WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (8)

WWW Wednesdays: What Am I Reading? (8)

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 feel like I haven’t done much reading in the last month because I’ve been moving to my student house, so the only steady book I’ve been reading is Middlemarch by George Eliot.

2. What did you recently finish reading?

I read War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, Wise Children by Angela Carter and Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, in preparation for my next year at university. This month, I also had 2 new books sent to me to read: Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery by Jem Bloomfield and Weave A Murderous Web by Anne-Rothman Hicks. I also read The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon – a short Stephen King novel in the midst of moving stresses.

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

As usual, I have no idea, but I hope I pick up some more books in a genre I’ll really enjoy, like horrors or thrillers.


– Judith

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Read and Review: SHAKESPEARE AND THE PSALMS MYSTERY by JEM BLOOMFIELD @jembloomfield

Read and Review: SHAKESPEARE AND THE PSALMS MYSTERY by JEM BLOOMFIELD @jembloomfield
  • Title: Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery
  • Author: Jem Bloomfield
  • Published: 2017
  • Started: Wednesday August 16th 2017
  • Finished: Thursday 24th August 2017

From Amazon:

‘In Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery, Jem Bloomfield investigates the literary legend that the famous playwright left his mark on the Authorized Version. He delves into the historical, textual and literary evidence, showing that the story isn’t true – but that there are much more engrossing stories to be told about Shakespeare and the Bible.’

I’m an English student at the University of Nottingham. Last year, I studied a module called Shakespeare’s Histories: Critical Approaches. Jem Bloomfield was one of the lecturers responsible for providing some thoroughly enjoyable lectures, talking to us about Shakespeare’s works, as well as the literary, historical and religious contexts.

One lecture that I particularly found interesting was exploring the intertextual links between Shakespeare’s plays such as Richard II and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and various editions of The Bible.

When Jem contacted me his year to ask if I wanted to read his new book, which explores potential links between the King James Bible and Shakespeare, needless to say, I was interested.

Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery was a good, quick read. As Jem talks* you through a variety of literary, linguistic, and contextual evidence, it soon becomes clear religion and Early Modern Theatre are subjects he is passionate about.

*I say talks; the book captures Jem’s voice wonderfully as he debunks a myth I never even knew existed, recreating the feel of another engaging lecture.

The structure of the book is mostly clear. Jem discusses why the Psalm 46 myth is merely a myth, then moves on to answering questions such as why the legend even exists, and what attracts people to it. However, the only section that tripped me up was the chapter focused on Rudyard Kipling. I didn’t really understand this section, which was a shame, as I followed everything else quite easily.

Nonetheless, if you’d like to learn some interesting things about Shakespeare and the Bible, presented in an engaging and accessible way, I recommend Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery.

Star Rating: 3/5 Stars

Shakespeare and the Psalms Mystery is available as an e-book or a paperback from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.

***

Thanks for reading! Thanks also to Jem for sending me a free e-book copy to read. He has a blog on WordPress too at:  quiteirregular.wordpress.com.

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

– Judith

Guest Review @ Evangelical Times

Guest Review @ Evangelical Times

Hi there!

I’ve mentioned before on my blog that I am a Christian, and I’ve read some Christian books. One of my recent reads was Be Still My Soul by Nancy Guthrie. It’s a helpful book on the problem of pain: how to deal with and understand sadness from a Christian perspective.

I wrote a little book review about it, which was published in the June edition of the Christian newspaper Evangelical Times; if this is something you’d be interesting reading about, you can find it if you click here:

Thanks!

– Judith

Read and Review: Perfect People

Read and Review: Perfect People
  • Title: Perfect People
  • Author: Peter James
  • Published: 2011

Perfect People is a thriller novel from the acclaimed crime and thriller writer, Peter James.

After losing their four-year-old son to a rare genetic disorder, John and Naomi Klaesson are grieving, yet want another child – one who will be free from genetic diseases and as healthy as possible. Geneticist Leo Dettore offers them a lifeline: the chance to choose the perfect genetic makeup of their new baby – their sex, their hair colour, abilities, and so much more. However, the couple notice something is wrong too late, and they can’t turn back, because Naomi is already pregnant…

I read Perfect People in abut 2-3 days, because it really had me hooked. In an era where genetically modifying embryos is already a possibility, the notion of “designer babies” does not seem that much more of a stretch, and James capitalises on this.

‘There are certain things in life that happen that shouldn’t happen – which don’t need to happen – and which science can now prevent from happening.’ 

(Perfect People, p.15)

It’s difficult to speak openly about my response to Perfect People without giving away spoilers, but I’ll try my best.

It’s a good thriller, and whilst some of the plot twists I saw quite clearly, others caught me completely off-guard.

I liked James’ style of writing, although the description was too poetic in places for me: elaborate imagery doesn’t’ gel with the book’s attempted realism and authenticity. Also, at one point, he used the phrase ‘quite unique’ – a grammatically incorrect phrase that bothers me immensely.

The scientist Dettore was suitably creepy, along with the psychopathic, genetically modified children he breeds.

However, I felt that the inclusion of religious extremism as an antagonistic force didn’t work well. Whilst sects, cults and religious extremism can be incredibly scary (and is thus often used in paranormal horror), it just didn’t feel authentic in Perfect People. I’ve no doubt that there are real people in the world prepared to use extreme measures to campaign against issues like genetic testing, but James’ fictional cult, The Disciples of the Third Millennium, felt like it was purely inspired by imagination rather than inspired by research. This mean that for me, the mentions of gods, prophecies and Biblical passages just fell flat.

I would have preferred to see Dettore’s psychopathic children rise as an antagonistic force – perhaps against parents, adults or other figures of authority, and it’s a shame this wasn’t explored.

Despite my criticisms, I still thoroughly enjoyed Perfect People, and would strongly recommend it.

Another blogger I came across, wrote that Perfect People is:

‘A true morality tale [that makes] readers ponder their lot, to be grateful for what they have and to fear taking risks with scientific advances that might change things for the better or for the worst.’

(Keith Walters, BooksandWriters)

Thank you for reading!

– Judith

Themes in: Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

Themes in: Goblin Market by Christina Rossetti

Goblin Market is a Victorian poem about two women, Lizzie and Laura, one of whom is tempted by the goblins that frequent their village to sell exotic fruits all year around. Laura becomes grievously ill after eating some of this fruit, and is saved by her sister’s bravery and heroism against the goblins.

To me, the most striking element in Goblin Market is its use of symbolism – of religion, of the patriarchy and, as an offshoot of this, the sexual oppression of women.

Religion

Firstly, Goblin Market’s religious imagery is overwhelmingly clear. The premise of the poem is that deceptive, supernatural creatures tempt a pure woman into eating a mysterious and forbidden fruit, which then has negative consequences. This is a direct parallel to the events in Genesis 3; the goblins symbolise Satan and Laura symbolises Eve.

However, there is a second layer to this religious imagery. Lizzie saves her sister by standing resolute in the face of the goblins’ horrid behaviour towards her, enduring suffering for the sake of Laura. She is described as ‘fruit-crown’d’ – an irony – because a crown is meant for royalty, highlighting Laura’s virtuous and honourable nature, yet it is made from fruit, the goblins’ “weapon” of attack. This may be a parallel to the ‘crown of thorns’ (Matthew 27:29) worn by Christ during the crucifixion, to mock him. Furthermore, during Lizzie’s attack from the goblins, she ‘utter’d not a word’, again imitating Christ’s behaviour when he was trialled by Herod:

  • ‘He [Jesus] was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth’ (Isaiah 53:7)
  • ‘He [Herod] plied him [Jesus] with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.’ (Luke 23:9)

Patriarchy

Secondly, although the goblins are in some ways supernatural, they are also described as ‘goblin merchant men’. The significance of calling them ‘men’ suggests the poem can also be read as a poem about the male oppression of women within a patriarchal Victorian society. It is important that while the goblins are running their market and earning money, both Lizzie and Laura are confined to the home, undertaking stereotypically female tasks, such as sewing, baking cakes and talking like ‘modest maidens’. This highlights the separate spheres ideology which was rife in Victorian society, that encouraged men to leave the house and work to provide for the family (in the “public” sphere)  whilst women were to stay at home as housekeepers and mothers (in the “private” sphere).

Yet there is more. Rossetti also highlights that within a patriarchal society, not only were women confined to their domesticated “sphere” of life, but they were also victims of sexual abuse. This is evidenced by the goblins’ attack on Lizzie. The goblins, whilst ‘grunting and snarling’, ‘tore her gown’, ‘held her hands’, ‘kick’d’ and ‘maul’d’ her in order to force her to eat their fruits. The goblins’ fruit is a metaphor for sex, and thus this distressing scene symbolises one of rape and domestic abuse, a scenario sadly commonplace within Victorian relationships.*

*A harrowing statistic: marital rape wasn’t criminalised in the UK until 1991.

***

Of course, there’s so much more that could be said about the poem. I enjoyed reading Goblin Market; it’s beautifully written narrative poem with vivid imagery and multiple interpretations. There are many other offered readings of the poem, but I think Goblin Market’s parallels with the Christian faith, and the message of female oppression are its most significant undertones.

Thank you for reading this blog post.

Please click ‘Like’ and leave any responses you have in the comments below.

– Judith

Read and Review: The Wife’s Lament

Read and Review: The Wife’s Lament

This is a slightly more unconventional book review, or should I say, manuscript review.

As a university student, I recently went exam season, which meant it was really hard to read (and finish) any new books, so I thought I’d talk about some literature we studied on the course instead.

The Wife’s Lament is an anonymous poem, in the form of a lament, written in Old English. The edition I read was published in The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology by Kevin Crossley-Holland.

The Wife’s Lament is quite a short poem, which was refreshing for me – poetry isn’t my favourite form anyway, and I already worked my way through the entirety of Milton’s Paradise Lost earlier in 2016.

This poem is primarily about love and loss, but what I find so fascinating is the variety of interpretations that can be drawn from the poem.

Some like to read the poem as a message from a retainer to their lord. Anglo-Saxon England, loyalty to leaders was hugely important and lords and retainers had a special relationship. This interpretation also works well when considering the poem uses terms such as ‘lord’ and ‘master’ frequently.

However, translators have assigned this poem The Wife’s Lament – suggesting a female author, and thus not a retainer, but a wife longing for her husband. Again, this could be evidenced in the text as it uses words such as ‘family’, ‘lovers’ and the phrase ‘dearest loved one’.

It has even been suggested that The Wife’s Lament symbolises the relationship between Christ and his people, longing for them to turn from their pagan ways and embrace Christianity. I’m not sure how convincing I find this argument.

Instead, I prefer the interpretation that the narrator in question is actually… dead!

What I find so favourable about this idea is how it fits with the elusive word ‘earth-cave’ in the poem – nobody really seems to know what it means. Of course, with a Gothic head on my shoulders, I’d love to think that her ‘earth-cave’ means her grave. This seems particularly convincing, when she goes on to refer to the those who are still alive and present on Earth, and can enjoy love and happiness.

All in all, it doesn’t matter which interpretation you pick, or whether you come up with another idea of your own.

The Wife’s Lament is a short poem packed with emotions, and it is my favourite Old English text I’ve read so far. It really doesn’t take long to read (a whopping 2 pages) so if you can get access to it, I strongly recommend you read it.

Thank you for reading this slightly unconventional book review! Please click ‘Like’ if you enjoyed, or click ‘Follow’ to read slightly more conventional book-related blog posts in future.

That’s all for now!

– Judith

Film Review: 12 Days of Blogmas Day #9: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Film Review: 12 Days of Blogmas Day #9: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

We’re creeping ever closer towards Christmas, but unfortunately this blog post isn’t Christmas-themed (sorry)!

As I’ve already mentioned before, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a classic children’s story and film people enjoy watching at Christmas. However, I already wrote a film review of it here back in March, so instead I thought I’d watch and review its sequel instead.

  • Title:The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
  • Director:Andrew Adamson
  • Released:2008

I remember seeing Prince Caspian in the cinema when it came out. It is about the four Pevensie children, who return to Narnia to help Prince Caspian (played by Ben Barnes) in his struggle with for the throne against his corrupt uncle, King Miraz (played by Sergio Castellitto).

I think Prince Caspian is a good sequel; I liked the fact the actors were older because it gives the characters more maturity and allows the director to explore darker themes, in a similar way to the Harry Potter films. Of course, The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets were good films, but by The Prisoner of Azkaban, there was more development, a higher sense of threat and you knew the characters could be tested more – which makes for a more interesting experience as an older viewer.

In addition, I found it easier to engage with all four main characters: Lucy Pevensie (Georgie Henley), Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes), Susan Pevensie (Anna Popplewell) and Peter Pevensie (William Moseley) because they’ve all grown up, whereas in the first film, I always preferred Peter and Susan, as opposed to the more childish Edmund and Lucy.

I particularly appreciated the growth of Edmund’s character; he steps up and makes careful decisions, learning from his previous mistakes in Narnia, highlighting the change from his weedy and foolish character from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

However, I’m not sure how I feel about the eponymous Prince Caspian – despite the film being titled after him, it still felt like Prince Caspian was still more about the Pevensies, and Prince Caspian was just a “tag along”. Although, I did like the suggestion that he and Susan liked each other, and the competitive rivalry created between Peter and Caspian – this added for comic relief in more serious moments of battles and politics. Eddie Izzard’s Reepicheep also added humour.

Of course, it wouldn’t be The Chronicles of Narnia without Aslan, and Liam Neeson reprises the role to bestow more wisdom on the children. I also love the theme music – you know something great is going to happen when the score begins to play.

When I talked about The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, I discussed some Christian themes from the first film, so it seems only fitting to do that here too. What struck me was Lucy’s fervent faith in Aslan (symbolising a Christian’s belief in God), even when some of her siblings begin to doubt and follow their own ways. This is developed further by The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010), as it is just Edmund and Lucy who travel to Narnia because Susan and Peter have become “too old” for the world of Narnia. Maybe I’ll write a review of Dawn Treader one day…

I recommend both The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe and Prince Caspian as good family-friendly films, great for watching at Christmas time. This is a lengthier review than my first Narnia blog post, but I really enjoyed writing it.

If you liked reading this post, please click ‘Like’ and ‘Follow’ my blog for more posts. Stay tuned for Blogmas Day 10 tomorrow!

– Judith