THE POETRY of SYLVIA PLATH

THE POETRY of SYLVIA PLATH

Let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences.

– Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath.

. . . Who doesn’t want to live by such a statement?

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THOUGHTS on BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by EVELYN WAUGH

THOUGHTS on BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by EVELYN WAUGH

If we take a look back to ‘The Line-Up‘ post from a whole 7 months ago, this was in fact one of the featured books sitting on my ‘To Read’ shelf at home. Having purchased a lovely copy of Brideshead Revisited upon recommendation, I had been eager to read it for some time when I picked it up a couple of months ago. Not only had I been told that the novel itself was superb, but several people had also spoken highly of the dramatisations. Fortunately, I had not seen the television series nor the film and came to the book with no pre-conceived ideas, judgements and without any idea about the plot and storyline.

IMG_4362‘The Line-Up’ post from back in July.

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Having just finished The Great Gatsby (another novel featured in ‘The Line-Up’), a tale of new money and affluence also set in the 1920s, I was ready for the English old money equivalent. I was right in the idea that this novel is completely and utterly English old money. However, the plot goes much deeper than that. The theme of love for example is complicated by marriage and subsequent infidelity,  family and religion. Prosperous Jay Gatsby may throw a good party but the indulgent Oxford days of Charles and Sebastian seem to go one step further. Living off of family allowances, the pair indulge in parties and alcohol, plenty of it. Sebastian’s indulgent lifestyle slowly spirals into a state of depression and alcoholism as a form of escapism, one of the darker sides to the extravagant lifestyles and eccentric personalities explored within the novel.

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I’ve already purchased another Evelyn Waugh novel so we shall mark this read as a success. Stay tuned.

THOUGHTS on BERLIN : IMAGINE A CITY by RORY MACLEAN

THOUGHTS on BERLIN : IMAGINE A CITY by RORY MACLEAN

The day after opting to take a beginners German language module and the accompanying module entitled ‘German History & Culture’, I happened upon this book in Waterstones and was instantly struck by the super funky cover (judge me at your will). Of course, the title is striking too. Especially as I was about to begin studying the fall of the Berlin Wall and the events surrounding, leading up to, and following this historical turning point which saw two states reunited as one country.

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MacLean captivates the reader with a combination of short bibliographical narratives so interesting that they could at times, quite easily be mistaking for fiction, and cultural German tales, and historical events. A factual, history book that is capable of allowing one to read with relative ease, without straining to focus, in my opinion, can only be a good one. 23 portraits are given a chapter each, from Frederick the Great right up to David Bowie, MacLean glides through the history of a capital city with a hugely turbulent past elegantly, somehow.

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The following Guardian article: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/20/berlin-imagine-city-rory-maclean-review  hails the book as “A compelling series of portraits captures the intangible something that turns visitors into Berlinophiles” and it’s true, ‘Berlin : Imagine a City’ creates an interest that could almost definitely lead to city break plans…

FIRST IMPRESSIONS | THE WOMAN WARRIOR by MAXINE HONG KINGSTON

FIRST IMPRESSIONS | THE WOMAN WARRIOR by MAXINE HONG KINGSTON

It’s constantly drummed into each and every one of us to not “judge a book by it’s cover”. However, 70 pages in and I feel that it’s perfectly acceptable to publish my initial thoughts on my current read.

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“When we Chinese girls listened to the adults talking-story, we learned that we failed if we grew up to be but wives or slaves. We could be heroines, swordswomen.

Throughout her childhood, Maxine Hong Kingston listened to her mother’s mesmerizing tales of a China where girls are worthless, tradition is exalted and only a strong, wily woman can scratch her way upwards. Growing up in a changing America, surrounded by Chinese myth and memory, this is her story of two cultures and one trenchant, lyrical journey into womanhood.



Complex and beautiful, angry and adoring, The Woman Warrior is a seminal piece of writing about emigration and identity. It won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1976 and is widely hailed as a feminist classic.”

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The Woman Warrior has been described as “enchanting” by The Guardian and I must say I agree. As a text, thus far it has been completely encapsulating. I was prepared for the blend of memoir and folktale and I was therefore dubious about the fluidity. I had no reason to doubt or to worry as it has been working perfectly up to this point. Maxine Hong Kingston is brutally honest in style through her memoir and manages to intertwine fantasy and reality simply, yet beautifully.

I am really enjoying reading this book and for this reason I’m not even dreading the three hour train journey I’m taking early tomorrow morning. Here’s hoping it continues at such a level and helps me to beat the bore of travelling.

BOOK HAUL

BOOK HAUL

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I’m sure we can all agree that to purchase a new book makes for a feeling of satisfaction. A book is a purchase that could potentially last you a lifetime, not only in its physical form but hopefully if enjoyed, mentally or even emotionally too.

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Recently, in the space of two or three days I acquired the four books seen in the photo above. Three of the books were purchased from my local independent book shop called Booka and the fourth, from Waterstones.

Firstly, How The French Think by Sudhir Hazareesingh was paid for in half with a gift voucher I won upon leaving school, aptly for French. The sub heading, ‘An Affectionate Portrait of an Intellectual People’, is pretty self-explanatory in that it explains the purpose of said book. The Penguin website states that How the French Think “is warm yet incisive exploration of the French intellectual tradition, and its exceptional place in a nation’s identity and lifestyle”. It serves as an insight into the thoughts and findings of influential French thinkers and writers through history and I am so excited to start this book before starting my French degree in September. I’m also extremely happy that I used my French prize on something so fitting that I can now cherish forever.

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The next two books were actually part of a ‘two for one’ offer on in Booka, making them a super good investment and a rewarding purchase, made even better by the fact that they were gifted to me, an enormous thank you again to you, Charlotte! The Woman Warrior is a non-fiction, collection of auto-biographical memoirs written by Maxine Hong Kingston. It tells of the experiences of a Chinese-American living in the aftermath of the Chinese Communist Revolution (1946-1949), intertwined with Chinese folktales. The Woman Warrior has been promoted to my next read and Charlotte, I shall let you know if it’s worth borrowing.

American Psycho also caught my eye, as a completely different read. This is a novel by Bret Easton Ellis published in 1991, which follows the life of a serial killer / businessman from Manhattan. The fact that it has been adapted into film and musical and the idea that it sits within the genre of transgressive fiction makes it all the more appealing and again, I’m excited that this novel has been added to my bookshelf.

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Finally, an even more impromptu purchase. The First Bohemians (Life and Art in London’s Golden Age) by Vic Gatrell stood out to me, having watched the recent documentary series (How To Be Bohemian on BBC) presented by Victoria Coren Mitchell, which explored the roots and interpretations of the term, bohemianism. Both The Telegraph and Goodreads have awarded Gatrell a 4/5 rating here and as a historical exploration into the foundations “bohemianism” it is of interest to me and should therefore be an insightful and educating read.

I shall of course keep you posted in the upcoming months with my progress with these four books in particular, having purchased them on my blogging journey.

THE BOOKS OF MY CHILDHOOD

THE BOOKS OF MY CHILDHOOD

“Wherever my story takes me, however dark and difficult the theme, there is always some hope and redemption, not because readers like happy endings, but because I am an optimist at heart. I know the sun will rise in the morning, that there is a light at the end of every tunnel.”

–  Michael Morpurgo

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It is fair to say that I was much more of a bookworm when I was younger. Mum often tells of how difficult it was to keep me from reading the newspaper because if left, I would read from cover to cover and be far too aware of the “real world” at a far too early age. I think the books you read as a child say a lot about who you were growing up and also, that the foundation you had through literature serves as an explanation for many things about the adult you are today.

I recall many of the girls in my class reading through the entire series of Enid Blyton’s ‘Malory Towers’ and the boys being fixated with Lemony Snicket and his ‘Series of Unfortunate Events’. However, I was reading on somewhat middle-ground for the most part with Michael Morpurgo, who’s books I adored. His plots and chosen subject matter are so much deeper and far more meaningful than the average books aimed at pre-teens and the phrasing was far from patronising as it stretched my ability and developed my vocabulary. His books are interesting and his characters have real personalities which makes them great as the transition into more sophisticated reading.

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I wasn’t always reading Morpurgo though, I can remember being a huge fan of both Jacqueline Wilson and then later, Cathy Cassidy. Both authors of super girly fiction which admittedly, I also loved. I think Jacqueline Wilson is wonderful at creating real-life, relatable stories which are engaging and characters who young female readers easily fall in love with. I can vividly remember the lives of some of her characters and events that they faced in them. Cathy Cassidy is much the same, with engaging and relatable characters and interesting plots set at a slightly lighter level.

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THE LINE-UP

THE LINE-UP

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.”

– Oscar Wilde

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By starting such a blog in such a manner, it would be easy to mistake me for a bookworm. In actual fact, I am far from it. I read slowly and somewhat infrequently, as recorded in my very limited list of “Books read in 2015”. However, when I find a great book I find it easy to appreciate. In some ways, I think that counts for as much, if not more than aimlessly flicking through hundreds of pages. It often takes me time to settle on my next read and it is not unusual for me to dismiss a book for months before returning to it. But, thus far this method has served me well and I have always been satisfied with my final decision and choice.

Recently, I have read two books for my English coursework preparation. Those two books were ‘Regeneration’ by Pat Barker and ‘Atonement’ by Ian McEwan, both of which I did in fact enjoy. However, no matter how much you may enjoy texts given to you for academic purposes, they will never quite be the same as a novel you have chosen yourself. Or even, one that has been suggested to you based on opinion and enjoyment, as opposed to it’s ability as a text to pass your exam or increase your context marks. In my opinion, it will always be limited to study and will never quite be able to cross the barrier of personal enjoyment, despite your potential engagement with it. For this reason alone, I am so very grateful that I was encouraged this year to read things that were not forced upon me and to really consider what it is that interests me as a reader, not what aids me as an A Level English Literature student.

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Enjoying the journey of a novel has resulted in my big plans to read big things! Not only in size (Les Misérables in all it’s 1194 pages) but also in name. Brideshead Revisited, The Great Gatsby and A Clockwork Orange are all big titles lined up on my bookshelf waiting for me to decide their fate. I will of course keep you updated on the reading of said novels when the time comes that I decide which one of them is the next right choice.

THE BOOK THAT GOT ME READING | LOLITA by VLADIMIR NABOKOV

THE BOOK THAT GOT ME READING | LOLITA by VLADIMIR NABOKOV

‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.’

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The reading of Lolita has undoubtedly been one of the best pieces of advice I have taken, given by the most wonderful person.

A few months ago, I was in one of my last A Level English Literature classes, in which the teacher had encouraged us to discuss our favourite novels. Upon telling the class that mine was ‘Lolita’, there was no reaction. Everybody was clueless. However, following a short explanation from my teacher and myself, they were somewhat disgusted. I can understand completely how it sounded to new ears but it is also necessary to understand quite how difficult a novel it is to explain, and how I struggled in spoken word to fully express it’s beauty as a text. That’s just it, ‘Lolita’ is beautiful, but it’s subject matter is far from it.

It is natural to assume that to read a book about a middle aged man’s infatuation with young girls and eventual criminal, immoral behaviour towards them, tantamount to child abuse, is to self inflict fury and disgust. However, to read ‘Lolita’ becomes a pleasure almost immediately. Perhaps quicker than you’d like it to. The juxtaposition of sexual fantasy and ultimately sex itself, and “nymphets” is uncomfortable and disturbing, and at times vivid description serves to heighten such discomfort. However, once again the literary craft just about manages to overpower such wrongdoing as the reader either ignores of forgets Dolores’ age and focusses on what seems to be love and passion. The idea that by the end of the novel we almost believe Humbert’s love for Dolores and even feel sympathy for his character is testament to Nabokov’s incredible skill. Personally, I couldn’t think of a more difficult literary challenge than to write about such an abhorrent sequence of events, yet to have a reader that remains sympathetic.

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I don’t ever intend to force anything upon anybody. However, if any one of you is looking for a novel that you will find a (guilty) pleasure to read, one that will make you question, and most importantly one that will remain with you, then I would suggest that ‘Lolita’ would be a good choice. I will be eternally grateful that it was suggested to myself.