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Posts Tagged ‘witty’

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In 2009, journalist Susan Mauhart came to the realisation that her three children – and herself – were over-consuming screen media (tv. computer games, and predominantly the internet). In fact they were positively inhaling it. Fed up of conversations with the backs of their heads, and not being able to do anything as a family because all they all wanted to do was get back to their screens, she imposed a six month moratorium on all screen related media. This book is a journal of those six months as well as studies and observations about the effect of media – particularly social networks – on individuals, and the knock-on effect on family.

The effect on the family are perhaps not unexpected. After the initial shock, the family began to spend more time together, enjoyed lingering family meals where they would talk – genuinely talk – about their day, and they took up new interests (or resurrected old ones). But despite being able to guess pretty much how the family dynamic would change, this book did make it’s point very well. And bear in mind this experiment was in 2009!! Facebook was big but only five years old – and MySpace was still hugely popular. Twitter was just three years old, and neither Instagram nor Pinterest had even been invented. So as obsessed as Susan’s three teenage children – Anni, Bill and Sussy – seemed to be, it was probably nothing compared to the kind of thing you see everywhere today – people of ALL ages walking round, head down, glued to the phone. People sitting in restaurants together, but both distracted by their own screens. Even the rate of people getting knocked over in traffic has risen year over year since 2013, because of what is known as the ‘head-down generation’ – people crossing the road while looking at their screens instead of traffic.

So this book does provide food for thought, taking into account the effect of too much screen time on babies and toddlers as well as older children and teenagers. I personally found Maushart’s writing style to be witty and engaging, and this made it an easy read. As she herself observes, when writing about social media, everything is out of date almost as soon as it’s printed, and this is writing about something that happened eight years ago, but the point it makes is still valid.

For anyone interested in the effect of social media, I would recommend this book.

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Catherine Morland is a young lady, naive but well intentioned and good natured, and a lover of Gothic novels.  When friends of her family take her to Bath, to introduce her into society and increase her social circle, she makes friends with two particular families.  The first are the Thorpes, and a close friendship quickly develops between Catherine and the eldest Thorpe daughter, Isabella.  Isabella’s pompous brother John takes a fancy to Catherine, but the feeling is not returned.  The other family she befriends are the Tilneys – and she is immediately attracted to Henry Tilney, a witty and charismatic young man, although she is not sure that her feelings are reciprocated.  When Henry and his sister Eleanor invite Catherine to stay at their home, Northanger Abbey, her over-active imagination, caused by her love of novels, starts to go into overdrive!  But more adventures await Catherine at the Abbey, and her resolve will be tested…

After reading this book, I looked at some reviews of it, and it would appear that this is probably the most maligned book that Jane Austen wrote.  However, I found it delightful and perhaps more accessible than some of her other works (all of which so far I have enjoyed).  Austen’s famous wit shines throughout; my favourite sequence was the teasing conversation which passed between her and Henry on the way to Northanger Abbey, where he played on her imagination – in consequence, she imagines all sorts of things when she arrives at their destination, with hilarious results.

Catherine is a lovely heroine, although a less obvious one than some of Austen’s other heroines.  In fact, Austen herself often addresses the reader directly, acknowledging that this is a book which she has written, and making reference to Catherine’s qualities as the heroine of such a story.  The other characters are also very well drawn, in particular Henry Tilney and the vivacious but self-absorbed Isabella Thorpe.

Essentially, this is a charming coming-of-age story, where we see Catherine learn about herself and the world around her, and deals with disappointments and uncertainties in life and love.

The writing is fabulous – descriptive and witty, and capable of first making the reader laugh out loud, and then in the turn of a page, making them wonder what is going to happen.  It was impossible not to warm towards the main characters, and I certainly found myself caring about what happened to them.

I won’t give away the conclusion of the story for anyone who has not read it – Austen fans may well be able to guess at the flavour of the ending of it in any event.  However, as is so often the case with Jane Austen, the destination is less the object of reading than the journey.  Highly enjoyable, very charming, and definitely recommended!

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

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