Read and Review: A Clockwork Orange

Read and Review: A Clockwork Orange
  • Title: A Clockwork Orange
  • Author: Anthony Burgess
  • Published: 1962

A Clockwork Orange is a dystopian novel set in a future English society where extreme youth violence is common.

‘He and his gang rampage through a dystopian future, hunting for terrible thrills.’

The book’s protagonist, Alex, narrates his violent exploits of and experiences with authorities who attempt to reform his behaviour.

As I first started reading A Clockwork Orange, I thought I wouldn’t be able to finish it! While a short book, is written in unusual futuristic slang that I initially found hard to understand. This is the same barrier that I faced when reading Trainspotting.

However, the brain is a remarkable thing and adjusts to new styles of writing relatively quickly. Once I was accustomed to the language, the narrative was fairly easy to follow.

In another similarity with Trainspotting, Alex is a roguish protagonist who speaks directly to the audience through direct address – using phrases like ‘Your Humble Narrator’ – which creates a jovial tone, even while he describes the horrible things he’s seen, said and done.

The plot is filled with taboo acts and violence, and the attempts to correct Alex’s behaviour seem akin to experimentation on animals.

Alex’s acts of violence upon others are contrasted with the acts of “corrective” violence imposed upon him by the state, suggesting that within certain contexts, inflicting cruelty on others is acceptable or even advocated as the right thing to do.

The book also questions free will: If it were possible to eradicate someone’s free will to prevent them committing a crime, is that acceptable? Yet the removal of free will leaves the individual completely at risk of being controlled by another – another who may utilise this power for ill themselves.

I don’t think A Clockwork Orange answers these questions, and these are only my initial thoughts upon a first reading.

Hopefully, once I’ve explored some further analysis of the book, I’ll be able to look at these questions again.

***

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? (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

Read and Review: The Eyre Affair

Read and Review: The Eyre Affair
  • Title: The Eyre Affair
  • Author: Jasper Fforde
  • Published: 2001

The Eyre Affair draws on a mix of genres, such as humour thriller, sci-fi, detective and fantasy. It tells the story of Thursday Next, a literary detective in an alternative 1985, where everyone is obsessed with literature. The real world and the “book world” overlap, quite literally bringing citizens’ favourite book characters to life, which is all fun and games… until Jane Eyre is kidnapped.

My favourite aspect of The Eyre Affair was its witty references to “pop” literature, such as the Dickens’ books – this reminded me of Dickensian, the BBC drama set within the fictional world of Dickens – or the Shakespeare/Marlowe conspiracy theory. At times, these references seemed a little heavy-handed, but I think this excess paid off, adding to the charm of the alternative reality.

I also appreciated how Thursday’s own narrative, in some ways, mirrored the narrative of Jane Eyre. This was a clever and well-executed idea, and I enjoyed the allusion to how Thursday’s intervention and “reconstruction” of Jane Eyre resulted in the Bronte story we know and love today.

Yet despite its title, The Eyre Affair took longer than expected to focus on its main plot, the Jane Eyre kidnapping.

A lot of time was spent building the world with at times clunky or (dare I say it) cheesy sci-fi abstract descriptions, and introducing characters who, to me, held no significant role in the narrative. Although world-building is a significant part of any series, I prefer books where this description and scene-setting is done more subtly, rather than a heavy exposition.

However, the time spent in The Eyre Affair background and character descriptions may reduce the level of exposition needed further down the line, and these characters may well be more significant in future books in the Thursday Next series, so I can’t complain too much.

Overall, despite my criticisms, I really enjoyed The Eyre Affair. Although he “relies” on existing texts and authors (to an extent) to construct his own story, he blends his own ideas and style with existing characters and texts well, and it was a fun, light-hearted read.

I’d love to read the rest of the Thursday Next series, as well as more books by Jasper Fforde, an author previously unknown to me.

– Judith

[Guest Post] Film Review: T2 Trainspotting

[Guest Post] Film Review: T2 Trainspotting

The following blog post was written by Patrick, from The Blog from Another World, as the second part of our second collaborative series and again, the focus seems to have been on trains! You can read our previous posts, talking Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting here, and about Paula Hawkin’s The Girl On The Train, here and here.


I love Danny Boyle and I love Trainspotting. When T2 was announced, I was worried that the film would be a cash grab, a lazy retread. Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon had already disappointed me with Jason Bourne (2016), which was an ill-thought through bore. However, after watching Trainspotting again for my article with ReadandReview2016, the stakes were raised very high. Impossibly high?

No. Not at all. Danny Boyle is the finest British filmmaker in modern cinema. There is no doubt in my mind about this. T2 is fantastic. Possibly even better than the first.

Boyle performs camera moves, positions and set pieces which are truly thrilling. He and his director of photography Anthony Dodd Mantle work with light and shadow and perspective to create meaning.

He’s a director who inspires me and this might just be the biggest risk of his career. He pulls it off and shows a maturity and an evolution of film-making style which makes us understand just how much experience and persistence matters. In preparation for watching T2 I watched A Life Less Ordinary, the Boyle directed film which came after Trainspotting and before The Beach. The film is a flawed and underwhelming work despite a career best performance by Cameron Diaz.

My reason for watching A Life Less Ordinary was to remind myself of Boyle on a bad day (but even his low point is better than many director’s best).   Slumdog Millionaire and Steve Jobs are big favourites of mine but T2 takes his best work and betters it.  It’s funny, sad, euphoric, tragic and utterly brilliant.

The story of T2 follows Renton, Sick Boy (now Simon), Begbie and Spud as they deal with the modern world twenty years after the events of the first film.

This film is a wonderful look at ageing, our modern world and the responsibilities of adulthood. The characters feel deeper and emotionally richer although some plot strands don’t go anywhere and seem added in for nostalgia’s sake (the re-appearance of heroin is pointless).

The four leads are superb. Ewan McGregor is the best he’s been since the original film, Robert Carlyle has aged Begbie in the most perfect way and Ewan Bremner is the heart of the film. Only Jonny Lee Miller isn’t stretched, with Sick Boy always being a secondary character.

This film has a rollicking pace and heaps of style. It captures the spirit of the original whilst moving in an entirely new direction, away from drugs and toward some kind of recognition. For the first time, Renton is forced to face the consequences of his actions and it’s an explosive moment. I personally loved this scene (not a spoiler) which captures the hard edged but joyful tone of the original and is a perfect storm of music, action, comedy and character.

This film is the best thing I’ve seen all year. It would take a lot to top this, and I can’t wait!

***

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this article, please give it a ‘Like’. . Thanks to Patrick for writing this film review. You can find his other film reviews here:

From One Blogger To Another: Trainspotting Discussion With The Blog from Another World

From One Blogger To Another: Trainspotting Discussion With The Blog from Another World

With the release of Trainspotting 2, the long-awaited sequel to Danny Boyle’s 1996 black-comedy film, I sat down with Patrick, from The Blog from Another World to discuss Trainspotting.

I read Trainspotting, the book on which the film is based, by Irvine Welsh last year and wrote a review of it here. Overall, the gritty Scottish social realism failed to captivate me, but I appreciated Welsh’s inclusion of Scottish slang and dialect. When I watched the film however, I felt much more engaged.

I asked Patrick if enjoyed watching Trainspotting. He said: “I think that ‘enjoy’ is a difficult term to use to describe this film. I think it’s is a British classic and a milestone for British cinema.”

He continued, “Many films have tried to emulate the anarchic and twisted style of this film (such as Jon S. Baird’s Filth in 2013 – based on another novel by Irvine Welsh) but nobody has ever really come close. I love Danny Boyle’s direction and he makes the film palatable for the audience.”

However, what I found unpalatable in Trainspotting was how every social situation was punctuated by, hard drug use aside, cigarettes and alcohol. Whilst Trainspotting is by no means the only film to feature heavy drinking and smoking, it’s something in film that irritates me every time; excessive consumption makes me feel physically sick. I also found it ironic that the characters who frequently binged on these “socially acceptable” drugs were the same characters berating Renton and his friends for their heroin addictions.

Yet the constant smoking and drinking was certainly not the most shocking part of Trainspotting. To say the film includes crude scenes is an understatement.

 “It is a tough film to watch in places, so I understand why people can’t enjoy it for that reason.” Patrick said. However, he argued that these disgusting scenes are purposeful, and contrasted with moments of beauty and perfection.

“For example, when Renton dives down the worst toilet in Scotland, he lands in clear, serene water –  brilliant juxtaposition; I really admire the sheer invention of it.”

Speaking of whom, Ewan McGregor’s Renton was my favourite character in Trainspotting: the protagonist and heroin addict, who provides a voice of relative reason and is capable of blending into “normal” society.

Renton is the central narrator of the film, which made the plot easier to follow and helped me put names to faces. It was also a nice change from the book, which frequently changed between different narrative perspectives, making for tough reading. The fact Renton’s narration helped me understand the plot better made me appreciate the voice-overs – a technique I normally dislike within film –  and I thought they matched the style of Trainspotting well.

Patrick’s favourite character was Francis Begbie, a psychopath with violent tendencies, played by Robert Carlyle.

“Carlyle gives such a ferocious and frightening portrayal of a psychopath” he said.

“I can’t help but feel that Heath Ledger’s Joker and Andrew Scott’s Moriarty share DNA with Begbie’s pint-glass-throwing-chaos. True, Renton, Spud and Sick Boy are iconic characters, but Begbie is the character who sticks in my mind.

When Begbie starts a fight at the pub, it’s horrible. His callous violent bloodlust is frightening and his whim to have a fight is portrayed excellently.”

Patrick described to me another memorable Trainspotting scene, where Renton is forced by his parents to give up his heroin use, going through withdrawal symptoms, including vivid hallucinations. “It’s a horrific and surreal scene.” Patrick said, and I have to agree. McGregor’s acting here was fantastic; his screams really emphasised the suffering he was going through, and it was conflicting to watch.

Personally, I found the scene where Allison’s baby dies unsurprising but incredibly emotional. Allison, played by Susan Vidler, had an incredibly blasé attitude to drugs and promiscuous sex, resulting in a neglected baby surrounded by drugs and filth. When baby Dawn, inevitably died from poor health and neglect, it was such a raw and emotional scene – I could really sense Allison’s pain. However, what disturbed and angered me was that although Allison was in such pain, she still turned back to drugs – highlighting the vicious and destructive cycle of drug addiction.

It is scenes such as these that give Trainspotting a much darker tone, to juxtapose with its comedic elements.

Patrick said, “I think Trainspotting’s tone is very complex. It’s a film which is hyperactive but sombre, crass but frightening. The tone works because it’s about the ‘highs and lows’ of drug addiction; the tone wildly fluctuates to expertly capture and reflect what life is like for a heroin addict.”

“Many drugs films such as Requiem For A Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000) show only the horrific parts of drug addiction. Trainspotting is the best portrayal of addiction since The Lost Weekend (Billy Wilder, 1945). It gives a balanced but unflinching view of addiction – it’s as euphoric as it is disgusting. It is better to understand what drugs give you, before you see what they take away.”

Trainspotting 2 was released today in the UK, and will be released in March in the USA.

***

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

This is part of another collaborative series with The Blog from Another World, and again, the focus seems to have been on trains! You can read our previous posts, talking about Paula Hawkin’s The Girl On The Train, here and here.

This is also the first post in my new series, From One Blogger To Another, where I will interview a different blogger / writer each month. I wanted to write some longer pieces for my blog that are more journalistic in style, and hopefully this series will allow me to do that.

That’s all for now!

– Judith and Patrick

Ringing In The New Year Book Tag

Ringing In The New Year Book Tag

New year, new book tag. I found this on tinyobsessions.wordpress.com and I thought it was appropriate, given it’s January. I’ve chosen my favourite questions to answer.

1. What was the best book or series you read in 2016?

I’d say my favourite book was something by Gillian Flynn. Despite really enjoying Gone Girl, I read Sharp Objects more times – at least two or three times last year.

2. What authors have you recently found and would like to read more of in 2017?

I’ve got 3 authors to choose from: Stephen King, Agatha Christie, and C.S. Lewis. I read some of their books the first time this year and I really enjoyed them. If you have a favourite book by this author, please leave a comment with it below and I can add your recommendations to my TBR!

3. What is your most anticipated book-to-film adaptation?

I don’t really know what is coming out this year, apart from Trainspotting 2. I think I’d like to see some more good period dramas on the BBC. They really help me read and understand classics better.

4. What are the top 5 books on your 2017 TBR?

I have far too many books on my TBR to pick a top 5! I’d say Finders Keepers and End of Watch, the sequels to Mr Mercedes by Stephen King. I also want to read some more Dystopian books, so I’d like to read The Man In The High Castle by Philip K. Dick.

5. How many books do you hope to read in 2017? 

I worked out that in 2016, I read about 70 books which is absolutely crazy. I’d like to hit the same number again this year, or maybe beat it – perhaps I’ll aim to read 80 books?

6. Do you have any book or blogging themed resolutions?

A blogging resolution would be that I’ve considered doing some more creative writing. I’d also like to be able to read more for leisure, or at least get the balance right between reading for my studies and reading for myself.

Happy New Year! (Is it too late to still be saying that?)

Please ‘Like’ if you enjoyed this little book tag; what would your answers to these questions be?

– Judith

[Read and Review] 12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #7: A Christmas Carol

[Read and Review] 12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #7: A Christmas Carol

Welcome to 12 Days of Blogmas Day 7! Today I’ve written another Christmas-themed book review.

  • Title: A Christmas Carol
  • Author: Charles Dickens
  • Published: 1843

A Christmas Carol is, I think, well-deserving of its fame as a Christmas classic. In case you’re not familiar with the story (although I wonder how is this is possible), A Christmas Carol is about one particularly mean old man, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is notorious for hating all things associated with Christmas, until, one December, the influence of four ghosts initiates a drastic character transformation in him.

Last year, Chris Priestley wrote ‘A Christmas Carol is more than just a story. It is a tirade against greed, selfishness and neglect. It uses the story of a rich man – the startlingly nasty Scrooge – to highlight the plight of those affected by the greed and meanness he exemplifies.’*

*Chris Priestley, Ignorance and Want: why Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is as relevant today as ever (Wednesday 23 December 2015)

For Dickens, social realism and social commentary are reoccurring themes in his work; Oliver Twist focuses on the injustice cast upon the poor (for example, Oliver) by the better-off (for example, Mr Bumble) and highlights the realities of the poor – themes such as violence and crime can be seen in the lives of Fagin, Bill and Nancy. Similarly, in Great Expectations, Pip begins life in a struggling working-class family, with limited provisions, until he is provided with the means to better his chances in life.

Therefore, Christmas seems an appropriate time for Dickens to again draw attention to the impact the “Scrooges of Society” have on others, as people tend to be more charitable, kind and willing to listen around Christmas-time than other times of year.**

**Why this is, I have no idea.

I like the length of A Christmas Carol; it’s quite short compared to some of Dickens’ other books, which makes it an easy read – ideal, if you want to start reading more classic novels but don’t know where to start.

I also liked the idea of mixing Christmas, usually a cheerful occasion, with ghosts, hauntings and a foreboding sense of impending doom. This brings out my enjoyment for Gothic literature! Naturally, then, my favourite ghosts are Jacob Marley (his entrance of groaning chains is enough to spook anyone) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. I feel like these are some of the best characters drawn out in the various film adaptations too – although I’m yet to find a film adaptation that completely satisfies me.

As A Christmas Carol is such a popular story, I thought I’d scour Goodreads, to find out why readers love this book so much***:

1. Claudia said: ‘I think A Christmas Carol makes us better people.’

2. Jude said: ‘It reminds us of what is truly important in a life.’

3. Walter said: ‘It showed us how the spirit of the holidays can be humanizing.’

4. Melissa said: ‘For me, it’s not so much the story–which I enjoy every Christmas, sometimes twice – as it is the writing itself. There’s a lyrical quality that hasn’t popped out at me in his longer stories.’

5. Diane said: ‘I think we love this story partly because of how well Dickens portrayed Scrooge as a complex, multi-layered character. Sure, he appears as a greedy stereotype at first, but then we are shown his backstory and how he became that way, and (gasp), suddenly we realize that any of us could become rapacious and bitter if we chose to go down that road. And that’s what raises this tale to a classic–its universality. We are also made to care so deeply about Tiny Tim & his family, who choose to be generous even through their own want, because they realize they will become like Scrooge if they don’t.’

*** If you want to see other readers’ responses, you can find the forum I used here:

Do you like A Christmas Carol?**** Why, or why not? Also, do you have a favourite film adaptation? I’m interested to hear your opinions.

**** If you like audio books, you might be interested to learn that A Christmas Carol, narrated with  Sir Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Cranham, Miriam Margolyes, Jenna Coleman, Brendan Coyle, and Roger Allam is currently available for free on Audible until January 2017! Download it here:

If you enjoyed this post, please click ‘Like’ and stay tuned for my next Blogmas post!

– Judith