Tag: bookblog

Review: To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

GoodReads – To Kill A Mockingbird

Tom Robinson’s a coloured man, Jem. No jury in this part of the world’s going to say, “We think you’re guilty, but not very,” on a charge like that. It was either straight acquittal or nothing.
Atticus Finch

To Kill A Mockingbird is undoubtedly one of the most influential books of all time in highlighting the racial inequalities known especially within southern states of America. Harper Lee has won numerous awards including the Pulitzer Prize for To Kill a Mockingbird and a further book, Go Set a Watchman was published in 2015, some 55 years later.
I’ll be perfectly honest, this book isn’t at all what I expected. I hadn’t even realised that the story was narrated from the perspective of two young children until I actually opened the book. Truthfully I didn’t think I would get on with this, but actually it was perfect.
Jem (Jeremy) and Scout (Jean Louise) have been raised in the small, largely peaceful town of Maycomb by their father, Atticus Finch. Atticus is a lawyer by profession, but when Atticus takes on his biggest case there is much controversy and trouble for the Finches.
The story is narrated by Scout, who is the tender age of nine in that fateful summer of 1935, in which Tom Robinson is on trial for the rape of a white woman; and her father Atticus is defending him. As I mentioned above, I wasn’t confident that I would like the way the story is narrated by a child, but it is done very effectively. I was wrong to doubt.
Whereas adults quite often are prejudiced and are willing to turn a blind eye to what they know is wrong, children on the other hand are blank canvases. The world is black and white – they haven’t yet learned to see the shades of grey we are willing to paint in between depending on what suits us. They also ask a lot of questions. We’ve also come across those kids, you know the ones… that say anything that comes to their mind. Apparently as I kid I embarrassed my parents by declaring loudly at a supermarket checkout that it smelled very badly right behind the culprit – otherwise known as the Great Unwashed since.
Shameless. My parents are able to laugh about it now. It was true… I just wasn’t afraid to say it.
This to my mind is in direct contrast to the attitudes of adults, who are to willing to allow such segregation and injustice to happen, and it is refreshing to hear people asking the right question – why. Atticus is a fantastic character, who implores his children in times of difficulty to walk “in the other person’s shoes” to try and teach them about perspective. Atticus is like a father to anyone and everyone, and he has many lessons to teach us all. The struggles of morality and conscience also afflict him; despite fighting a losing battle, he couldn’t sleep at night if he didn’t defend the man.

There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads – they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.

Thankfully the general attitude is society is a little better than it used to be, but we have a long way to go. Fear sets in deep. What is said out in public and that behind closed doors can be very different.
Racism makes me angry. Sure, there are times when we can’t help but make prejudgements –  it’s part of our natural survival instincts. It is when these prejudgments are made without cause and we act negatively towards that person (directly or indirectly) – that is what is disgraceful.
I hope through education we an break this awful cycle; if all children had parents like Atticus Finch the world would be a much better place.
 

Review: Small Gods – Terry Pratchett

Hi guys!

So I wanted to add this little section as we have something to celebrate – I have now achieved reading 30 / 60 books of my challenge with about a week to spare, and that includes having read some epics so far!

My review of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger will follow in the next couple of days; there’s no rest for the wicked as I have started what was the first book on my July List, being To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I’m hoping to sneak this in before the end of the month to give me a head start.

I was dubious when I upped my target from 20 to 60 this year but I’m more confident than ever that I can achieve it, so fingers crossed.

Thanks for everybody who has been supporting me and listening to my impassioned rants about books at home… I know none of you particularly share my love to the extent I do. Thank you to all of my followers too; I hope that you enjoy my reviews and I would appreciate any feedback you can give me. I only strive to improve for you all 🙂

Thanks guys!

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So you guys have probably guessed that I have become a Pratchett fan somewhat, as I have read and am gracing you with a review of the next book in the Discworld series, Small Gods.

 

Goodreads – Small Gods

Just because you can’t explain it, doesn’t mean it’s a miracle.’ Religion is a controversial business in the Discworld. Everyone has their own opinion, and indeed their own gods. Who come in all shapes and sizes. In such a competitive environment, there is a pressing need to make one’s presence felt. And it’s certainly not remotely helpful to be reduced to be appearing in the form of a tortoise, a manifestation far below god-like status in anyone’s book. In such instances, you need an acolyte, and fast. Preferably one who won’t ask too many questions…

 

My Thoughts…

I have found through reading Pratchett’s books that they often have some underlying message, often by parodying life and our everyday struggles or alternatively, other literature; Equal Rites addresses the issue of gender equality, Wyrd Sisters parodies the three witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Moving Pictures is a humorous take on Hollywood and the power of media.

Small Gods I think is no exception, introducing the idea that the power of God(s), one or another (there are thousands on the Discworld) are relative to the number of believers they have. In a way can I get behind that idea. I would truly be concerned however if God, Allah, Thor, Loki, Apollo etc all sat in heaven throwing dice and using us mere mortals as pawns for some game we don’t understand the rules of. As well as his ability to address these topics – Pratchett has an extraordinary sense of humour to do it with!

We experience this tale from the perspectives of Brutha and the small god Om. Om was once a powerful God, however true belief in his powers dwindled away as the Church raised in commemoration to him established it’s own hierarchy and the struggles within take precedence instead of the reverence to Om. Acolytes worship out of fear from the Quisition, who torture and kill any man believed to be sinful. The Quisition can NEVER be wrong as Om wouldn’t lead them to doubt the faithful…of course. Please note the sarcasm here.

Om finds himself manifested as a tortoise and sets out to getting himself heard among his “believers”. His only true believer is Brutha, a mere Novice of the church. Brutha attracts attention to himself with the Quisition and upon discovery that he is Om’s Prophet – the Chosen One, he lands himself in a dangerous predicament with the higher powers of the Church.

Corruption in the church is also an issue which is brought up, as the local population with the help of Om attempt to dipose Vorbis, the head of the Quisition with whacky schemes of a million-to-one-chance odds, so it just has to work… right?! Well, nothing ever goes exactly to plan, but the Discworld population are adaptable if nothing else.

This book has some real laugh-out-loud moments, and although I wouldn’t say it was in my top favourites of Pratchett’s Discworld novels, it still holds its own. I’m not a religious person at all, but maybe this would have better resonance with somebody who is? I can’t say for sure, but I did enjoy it nonetheless.

Here’s one of my favourite quotes from the book, which I think says a lot of my opinion when it comes to politics:

The Ephebians believed that every man should have the vote. Every five years someone was elected to be Tyrant, provided he could prove that he was honest, intelligent, sensible and trustworthy. Immediately after he was elected, of course, it was obvious to everyone that he was a criminal madman and totally out of touch with the view of the ordinary philosopher in the street looking for a towel. And then five years later they elected another one just like him, and really it was amazing how intelligent people kept on making the same mistakes.

As mentioned above, a review of the first installment of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, The Gunslinger will be posted in the next couple of days. I’ll also be publishing my July reading list soon so please stay tuned!

Review: Of Mice & Men – John Steinbeck

I last read Of Mice & Men as part of my GCSE English Literature studies, and I actually just gave myself a mini heart attack thinking that it will have been about seven years ago.

It does not feel like it should have been that long ago… but it was. I might just go and cry in corner now.

 

Goodreads – Of Mice & Men

The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world. Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream–a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. Eventually they find work on a ranch in California’s Salinas Valley, but their hopes are doomed as Lennie, struggling against extreme cruelty, misunderstanding and feelings of jealousy, becomes a victim of his own strength. Tackling universal themes such as the friendship of a shared vision, and giving voice to America’s lonely and dispossessed, Of Mice and Men has proved one of Steinbeck’s most popular works, achieving success as a novel, a Broadway play and three acclaimed films.

 

My Thoughts…

Thinking about it, it does actually explain a lot to me. I have managed to read this book in its entirety today, in a couple of hours in between doing the housework and laundry. Way back when, I remember really struggling to read this book. I remember that too was a Saturday and I spent all day putting it down and feigning doing something else just to get a break from it. I put it down to a couple of things; firstly, this time I was reading it to enjoy, not to study the crap out of it. I actually wrote a post about my thoughts on this on Monday (link if you’re interested Interim: Book Theme Analysis) I’m also going to say that I think maturity plays a big part in appreciating classics, modern or otherwise. I’m making an effort to read more and I can safely say if I’d set myself the challenge of reading them a couple of years ago, they would never have made it off the TBR pile.

I have no shame in admitting that I wasn’t ready for them. I wouldn’t even commit to saying I was in a position to fully understand and appreciate them now, but I am willing to try. That’s a step forward.

I’m not surprised that now I managed to read this so quickly; having set myself the pace I need to complete my book challenge I do need to read at least 100 pages a day to get through any sizeable books. I had fallen a little behind since reading War & Peace so whilst I knew I wanted to re-read this at some point, I did plan thereafter to read it sooner to help me catch up on my target.

Can I just say that I absolutely love this book! I’m surprised it only has a 3.8 star rating on GoodReads… I thought it would at least just creep over 4. It obviously isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – it wasn’t mine to start with. It’s funny, as much as I struggled to read the book first time around I did actually come to love it by the end and it’s the only book I enjoyed studying at school. I think it also featured in one of my exams if I remember correctly and I might have chosen that question topic to answer.

I like that if you think about it, it brings up a lot of issues relevant to the time. I don’t think it quotes a date but is very reminiscent of the 1930’s and the American Depression. Poverty and the struggle to get work was very real, the attitude towards women and negro’s is also touched upon. You know it’s there, in fact it is so casual that it doesn’t slap you in the face as offensive. I like that about it, as well as how it realistically touches on many social issues of the time and not just any one. And who can’t feel sorry for poor Lennie… he just doesn’t understand his own actions or strengths. I feel sorry for George for having to look after him too, but I think I would have done the same in his shoes. Lennie can’t look after himself and you would never see anyone you know struggle.

Well, I wouldn’t anyway.

This is a book I would implore anybody who hasn’t picked it up to read it at least once. It’s actually a very easy read so please do.

That’s me caught up on reviews for now!! I’m reading Small Gods by Terry Pratchett next and following up with The Gunslinger by Stephen King – for which I am very excited! As I’ve been reading at a good pace I’m also now hoping to sneak another book onto my reading list for June, being To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

 

Interim: Book Theme Analysis

Whilst I am working through my reading list for this month I have had something on my mind… And it something I wanted to share my opinion on.
This year I am endeavouring to read a variety of new books as a part of my book challenge, including new authors, different genres and also some classics.
My reading list has a couple of what I would define as classics on my list; namely Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird are coming up shortly. I also have plans in the not too distant future to read Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies. Anyone in my generation (and in the UK particularly) will probably recognise these as the types of books that are currently studied in high school English lessons as part of the literature curriculum.
For the most part I loved school and particularly English. I left with pretty decent grades at both GCSE and A-Level (not top grades of the class – but still to be proud of) but I can safely say that since leaving school probably about 80 per cent of the topics we covered have gone straight out of my head. Never have I had to analyze a poster or piece of writing based on the themes of gender or power and the development of language in children is not something I have ever had to consider since I left that exam someday in June four years ago.

Never, in the four years since leaving school, have I had to tear a book to shreds by over-analyzing it and by God am I thankful for small mercies. 

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that I’m a great book lover. I love to read… Probably more than a large percentage of the general population, but it is the repeated assignments students have to complete discussing and scrutinizing  philosophical themes of books that really gets my goat.

I’m telling you now from first hand experience, the only thing that achieved for me was getting a grade B in English Literature and a loathing of classic books. 

I can hand on heart say that I enjoyed ONE book I studied at school… and that’s a shame.
As it happens I have come to realise the reason I disliked the books so much and I’ve overcome it by revisiting them. The books themselves aren’t at fault; its the way the “messages”, themes and concepts are mercilessly rammed down your throat by the teachers and the curriculum that takes all enjoyment out of reading them. Not only that, you then have to regurgitate all that crap onto paper in horrendous detail.
Yes books have messages, I’m not denying that for a second. To take Of Mice and Men as an example, it is fair to say that the book overall explores theme of the American Dream and how unattainable it is; the Green Mile by Stephen King highlights racial inequality.  On the other hand, arguing the presence of red curtains representing a character’s desire, promiscuity or lust… Now that’s a bit excessive. It is the over-analysis that I loathe and making kids read so in depth into the smallest, pettiest little details is what I think saps all the joy out of a book. To my mind it is a crime to inflict this on the youth of today and the future.
Yes, discuss philosophical themes, but know where to draw the line. I’m sure authors didn’t even intend half of the rubbish that gets analysed today. Please, for the love of all things sacred, for the love of our beautiful language and the joy of literature, make it stop.
I know I am not the only person to think this. As ever, I’d love your thoughts too. Do you think the education system has gone too far?