Review: Atonement by Ian McEwan

Sunday, 18 January 2015

About The Book
Title: Atonement
Author: Ian McEwan
Series: N/A
Genre: Historical fiction, Romance, Contemporary
Age Range: 16+
Publication Date: September 17th 2001
Pages: 351 pages
Publisher: Vintage Books, Random House

On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her is Robbie Turner, her childhood friend who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge.
By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever. Robbie and Cecilia will have crossed a boundary they had not even imagined at its start, and will have become victims of the younger girl's imagination. Briony will have witnessed mysteries and committed a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.


I felt like a bit of a cheat when I was given this book by my grandmother to read, as I've seen the film far too many times, way too many times actually, so I knew (or thought I knew) the plot inside out. But of course if it was the book that my favourite film of all time was based on then I knew I'd still read it eventually. Of course the book was slightly different, and naturally better, I was surprised by how true to the novel the film actually was, save for superfluous details (of which there are many) and a few scenes at the end of the book.

The thing that struck me first of all was the proportion of the book dedicated to a single day, admittedly a very important day in which we see events from various points of view and certain significant scenes are repeated at least twice in some instances. But this makes sense when you consider how massively important this single day is to the three main characters. Perhaps that's also what's quite interesting, although there are three main characters who all report different versions of events, we (or certainly I) felt like I couldn't trust any of them. Briony (who's point of view dominates the book) is a child in the first part so therefore does not understand most of what is going on, and this leads her to twisting it radically, Robbie is so keenly in love with Cecilia it becomes apparent later on that he may be projecting his own feelings onto certain events in a way that changes them. And Cecilia's disinterest and annoyance towards most members of her family mean we can't be sure how some characters actually are until we see them in other character's points of view. It's quite honestly a master-class in narrative perspective.

In terms of characters I think out of the main three, none of really that likeable. While I sympathise with Robbie massively and can't think enough the kind of impact his 'crime' must have had on his life, in the chapters that depict his life in the war he's relentless in his desperation to get home to Cecilia. And although it is understandable it doesn't do him any favours in how much I like him, it's hard to defend a character who gets a shotgun out to kill an officer just for approaching them and doing his job. I think everyone must hate thirteen year old Briony a little (or a lot) for what she did, and god knows I did, as Cecilia said she really was 'a young thirteen year old', and as a seventeen year old I did relate but I only remember acting like that when I was like eight or nine, possibly ten. But older Briony is a lot easier to sympathise with, in part two she's so wrapped up in her own pity and regret you almost want her to get over it, but in part three she's almost perfectly likeable. Cecilia is less problematic than the other two but her overall attitude is not naturally appealing and she gets a lot less time in her own view point than the other two, which is disappointing but I think I can see why McEwan did it. So much of her life, and how she feels is shown through the other two it's unnecessary to give her needless pages. This book continued my pattern of liking secondary characters as I tended to like Leon; although he's not in it a lot and the twins in part three. The three of them have hardly any time dedicated to them but I felt drawn to them for some reason; it's probably best I don't know a lot about them or I'd end up hating everyone.

The marvellous thing about this story is the way information is withheld until absolutely neccesary, of course I knew that Paul Marshall was actually Lola's rapist but readers could be fooled into thinking that Briony actually did not know who it was, or that it was Danny Hardman. Of course it's just dropped in at the end of a paragraph, and then you realise she's getting married to him and suddenly everything clicks into place. And the almost casual way in which we find out Robbie and Cecilia are dead, readers could be forgiven for thinking that they were not at her party because the grudge was still there. But of course not.

But I think my favourite thing about Atonement; is how it could be seen as the version of The Figure By The Fountain that Briony did not publish, but the one she ought to have. Especially when you consider how much time is spent on the first day, as per her original draft. But obviously in part two it deviates to the true events, rather than the happy ending she concocted for them, and herself. It brings a whole new meaning to the structure of the book.

Review: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Friday, 9 January 2015

About the Book:
Title: To Kill A Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Series: N/A
Genre: Coming of age, Southern drama, Drama, Historical Fiction
Age Range: 13+
Publication Date: July 11th 1960
Pages: 322 pages
Publisher: J.B. Lippincott

The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it.


To Kill A Mockingbird was the kind of book that always existed to me in my peripheral world of literature, and of course I knew it had to be read at some point, and I don't think I could have picked a better time. A lot of the more 'adult' books I read seem to be from the viewpoint of a child, and I think this suits me right now. At seventeen years old I'd be lying if I said I understood the thought process of all adult's perfectly, and while I can mostly, a child's perspective suits me more. The honesty of children, due to either their misunderstanding, or incomprehension of situations means they give a more direct account, and while this can be frustrating for someone who is more mature and therefore irritated by some of their immature decisions, I can always relate to their way of thinking and understand where they are coming from.

Like I mentioned before, Scout's age can lead me to dislike her a little, and while I did at times (especially her inability to understand that sometimes you have to act different ways around different people), mostly she was refreshingly sincere. I identified with her struggle of having to act like a lady, something she has to do, but something I can elect not to if I don't wish to. Although I much preferred her brother; Jem. It may have been the fact that he is the character we see the most of, apart from Scout, and I preferred his maturity, but his despair at the injustice of the court case was something I understood and sympathised with like nothing else. Although he is younger than me, I recently experienced something similar with the Ferguson and other killings of coloured people in America, steered by an institutionalised racism, and found myself unable to comprehend why people would do that, and how on earth they could think that way. Seeing another thinking a similar thing was both a comfort, and Atticus' words of advice resonated with me also. I enjoyed that Atticus was a model of a perfect lawyer, perhaps simply because I am bored of lawyers getting a bad reputation from novels, and always being portrayed as a perpetual liar. Although most of the female characters were more secondary I enjoyed the variety, and that characters such as Miss Maudie and Calpurnia can be strong and independent while still being feminine. Also although I did not like her for much of the book, towards the end Aunt Alexandra grew on me. The way she handled hearing about Tom Robinson's death, as she was clearly shocked and shaken, but threw her head and shoulders back is a lesson everyone could learn from. She conforms to society - but should this necessarily be a bad thing? It shows her intelligence in that she understands the world she lives in and has made the best of it

The court trial of Tom Robinson is a central point to the plot, besides from the mystery of Boo Radley, and is oddly, and sadly, still echoed in twenty first century society. A main source of frustration for, especially Jem and Atticus, is that even before the trial has started they know the jury is going to be biased against him in a staggering form of racial injustice. With all the horrible things going on in America it angered me to see that around 80 years after the book is set, and 50 after it was written these things are still happening. I think it shows the relevance of the book, and that everyone could still learn something from it. It strengthened my belief that books not only reflect the time they were written and set, for the 1960s was where a lot of the black civil rights movement was going on, but also bring to light things in any society.

Another theme that pleased me was that of gender. Possibly ahead of her time, Scout seems to grasp the basic concept of feminism far better than some people I know today. She balances the masculine and feminine influences in her life to strike the balance she is happy with. Scout recognises that some of the expectations put on her are unfair, but she also grows to appreciate that she shouldn't dismiss traditionally feminine values entirely; such as the ability to be polite in any situation, remaining stoic under pressure and the possibly overlooked skill of small talk (something personally I need much help with). 

Despite thematically this being spot on, and character-wise faultless there were almost remedial plot points that perhaps lessened my enjoyment. Certainly at the beginning of the novel, it was hard to give it a direction, obviously there would be some sort of resolution concerning Boo Radley and later we also the Robinson case, but at points I felt like I was reading a kind of personal diary that could potentially go on all day. I was also slightly disappointed that the Dill/Scout storyline was not resolved, though of course they were very young so nothing could be resolved, it very much felt as though it was left hanging. 

But otherwise, this book was technically one of the finest I've read, and definitely one I would say everyone should read at some point in there lives as there is always something in here for someone to latch onto.

NaNoWriMo: The Inevitable Explanation

Sunday, 16 November 2014

I knew this was coming, you knew this was coming, everyone knew this was coming. So I won't say I've given up, because that's not true (well it sort of is). I've chucked NaNoWriMo basically. Wow what a surprise. But let me explain.

I've never been a particularly fast writer. That's to say, when I get going I can go for thousands of words, but when I'm not feeling it, I'm not going to be able to write more than 500 words. And what with school work and hanging out with friends (because no matter how much I love and need to write I'm not sacrificing my education and social life for it), I wasn't making the word count. And the visual of being hundreds and eventually thousands of words behind became a massive deterrent for me. I don't want to force myself to do something when it's not bringing me as much happiness as I originally thought.

However, I am going to continue writing my novel. For some reason, this idea is one I've really latched on to and can see myself writing for some months to come. I'm going to continue with my mindset; of write and don't look back. But I'm not going to feel pressured into writing 1,667 words every single day because honestly I don't have the time and writing until midnight everyday was not good for my health.

So the blogging schedule should be back to normal for now. Although I've hit a bit of a reading slump (oops).

Good luck to everyone who's still going strong!

NaNoWriMo Update

Saturday, 8 November 2014

So NaNoWriMo has been going on just over a week, and well, I may be behind on my word count, but this is pretty much the longest I've been committed to writing one single piece of work and surprisingly my enthusiasm hasn't dropped. I'm pessimistic by nature, but I've taken a different approach this year that's stopped me from getting frustrated and giving up. Usually I try write the best I can all the way through, but that's exhausting and leads to me criticising my work so much so that I end up hating it. But now I'm just writing. Just typing out as much as I can in the hopes that I'll finish on time.

My current word count stands at; 8,836 words which isn't bad for someone like me who can so easily be distracted. I worked out that I need to write 1,871 words per day to finish on time which isn't astronomical especially considering that I went out last night after school so didn't write at all yesterday, nor on Tuesday.

And actually as I'm writing this I should be typing up more of my novel. If anyone would like to add me my username is; restless5oul.

Good luck my fellow writers!

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

About the Book:
Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Series: N/A
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Age Range: 15+
Publication Date: 15th May 2014
Pages: 225 pages
Publisher: Hot Key Books

We are liars.
We are beautiful and privileged.
We are cracked and broken.
A tale of love and romance.
A tale of tragedy.
Which are lies?
Which is truth?
You decide.

This is going to be a fairly short review, mainly because I just do not want to spoil anything for you. I feel like anything I say will reveal something, and boy am I so glad I wasn't spoiled before I read this. It's been so long since I've been that floored by an ending (actually, I had about three possible endings that I thought might be true but I was still so shocked), but now I think back to the book it seems so obvious; the clues are everywhere. I totally get why, frustrating as it is, people tell you to go in blind. You have to. You just have to. I feel so satisfied with it, honestly I know all the details about the plot are vague but just do it. 

You should know that I give out 5 star reviews quite a lot, and I gave one for this because I feel like I would be doing the intelligence and skill in this book a disservice if I didn't. The only criticism I had was that the protagonists annoyed me some of the time, I won't say more than that. Just know that I wasn't a massive fan. It wasn't enough to stop me from reading it; the need to know what happened is just that strong. All I have to say is read this book. And read it now.

November Schedule: NaNoWriMo and More

Sunday, 2 November 2014

So November is here and we're getting closer to Christmas! Yay! However November is also National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo and this year I will be participating. I've tried in the past but I have a pretty good idea this year and a better attitude towards it too. But this means it takes up a lot of my free time, so my blogging schedule will have to change.

This month the only features on my blog will be:

Top Ten Tuesday (only if the topic grabs me)
Reviews (though I won't be reading as much)
And Let's Talks (if I have a burst of rage/enthusiasm)

I will however try to post updates on my NaNoWriMo (if I stick at it that is) when I need breaks.
Good luck to anyone else participating!

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