Themes in: Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips

Themes in: Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips

This is the final post in this series (for now) and my final book of choice is Crossing the River by Caryl Phillips. Crossing The River is an odd book to describe. It is a piece of historical fiction, with a trans-historical mode. This means that, whilst focusing on issues of colonialism and slavery, it collectively tells the stories of multiple characters, both black and white.  However, despite being a collection of different stories, they are all thematically linked.

Slavery

Phillips wanted to write about slavery involvement in the UK, so naturally, this theme is clear throughout Crossing the River.  At the start of the book, The Ancestor sells his children into slavery. The pairing of money and slaves is continued significantly in the characters of Captain Hamilton and Edward Williams. Captain Hamilton is the owner of a slave-ship who, ironically, believes slave-trading is wrong. However, the financial gains he makes from the slave industry is the motivation behind his continued involvement. Edward Williams is the owner of a slave plantation, who also believes slavery is wrong, and yet participates in the industry regardless. The monetary value placed on a human life, and the commodification of slavery is absolutely vile; apparently it is not enough to benefit from having someone fulfil each and every of your desires, a profit must be made too. Crucially though, the author is unbiased in their depiction of these characters. Their involvement in the slave trade industry is neither praised nor condemned, leaving it to the reader to respond.

Melancholy

Each story seems to have an undercurrent of sadness. The Ancestor sells his children, which breaks his heart. Edward and Nash are separated*, Nash’s letters to Edward are never responded to and Nash is given no reason as to why this is the case.

*It’s hinted Edward’s wife forced communication between the pair to end after she discovered the homoerotic nature of their relationship.

Martha travels across America searching for her daughter, and Joyce sadly gives up her baby. This melancholia is often paired with feelings of loss, abandonment, displacement and/or severed relationships – perhaps to reflect the feelings of slaves across history.  They have been taken from their homes, removed from their families, and forced to suffer at the hands of a slave master.

Journeys

Many of the characters undertake journeys in Crossing the River. There are two types of journeys however: physical and metaphorical.

Physically, Martha travels across America to find her daughter, Edward travels to Africa to find Nash, Travis travels from America to Britain because of World War II, and Captain Hamilton goes on sea voyages as a slave-ship owner.

Metaphorically, some of the characters make the “journey” from life into death. Furthermore, journeys may also represent the trans-historical mode of the novel. Taking a “journey across time” is a popular phrase to describe tracking certain events of themes through history.  By presenting multiple characters’ physical journeys and metaphorical journeys of self-discovery and freedom, Phillips provides the reader with a historical journey, presenting how the issues of slavery and race relations are still as relevant today as they were during the time of the British slave trade involvement.

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Thank you for reading this blog post! This marks the end of this little series, but I may well pick it up again at a later date.

I hope you enjoyed it – please click ‘Like’ if you did, or leave some feedback in a comment below.

– Judith

#RBRT Read and Review: DEVIL IN THE COUNTRYSIDE by CORY BARCLAY @CoryBarclay #BookReview #Thriller

#RBRT Read and Review: DEVIL IN THE COUNTRYSIDE by CORY BARCLAY @CoryBarclay #BookReview #Thriller
  • Title: Devil In The Countryside
  • Author: Cory Barclay
  • Published: 2017
  • Started: 23rd April 2017
  • Finished: 19th May 2017

Devil In The Countryside is a historically inspired thriller set in 1588 at the time of the Reformation. The plot follows investigator Heinrich Franz, who is looking for answers after numerous mysterious killings in the German countryside, attributed to the Werewolf of Bedburg.

The concept for the book reminds me of stories like Van Helsing, which is just the sort of thing I enjoy.

I think Barclay’s decision to mix fact and fiction was a bold one, but it made the political and historical context in which the book is set interesting.

Conventions of the genre, such as mysterious characters and gruesome murders were used well, and the writing was mostly easy to follow.

However, I struggled to imagine the settings and characters as authentically German. It felt more like a story about American characters that happened to have Germanic names. For me, this was particularly obvious when reading the amount of American slang used within dialogue – slang I’m quite sure wasn’t around in 16th century Germany!

This was a shame, because I think it prevented me from reading Devil In The Countryside as a historical fiction, and I read it more as a modern thriller.

Similarly, the dialogue also contained a surprising amount of crude swearing.

Normally, this is isn’t enough to discourage me, but in an era of strong religious conflict between Catholics and Protestants, I doubt casual phrases such as ‘God dammit’ would be used in dialogue between priests and religious citizens.

Devil In The Countryside is a reasonable thriller inspired by historical events, and if you enjoy violence or the supernatural, I’m sure it would be a good read for you.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Devil In The Countryside is available to buy as a paperback or an e-book from Amazon UK or Amazon.com.

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Thanks for reading! This is another #RBRT review.  Thanks to Cory Barclay for sending me a free e-book copy to read. You can find his website here: www.corybarclay.com

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

– Judith

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (4)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (4)

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’m reading a non-fiction, Shooting History, by Jon Snow – an autobiographical account of modern history and journalism Snow was involved in. I’ve also been sent another book to read for Rosie’s Book Review Team, Devil In The Countryside, a historical thriller by Cory Barclay. I’m also reading another free book to review – Being Simon Haines, by Tom Vaughan MacAulay.

It’s also exam-season, so as a form of revision, I’m aiming to re-read texts that will be covered in my exams. Here’s how I’ve got on so far:

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I read so much over the Easter break! I read The Seagull, a play by Anton Chekhov, as well some more Stephen King novels of course – The Shining and The Tommyknockers. I also finished the thriller Perfect People by Peter James, as well as The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy. I also received a new book, Commune: Book One, to read and review for Joshua Gayou, a new author.

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

As I really enjoyed Perfect People, I want to explore the works of Peter James, and the thriller genre as whole, further. It would also be nice to read some more classic literature as well.


What are you currently reading?

– Judith

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Terry Tyler

From One Blogger To Another: An Interview With Terry Tyler

This week, I interviewed Terry Tyler, a writer and blogger who currently lives in the North East of England. She has published 13 books to date, her most recent novel being The Devil You Know, a psychological thriller released in October last year.

Terry is a huge fan of history and therefore loves historical novels. “Philippa Gregory’s historical novel The Other Boleyn Girl is a masterpiece!” she said.

The Other Boleyn Girl is loosely based on the life of Mary Boleyn, the sister of the infamous Anne Boleyn.

Terry explained, “The book was brilliant; I like the Plantagenets, the Tudors and the 17th Century most of all, although I will read about other periods too. I prefer serious historical fiction, not romances, and it needs to be extremely well researched, so that it can teach me about the period. The film adaptation of The Other Boleyn Girl, however, was garbage!”

History also inspires many of Terry’s novels.

I read one of these novels, The House of York, a historical fiction inspired by the Tudors and Plantagenets, which I reviewed here:

However, Terry is not only interested in the past, but the (possible) future.

“I’ve watched every season of The Walking Dead three times over!”

She explained, “I love stories about life after pandemics and zombie apocalypses, but they must be really well-written and thought out. It’s how people survive on the breakdown of society, when the world as we know it has gone, that fascinates me.”

Yet being a keen reader writer, it took Terry a while to begin blogging. “Although my first book was published in 2011, I didn’t start a blog for another six months.” She said, “Everyone kept telling me writers have to have blogs, so reluctantly, I started one.”

Eventually, Terry began to appreciate the use of having a blog. “It was a useful tool for me when I wanted to write things other than my current novel-in-progress. Now, I’m a part of Rosie’s Book Review Team and I write about all sorts – writing advice, publishing advice, book reviews and other random things that pop into my head!”

Terry’s newest novel, The Devil You Know, was the culmination of half a year’s hard work.

My Photo [The Devil You Know]

“It takes me about six months to go from having an idea for book to finishing it” Terry said, “I write very intensively once I get going – it’s what I do – and I fit the rest of my life around it. Although all my novels have different storylines, they always tend to be character driven and have a good plot twist or two!”

I asked Terry if she had any tips for any other writers. She said, “Show what you’ve written to someone who you can trust to give you an honest opinion, to make sure you can actually write.”

Whilst on the subject of honest opinions, Terry shared her thoughts on positive and negative reviews. “Negative reviews are just as valid as positive reviews because everyone reads a book differently.” she explained, “Even if a book is so badly written that it makes your Kindle cringe, they have the right to tell you so, just like when someone enjoys it, they have the right to express that.”

However, despite the risk of negative reviews, this shouldn’t be scare away a budding writer, Terry says.

“Don’t give yourself any grief; write because you want to write.” Terry said, “Even if you can only manage 500 words a day, you’ll have a first draft ready in six months or less.”

The Devil You Know is available as an e-book on Amazon UK and Amazon.com.

You can find Terry Tyler on Twitter @TerryTyler4 at and her website is terrytyler59.blogspot.co.uk.

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Thanks for reading!

Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed, and  don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more blog posts.

– Judith

Read and Review: 11.22.63

Read and Review: 11.22.63
  • Title: 11.22.63
  • Author: Stephen King
  • Published: 2011

11.22.63 is about Jake Epping, a recently divorced high school English teacher, who discovers a wormhole in his friend’s diner. The wormhole transports him to 1958, where Epping begins to adjust to 1950s life, as well as plot to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which happened on the 22nd of November, 1963.

It’s hard to summarise the genre of this novel. I think it’s an interesting combination of science fiction, historical fiction, political dystopia and alternate history. Although I don’t profess to be a science-fiction fan, I really enjoyed the science-fiction elements of this book, because they were not too abstract for the common reader to understand – they felt normal and believable, which I think is rare in books that tend to focus on time, space, aliens and everything in-between.

I also liked the historical and political themes; I studied American presidents as part of my A Level History course, and 11.22.63 provided a decent recap of this. It was also interesting to consider the repercussions of each and every seemingly small action had in the “grand scheme of things”.

Furthermore, despite 11.22.63 being set in a world a further 50 years in the past, the questions it raises are still just as significant today:

  • If you could change a terrible event in the past, not knowing the future consequences, would you? What if this triggers an equally horrific event later in time?
  • Is it better to learn from the past, rather than try and undo it?*

This reminds me of the famous quote by the philosopher Santayana: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’. (Reason in Common Sense, 1905), p. 284

I also liked the length of the novel. It’s a big read, and took me a sizeable amount of time to get through, but I was kept captivated throughout and I was glad I had so long to enjoy the book for.

However, I thought there was an unusually high amount of explicit violence in the book – punches, stabbings, broken noses, and gun fights. I’ve read some of King’s horrors that do have high levels of bloody violence in, so on the one hand, this isn’t an unexpected feature in King’s writing. On the other hand, I naively thought those sorts of scenes would be unnecessary and therefore omitted from a non-horror book.

For me, the best part of 11.22.63 was the intertextual references to another of King’s books, IT, which is also set in 1958’s America, and the last King book I read, so I feel like I’m reading his books in some kind of weird order. I completely forgot that IT was set in this timeline, and to be drip-fed clues and references to another plot was really entertaining, although this isn’t a huge feature within the narrative of 11.22.63.

I also found the ending incredibly powerful; it’s rare for me to be strongly moved by a book’s ending (especially as most of them seem to end on cliff-hangers nowadays…) but I felt so sad for Epping, and the Dystopian America portrayed. I won’t spoil the ending for any who may wish to read it, but I was certainly affected by it.

I strongly recommend this book.

– Judith

Please click ‘Like’ or leave a comment, I really appreciate it.

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #5: Festive Book Quotes

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #5: Festive Book Quotes

Welcome back to Blogmas! Today I’ve been reading up on some lovely Christmas-themed quotes from well-known books I’ve read to share with you.

1. Marcus Zusak, The Book Thief 

“It was the beginning of the greatest Christmas ever. Little food. No presents. But there was a snowman in their basement.”

When I first read The Book Thief, Zusak’s beautiful descriptions struck me; I think he writes in a very poetic way, which is unusual given that some of his characters are illiterate, and of course this quote is no exception.

2. C.S. Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

“Always winter and never Christmas.”

This quote has quite sad undertone. It highlight’s Narnia’s cold, harsh landscapes under the reign of The White Queen that lack the joy, light and warmth of Christmas. It’s a relief, then, when Father Christmas finally arrives, giving gifts to the Pevensie children – followed by an even greater joy when Aslan returns.

3. The Bible, Luke Chapter 2: 10-11

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

This is a quote from The Bible, from the Gospel of Luke. This part of Luke’s account tells us of the Birth of Jesus, the son of God. I think it is important to remember that Christmas is still a religious celebration for Christians around the world – this can be easy to forget in the midst of present-buying, food shopping and cheesy Christmas jumpers – and has a great deal of meaning. Christmas spreads a message of love, peace, joy and light – things I think we all need at the minute, given what’s going in our world.


I hope you enjoyed this little Blogmas post; please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ ReadandReview2016 for more blog posts.

If you want to read more Christmas-themed book quotes, I encourage you read this article from Barnes and Noble, from last year, – it greatly amused me: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/blog/10-great-literary-quotes-to-add-to-this-years-christmas-card/

Thanks for reading!

– Judith

12 Days of Blogmas Day #2: Naughty & Nice Book Characters

12 Days of Blogmas Day #2: Naughty & Nice Book Characters

Happy Blogmas! This is Day 2 of my 12 Days of Blogmas!

Today I’ll be thinking over some of the books I’ve read this year, and choose three characters have been Naughty and three characters have been Nice. My judgements were formed based on how deplorable (or not) their actions were, and how much I like them (either as protagonists or antagonists).

Nice

Forrest Gump from Forrest Gump (Winston Groom, 1986)

Forrest Gump is one of my favourite stories, and I think Forrest is well-deserving of being on Santa’s Nice list. He’s such a caring, thoughtful, and lovable character who tries to do right by as many people as he can, despite his limited intelligence. Of course, he’s not perfect – he is easily lead, struggles with addiction, and hurts Jenny deeply – but then again, nobody is. Forrest learns from his mistakes however, and I think this is his redeeming quality.

Colonel Brandon in Sense and Sensibility (Jane Austen, 1811)

Colonel Brandon is an absolute gentleman in Sense and Sensibility, and is particularly contrasted with the seemingly brilliant, but deceptive, John Willoughby. Both men fall in love with Marianne Dashwood and while Willoughby leads Marianne to believe they are in a loving, courting relationship and then breaks her heart, Brandon behaves with nothing but grace, generosity and kindness towards the entire Dashwood family. Safe to say, I am very glad that by the end of the novel, I am very glad that by the end of the novel, Marianne returns Brandon’s affections.

Sir John Falstaff from Henry IV Part 1 and Henry IV Part 2 (William Shakespeare, 1597)

Falstaff is a kind of father figure to Hal, particularly in Henry IV Part 1, and provides much comic relief, through his exaggerated recounting of events, over-exuberant lifestyle and use of language. I particularly enjoyed Roger Allam’s portrayal of Falstaff in the Globe on Screen productions, directed by Dominic Dromgoole. However, ultimately, Falstaff is flawed. He is fat, vain, arrogant and cowardly, spending most of his time with prostitutes and drinking away stolen money, and thus is cast out when Hal becomes King. However, annoyingly, I still really like the character of Falstaff, which is why I’ve placed him on my “Nice” list!

Naughty

Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights (Charlotte Bronte, 1847)

For anyone who has read Wuthering Heights, this is an obvious choice. Heathcliff is vengeful, calculated and seemingly takes pleasure from others’ misery. However, as a character, I am still drawn to him; Heathcliff fascinates me. He seems capable of love, particularly towards Cathy, but it is an all-consuming passion which is ultimately destructive and dangerous. He strikes up a special bond with Nelly, and is a subverted father figure for numerous characters, such as Hareton, Linton and young Catherine. In short, Heathcliff is a complex and “fun” character to read about and talk about, despite his antagonism and he’s my favourite character from Wuthering Heights.

Brady Hartfield from Mr Mercedes (Stephen King, 2014)

Brady is a heartless killer from King’s thriller and murder mystery novel. He slaughters a queue of people at a job fair by driving into them with a stolen Mercedes and leaves clues for the police for the next year and especially taunting retired detective Bill Hodges with notes and possible evidence. I really enjoyed this plot and I thought Hartfield was really well-written. He simultaneously sounds like a petulant child and a dangerous killer, a dumb criminal and a calculated genius. I found him very creepy and naturally, given the events of the book, a horrific character.

Amy and Nick Dunne from Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn, 2012)

After speaking of horrific and evil characters, how could I not mention the Dunne family from Flynn’s thriller Gone Girl? Amy is such a powerful character; she is manipulative, clever but scarily violent too. I was also fascinated by her “pregnancy” storyline too – I really like it when creators explore this subject for some reason, be it in books. films or television. Nick is equally flawed – he is an unfaithful liar and uses some pretty creepy language such as:

‘I picture opening her skull, unspooling her brain and sifting through it, trying to catch and pin down her thoughts.’

And that’s only on the first page!

Amy and Nick are a scary, subverted form of the ideal middle-class idea of marriage and I really like how Flynn played around with this. The Dunne family are certainly worthy of being on the “Naughty” list.


Those are my thoughts: do you agree or disagree with them? Would you place anyone else on the “Naughty” or “Nice” lists?

Happy Blogmas!

– Judith