed; as are all of the characters in this book. However, it was these flaws in part that endeared me to her. Watching her battle to overcome the hurdles of her position not only as a female landowner, but a very young one (I think she's around 20 years old at the beginning of the novel), was as fascinating a story as any romance in this book and she is definitely a force to be reckoned with if there ever was one.

I know English classics are not to everyone's taste, but if you've ever thought you might like to give some classic literature a go, I feel like this book is a good place to start, especially if you need a bit of an escape. Rating: 

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

People say children from broken homes have it hard, but the children of charmed marriages have their own particular challenges.
I finally got around to reading 'Gone Girl' after featuring it in my December/January Book and Poetry Haul, so I think it goes without saying that it wasn't particularly far up my reading list. 

For those who may be unfamiliar with the plot of 'Gone Girl', it's the story of a couple who from the outside appear to have the perfect marriage. Nick is a handsome and charismatic young writer and Amy, his beautiful and captivating wife, has long been known and loved by the public as the subject of a popular series of children's books, 'Amazing Amy'. However, when Amy mysteriously disappears on their fifth wedding anniversary- apparently the victim of a kidnapping or worse; murder- the subsequent police investigation brings the true cracks in Nick and Amy's marriage to light, with all evidence from Amy's disappearance pointing in Nick's direction.

Obviously there's been a huge amount of hype surrounding this book, especially with all the buzz the movie adaptation created last year, but I have to say, I just wasn't a fan of it. I didn't find it to be a pleasant or particularly engaging read in any way, and I definitely would not describe it as "addictive" as the front cover so claims. It's a thriller, and I suppose thrillers will always sell well, and I will admit I did keep reading on to find out how the Amy mystery would unfold, but by the end I was left feeling vaguely dissatisfied with a bad taste in my mouth.

I've heard this book being criticised over and over again by people who claim their main issue with the book is that none of the characters are particularly likeable, and I definitely agree, though in Flynn's defence, I don't think they were ever meant to be. In any case, the fact that so many of the characters were so horrible just didn't make for an enjoyable read for me, nor did the fact that the plotline just kept getting more and more ridiculous and the characters more and more like garish caricatures and genre clichés as the story went on.

That being said, I thought the writing itself was good and a lot of the imagery was very original but I just found some parts of the book so, so vulgar and crude. I feel like there's a fine line between trying to create dramatic impact and just trying to elicit a cheap shock out of your readers for the sake of it, and I don't feel like Gillian Flynn really knows the difference. In any case, for me it took away from the novel rather than added to it.

I'm really sorry to any diehard 'Gone Girl' fans who might be reading this, maybe it just wasn't to my taste, and I definitely didn't hate it, but I don't think I'll be in a rush to reread it any time soon! Rating: 

Again, I hope I haven't offended anyone with that kind of harsh review. In fairness, 'Far from the Madding Crowd' was always going to be a difficult book to follow because I just loved it so much!

What have you been reading recently?

Sunday in Verse - 30 August 2015 | Castle Ward, Co. Down

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Accompanying this post are some photos from a trip to a National Trust property called Castle Ward. It sits on the banks of Strangford Lough and is actually the real-life location of Winterfell Castle in Game of Thrones. It's one of my favourite places in Northern Ireland, its grounds are so vast and so wild, there is ample space for hours of exploring. It's the kind of landscape I'll definitely miss when I'm in Spain.

Sunday in Verse | 26th April 2015

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time by Robert Herrick

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
   Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
   Tomorrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun, 
   The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
   And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
   When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
   Times still succeed the former. 

Then be not coy, but use your time,
   And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
   You may forever tarry.

I opted to take a little break from blogging these last couple of weeks and decided, for the first time ever, not to feel terribly guilty about it. Sometimes keeping up with my blog can feel like a huge amount of weight and pressure which has really started to take the enjoyment out of it for me, especially with all the other commitments I have in my life right now- I'm sure every blogger out there can relate!

These last couple of weeks in particular have been especially busy. Not only is exam-time currently looming (only 2 weeks to go!!), but I'm also loaning a pony this term at uni which is taking up a significant amount of my time. And so, at the moment I'm just going to let myself blog at whatever pace I can manage, whether that's once a week or once a fortnight. I'm hoping that removing that element of stress will really help me to appreciate blogging when I do have the time to do it. 

In any case, I'm back with a Sunday in Verse. This is one of my favourite poems; a reminder of the quick passing of time and very appropriate for me at the moment, I think.

Book Review | All the Beggars Riding by Lucy Caldwell

Lara and her younger brother, Alfie, living in London during the 7os and 80s, are used to their father's absence. As a Northern Irish plastic surgeon, he spends most of his time in Belfast attending to bomb victims of the Troubles and only coming back to work at a Harley Street clinic and to his family in London every other weekend.
However, When Lara is twelve he is killed in a helicopter crash and it is then the truth of his double life is revealed. He has another wife, another family, other children in Northern Ireland and Lara's mother is, in fact, his mistress.

I found this in Waterstones in a section of Irish authors and picked it up for my granny for Christmas because she's normally all over this sort of thing. However, the blurb intrigued me so much I ended up reading it on my Kindle myself.

This book was basically everything I expected- an insight into a painful and complicated family situation that transpires as the result of one man's selfishness and the effect it then has on his children, both at the time and in much later years, as an adult Lara struggles to make sense of her childhood and understand her father for the person he really was.

One thing I really liked about this book is that there was nothing at all pretentious about it. I think this was partly down to the fact that Lara, as the narrator, is portrayed as simply trying her hand at writing for the first time in order to get her family's story down on paper. Actually, Caldwell captured the character of Lara and all of the emotion of the story so well that I  had to check to make sure it wasn't an autobiographical novel, and it wasn't. The author's life is in fact world's away from her character's, Caldwell being both younger and a Cambridge graduate which I think really shows her skill as a writer.

However, there were times when I did find Lara's character as an adult a bit annoying, mostly for her tendency for self-deprecation and 'woe is me' attitude. Also, I will say this is quite a heavy read at times and for anyone who likes to see all (literary) conflicts resolved at the end of a book, you might find this one a little frustrating. Overall though it's definitely a worthwhile read. [Rating: «««]

Bookish Bucket List 2015

As 2014 comes to a close and this year's Goodreads challenge also comes to an end, I've been left to ponder the books I'm most excited to read in 2015. Some of these I've started already and hope to finish in the new year and others are books I've been wanting to read for absolutely ages. Either way, I think having them down on (virtual) paper will act as an incentive for me to really try and get through them all! So, without further ado, here's my bookish bucket list for 2015:

1. 'Wuthering Heights' by Emily Brontë 
2. 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker
3. 'Frankenstein' by Mary Shelley
Gothic fiction is one of my favourite classic genres so I thought it was high time I got my teeth stuck into these three.

4. 'The Luminaries' by Eleanor Catton 
5. 'Emma' by Jane Austen
Two books I started and never finished in 2014 but I'm still very keen to add them to my 'read' list!

6. 'Dubliners' by James Joyce
I recently read one of the stories contained in this collection - 'The Dead'- and absolutely loved it (you can read more about what I thought here!) so I'm really excited to read the rest.

7. 'The Screwtape Letters' by C.S. Lewis
8. 'A Grief Observed' by C.S. Lewis
It's no secret that C.S. Lewis is one of my all time favourite writers and thinkers. I started 'The Screwtape Letters' several years ago and never finished it- I think I was a bit too young at the time and it just went straight over my head- but I'd really like to give it another go. I've also been wanting to read 'A Grief Observed' for a while now. It was written following the death of Lewis's wife, Joy during a time when he really wrestled with the fundamentals of his Christian faith. Apparently it makes as a really interesting comparison to 'The Problem of Pain' as well. 

9. 'This Side of Paradise' by F. Scott Fitzgerald
10. 'The Beautiful and the Damned' by F. Scott Fitzgerald
After having loved 'Tender is the Night' so much this year, and of course being such a big fan of Gatsby I've decided that 2015 will be a year of Fitzgerald for me.

What's on the top of your reading list for 2015?

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