books · review

The Girls by Emma Cline

Emma Cline’s The Girls tells the story of Evie Boyd, an ex-member of a cult in 1970’s  Petaluma, California. The novel begins properly with Evie’s present- a somewhat run-of-the-mill, paycheck to paycheck life, in which she house-sits in various places and does little else. However, we have already been introduced to her colorful past in the two pages that make up the introduction of the novel- with the eponymous girls mentioned within the opening line. We learn very quickly that the Evie was involved in a cult that was involved in murderous activity from her interactions in this section- and this sets the reader up for the rest of the novel, to find out how the seemingly normal Evie was ever involved in this, and how the events unfolded. Because of this, there are no real surprises in the novel- everything we read inevitably leads up to what we have already been told will happen.

The protagonist, Evie, is introduced in the 1960’s as a 14 year-old who is lost in the sense that all 14 year-old girls are- struggling with divorced parents, confusion about sex, and wondering just who she really is. If the novel is truly about anything- it is this. All the details given about Evie’s life, repeated throughout the story, the house-sitting, the movie-star grandmother, the hippyish mother, all feel as if they should be clues to lead to something else, but they never does. Much like the novel, which feels to me to end rather oddly- you are left wondering what the purpose of all these details was- after all, why would Cline include it, if it wasn’t somehow part of some greater whole?

Part of the point of the novel seems to be that just about anyone could have got caught up in that cult culture at the time- showing the vulnerability of girls. We see that Evie is not a bad person, through the details that Cline gives about her. They make it impossible to think of her as anything but an innocent kid who got swept away in something much bigger than herself- and I think this is something Evie herself struggles with- wondering if she could have been like them, wondering what really separated her from them.

Another is the preoccupation (inferred from the title) with girls. We see many different types of girls within the novel- Evie’s mother, with her desperation to ‘find herself’, Tamar with her obsession with her life being ‘just-so’, Sasha and her strange relationship with Julian, and the girls at the ranch. Sasha’s character appears to be the primary reason for the ‘present’ parts of the novel for existing- they focus entirely on Evie seeing Sasha and wanting to help her, to stop her from settling for her relationship with Julian, and it is clear Evie sees something of herself within Sasha. The focus is on girls- and their dysfunctional relationships with men- which may well be the reason that Evie and the other girls end up living in the commune.

Overall I would give this book a 4/5 rating, it’s enjoyable and a fairly easy read (if you can get used to the unusual prose style) and perfect for a summer read.

books · Novels

“Board my body up. I’m not for loving. Anymore”- Love is a Half-Formed Thing

Through studying Irish fiction, I finally got around to reading Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. After getting past the original difficulty with McBride’s stream-of-consciousness narrative, what I found was a particularly disturbing novel that has stuck with me for some time. McBride’s next novel, The Lesser Bohemians, whilst slightly less difficult to read (in no small part due to having read the first novel) and lighter in tone, shows the same disturbing attitude to sex and relationships.

After the narrator’s rape at the age of thirteen by her Uncle, her life seems to become a series of increasingly terrible ‘relationships’, if you can go so far as to call them that. At first, she appears to have control of her situation, however by the end of the novel the scenes of a sexual nature are barely readable. What the narrator of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing has in common with Eily, the narrator of The Lesser Bohemians is that their first sexual experience is all-consuming. They both feel a strong love and attachment to their first lovers, even though both experiences are less than loving. They both go out and have relations with other men before coming back again to the same one, almost as if they are destined, or doomed as the case may be, to be with them.

Reference is made frequently in The Lesser Bohemians to the concept of ‘Irish shame’, and being Irish in itself. It seems that this is defining, particularly for Eily, their sexual attitude. Although both women become far more free in sexual relationships after their initial encounters, it is shown that it is of great importance to them. Their strong attachment and unique sexual attitudes afterwards seem to show that the sexual restrictions they would have experienced as a result of their Irish background caused this.

However, the most prominent and obvious theme and the reason for the strange relationship with sex for both girls is their innocence. For the narrator of A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, she is extremely young when she begins these relationships- whereas Eily is in her late teens, embarrassed at being the only virgin among her peers, and carries an embarrassment about sex for some time that does not exist in A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing because it never even had the chance to develop.

Both novels give incredible insight into the lives of their narrators and are definitely worth reading if you can get past McBride’s prose- and both will keep you thinking for some time.

books · Novels · Uncategorized

“Men went mad and were rewarded with medals”- Why Yossarian Wasn’t Crazy

 

“Who’s they?” He wanted to know. “Who, specifically, do you think is trying to murder you?”
“Every one of them,” Yossarian told him.
“Every one of whom?”
“Every one of whom do you think?”
“I haven’t any idea.”
“Then how do you know they aren’t?”

When you think about books about war, what comes to mind ranges from old dusty tomes of battles long ago won and lost, or new, shiny paperbacks with first hand accounts of snipers still fighting a war. Less thought of is Catch-22, because it is easy to forget that it is a book about war- it is sometimes hard to see that it is even when reading. It is comical, absurd and satirical- which is not what is expected from a book about war, but then again, perhaps that’s what is needed.

War is a tricky subject- nobody seems to want it, and yet everyone seems to have been part of one at sometime in their history. There’s a great deal to be said – and a great deal that has been said- about it. Literature has an air of implying that there were positive aspects to war- when Scripps says “you can’t explain away the poetry sir” in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, he quotes Philip Larkin’s MCMXIV

Never such innocence,
Never before or since,
As changed itself to past
Without a word – the men
Leaving the gardens tidy,
The thousands of marriages,
Lasting a little while longer:
Never such innocence again.

Joseph Heller does not do this. What he shows us is that war is absurd. He does this without even saying so- but through his characters. Milo Minderbinder, offering “a share” in his company- that amounts to a literal peice of paper with ‘one share’ written on it, and ochestrating attacks in the war for profit, allowing the enemy to attack as long as they allow them to retaliate. Doc Daneeka being declared dead because his name was on the log book of a plane that crashed, despite the fact he is standing right there, telling them he is not dead. The men only being allowed to go into Major Major Major Major’s office when he is not in. Catch-22 itself. Every situation and every character is absurd and crazy- the suggestion being that you would have to be in order to be there.

 

 

Clevinger thinks Yossarian is crazy for thinking that they are trying to kill him, but it’s true. It is true that every time they fly a mission, there are people trying to kill them. In truth it is Clevinger who is crazy if he truly feels that no one is trying to kill Yossarian – he has no real response to “Every one of whom do you think?”. He claims to have no idea- but it is clear that Yossarian is referring to the enemy because they are at war, a fact Yossarian has to constantly remind them of.

The entire novel demonstrates the absurdness of it all. What Heller shows here is that war can be absurd- and that this causes those involved to act and think in strange ways. Although Yossarian is frequently declared as being crazy, to the readers he appears to be one of the sanest people there.

The first Catch-22 of the novel is that if someone wants to be grounded, he cannot be crazy, as it is rational to fear the immediate danger he faces when he flies. So therefore if he were crazy, he could be grounded, but to be grounded he would have to ask- which would therefore make him not crazy, and so on. It sums up the essential ridiculousness of the whole thing- it is the situation that is crazy, and not Yossarian.

books · Personal

The Liebster Award!

Thank you so much to @Olga’s Oddish Obsession for nominating me for the Liebster Award! This is my first ever award and my blog is still pretty new so I’m really pleased someone noticed me, her blog is amazing and you should definitely all check it out!

 

Rules

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you.
  • Answer the 11 questions that the blogger gave to you.
  • Nominate at least 5, but no more than 11 bloggers who you think deserve the award.
  • Tell those bloggers you nominated them!
  • Create 11 original questions for the next nominees to answer

1. Why do you read if you could be doing anything else?

That’s kind of exactly the point- I could be doing something else, but I’m not, I’m reading. I’m a procrastinator, it’s just what I do

2. Do you consider youself a pessimist or you always the friend to lift up another’s spirits?

I’m definitely very optimistic, if not too optimistic at times!

3. Who is your favorite protagonist and antagonist of all worldly time? (doesn’t have to be from a book)

My favourite protagonist is Yossarian from Catch-22, and my favourite antagonist is General Woundwort from Watership Down (you have to be one heck of a rabbit to believe you can take on a fox!)

4. Do you like being called a nerd or can that seem insulting in a way to you?

I feel like nerd has taken on a whole new meaning- it’s not really uncool to be a ‘nerd’ anymore, so I wouldnt mind it at all.

5. Have you begun to complete a few of your goals for the new year?

I have! I’m trying to take up a new hobby by teaching myself crochet, and I’m starting work on the novel I always said I was going to write (and never did)

6. Are you a sweatpants and large shirt person or do you plan out your tumblr outfit to feel comfortable?

I’m more of a hoodie-stolen-from-the-boyfriend and skinny jeans person myself.

7. Do you have a sweet tooth or bathe in the joy of knowing your gonna live longer?

I definitely have a sweet tooth- after all, what is life without Cadburys Dairy Milk? There’s not much good in living longer and be miserable :p

8. Are you a fan of ordering online or do you prefer going to the store?

I prefer to go into bookshops, but I don’t actually always buy from them rather than online, basically because university is expensive and I can’t always afford to spend that much on a book, but if something catches my eye I’ll generally buy it there and then!

9. Have you ever had the chance to meet an author of your favorite book?

I did meet the author of my favourite two series growing up, Darren Shan (Darren Shan Saga and Demonata novels) about a year ago now, I was beyond excited for it and I think I asked a pretty good question (at least I hope), but I was so nervous about it that I can barely remember what I said!

10. How long have you been reviewing and is it what you expected?

About three or four months now, but only just starting to take it a little more seriously! It’s actually a lot of work alongside and English degree because it is so much reading, not that I’m complaining of course 😉

11. Lastly, what other interests do you have besides reading and/or writing?

Making things, gangster films, and crochet!

I nominate….

@My Tiny Obsessions

@Flavia The Bibliophile

@Book Adventures

@Reading Every Night

@Rather Too Fond of Books

And your 11 questions are…

  1. Why did you first start your blog?
  2. Which novel really got you into reading?
  3. What is your favourite TV show character?
  4. Which literary character is most like you?
  5. What do you think is the best book to move adaptation?
  6. Have you kept/broken any of your new years resolutions already?
  7. If you ever wrote a book, what would it be about?
  8. Which mythical creature do you wish was real, and why?
  9. If you went to Hogwarts, which would be your favourite subject?
  10. If you could meet just one famous person, who would it be?
  11. Which song would appear on a soundtrack to your life?
books · Novels · Personal

Fantastic Books and Where to Find Them

img_2455

I’ve been a fan of the Harry Potter series ever since I read The Philosopher’s Stone when I was 8 years old- and ever since then it’s been a major part of my life. Three Halloweens in a row as Hermione, a ginger cuddly cat named Crookshanks, and a jar of Bertie Botts’ Every Flavour Beans later, I’ve been to the Warner Bro’s Studio Tour and I’m on my way to Universal Studios Wizarding World of Harry Potter in July 2017 (and I still have a firebolt somewhere in my back garden)

And…No, suprisingly, I haven’t seen Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. It’s not that I have a problem with it being made- additional content to any great series can only be a good thing (remakes though- is a whole different story) but it’s just sort of not the additional content I wanted. I mean, I can’t be alone in having wanted marauder era (the sheer number of “fifth marauder” fanfictions should be enough to tell you that) For me, the marauders come above the golden trio in my list of favourite characters.

It’s kind of difficult to see why this in particular is the first Harry Potter spin-off film- and first additional content apart from The Cursed Child play (which I still don’t really understand the plot of)- it’s  based on a book that’s mentioned probably less than ten times in the entire series, and a character that never appears- so for some of us it’s probably a little bit of a disappointing choice. I’m actually planning on giving it a go soon though – I’ll buy the book after Christmas and post my findings here- I’ve certainly heard good things about the film so far, so hopefully I’ll enjoy it…but I’m still secretly  not so secretly hoping for marauder related content some day in the future….

 

books · Personal

“I Wander’d Lonely as a Cloud”- Windermere Wanderings and Christmas Cheer

This weekend I visited Lake Windermere- home to the Beatrix Potter museum, The Hole in T’ Wall (frequented by Charles Dickens) and one of the prettiest log benches I’ve seen yet

img_2230
“I wandered lonely as a cloud, that floats on high o’er valleys and hills, when all at once I saw a crowd, a host of golden daffodils”- William Wordsworth

We came across this bench after taking a random detour when we found we couldn’t walk directly around the edge of the lake- thanks to a caravan park and a building site that likely weren’t there in Wordsworth’s time- and had almost turned back after walking over a mile down a straight road, which I of course had insisted was taking us somewhere (all it had taken us to so far was a less-than-picturesque car dealership ). In typical not all those who wander are lost fashion, it did eventually lead to a field, which could be crossed to reach a leafy path by the very edge of the lake, which gave access to these beautiful spots, so my navigational reputation remains intact!

 

It’s easy to see why so many writers would choose the Lake District as a place to work- it’s difficult to not be inspited by views like this. It is so peaceful and idyllic that it often really is just you and the views when you are walking, and more often than once you’ll wish you could afford to live there permanently.It is full of hidden spots like these to be discovered and to write in peacefully, and although your feet may hurt after an eight mile walk, some mulled wine soon makes you forget all about it.

One of the reasons for our visit to the Lakes at this time of year is that the University Christmas Break is coming up- and so as we don’t get to spend christmas together, we have our own earlier in the month. Two of the presents I recieved were (inevitably) books from our favourite bookshop – Kernaghan Books, in Liverpool- and one is by Charles Dickens, a frequent visitor at The Hole in T’ Wall, one of the many pubs we visited for mulled wine during our trip!

 

Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle is one of my favourite books of all time, and so this first edition paperback (from etsy store PrettyHappyVintage) was a brilliant gift for me. This copy of Oliver Twist is beautiful, tiny, emerald green with gold embossed writing.

img_2279

I’m already looking forward to visiting again next year!

Continue reading ““I Wander’d Lonely as a Cloud”- Windermere Wanderings and Christmas Cheer”

books · graphic novels · Uncategorized

“I Guess My Soul is in a Cat”- Lost at Sea

FullSizeRender (8)

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Lost at Sea is about Riley, a girl who believes a cat has stolen her soul. Surprisingly, apart from this, Riley is a very relatable character- a teenage girl who hasn’t quite figured things out yet, and doesn’t know if she ever will. She worries she is too tall, and too weird, and can’t establish friendships properly, and she doesn’t realize that everyone else is just as “fucked up” as she is. The story feels real to the degree it doesn’t even seem particularly odd when her travelling companions all agree to go out in the early morning to search for the cat that has Riley’s soul without questioning it- it seems like the kind of thing any of us would do.

It’s the first graphic novel I’ve ever read and though I have to admit I’d never even thought about reading one, I really enjoyed it. It was quicker to read and undeniably prettier than looking at blocks of text- it’s been a long time since I’ve actually seen the characters, rather than just visualising them. This is definitely worth the read whether you’re into graphic novels or not, and might just get you thinking about life a little differently.

IMG_0254