3 Day Quote Challenge [2] Day #3

3 Day Quote Challenge [2] Day #3

Welcome back! This is the final day of my 3 Day Quote Challenge.

You can read my quote choices from Day 1 and Day 2, respectively. All three quotes are from The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis.

Here is my final quote:

‘You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not writing books about it… But what is the good of telling you about my feelings? You know them already: they are the same as yours.’ 

Have you ever read something so powerful that it feels like it’s kicked you in the gut? That “wow, this speaks directly to me” reaction? It’s difficult to put into words, but that instinctive, gut, kick in the stomach, “pow” feeling was exactly what I got when I read this passage.

For me, C.S. Lewis was talking directly to me. He emphasises that no matter how different we all think we are, we are all still human, we all still feel emotion – whether it’s pain or joy. No matter how many different stories of people’s lives and suffering we read of, we will always be able to relate in some way. And somehow, that makes the ideas of feeling pain, feeling sadness or just plain scared… a little less scary.

 – Judith


Monster Book Challenge Day #4: Ghosts

Monster Book Challenge Day #4: Ghosts

Hi! This is Day 4 of my Monster Book Challenge. If you’ve missed my first three posts (where have you been?) you can catch up on Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 here. Today’s chosen monster is… Ghosts!

  • Title: Northanger Abbey
  • Author: Jane Austen
  • Published: 1817

Northanger Abbey is a satirical Gothic work. The protagonist Catherine, travels to Northanger Abbey and imagines her life as parallel to the plot of a Gothic novel, although her real life brings her back down to earth.

Although Northanger Abbey isn’t strictly a Gothic novel, or in fact wholly a ghost story, I wanted to talk about some more Jane Austen, and I didn’t feel like discussing Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was entirely appropriate in the run-up to Halloween!

I’m a huge fan of the Gothic genre, and so I went into reading Northanger Abbey with great excitement, eagerly waiting for Austen to satirise the genre as much as she could.

However, I was disappointed in how long it took Austen to start talking properly about the Gothic; I was halfway through the novel and Catherine hadn’t even arrived to Northanger Abbey yet! I did appreciate the references to some more Gothic classics though, such as Matthew Lewis’ The Monk and Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho.

The character of Henry was also really amusing – he painted fantastic Gothic images in Catherine’s mind, images which reminded me of Brontë’s Jane Eyre, of haunted rooms, and hints at mysterious family deaths, raising the question of ghosts.

It’s particularly ironic to read Northanger Abbey as a Gothic-loving English student, because it makes me even more aware of the stereotypical Gothic conventions. I can only imagine how Austen’s readers felt at the time, when the Gothic genre was so popular.

All in all, I did enjoy Northanger Abbey but it’s definitely not my favourite Austen novel.

Do you have a favourite ghost story? What book would you have chosen? Share some thoughts in the comments!

Stay tuned for the final day of my Monster Book Challenge tomorrow!

– Judith

Monster Book Challenge Day #3: Witches

Monster Book Challenge Day #3: Witches

Welcome back my Monster Book Challenge! We’re on the third blog post in a series of book reviews, each one of a book based on a different monster! Today’s chosen monster is… Witches!

  • Title: Macbeth
  • Author: William Shakespeare
  • First Performed: 1611

Naturally, my favourite literary witches are the ones from Macbeth, but it seemed silly to write a “book review” of a play meant to be performed, and I have talked about Macbeth before on ReadandReview2016. Instead, I thought I’d share some thoughts on Shakespeare’s Witches, and why they are so iconic.

1. Are The Witches male or female?

At the time Shakespeare wrote Macbeth, the fear of witchcraft was rife, and this perpetuated many stereotypes that we still have today. Mainly, it continued the belief that witches are old women, with a warty complexion and a companion of some kind, usually a black cat or a toad.

Interestingly, we can’t assume that Shakespeare intended his Witches to be female. Although certain pronouns and descriptions could suggest they were female, plays were performed by all-male casts, making it more difficult to work out the intended gender of certain characters. Furthermore, Banquo himself says in in Act 1 Scene 3, “You should be women, / And yet your beards forbid me to interpret / That you are so.”, emphasising how difficult it was to pin down gender.

Personally, I don’t believe it matters whether The Witches were meant to be male or female. However, it is really fascinating to watch various adaptations of Macbeth, and see how different directors choose to portray the appearance of The Witches, so if you’re interested, I encourage you to compare different versions for yourself.

2. How powerful are The Witches?

After reading the play, it is clear The Witches have a lot of different powers: they can control the weather, they can see the future, they can create potions and spells, they can cause sleep deprivation and madness, and communicate with animal familiars.

There are numerous interesting theories that it was The Witches who granted Lady Macbeth her lack of remorse, and sent Macbeth visions of the dagger, to indirectly influence both characters and lead them to their downfall. Indeed, there are even theories that The Witches are not even real, but merely hallucinations and symbolic of the evil and sin in the world, which would have resonated with Shakespeare’s Jacobean, strongly Christian audience.

3. Who is Hecate?

We only meet Hecate once in the play, in Act 3 Scene 5.

She is essentially the Goddess of Witchcraft, and she can be seen as the leader of The Witches. However, I take issue with this: if Hecate is such a powerful character, why does she only really appear once? Why is it the 3 (lesser) Witches who cause Macbeth’s downfall, rather than Hecate?

Furthermore, we don’t really experience any of her powers, making it curious as to what her significance is. In addition, there is a theory that Hecate is not even Shakespeare’s creation, due to the rhyme and rhythm of her lines, so it is believed Hecate was added afterwards by another playwright. Again, this is just another theory and I don’t believe it adds or detracts from the play either way.

Those are my 3 key thoughts about The Witches in Macbeth – I hope you enjoyed this slightly different style of book post! These are not meant to be comprehensive, hard and fast answers, but just some initial thoughts and ideas.

If you have any other questions, ideas or suggestions, leave them in the comments below!

That’s all for now!

– Judith

Monster Book Challenge Day #2: Zombies

Monster Book Challenge Day #2: Zombies

Welcome back to my Monster Book Challenge! This week I’ll be releasing a series of book reviews, each one of a book based on a different monster! Today’s chosen monster is… Zombies!

  • Title: Frankenstein
  • Author: Mary Shelley
  • Published: 1818

Okay, I know Frankenstein’s Monster isn’t technically a zombie, but I really wanted to talk about some classic Gothic horror, especially at Halloween.

I really like the plot synopsis given on Goodreads, so I’ll pop it here:

“At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.”

Although I’m a self-professed lover of Gothic horror and Classics, I actually found Frankenstein quite a disappointment.

Despite Victor’s obsession with grave-digging and the creation of the undead, the description and language Shelley used hardly struck me as truly Gothic. I was expecting gory details and gruesome imagery, but the language was so vague that in some places, I had to read passages twice just to realise the scene was about a dead body.

I also didn’t enjoy Frankenstein’s Monster as a Romantic or Pantheist: a gruesome corpse comes back to life and one of the first things it decides to do is some soul-searching, and hypothesise about the meaning of life in the beautiful Swiss countryside. This is complete juxtaposition in comparison to his character as a ruthless, bloodthirsty murdering, vengeful monster! Whilst I understand that juxtaposing character traits can be really effective at times, I just don’t understand how these two particular conflicts can work in a novel and still be considered Gothic.*

*If you have any ideas about this that can enlighten me, please share them below

However, I still admire Shelley for her ideas – ideas which are genuinely creepy and Gothic – and the boldness of her to write such a novel as a woman in the 19th century.

I also enjoyed the storyline as portrayed in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the 1994 film adaptation, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, as well as Helena Bonham-Carter and Robert De Niro. For me, this film brought to life the gory details of the plot I’d read in a genuinely horrific way, that I then found enjoyable.

All in all, I don’t think I’ll read Frankenstein again, but I’m still glad I read another classic Gothic novel anyway!

I hope you enjoyed this post – please click ‘Like’ or leave a lovely comment.

That’s all for now!

– Judith

Monster Book Challenge Day #1: Vampires

Monster Book Challenge Day #1: Vampires

Welcome to my Monster Book Challenge! This week I’ll be releasing a series of book reviews, each one of a book based on a different monster! Today’s chosen monster is… Vampires!

  • Title: ‘Salem’s Lot
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Published: 1975

‘Salem’s Lot is a horror novel set in the town of Jerusalem’s Lot (affectionately known as ‘Salem’s Lot to quickly highlight the direction this novel goes in). The main protagonist, Ben Mears, is a writer who came from ‘Salem’s Lot. He returns to his home town, but makes the discovery that the residents are gradually becoming vampires.

This is the second Stephen King novel I’ve ever read, and I absolutely loved it!

Inspired by the traditional tale of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), King draws on stereotypical vampire story tropes, yet in a clever, imaginative and personalised way, making vampires even more terrifying. I really appreciated this, as the narrative style of Stoker’s Dracula disappointed me, and I felt it detracted from the horror.

King’s narrative style is similar to the original Dracula; you experience life in ‘Salem’s Lot through the eyes of a number of different characters, and yet you don’t feel “bogged down” by insignificant dialogue or background stories. The level of description and characterisation for each character is incredibly well-done, so I felt like I knew each main character and could easily understand their own sub-plots.

Of course, being inspired by a traditional vampire tale, there were still some stereotypes that I half-wished Stephen King had jazzed up a bit, like the use of garlic and stakes to banish vampires.

However, I found the way he used the “sunlight stereotype” quite amusing. There comes a point where the almost the entire town have been turned into vampires and have no idea – they just avoid the sunlight and assume they have the flu or a migraine.

I really enjoyed reading ‘Salem’s Lot and I can’t wait to read more of Stephen King’s work! Unknowingly, it turns out I’ve been reading Stephen King’s novels in publishing order; first I read and reviewed Carrie (1974), now I’ve read and reviewed ‘Salem’s Lot (1975)! To keep up this trend, I suppose I should read The Shining (1977) next!

I hope you enjoyed this post – please click ‘Like’ or leave a lovely comment! Do you have any Stephen King recommendations for me? Let me know!

– Judith

Read Along With Me Day #5: Paradise Lost

Read Along With Me Day #5: Paradise Lost

Welcome back to my Read Along With Me Challenge!

It’s the final post about Paradise Lost! Honestly, I’m so glad because it’s a tough beast of a book to work through.

Chapter 10

You can read Chapter 10 of Milton’s original work and a sample of Chapter 10 in modern English here:

Plot Summary:

God watches Adam and Eve from Heaven, and sees their Fall. The Son goes down to Eden and tries to find them. Out of shame, Adam and Eve hide, revealing to The Son what they’ve done. He punishes Adam and Eve. He tells Eve that childbirth will be painful and that she must submit to her husband. For Adam, the ground will not be as fertile as it once was.* Finally, The Son curses the Serpent, for deceiving Eve. Adam and Eve have an argument because of the woe that is to come on then, but eventually make up and keep their relationship intact.

Meanwhile, Satan returns from Eden, where Sin and Death are chatting and create a bridge between Earth and Hell, making it easier for the demons of Hell to roam the Earth. Satan meets the others in Hell and relays his triumphant story of The Fall and expects applause, but instead hears hissing. One by one, the demons have turned into serpents and become outraged with Satan.

*Shmoop Summary

My Thoughts:

Again, Chapter 10 was a really long chapter and it really emphasised he tragedy of Adam and Eve’s actions. I felt sympathy towards Adam, who seems so full of remorse, as well as a yearning to have some kind of relationship with God, his Creator. Again, I was impressed by some of Milton’s vivid descriptions – I really liked the metaphor of the bridge between Heaven and Hell created by the character Sin (i.e. because of sin, humans are condemned to Hell, and will subsequently “meet” Death). I also liked the symbolism of turning Satan and his soldiers into serpents, and it highlights how God has power over Satan, even in the depths of Hell.

Chapter 11

You can read Chapter 11 of Milton’s original work and a sample of Chapter 11 in modern English here:

Plot Summary:

Adam and Eve repent and pray to God for forgiveness. God decides to be merciful and plans that The Son will eventually sacrifice himself to redeem them and re-establish a full relationship with Him again. However, God decrees they must leave the Garden of Eden – they are now tainted by sin, and cannot live in a perfect place. The Archangel Michael flies down to give them the news, which is received with wails and cries by Adam and Eve. However, to encourage Adam, Michael shows him a series of visions which foreshadow later events in the Old Testament, promising a hope for the human race.

My Thoughts:

There were lots of classical references in this chapter which I did not understand at all, and skipped over most of them. The theme of sadness and woe was still present in this chapter, although there were glimmers of a brighter, more hopeful future – a “silver lining”, if you like. When Adam was shown visions of the future, it very much reminded me of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and suggested there would be both positive and negative changes.

Chapter 12

You can read Chapter 12 of Milton’s original work and a sample of Chapter 12 in modern English here:

Plot Summary:

Michael continues to show and tell Adam the events of the Old Testament (in a very condensed way), touching on the genealogies until he reaches the birth of Jesus, which is recorded in the New Testament.  This narrative leads into fundamental Christian theology; he explains how Jesus is both God and Man, who died for our sins – suffering the punishment so we don’t have to. With these joyful news, Adam and Eve lovingly part from the Garden of Eden, to live their lives for God on Earth…

My Thoughts:

I’ve finished Paradise Lost! I’m so proud of myself! With regards to Chapter 12, I thought it was okay to read – a lot of it I could blitz through, like other parts of the poem, because it was summarising Biblical accounts which were already familiar to me. I think it’s definitely worth reading some of the Bible passages Milton draws from – The Creation and The Fall, as well as Satan’s fall from Heaven are all heavily featured in Paradise Lost – and it doesn’t matter if you’re religious or non-religious: what matters is understanding the text.

If you’re interested in reading any passage of the Bible (in any translation – modern or old) I would recommend biblegateway.com – it’s an easy to use website that is really helpful in finding the bits of the Bible you want.

And there we have it! Thank you so much for following me on this journey, whether you’ve been reading Paradise Lost alongside me or just following my commentaries. If you’ve missed any of the posts you can catch up here, or if you’d like to read some of my other challenges, you can find them here:

I suppose the crucial question is, after following my blog posts this week, do you think you’ll pluck up the courage to read Paradise Lost for yourself? Let me know your thoughts!

– Judith

Read Along With Me Day #4: Paradise Lost

Read Along With Me Day #4: Paradise Lost

Welcome back to my Read Along With Me Challenge!

We’re drawing near to the end of the book – how exciting! I’ll be talking about chapters 7, 8 and 9 of Paradise Lost today.

Chapter 7

You can read Chapter 7 of Milton’s original work and a sample of Chapter 7 in modern English here:

Plot Summary:

Milton starts this chapter by referring to another Muse to help him tell the rest of the story. Then, the scene shifts back to Adam and the Archangel Raphael’s conversation. Raphael explains to Adam how Satan fell from Heaven after the war, and then how God created the world, including him and Eve. The rest of the chapter is a retelling of Genesis 1 and 2.

*Muse: A woman, or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.

My Thoughts:

For the most part of this chapter, I fully understood what Milton was saying (progress!), because of my background knowledge of the Bible. The archaic language was still really obvious but it didn’t slow me down as much, probably because the language used for the retelling of the creation account could have been lifted from an AV Bible. However, because I understood the narrative, I could really begin to appreciate Milton’s use of creative vocabulary and vivid imagery – something I’ve not been able to grasp until now.

Chapter 8

You can read Chapter 8 of Milton’s original work and a sample of Chapter 8 in modern English here:

Plot Summary:

Raphael and Adam continue to chat, talking about God’s goodness in providing a beautiful world and a beautiful wife. However, Raphael warns Adam not to fall into sin by thinking about Eve in a lustful or carnal way. Adam is concerned for the safety of Eve, who seems less “pure” than him, and Raphael again warns of Satan’s plans to destroy Eden. There is noticeable foreshadowing of The Fall in this chapter.

My Thoughts:

Unlike Chapter 7, I barely understood any of this chapter! I could just about tell how Adam and Eve appreciated each other and valued their relationship, which again adds to the tragic “spoiler”, that we already know both Adam and Eve sin, and Adam blames Eve, which obviously taints their perfect relationship.

Chapter 9

You can read Chapter 9 of Milton’s original work and a sample of Chapter 9 in modern English here:

Plot Summary:

This is the turning point in the book; Milton openly tells the reader that he must not relate the actions of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. Then, we are taken to the Garden of Eden, where Satan sneaks in again and takes the form of a snake. Meanwhile, Eve has persuaded to work in a different part of the garden, so as to maximise the work she and Adam can complete. Adam is reluctant to let her go, knowing everything Raphael has told him. Eve is in the garden, when Satan approaches and tempts her, shunning God’s warning against the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and so Eve eats of the fruit of the tree. She takes some to Adam, who is shocked and horrified, but also gives in and eats. They instantly become aware of their sin, guilt and shame and hide.

My Thoughts:

In case you couldn’t tell from the size of this summary, Chapter 9 is huge! It was definitely a challenge working my way through it (Judith, wasn’t that the point of these blog posts?). I could sense the build-up to Adam and Eve’s Fall at the start of this chapter, but it certainly took its time happening, and I wish it had happened quicker. Also, Eve really got on my nerves this chapter. Is she stupid?!

1. Eve eats the fruit because she sees a talking snake, and wonders how he got the ability to talk and so eats it too, hoping to get the same ability, when she can already talk

2. Eve doesn’t notice anything odd about the notion of a snake eating an apple!

– Snakes don’t eat fruit

– Snakes don’t have hands; how would he pick it from the tree?

3. Eve has literally been warned 2 or 3 times about an evil liar prowling about the Garden of Eden, then meets a strange creature and takes it for granted that they are telling the truth

I thought Milton’s expansion of the Biblical account in this chapter was brilliant – it made the scenes tense, dramatic, and there was a tragic sense of “NOOOO” when Eve gave in, despite knowing it would happen anyway!

Thanks for reading this post!

I’ve almost finished the book – thank you for sticking with me through this challenge. Come back tomorrow to read the Finale, where I’ll be talking about about chapters 10, 11 and 12!

That’s all for now!

– Judith