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Archive for February, 2009

This story is set in the deep American south, and the narrator (through a series of letters to God and her sister) is Celie, a poor black girl who is raped by her mother’s husband and has her two children taken away.  She is later forced into an unhappy marriage and separated from her beloved sister Nettie.  Life is hard for Celie, and then she meets Shug Avery, a strong woman who shows Celie that she can take control of her destiny, and that she has unrealised strength.

This is a wonderful and moving book.  Celie’s story is heartbreaking in itself, but as well as centering on her personal life, the story also explores the treatment of black people in the South at that time, and, through a series of letters from Nettie, the exploitation of certain tribes in Africa.

Celie’s written English is understandably poor, and often in books, this irritates me, but in this case it really didn’t.  Had Celie been able to write perfect English, it would not have seemed believeable.  The difference between her and Nettie’s lives is shown in Nettie’s considerably more eloquent letters to Celie.

There are a number of characters who feature prominently in the book, and each and every one of them is entirely believable and well depicted.  The author demonstrates through Celie’s letters why certain characters behave in a certain way, and resists judging them – instead showing how good people do bad things sometimes and vice versa.

Celie is a character who I really cared about during the reading of the book and she will stay with me for a long time.  More than anything, this is a book that made me think – and that is never a bad thing.

A recommended read.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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I love a good chase movie, and this is definitely one to enjoy. Bruce Willis shows just how good he really can be as Jack Moseley, a washed up NYPD Officer, with a lot of demons and a drink problem.  Jack is assigned the seemingly easy task of transporting witness and petty criminal Eddie Bunker from jail to the courthouse, where Eddie is due to give testimony.  A short 16 block journey, this should be no problem at all, but Jack has not taken into account his former partner, who is determined to stop Jack and Eddie reaching Court – no matter what it takes.

As said earlier, Bruce Willis is a really good actor, and I think he especially shines in roles such as this one.  He creates a believable and sympathetic character in Jack. Mos Def is Eddie Bunker, and he plays the part with just enough charm and empathy to make you root for him all the way.  David Morse also provides great back up as Jack’s former partner.  Definitely a movie I would recommend.

Year of release: 2006

Director: Richard Donner

Writer: Richard Wenk

Main cast: Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse

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The story opens with Captain Charles Ryder and his troops, who at the end of Word War II, arrive at an old house which has been converted into an army barracks.  Upon learning of the name of the house, Ryder realises that it is Brideshead, a house where he spent a considerable amount of his youth…

Ryder starts to recount his life as an under-graduate at Oxford, who becomes infatuated with the charming but immature Sebastian Flyte, a beautiful fellow student.  As Sebastian introduces Charles to his family at Brideshead (the family home), he becomes fascinated with the unusual family, and particularly later on, with Sebastian’s sister Julia.

I feel almost guilty that while the story itself is full of promise, this book left me cold.  I thought it might be that none of the characters is particular sympathetic or even likeable (with the sole exception of the Sebastian’s younger sister Cordelia), but on reflection, I don’t believe that that was what put me off.  The writing is undoubtedly eloquent and at time comedic, but the book did not stir any emotion in me.

Sebastian’s family are Catholic, and Catholicism is a strong theme throughout the book.  Sebastian and Julia both struggle with their religion – although both turn to it in times of anguish – while their mother and their siblings, Cordelia and Brideshead, seem more at ease with it.  Religious versus secular love, and the conflict which this can cause, is portrayed well, as is the changes which came about in Britain during the years the book is set in, where the aristocracy is starting to mean less, and people are looking for different values.

The characterisation is excellent, although I found the narrator to be the least interesting character of all.  Sebastian was an interesting character, if not a likeable one, and Julia and Cordelia were also very well drawn.

I wish I had enjoyed this book more – I expected to, and I wanted to – but in the end I simply felt a mild sense of relief at finishing it.  That said, I have read many many reviews of this book, and most seem to rate it extremely highly, so I would not wish to discourage others from reading it; I would just hope that they get more out of it than I did.  I have saved my copy in the hope of reading it again in the future, as I feel that this may have been a case of reading the wrong book at the wrong time.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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Welcome to 1985. A 1985, in which the Crimean War is still being fought, fictional characters can enter and leave books apparently at will, and dodos are the pet of choice for many. In this world is literary detective Thursday Next, whose job it is to solve crimes against literature. Thursday finds herself thrown headfirst into a dangerous operation when Acheron Hades, the third most dangerous man in the world kidnaps Jane Eyre from Thornfield, leaving that classic novel unrecognisable. In addition, Thursday is preoccupied with romantic issues, Shakespearean issues (who really wrote those plays?!) and trying to stop the Crimean War.

I loved this book. Thursday Next is an extremely likeable heroine; plucky and determined, but fallible at the same time.  She is easily (and unsurprisingly) the best drawn character in the book.

The writing flows easily; Fforde has quick turn of phrase and I found the book hard to put down.

The story is very funny, and although totally surreal, it’s easy to follow. I loved the inclusion of Rochester as a character in this novel (it made me love the character even more). Fantasy is not my favourite genre, but Jasper Fforde may be the author to change that. I am already looking forward to reading the sequels – and I have a new favourite fictional heroine in Thursday Next! My only word of warning is this – if you haven’t read Jane Eyre, and plan to do so, then do not read this book first!

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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Louise and Don’s daughter Miranda has died in a freak accident. After her death and the initial grieving, Louise decides that, although devastated, she has to try and move on with her life. However, the tragedy has affected Don tremendously and he becomes obsessed with finding someone or something to blame for it.  His obsession has torn their marriage and their family apart.  They have two remaining children – Molly (Miranda’s twin) and Finn.  The children have their own grief to deal with, but on the whole seem to be coping as well as can be expected. However, the family is slowly being torn apart by Don’s obsession and Louise’s changing feelings towards her husband.

This is a beautifully written book.  Louise herself is the narrator, and I think the first person narrative helps the reader to empathise with her, and the other characters.   The book starts after Miranda’s death, and although the details of what happened to her are explained, the story centres on the aftermath and the struggle to come to terms with such a terrible event.

Each and every character is extremely well written and totally convincing.  It is easy to like Louise, and still be able to see her actions through the eyes of others.  Despite the fact that the others don’t narrate any part of the story, it is also easy for the reader to understand their actions and reactions.

Despite the subject matter, the book is not depressing, although it is very moving.  The author does not dwell entirely on the effect that the accident had on the family, but also portrays situations of complete normality, showing how their lives, while forever changed, must in some ways remain the same.

I have never read anything by Margaret Forster before, but this book has absolutely made me want to read more of her books. This is a highly recommended book.

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This novel is set in London, just over 100 years into the future. And what a future it is!  After a great flood came in 2014, London is practically under water.  Disease is rife (with child mortality rates at 50%), promiscuity is not only accepted, but actively encouraged, and privacy is illegal.  Furthermore, the vaccination of children is a heinous crime, as it is thought to be against ‘The Love’s’ will.

Living in this depressing city is Trafford, an ordinary man, with an extraordinary yearning – he wants privacy.  He hates the fact that literally every aspect of a person’s life has to be loaded onto the internet for anybody to read (it is expected that people put up videos of childbirth, sex and any other intimate acts), and that people are expected to keep a blog revealing all of their innermost thoughts.  

Trafford and his wife Chantorria (some of the least unusual character names in the book) have recently had a daughter, and with the infant mortality rates being so high, Trafford decides to have her vaccinated, risking great danger and the threat of death if this is discovered, as vaccination is severely frowned upon because it is considered ‘against God’s will’.  In doing so, he becomes involved in seeking out others who may feel the same way as he does – who want to think for themselves, rather than be told what to think. 

I have yet to discover a Ben Elton novel that I haven’t enjoyed. This one is too funny and irreverent to be scary or disturbing in the way that novels like Nineteen Eighty Four of Brave New World are, but nonetheless, Elton does make some interesting points and observations about where the current obsession for celebrity gossip and reality television could lead.  It’s not a believable story, but I don’t believe that it was ever intended to be.

Trafford is the most believable character in the story – as it is told from his point of view, this is probably to be expected.  Many of the other characters are stereotypes and caricatures, but this is not a criticism – and it is possible to recognise some of their behaviour as typical of the type of person they are based on.

So all in all, if you are looking for a serious study about humanity and a dystopian society, this is not the book for you. But if you are looking for an entertaining and light hearted read with some very pointed observations, this comes highly recommended.

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This is just such a fabulous book. Charlotte Bronte skilfully weaves the tale of Jane Eyre’s life (using Jane herself as the narrator). Jane is an orphan living with callous relatives; when she is sent away to school, she endures more hardships. Her life’s travels take her to Thornfield Hall, where she becomes governess to Adele, the ward of the mysterious and brooding Mr Rochester. Jane falls for Rochester, but all the time there is a dark secret at Thornfield Hall, waiting to reveal itself…

I loved the character of Jane, and felt that she was ahead of her time, in respect of her independent and quick nature. Rochester too, was a fabulous, if not always likeable character. Bronte strayed away from portraying him as a handsome and desired man, and instead made him a very fallible and in many ways unattractive man.  The writing is beautiful and captivating, and the story unfolds gradually, but never too slowly.  I really enjoyed the story of Jane and Rochester, but I equally liked the story of the mysterious woman who lives at Thornfield Hall…

There is so much to this story – many twists and turns, and Jane Eyre is an unlikely but very admirable heroine. Definitely one of the very best books I have read in recent years, with some beautiful writing. It’s easy to see why this is such a well loved books.  It’s definitely one I will reread in the future.

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Click here for my review of the 2006 mini-series.

Click here for my review of the 1943 movie adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 1996 movie adaptation.

Click here for my review of the 1997 movie adaptation.

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