Read and Review: Sons and Lovers

Read and Review: Sons and Lovers
  • Title: Sons and Lovers
  • Author: D.H. Lawrence
  • Published: 1913

Sons and Lovers is a story which ‘concerns childhood and adolescence and all that go with them, including fear, shame, self‑consciousness, emotional hypersensitivity, sexual awakening’ (Morrison, 2013).

The book focuses upon Mrs Morel, and her youngest son Paul, as well as the relationships he has with two different women in the town: Miriam and Clara. Paul and his mother have an intensely close relationship, and the two behave as lovers – hence the title – which then has an impact on the way Paul sees the world and forms relationships with others.

Sons and Lovers has Lawrence’s clear imprint upon it; the use of Nottinghamshire dialect, characters from a working-class background, the setting of a mining town, and touching on themes such as class, gender, and sexuality.

Yet despite Lawrence’s clear coverage of Paul’s Oedipus Complex*, I found Sons and Lovers less sexually explicit than Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which was a relief!

*Oedipus Complex: A theory that the unconscious mind desires sexual relations with the parent of the opposite sex (e.g. sons being sexually attracted to their mothers)

Another difference between Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Sons and Lovers is that in Sons and Lovers, the novel follows the daily life of Mrs Morel and her family over a period of time and, well, that’s about it. As Paul flitted between Miriam, Clara, and Mrs Morel, I never got the impression that the action was building to anything. Thus, when the book ended, it just ended.

Furthermore, for a book which frequently refers to the gender inequalities between men and women, the portrayal of women in Sons and Lovers was not a positive one. It’s clear Paul uses his relationships with Miriam and Clara to satisfy his physical needs and not much else.  Miriam regularly speaks of her desire not to be held back in life because she is a woman, yet spends her entire time moping around the non-committal Paul, only ever seeing her future in relation to his. We are told Clara is a suffragist, yet scenes of Clara expressing her feminist beliefs are omitted, and instead we are provided more details of Clara’s clinging to Paul.

I can understand why Sons and Lovers has received high praise from readers and critics alike; Lawrence’s writing is good, and his descriptions are detailed and lifelike. The theme of incestuous love between mother and son is certainly one most writers would steer well clear of, but Lawrence tackles it in an interesting way.

Morrison writes that ‘For those new to his [that is, Lawrence’s] work, Sons and Lovers is the place to start.’ (The Guardian, 2013).

Whilst I disagree with this, I can’t deny that I enjoy Lawrence’s writing, and there is no doubt in my mind that I will read more of his novels in future.

***

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

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WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (7)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (7)

WWW Wednesdays is a weekly meme that is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. The “rules” are simple – answer the 3 questions below:


1. What are you currently reading?

I have 3 novels on the go currently; Wise Children by Angela Carter, Middlemarch by George Eliot, and Dreamcatcher by Stephen King.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

Last month, I was in a reading slump and hadn’t read much at all. This month has been the exact opposite!

I’ve read:

  • [re-read] Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  • Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
  • Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
  • Painted by Kirsten McKenzie
  • Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel
  • Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
  • The Teacher by Katerina Diamond
  • The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  • Thinner by Richard Bachman / Stephen King

When I get going, I think my reading average is roughly 3 books a week!

I’m working on writing and posting book reviews for most of these books; the benefit of reading a lot not only means I can cross more books off my Goodreads list but I can generate more blog content!

3. What do you think you’ll read next?

I have no idea! I’ve been reading quite an eclectic mix of books at the minute, so I could pick up absolutely anything.


– Judith

#RBRT Read and Review: PAINTED by KIRSTEN MCKENZIE @Kiwimrsmac #BookReview #Horror

#RBRT Read and Review: PAINTED by KIRSTEN MCKENZIE @Kiwimrsmac #BookReview #Horror
  • Title: Painted
  • Author: Kirsten McKenzie
  • Published: 2017
  • Started: Monday 24th July 2017
  • Finished: Saturday 29th July 2017

Image via TheWomanInBlackWikia.

Painted is a paranormal horror and thriller.

‘If art can capture a soul, what happens when one of those souls escapes?

My Photo [Painted]

When art appraiser Anita Cassatt is sent to catalog the extensive collection of reclusive artist Leo Kubin, it isn’t only the chilly atmosphere of the secluded house making her shiver, it’s the silent audience of portraits clustered on every wall watching her, including those of the unfinished portrait on the artist’s easel. A portrait with an eerie familiarity.’ (Amazon)

Painted is the first book I’ve reviewed for Rosie’s Book Review Team since May – this seems like an age ago – and it was a brilliant book for getting back into RBRT reviews.

It was well-written, and I was engaged in the story throughout.

McKenzie’s creation of build-up and tension was subtle but well-done, creating a consistent tone of uneasiness, which made the climax of the book even more exciting.

There are strong parallels to Susan Hill’s horror novel The Woman In Black*, so much so that I imagined the house in a similar way to Eel Marsh House. This comparison is a good thing however, because I enjoyed both the novel and its film adaptation a lot.

*A lonely protagonist moves into an isolated house in order to complete work commissioned by their employer, but gradual ghostly occurrences unnerve them.

However, unlike The Woman In Black, the protagonist doesn’t remain completely isolated in the house; introduction of her co-workers adds new characters and allows McKenzie to develop a good cat-and-mouse style of horror, in addition to the paranormal activity.

My criticisms are small.

I think Painted occasionally relies too heavily on informing the reader of what the protagonist hasn’t seen. This is an understandable technique – its horror film equivalent would be zooming or panning to reveal a detail within the frame the audience can see clearly but the protagonist hasn’t. If Painted were a horror film (which I wish it was), I’ve no doubt this would be incredibly effective. However, translating this into written prose often within the story doesn’t have quite the same effect.

Furthermore, I would have preferred a more malignant ghostly presence – the ghosts were a little sympathetically written for my liking! For example, in The Woman In Black, although the reader learns the sad back-story behind the woman in black’s haunting, the reader also sees her as a ruthless and malignant ghost, which adds to the horror of the book.

These are nit-picky problems because all in all I really enjoyed this book, and I will most likely try to grab a paperback version at some point, in addition to my free e-book copy!

If you’d like to read a well-written horror story that doesn’t rely on cheap scares but genuine thrills, I strongly recommend Painted.

Star Rating: 4/5 Stars

Painted is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon UK or Amazon.com.

***

Thanks for reading! This is another #RBRT review.  Thanks to Kirsten McKenzie for sending me a free e-book copy to read. You can find her website here: http://www.kirstenmckenzie.com/www.kirstenmckenzie.com

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

Read and Review: Thinner

Read and Review: Thinner

Sass Warning: Low/Mild

  • Title: Thinner
  • Author: Richard Bachman / Stephen King
  • Published: 1984

Thinner is one of five novels penned by King under a pseudonym, to test whether his books would be as well received if they weren’t linked to the King “brand”. It is about Billy Halleck, who is cursed to become thinner and thinner, after accidentally hitting and killing the daughter of Tadzu Lempke, a ‘Gypsy’*, with his car. Halleck begins to lose weight at an alarming rate, and further macabre events follow.

*This slang term refers to Romani people who originated from India, and took to a travelling lifestyle. Europeans incorrectly assumed that, because of their physical and cultural differences, these people must have been from Egypt.

First things first, Lempke and his family are Romani. Thinner does not challenge any negative racial stereotypes – indeed using the word ‘Gypsy’ is indication enough – and in many places conforms to negative stereotypes.

For example, Lempke is physically disfigured, thus making him a scarier antagonist. His family also dabble in curses, magic and the supernatural and their travelling business is treated as suspicious and untrustworthy. Moreover, the narrative of Thinner seems to push Halleck’s biased view against the ‘Gypsy’ group, a view which I struggled to (and ultimately couldn’t) share. I can only hope this negative representation of a racial group stemmed from a place of innocent ignorance.

The issue of race in Thinner is not the element which dissatisfies me most, but I wanted to mention it so there were no discrepancies about using the word ‘Gypsy’.

When I started reading Thinner, my initial thought was that it was a quick-paced story, (it’s one of King’s shorter novels) with a creepy premise.

Because he wrote under a pseudonym, there are a few fun self-aware moments such as:

“You were starting to sound a little like a Stephen King novel for a while there, but it’s not like that.”

“it starts to sound a little like Stephen King again, wouldn’t you say?”

(Thinner, page 115)

However, once the curse had taken its toll upon Halleck, as well as manifesting upon a few other characters in different ways, I felt the plot began to slow down.

Rather than a novel about the gruesome deterioration of Halleck’s body or some horrific supernatural occurrences, Thinner became a novel purely about a manhunt from Lempke, with lots of phone calls, interviews, and the exchanging of documents (exciting stuff).

The final confrontation with Lempke and the ‘Gypsy’ camp was somewhat exciting, but short-lived.  Furthermore, the nature of the curse completely changes in the last few chapters, making the ending Thinner infuriatingly unsatisfactory.

Thinner is the Stephen King novel I enjoyed the least, which is a real shame because normally King provides solid character development, engrossing plots and genuine horrors – all three of which were lacking in this novel.**

**The Stephen King illusion had to shatter eventually.

I’ve had a quick scan of other readers’ reviews on Goodreads and it would seem my sentiments are echoed similarly there.

If you’d like to read a really good Stephen King novel, you should probably choose something else.

***

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this sassy review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

Read and Review: The Tommyknockers / Desperation

Read and Review: The Tommyknockers / Desperation

A.K.A Judith reads a lot of Stephen King novels.

I read The Tommyknockers a few months ago and, initially, wasn’t going to write a book review of it. It was only until I read Desperation that I noticed some similarities between the two novels and I wanted to tackle both books in a dual review.

The plot of The Tommyknockers is as follows:

Bobbi Anderson, a writer living in the town of Haven, becomes obsessed with digging up something she’s found buried in the woods near her home. With the help of her friend, Jim Gardener, she uncovers an alien spaceship. Increasing exposure to the ship and the “Tommyknockers” begins to have malignant and detrimental effects on the residents of not just Bobbi, but the entire town.

Desperation is a story about several people who, while traveling along the desolated Highway 50 in Nevada, get abducted by Collie Entragian, the deputy of the mining town Desperation. It becomes clear to the captives that Entragian has been possessed by an evil being named Tak, who has control over the surrounding desert wildlife and must change hosts to keep itself alive.


When I was first writing notes on The Tommyknockers, I jotted down the phrase “weird sci fi”.

This is a science-fiction novel, which isn’t really my “go to” genre and I’ve only ever read horrors and thrillers by King. I was initially unsure about the premise of an alien spaceship and an alien invasion – it seemed too cheesy for the usual levels of realism King conveys through his novels.

Speaking of science, a theme clearly underpinned in The Tommyknockers is the debate surrounding the use of nuclear power. Jim Gardener is firmly against nuclear power, whereas other minor characters are more easily swayed on the matter. I assume that at the time, nuclear power was a provoking topic of discussion. Thus, I think the illnesses, physical mutations and deteriorating mental capacity brought about by exposure to the Tommyknockers could be paralleled with the feared side effects of exposure to radiation.

However, despite my lack of zeal for science and science-fiction, I quickly began to overlook the inclusion of supernatural powers, alien life-forms and alien technology because it still had the essence of a King novel; the ability to generate suspense and well-executed thrills.

The idea of Haven’s hive mentality worked really well within the book because of King’s good characterisation. I felt like I knew most of the characters in the town, which then added to the eeriness created by the residents increasingly being taken over by the Tommyknockers – Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) springs to mind.


In a similar way, Desperation is a story that contains multiple characters brought together through violent circumstances and learn of the possession Tak has over the land. There are some fun references to Tak as a Tommyknocker, or being described as It, while the characters are trying to work out what exactly Tak is. Subsequently, an assortment of the characters become pawns of Tak, communicating with him and following his orders as part of a de facto cult. This again, is a similar idea to the hive mentality of The Tommyknockers – an idea I still think is fascinating.

Despite this, I didn’t feel Tak’s possessions was executed as well, and I was almost disappointed that Collie Entragian wasn’t really the main antagonist (apologies for this minor spoiler) – just one of many. The premise of a scary killer posing as a policeman to pick innocent victims off a highway sounds brilliant for a horror, and I was sad this wasn’t the direction Desperation took.

Having said that, I really enjoyed the theme of religion King highlighted. My only other experience of religion in King’s writing is the warped pseudo-Christian beliefs expressed by Carrie’s mother in Carrie.

In Desperation, David – who is by far, the best and most fleshed out character in the book – is a young boy who has recently become a Christian, to the surprise of his parents. He is fascinated by the Bible, displays a remarkable faith in God and regularly prays. His time in Desperation becomes a test of his faith – increasingly so due to the horrors he witnesses and the near demonic presence of Tak. King handled the character of David and his religious beliefs with care and respect, as well as the opposing views of other characters, without condemnation of either side, which I admire.

Death – violent and cruel death – is another prevalent theme in both Desperation and The Tommyknockers; King certainly spares no expenses when it comes to the inclusion of gore – especially in Desperation. At some scenes, I screwed my face up in anguish!

Overall, I enjoyed both Stephen King novels – I think I preferred The Tommyknockers to Desperation, mainly because Desperation didn’t do what I thought it was going to.


Thanks for reading! Whilst this wasn’t a conventional book review, it was certainly cathartic for me to record my thoughts.

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith

From One Blogger To Another: The Handmaid’s Tale Discussion With The Blog From Another World

From One Blogger To Another: The Handmaid’s Tale Discussion With The Blog From Another World

Image via Channel 4.

With the hit television drama, The Handmaid’s Tale, currently sweeping our screens, Patrick from The Blog From Another World and I decided to discuss the book and its adaptation.

The Handmaid’s Tale is based on Margaret Atwood’s feminist dystopian novel of the same name, following the life of Offred, a Handmaid living and serving the extreme Christian totalitarian system named Gilead. She is forced to have sex with her Commander each month, in the hopes she will be impregnated with his child and thus continue the population of Gilead.

I’ve only briefly discussed The Handmaid’s Tale before. In a nutshell, my opinion of the novel is that it’s I liked the subverted use of Christianity, which made for an interesting dystopian, but the feminist overtones are overly laboured.

Patrick however, has not finished The Handmaid’s Tale yet.

“I have read part of it, but not enough to provide an honest summation. I think watching this story with very little prior knowledge gives the series a real unpredictability. I will have it finished by the time the series is over though!”

This is not the first adaptation of the novel; The Handmaid’s Tale was adapted into a film in 1990 – a film I have seen, and did not enjoy. I think the decision to move from a film adaptation to an in-depth television drama was smart.

Patrick said, “I think this TV adaptation has allowed the writers to expand upon Margaret Attwood’s ideas and the world she has created. You can dive into the backstory of many characters and give everything a very modern update. I think it was the most obvious thing to do and has paid off enormously.”

The Handmaid’s Tale is not especially a long novel, but its television adaptation has been divided into 10 episodes.

In my opinion, this helps the narrative to be divided proportionally, so that the story is covered at an appropriate depth and doesn’t feel “drawn out”. I also like the incorporation of flashbacks to Offred’s old life, as these both emphasise the pain she is currently in at being separated from her husband and daughter and tie in to the current narrative as she hears rumours her husband may be found.

Yet, despite thinking ten episodes is a good length for the drama, I struggle to keep up with watching new episodes.

In the UK, The Handmaid’s Tale is aired on Channel 4, and available to watch on catch-up on All4.   Channel 4 is notorious for its advert breaks. This is a petty complaint, and not linked to the production of The Handmaid’s Tale itself, but regularly disrupting a show that is full of gripping scenes and high-tension to advertise the latest dishwasher or car completely ruins my immersion in the drama.

The frequent advert breaks have a dramatic impact on my willingness to keep up with new episodes, and this is a real shame.

Patrick also struggles to watch new episodes, but for a different reason.

“I have hit a bit of a brick wall with this series. I cannot fault it – honestly – but it’s just so grim that I don’t know when I’ll watch the next episode.” he said, “If The Handmaid’s Tale was six, rather than ten, episodes long, then the intensity of the rape and violence might be warranted. Instead, imagining another four hours of brutality is not the most attractive prospect now – sometimes you need a bit lighter entertainment.”

However, Patrick and I have plenty of positives to discuss about The Handmaid’s Tale too.

He said, “I have really enjoyed the performances from the cast. Elizabeth Moss has made an incredible Offred, and has created so much depth and emotion. Yvonne Strahovski has also made the character of Serena Joy much more sympathetic and poignant than I first thought. I think that Serena Joy is probably the character I watch with the most interest.”

On this, I have to agree. In the novel, Serena Joy was always presented as a harsh, standoffish woman who resented Offred from the beginning. Whilst this is present in the television adaptation too, we are also presented with a  vulnerable, emotional – and quite frankly, human – side to her that helps the audience to understand her motivations and feelings, and this, I think, was lacking from the book.

Patrick continued, “I also think many of the directing choices have been strong. The complex and jumbled chronology has added variety and context when needed. The writing is fantastic, really delving into the situation with uncompromising bleakness.

In terms of casting, Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia is very impressive and I think Madeline Brewer as Janine is the most complex role. The women have the most material to work with, and the series as a whole is a really ensemble effort.”

The penultimate episode of The Handmaid’s Tale airs on Sunday the 23rd of July at 9pm.

***

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please give it a ‘Like.

If you’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale too, what has your favourite part been?

– Judith and Patrick

Read and Review: Swallows and Amazons

Read and Review: Swallows and Amazons
  • Title: Swallows and Amazons
  • Author: Arthur Ransome
  • Published: 1930

Swallows and Amazons follows the lives of John, Susan, Titty and Roger Walker as they stay at a farm near a lake in the Lake District during the school holidays. They borrow a boat named Swallow to go sailing and make a camp on a nearby island. Soon, they find themselves under attack from the fierce Amazon pirates [also known to some as Ruth and Peggy Blackett], who sail a boat named Amazon. The two groups of children have many outdoor adventures, including sailing, camping, fishing, exploration and general piracy.

I really enjoyed this book. Swallows and Amazons is just a good, a heart-warming, children’s adventure story, in a similar league to other popular children’s series such as Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books (which I loved as a girl).

The children explore an island, forage for supplies, engage in a pirate “battle”, and learn about some buried pirate treasure.

Ransome’s writing style is witty, and this subtle humour permeates the narration and added to my enjoyment of the novel. His characters, although children, use sarcasm and sharp wit within their dialogue and this is brilliant.

When I started Swallows and Amazons, I was a little wary of, in a story set in the 30s, the 2 boys and 2 girls falling into simple and constrictive gender stereotypes. However, I was pleasantly proved wrong. Whilst Susan, as the eldest girl, is mostly responsible for the cooking*, all the other roles and responsibilities – such as tidying, fishing, sailing, washing up – are shared by the children as best they can. This is only amplified when the “pirates” Ruth (who’s pirate name is Nancy) and Peggy appear on the island, proving that little girls can be just as adventurous and pirate-like as little boys.

*Inner housewife moment: I actually really love the little details Ransome includes of the meals Susan prepares, the way the tents are made homely, and all the little supplies the children need. This was one of my favourite parts of the Famous Five series too, when Anne takes on the role of cook and homemaker.

I think my favourite thing about Swallows and Amazons is that, in Ransome’s narration, he takes the children seriously and never belittles their imaginative minds and games. For example, John Walker is not John Walker, he is Captain. The local village is not just a local village, they are savage natives.

This, I think, is the charm of older children’s books – from authors like Ransome, Blyton, and C.S. Lewis for example –  in contrast to children’s fiction nowadays. Yes, the childlike essence of the story naturally appeals to his primary audience of children, but the writing style, characters and plot are also incredibly enjoyable for older readers too, which I think modern children’s fiction lacks – it is written specifically with a 7 year old in mind, and no-one else.**

**Feel free to challenge me on this, this is my own experience: The modern children’s books I read when I was a 7 year old I’d never read again. The books that do stick in my mind as a 7 year old and I would read again are classics such as the Famous Five series, the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Little Princess, The Secret Garden, Little Women, and so on.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Swallows and Amazons and read it in just a few days. There are 11 more books in this series, that I will probably / most definitely read in the future.

If you didn’t read this book as a child, I encourage you to read it.

If you did read this book as a child, I encourage you to read it again.

***

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.

– Judith