reviews - quotes - thoughts
- crossposting here and on goodreads -
What bothered me most about „The Creation of Anne Boleyn“ was that it lacked in substance. I was expecting a theory concerning Boleyn’s image and the way representations of her have changed through the years. I would have liked something of a statement as to whether her depictions have changed and how she has been perceived, and a discussion about why she is stills so well-known and popular.
Well, that is not what this book is about. If you are already a Boleyn enthusiast, there won’t be anything new in this one for you. Actually it contains quite a lot of retelling and is fairly repetitive. There really is no coherent theory in this text.
Bordo’s tone is quite condescending at times. Attacking fellow writers like David Starkey and Alison Weir seems to be her favourite pastime. And honestly, attacking Starkey’s work for being too much on the narrative site? Really? It’s not a secret that his style reads rather personal and story-telling-like (sorry, can’t think of a better word). So, yeah, easy target. But I think Starkey deems his readers intelligent enough not to take everything he writes at face-value. Readers do not need to be told to question what they are being told. However, Bordo does think so. She criticizes Starkey and Weir for not telling their readers to be sceptical! I am not the biggest Starkey-fan on earth myself, but what Bordo does can be categorized as nit picking at best.
And if she’s not bashing Starkey, then she is gushing about the beauty and insightfulness that is Natalie Dormer (the actress that played Boleyn in “The Tudors” TV show). Yes, I get it, you met her and you loved her. Of course you loved her! She shared all your opinions on Boleyn.
Bordo also seems to believe that in medieval times sex was a very secret thing that nobody knew about. Ridiculously she believes in the ideal of courtly love depicted in chivalric poetry. I had to put down my kindle, I was laughing so hard. A sample: “This was a culture in which sexual consummation does not seem to have been the apotheosis of personal fulfillment that it was to become as physical desire replaced spiritualized, courtly constructions of “longing” in romantic love”(p.53). Ha!
Part one of the book does quite a good job at retelling the story of Anne Boleyn, I guess. But like I said, this is old news to anyone interested in her as an iconic persona. Part two is a collection of what people posted on Bordo’s facebook page and what Natalie Dormer thinks about Anne Boleyn and her portrayal of her in “The Tudors”. There is also a chapter on that show where Bordo keeps on telling you how cringe-worthy it all was but how Dormer captured Anne’s spirit so well and blah blah blah.
All in all, there is not much flesh to her theory. I am not even sure if she has one. She keeps quoting scholars and facebook friends (and Natalie Dormer) – and she reuses quotes over and over – and I got the feeling she hasn’t done much work or thinking or analysing herself. Claiming that “we really have no way of knowing” is not a really good conclusion to all those theories she keeps dismissing.
The one good point she makes is that it was not all Anne Boleyn’s fault and people tend to make the mistake of appropriating all the blame to Anne and underestimating Henry – which is weird since Henry kept up the crazy and even turned it up a notch or two long after Anne was dead.
So there, I managed to end this on a positive note.
I can’t seem to do a proper review of any of these books. So, if you want to know about the plot, please move on to the next review. Here I am going to ramble a bit about the beauty and comfort of the re-read.
There are some books I can always return to. I think we all know books like that. Most of these books come from our childhood or teenage years. I still find comfort in rereading The Neverending Story for what must be the 870th time. Others helped us through hard times. The Harry Potter series got me through a break up when I was twenty-two – it was the only thing I could stand reading. About once a year I return to Longbourn and Pemberley because I can lose myself in Austen’s world and language.
Scarlett Thomas three most recent novels – Our Tragic Universe, The End of Mr Y, and PopCo tend to give me a weird kind of comfort. It is not that the stories are the kind of brain-candy that just lets you shut off and stop thinking – quite the opposite really. These are books with intriguing (and very flawed) female characters who are facing some difficult situation in their respective lives. Be it Alice Butler in PopCo who is confronted with the wrongness of her corporate job and the task of cracking a hundred year old code. Or Ariel Manto and the cursed book “The End of Mr Y” that lets her escape from poverty and find new dimensions and adventure; or Meg who has to deal with storyless stories, ponderings on narratology and the question if she is living the life she should.
On closer look that last bit can really be found in all three novels. So can homeopathy, a love for tea, and countless theories from various scientific fields.
Thomas’ books are always a challenge and always introduce the reader to new and exciting concepts. I can understand that some people do not like this kind of novel. I have read reviews saying Thomas is too smart for her own good and that all that smart-ass attitude actually hampers the story’s flow and bores the reader. I actually love those parts of her books. Characters get into long philosophical or scientific conversations and I just wish I could be there and be part of it.
Any time I don’t know what to read next I come back to Meg, Alice and Ariel. And I feel like they are friends I haven’t talked to in a while and I experience the plot and the theories again and sometimes find a new angle or something I had forgotten about. And again I am fascinated and entertained by the creativity and innovation. And always I wish I could go to England and be friends with these characters. I also want to pick up knitting again and start to write a story and drink tea and learn about homeopathy. These books trigger my imagination and always wake up some kind of longing. While at the same time they make me feel like I’ve come home.
I love them and I am very much looking forward to Miss Thomas new book when it finally comes out.
An Afterthought. One thing I found funny while reading PopCo in 2014: it was published in 2004, the first time I read it was in 2009. Five years later, during my reread I noticed the fact that Alice is astonished by wifi technology! She can go online without using a cable! Technology today is moving so fast!
Caution! There’s rambling ahead!
Usually I don't read reviews in order to find out about the plot of a certain novel. I read reviews to find out about the reading experience. This is also why I write reviews. And I really don't think the world needs another plot overview of Wuthering Heights. Instead I want to talk about how my perception of this classic changed and how I came to love what I once found utterly boring.
I don't really know how I could have been so completely unaware of the plot of a classic like Wuthering Heights but apart from the famous names of Heathcliff and Catherine and the fact that it takes place on the wild English moors I knew next to nothing about it. Most of my knowledge comes from that one episode of FRIENDS where Phoebe and Rachel attend a literature class for fun and Rachel never finishes the reading material and tries to cheat her way through it. So yeah, my knowledge was very profound, as you can see.
In 2009 I decided I need to read WH. It’s one of these absolute classics and everyone seems to think it’s really good. So, you know, I gave it a shot. And boy was I disappointed. I dragged myself through the first 50 pages, was bored out of my mind, and called it a day. I’ve always had second thoughts about the fact that I quit. And five years later, in March 2014, I ordered myself a copy of WH. The idea was to make myself read it again – so many people love this book; 98,000 five-star reviews can’t be wrong! (btw, apparently they can – Fifty Shades has 226,000!!) At least in the case of WH they aren’t! Yes, the first 50 pages are a bit tough to get through because you have no idea what’s going on and all these names are thrown at you and the narrator seems to have nothing to do with the actual story.
But once you get past that! The tragedy! The stupidity of the characters! The evilness! I loved it all. Above all, I loved to hate almost every single character. I am not quite sure why this novel is so often treated as a tragic and passionate love story and everyone seems to be pining away about Heathcliff. I hated him with all my heart. Same goes for Catherine. And that brat Linton! But every single one of them got what they deserved in the end. I’ve heard a lot of people state that they can only like a book if at least one character is likeable. WH is not for them. I guess, one can argue that Nelly might be likeable, but I don’t buy it. I loved it because everyone acted terribly selfish and ruthless; and there was absolutely no one to like.
What I am trying to say here is that I went from giving this book one star to giving it five. There is always a right time or mood for a book. And maybe I needed to be in a certain mind set in order to appreciate the beauty that is Wuthering Heights; which makes me think there might be other books out there that I need to reconsider.
I guess this review is not as informative as most people would want it to be but I needed to get this off my chest. Thank you for your kind attention!
I am not completely beside myself after reading this book. It was quite alright. A fast read. Sometimes really interesting and intriguing. Other times it felt like a succession of anecdotes and trivialities and the story kept meandering and digressing. A device I usually enjoy a lot if it’s done right. Here it mostly felt like filler material and kept me wondering what all of this was about.
If you’ve heard anything about this book before you might have noticed that the publisher is working really hard not to tell you its actual topic. I am not going to spoil that either since its revelation was one of the best moments in the book. That, however, makes it really hard to talk about this novel at all.
As a fairly unreliable narrator, Rosemary Cooke tells us the story of her life; the story of how her two siblings had to leave the family and what it was like to grow up in a house filled with grieve and longing for the past. Just so you know, that there was not a spoiler!
Jumping back and forth in her retelling we get glimpses at the past and present and information is only given to the reader piece by piece and only when the narrator feels like it. This stylistic device turns afairly simple story into something more complex but it can sometimes come across as a cheap means to make the plot more interesting.
While Rosemary tries to find herself, some interesting themes are explored. Like the importance of childhood memories and how they can be changed, invented, re-invented, repressed, and denied. We get some background knowledge on psychology (that can be a bit too much on the popular science side) and one other very interesting field of study, which I cannot reveal here without telling you the main twist of the story – so I won’t. Other themes and topics are family life, dealing with a shared past, guilt, and how memories can define and shape our personality.
What I really did not like was how later in the book the author throws in that pinch of female solidarity as another theme. Maybe I just didn’t notice it earlier but I got the feeling that it was put in quite late and suddenly. It’s like the author thought “oh, I need some feminism in my book as well. I just put it in right here. I don’t want to go all the way back and make it a proper theme”. Meandering. A word that came to mind quite a lot while reading “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves”.
To end this review on a positive note: It was a fast read, I was caught up in the story and simply wanted to know what the narrator was not telling me. All that secrecy and “I’ll tell you later. When I’m ready. Maybe.” was what kept me going. And I was satisfied when all of it was finally revealed.
It is a story about family and secrets, and if you like to read about these things than this might not be the first book I’d recommend but it IS a good one.
This short novella about a world in which sleep is rare and people are dying from being awake and not getting the recreational rest of a good night's sleep and dream could have easily been read in one sitting. It is only about one hundred pages long. Fittingly, this came to me when I spent a few days in some kind of tired haze because I didn't get enough sleep at night.
So maybe I was already prone to like Sleep Donation before I even started simply because of the circumstances. Additionally, this story was the one that was able to end my reader's block. In short, right book at the right time!
And what can I say, I loved it! It is a beautiful and frightening little dystopian tale that always seems to linger right on the edge of the fairy tale. As this is my first Russel I have no means of telling if this is her usual writing style but I quickly fell in love with her metaphors and overall choice of words.
A quick example:
“[…] these noises exploding like grenades through her naked awareness – her mind crushed, in the end, by an avalanche of waking moments.”
To me this is terrifyingly beautiful. And there is so much more like it!
Of course the world of sleep and dreams - unexplored as it is, scientifically - lends itself to the language of the magical and fairy-tale-like. However, Russel grants us a glimpse into this alternate world or maybe possible future and once you look beyond the beautifully described state of hazy tiredness and not-quite-awake-ness of the people that populate that world it becomes something utterly frightening. A disease that takes away the only true escape from reality there is; one that makes its victims a prisoner in their own minds? Completely terrifying! I especially loved when the narrator described this state as being “locked flightlessly inside her skull”.
Apart from this, we get the typical dystopia - a meditation on the reasons why a society might be punished with a sickness like this. Have we - humanity, that is - brought this on ourselves? Are we deservedly punished? And a favourite nowadays: Ecocriticism - has this happened because we destroyed the planet?
However, Sleep Donation does not quite bring across the fear factor most dystopian novels brandish in their readers' faces. This might be because the cause for the no-sleep epidemic is never actually proven or because the sickness seems too magical and too "unrealistic" as to be perceived as a real menace or something that might happen if we stay on this path we're currently on.
Even though the dystopian aspects could have been a bit more fleshed out I really liked this magical approach to the genre; putting this novella somewhere between dystopia and magical realism. And don't forget the beautiful language, of course!
I don't know if this is a thing but I seem to have some kind of reader's block lately.
I can never decide what to read next or what I'm in the mood for.
No book I start can keep my attention for long.
I honestly don't know how to get out of this.
I guess I need something mind-blowing to get me out of this.
What to do? Has anyone of you ever experienced something like this? What did you do to change it? Any reading suggestions that might get me out of this boredom?
I just don‘t know what happened here. This is possibly the first Murakami I didn‘t love. And I cannot even pinpoint why that is. From the very beginning Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World and I did not click. I had to work my way in and had to put it down several times and restart because I couldn‘t get into it. Then I pretty much forced my way through it. And I wouldn‘t be so baffled about this if I hadn‘t loved Murakami‘s stuff before. This bothers me especially because I get the impression that this one usually seems to be a favourite among his fans.
Now let‘s look at the novel and try to explain my (non-)reaction to it. It has everything I have recently loved about this author‘s work. It has weird worlds (two of them); it has the usual quite inaccessible characters with their almost boring lives. It even has the descriptions of cooking and eating that I love so much in his other novels. It also has magical realism.
And maybe that‘s one thing that bothered me. The magical realism here was more on the fantasy side and not so much on the weird/magical-things-happen-in-reality-and-still-noone-is-bothered-by-them-side. (Sorry, I don‘t know how else to put this.) The bizarre fantastical and dystopian setting made it seem less realistic and therefore it was a lot less creepy and uncanny than other worlds created by him. I am by far more creeped-out and actually get goose bumps from the eerie two moon parallel world of 1Q84 than this freaky unicorn-land or the non-descript futuristic Tokyo of this novel.
So maybe this is one reason why I couldn‘t connect to it. The world just wasn‘t fleshed out and not convincing enough.
O, and all that talk! With Murakami I am used to the fact that I don‘t understand why the characters have to talk about some things and how these conversations develop the way they do (and I‘m probably not supposed to understand that) but I had a feeling that most of the conversations in Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World are simply filler material. There is almost no moving along of plot - there is almost no plot, for that matter - and the characters are meandering from topic to topic not revealing much of themselves or the world that surrounds them. Most of the time I was simply bored - there was a lot of eye-rolling on my part.
Writing this makes me so sad. I never would have thought I would not like something of his and I can only hope that it is just his very early work that simply doesn‘t have an effect on me. I guess it will be a long time until I dare read Murakami again. I do not want to taint all the good memories I have of novels like Afterdark or Kafka on the Shore.
Something just occurred to me: maybe I have outgrown Murakami. Not in the way that I am too good or too intelligent or whatever for his work. But maybe it‘s just that my literary taste has changed. But then wouldn‘t I think differently of his other stuff, too? Ugh, I don‘t know. Maybe I need to reread my favourites in order to find out what was wrong with this one.
This gets two stars because the premise sounded so good and it actually did have some typical Murakami-stuff in it and for a very brief period I thought I could get into it.
And because I can‘t bring myself to give only one star.
Recently I have been drawn to murder mystery and disappearance plots. I cannot pinpoint when this started exactly but I have a feeling it is all Gillian Flynn’s fault. My favourite trope seems to be that of the missing mother or wife and the daughter or husband that needs to find out what happened to them. (I think I need to create a gr shelf for books like this).
The Weight of Blood does fit in perfectly with this obsession of mine. It tells the story of two women going missing a generation apart and of Lucy the daughter of one of them and friend of the other, who takes it upon herself to clear up the mystery surrounding both disappearances.
However, this is more than a simple mystery or whodunit. It’s a story about a small town in Missouri; a story about a closely knit community that doesn’t accept outsiders easily; and most of all a story about women and family. One of my favourite lines from the novel sums this up quite well:
“You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There’s no forsaking kin. But you can’t help when kin forsakes you or when strangers come to be family.”
Apart from telling an interesting and gripping story that does have its fair share of gritty and sometimes violent scenes it is a well-written and well-structured novel. The narrative switches between various points of view and unlike so many other authors McHugh manages to give each character his or her own distinctive voice (so you won’t have to skip back to the beginning of the chapter in order to check who’s talking right now).
Since the story is told from the point of view of (mostly) female characters, we get to see different ways of dealing with life and the problems thrown at women. The female characters of The Weight of Blood have to deal with being stereotyped in various ways by a community that had its roles for women set quite a long time ago. Some of them need to find a way to become part of the community, to keep their loved ones safe, to keep a (family) secret, or simply to keep themselves from being killed. Involuntarily let in on secrets and crimes, they need to decide whose side they are on and how much they value blood ties over honesty and righteousness. Those are questions that concern the characters at various stages of life. I loved how the characters differed in age, showing that, in the end, all of them have to answer the same question and they all have to live with the consequences of their decisions.
This does not mean, however, that this is a male-bashing novel in which men are simply the bad guys. There are enough male characters that have to deal with the same central questions the novel poses. They are simply not featured as prominently as the female characters and not quite as well lined-out, in my opinion.
Still, this is a great and well-written debut about the definition and importance of family, all on the backdrop of a gripping mystery / disappearance plot.
contains minor spoilers
Yes, I knew the story behind the book when I bought it. But I tried not to let it influence my reading too much and I am not going to spend too much time on the question if writing the book was morally wrong. The teacher-student-love-affair is not a new topic in literature / movies /etc. and I think it has lost most of its scandal potential. Just to be clear, I don’t think it is okay for a teacher to have an affair or any kind of inappropriate contact with his or her students. I just think that as a literary theme it has been done a lot. So, one should not have been expecting anything new or mind-blowing from this book. But somehow I did and accordingly I was disappointed.
Plot wise it is just this, a student falling in love (or lust, or whatever you want to call it) with a student. The novel explores the notion of teaching and the implications, contradictions, and duties of someone in the role of the teacher. It also gives us a coming-of-age story that shows how important those figures are during the formative teenage years.
The main character, teacher William Silver, is pathetic in his need to be loved and adored by his students. He seems to be only interested in human contact if his conversational counterpart is his inferior; if he can teach and be seen as intelligent and charming. When it comes to romantic relationships he is not interested in women his own age, who might be his intellectual equals. He runs from them (his ex-wife) or keeps them at a safe distance (co-worker and friend Mia). This made reading the parts written from his point of view cringeworthy and created a lot of eye-rolling on my part.
There are two more narrative perspectives in this novel – two students of the international High School where Silver teaches. One is Gilad, a boy taking the advanced literature class Silver offers. We get to see how an impressionable mind and character reacts to that glamorous personality Silver is projecting as a teacher. Through this character it is possible to even see some good can come of it; that some students can be changed for the better. Gilad does consider is life and the decisions he has made and he changes course. He finds a friend (albeit another ambiguous character) and he learns to stand up to his violent father. However, through his eyes we also see how someone you put on a pedestal can fail; how your heroes are people too. By the way, I only noticed that Gilad was a boy when I was seventy pages into the book. Doesn’t really speak for the author’s skill in creating varying voices.
The other student whose perspective we get is Marie, the girl Silver has his secret affair with. Both, her and Silver’s narratives are unreliable. And we get both sides of their story without knowing who lies the most – because they both do, without question!
All three narrators and all secondary characters are kept simple and fairly shallow. Yes , there is development and progress in them, but still they seem like templates from a writers’ seminar. The story is in no way original and does not introduce anything new into the teacher-student plotline. You have it all – the instant attraction, the getting to know your body (including the first ever orgasm of the innocent girl), the pregnancy and abortion, the end of the affair by discovery, the doubts and fear of discovery on the part of the teacher, the seductive phone messages, the playing-hard-to-get… and so on and so on.
The novel is neither badly written nor badly structured; it just doesn’t offer a new or interesting perspective on the theme. And it probably did not help my reading experience that I watched Daydream Nation while I was halfway through the book; the movie’s plotline shares a lot of aspects with this novel.
This could have been so great. It could have been downright awesome. But it wasn’t. And I can’t really say why. Maybe it was all the jumping around between narratives. The whole novel felt scrambled and confusing. I think it could have used a bit more editing.
The concept of this story is actually great. There are bookworlds and if you know how you can visit them and meet the characters. I’m not going to say too much about the plot though because I think it’s hard to talk about it without making use of the spoiler tag.
What I can say is this: this book’s world is creepy and it is confusing. The things that happen are sometimes brutal and the monsters are pretty scary. I know I’m overusing these words – but it is simply creepy, confusing, and weird; and those where the parts I really liked.
The writing isn’t bad either, however, most of the characters seemed rather shallow to me. You have to get through the first thirty pages or so until it somehow starts to make more sense. I actually liked the middle part best because it was the most mysterious and I kept wondering what all of this was about. Once the characters figured out what’s going on, though, I was just waiting for the big showdown and for the book to finally be over.
This actually is one of the better YA novels since does not shy away from violence and characters with a dark or disturbing past. And I do recommend reading it! It just wasn’t for me.
Maybe that will all change with part two of the trilogy, which I am probably going to read even though this one did not really get to me.
Hahahaha. And Nicolas Hoult will be Winston! It's a love triangle between Julia, Winston and Big Brother! I never thought I'd say this, but I'm Team Big Brother this time.
I won’t give an overview of the plot, because I really think that the contents of this book should be experienced firsthand. I will only try to describe what I personally liked about this book (which is hard enough since this is not an ordinary novel).
So, be warned: rambling ahead! ;)
What I like best about this experiment in publishing is that the whole make up of this book is so beautiful and detailed. I love the postcards and letters and the napkin and the look and feel (and smell!) of the pages; I love how it is printed in so many different colours and that what is supposedly written with a pen actually looks like it has been written with a pen. And I still cannot get over the price of this work of art. It must have cost a lot to print and assemble the book and all its gimmicks; and still the book only cost 23€. Wow!
I also loved the way it gives insight into the world of literary studies. The way the two readers treat the text, analyse it and write down their theories reminded me a lot of the time I wrote my Master’s Thesis or any other time I wrote a paper. I wanted to communicate with Eric and Jen, tell them my own theories and compare notes with them.
And with that we’re right in the middle of plot territory. I really liked the two readers who left their notes in the margins of the main text. At times I was more interested in how their story was going to turn out than in the actual novel. I loved how these little notes showed their relationship progress and how through mere allusions you could actually make out two characters and even grow attached to them. In a way the same thing that happens between Eric and Jen happens to you as a reader, too. You start to like and care about these people even though all you have to back up that feeling is what they have written in the margins.
The other plot in this book is the actual novel „Ship of Theseus“ which is studied and discussed by Jen and Eric. That novel’s plot is creepy and weird and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Which is a kind of narration I really like but it can leave the reader fairly unsatisfied. However, it seems like this is actually the point of „S.“. It ends and hands the solving of the puzzle over to the reader. You have to become like Jen and Eric and start your own research, maybe reread the book. For example, there is this wheel that came with the book, and it is mentioned by Jen and Eric but never used. So there must be a code I’m missing and a quick google search showed me that the people of the internet are already on it and trying to figure it out.
The book is not only an experiment in publishing and a study of the book as a medium; it also tries to make the story intermedial. It goes on in the heads of the readers and on their blogs and on message boards. You can immerse yourself in the world of „S.“. A really great idea IF we get something like a solution in the end. I really hope we won’t be left unsatisfied.
I would love to give five stars to „S.“ but the plot lacked in complexity (which is something that can still be changed if the story does go on in another medium). The reading experience was awesome and I’m looking forward to several rereads and internet research and maybe even solving the puzzle and answering the question that remain.
I read (or rather listened to) this having already seen the Ben Stiller movie, so a comparison was unavoidable. And – what can I say – the story is much better. The movie took the story and made it into a clichéd pseudo-philosophic Hollywood fest. And even though I did enjoy the scenery and the way the movie dealt with the main character’s fantasy episodes, I thought the movie was shallow and rather naïve.
The original short story gets along without the obligatory and unrealistic love interest, but depicts Walter as a very sad and unsatisfied person, who comes to life and achieves meaning and happiness only in his varied daydreams.
What I hated most about the movie was the saccharine and naïve ending, where Walter leaves all his fears – and pretty much his personality – behind and becomes this brave and life-affirming person who can literally climb every mountain, find the man that no one can find and – of course – get the girl.
The rather bleak ending of the short story where Walter can only escape his seemingly meaningless life and his constantly nagging wife by imagining himself being executed by a firing squad definitely sends a different message and I can understand that that would not have resonated well with the average movie audience.
But to me it made a lot more sense and it kept the tone of the story as a whole.
...because my TBR pile is not enormous enough yet. ;)
So, this arrived today. And it's even more beautiful and more detailed than I imagined.
Can't wait to start reading. Everything else has to wait unitl Monday, I guess.
For anyone who hasn't heard anything about this - well - project, here's a link of a video of someone unwrapping the book.
I was just looking for a new edition of Pride and Prejudice so that I wouldn't have to take my precious hardcover with me on the train. And look what I found!
So, have you seen these?
Some independent (I think) publisher from the UK has taken it upon themselves to give some of our beloved classics an all new vintage look!
They are made up like cheap pulp ficiton novels with tagline, used looking cover and coloured edges. The series is called Pulp! The classics and I for one love its style!